03 ديسمبر, 2022 - 9 Jumada al-Ula 1444

Women Performing Hajj Alone: A Prophetic Advice Come True

Women Performing Hajj Alone: A Prophetic Advice Come True

"It is like a dream come true”, a young lady posted on Facebook after receiving the news on allowing women and girls to travel for ‘Umrah and Hajj independently without a Mahram.

Many Muslim women worldwide have been longing for performing ‘Umrah or Hajj, a journey of a lifetime, but cannot find a male guardian to accompany her for whatsoever reasons or circumstances, which was a disappointing matter!

This decision—allowing women to visit the two Sacred Mosques alone—brings to focus a very important fact relating to the legal ruling on women going for this trip in specific or traveling in general without a male guardian. This fact can be explained based on a general level that is pertaining to the generality of the rulings in Islamic law.

The legal rulings, as already known, were legislated to treat men and women equally in the first place with no discrimination except for the things or matters that God, the Legislator,  mentioned specifically for each as per His words, “And do not crave what God has given some of you over others. Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women equally according to theirs” (Quran 4: 32).

Nevertheless, women to some extent faced restrictions on traveling in general and on taking part in public life in specific for no valid reasons based on misinterpretations of Primary texts (Quran and Sunnah). With this on mind, it is mandatory to mention that fatwa changes according to the change of time, conditions and people. This means that a ruling that was valid under a certain conditions with certain people in specific times cannot be applied to other people in other places or under different conditions. This what happened exactly with women’s right to travel alone without a male guardian, and this can be explained through the legal maximum that states, “A ruling revolves with its cause” (Al-Hukum Yadur ma’a ‘Ilatihi).

Through this legal maximum, the Prophetic reports prohibiting women from traveling without a Mahram are interpreted to refer to conditions of unsafety. Otherwise, the reports do not include the prohibition of traveling in the first place. This means that the absence of “safety” is the reason why a woman is prevented from traveling alone without a male guardian. 

Therefore, a woman is allowed in the Shari’ah to travel alone in safe passage and through populated areas such as harbors, airports, and by public transport, whether the journey is for an obligatory, recommended, or permissible purpose.

It has been narrated through 'Adiy Ibn Hatem (may God be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told him, "And if you live a long life, you will surely see women traveling from Hira till they circumambulate the Ka'bah, fearing no one except God" (Bukhari and others). Imam Ahmed's report of the hadith includes: "By He in whose hands is my soul, verily God will bring this matter [Islam] into completion till women travel from Hira and circumambulate the Ka'bah without being accompanied by anyone."

From this hadith with its different chains of narration, some scholars have derived the permissibility of a woman traveling alone if her safety is guaranteed. Moreover, they have used this hadith to restrict other prohibiting hadiths which, according to them, referred to the lack of security associated with travel in the distant past.

Since the season of Hajj is around the corner and many women and girls are looking forward to traveling for performing the fifth pillar of Islam, the majority of scholars have permitted a woman to travel for obligatory Hajj without a Mahram if accompanied by trustworthy females or company. They based their opinion on the precedence of the Mothers of Believers (may God be pleased with them) who went on Hajj after the Prophet's death and during the caliphate of 'Umar (may God be pleased with him) accompanied by 'Uthman Ibn 'Affan (may God be pleased with him).

Imam Abu al-Hasan Ibn Batal mentioned in Sharh Bukhari (vol. 4, p. 532), "[Imams] Malik, al-Awza'i and al-Shafi'i said, 'A woman who does not have a Mahram, may travel for her obligatory Hajj with other women in trustworthy company; the majority of scholars permit this.

The hadiths forbidding a woman to travel without a Mahram pertain to lack of security which was the case in previous times. Based on this, if a woman's safety is ensured, the prohibition is lifted.