Muslim Women Travelling without a Mahram

One of the issues that relates to the general character and etiquette of the Muslim, and which unfortunately is often ignored by our brothers and sisters especially those living in the West is that which relates to the family and the verse in which Allah says:

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones
Holy Quran
Surah At-Tahrim (66:6)

Based on this general guideline, a believer must strive to fulfill this obligation in all aspects as it relates to his family, that is his wife, children and anyone under his care and authority. Allah said in another verse:

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.
Holy Quran
Surah An-Nisa (4:34)

The commands of Allah may not be easy to implement by many because of the influence of the ways of the disbelievers that many Muslims are keen to follow believing that their way of life is one of enlightenment and progress.

These Muslims fail to realize that true advancement is the advancement of the soul, the building of character of the highest level based on the example of the Messenger ﷺ and that material progress is not in contradiction to the command

of Allah who in His wisdom has given this position to the man. It is up to him to protect and maintain his wife and from the duties of maintenance is to protect her from any harm or misguidance. Indeed one of the greatest harms to the family is the evil of fornication and the destruction of the family that such actions lead to. The breakdown of trust and fidelity is something that leads to the moral destruction of the family and society at large.

This is one of the reasons that Islam has legislated that a woman should not travel except if she is accompanied by a male relative (mahram) to help and protect her on her journey. The Prophet ﷺ said:

No woman should travel except with a mahram and no man should enter upon her unless she has a mahram with her.” A man said: O Messenger of Allah, I want to go out with such-and-such an army, but my wife wants to go for Hajj. He said: “Go with her.
Sahih Al-Bukhari
Ibn ‘Abbaas
Sahih Bukhari (1862)

There are many other ahaadeeth which speak about the prohibition of a Muslim woman travelling without a mahram and these include all types of travel, whether they are journeys for specific types of worship such as Hajj or Umrah, or journeys for vacation or other types of travel.

Yet how strange it is after all of these clear proofs that we as Muslims claim to believe in, and yet how careless many of us are in this regard. Indeed one of us would be so careful with regards to his wealth and other affairs, making certain to guard and not let a matter regarding his wealth be heard about while at the same time being heedless and carefree regarding his woman, allowing her to go wherever she wants alone and without a guardian to look after her and protect her from the evil that surrounds us.

I saw a documentary recently where prostitutes readily gave all of their nightly earnings to their pimps because they trusted and relied on them to protect and maintain them. Indeed it shows the need of the woman to be maintained and protected and yet the short-sightedness of many women revolves around the sense of freedom which they think they have. In the example of the prostitute, she does not mind giving her wealth to her pimp because he allows her the “freedom” to dress as she pleases and to sleep with anyone, so she gives up her hard earned wealth in exchange for that basic and fundamental need.

Some of us may use the issue of trust and safety arguing that today travel is swift and safe unlike in the past so there is no need for such precautions. The scholars have explained that the ruling on any issue is based on the apparent meaning and not necessarily on the wisdom behind that ruling which may be difficult to reach.

We should also however keep in mind that the desire and attraction between males and females is a natural instinct that Allah has created the human being with and these basic instincts are not affected because of the existence of technological innovation. The Prophet ﷺ said in an authentic hadeeth:

We came to Anas ibn Malik and we complained to him about what we suffered from the ruler Al-Hajjaj. Anas said, Be patient, for you will not reach an era except that what comes after it is worse until you meet your Lord. I heard it from your Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
Sahih Al-Bukhari
Az-Zubair ibn Adi
Sahih Bukhari (6657)

This hadeeth establishes that the passing of time will not be a lead up to the betterment of the human condition as it relates to character and moral progress. If the time will become worse it is because the people in that time will be getting more corrupt and deprived of good. If such is the case, and it is, how can we be so trusting? Is it naiveté or simply lack of care and concern?

Islam is an Evidence Based Faith and the true and balanced way of life. Our Lord does not wish hardship for us, so in regards to the issue of a woman travelling without a mahram, there are situations of necessity where this prohibition may be lifted keeping in mind basic principles of lessening the harm as much as possible.

Scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn Qayyim may Allah have mercy on them both have stated as one of the rules of fiqh that; “what is clearly forbidden by itself is not made permissible except out of necessity and what is forbidden by closing the path to evil is made permissible based on need”

What this means is that it is permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram is situations of “necessity” and by removing as many of the dangers as possible such as a mahram taking here to the final exit point at the airport and ensuring that another relative meets her at the destination, avoiding sitting next to a male stranger or keeping conversation with them and wearing proper hijab etc.

The wisdom behind the prohibition of a woman not travelling alone is because in general she is weak and needs protection from the temptation and lures of men. A man can make the forbidden seem alluring by pleasant speech making his intentions seem noble thus camouflaging his real and ultimate intention. How many women have been tricked by these means?

These advances are lessened if not completely deterred by the presence of a male guardian to accompany her. We ask Allah to give us the success to implement the guidance of Islam in our lives!

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