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Travelling without a Mahram: Why do Muslim women do it


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Travelling without a Mahram: Why do Muslim women do it

New means of communication have rapidly turned the world into a global village. A village easily accessed by advanced modes of transport increasing the number of people who travel to a scale never witnessed before.


Today many Muslims are “wandering” the world for various reasons, work, leisure, discovery or necessity. With the emergence of women in the workforce, Muslim women have also begun to travel by themselves within their countries and abroad.


Cii Radio asked its Facebook followers what they thought the reasons were for women disregarding the Islamic guideline that is impermissible for women to travel on her own over the specified distance of 88,864km.


“1) Some women haven’t got a mahram, 2) some mahram’s are not playing their role and taking up the responsibility, 3) the woman doesn’t want to ask her mahram especially if he sees her as ‘burden’,” wrote Fatima.


Another Facebook commenter coined the issue as the concept of “Womandla”. She said statistics of kids growing up in SA without a father in the home was “shocking”, “Many women have become sole breadwinners of the household and unfortunately have to travel and do many daily tasks on her own for herself and the family.”


Aadila shared the same sentiment writing, “instead of ‘Muslim women today are not adhering to this guideline’ ask ‘why are Muslim [men] not taking care of Muslim women today so Muslim women can adhere to this guideline’.”


Others simply wrote the reasons were because: women did not have any mahrams, a “western influence”, the “destruction of Islam”, a yearning for freedom, “no other choice” and imperfect Muslims living a perfect Islam.


A male commenter wrote, “1. Many are not aware of that [ruling]. 2. Those who are aware of think that this is medieval safety system and it has lost its relevance now in this post-modern period. 3. Men-women equalitistic sense clouds their sense.”


While the practice has become commonplace and questioning why it has become “normal” seems unusual and “backward” the ruling remains.


According to Islamic law, a woman cannot travel without a Mahram if she is going to traverse beyond the Safar – specified distance – of 88,864km – the distance of three days and nights.


In his book Injunctions Pertaining to the Traveller – edited by Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias – Maulana Mufti Inam Haq Qasmi writes that in addition to a women’s physical nature, “The Islamic system of values attaches paramount importance to the safety and chastity of women.”


It is for these reasons that Shari’ah has stipulated special guidelines for every situation in which the chastity and honour of a woman may be jeopardised. There are many clear narrations of Nabi Muhammad SAW in this regard.


Sayyiduna Abu Said al-Khudri RA narrates that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Let no woman travel for more than three days unless her husband or a Mahram is with her.” (Sahih Muslim).


Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar RA narrates that Nabi Muhammad SAW said, “A woman must not travel for three days except with a Mahram.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 1036 & Sahih Muslim).


Sayyiduna Abu Huraira RA narrates that the Nabi Muhammad SAW said, “It is unlawful for a woman who believes in Allah and the last day that she travels the distance of one day and one night without a Mahram accompanying her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 1038).


The Shari’ah has allowed women to travel a distance less than the Safar without a Mahram as there is little danger involved. However, Ulama have discouraged it in today’s time as her honour is greatly jeopardised given the widespread immorality and corruption present.


The four main schools of thought all agree on this matter except with women travelling for Hajj with a group of trustworthy ladies, which the Shafi and Maliki madhabs say is permissible.


The basis for this ruling is not an evil assumption about women and their manners, as some people unreasonably think, but it is to take care of her reputation, dignity and safety. It is to protect her from the desires of those who have diseased hearts, from the assault of an immoral person.


Today people argue that forms of travel have changed from how it was in the time of Rasulullah SAW. Since various modes of transportation such as planes, buses and ships gather large amounts of people at a time this provides plenty of confidence and reliability, removing feelings of fear for women, because she will not be by herself in any place.


Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam from the UK based Darul Iftaa explains, “This deduction is incorrect and the permissibility of women travelling without a Mahram can not be justified on its basis.” Neither can the justification that we live in a different era where women need to “move with the times in order to improve” carry any weight.


Rulings that are based upon clear texts of the Quran and Sunnah can never change. The wisdom behind this ruling is to save women from the dangers that can be encountered on a journey. However, this is not the legal reason. Whether the journey is safe, in a plane or on foot, it will remain impermissible.


This is very similar to the ruling of shortening of prayers for a Musaafir. The wisdom behind the ruling is undue hardship; however, this is not the reason. The reason is the travelling distance of three days and three nights. Even if one was in a perfectly comfortable journey, all the Hanafi scholars (classic and contemporary) have declared that it is incumbent upon a traveller to shorten the Fard prayers. We don’t see people suggesting that prayers must not be shortened due to the modern day means of transport.


(source: Jamiatul Ulama - KZN)

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  • 1 year later...

Women travelling without their mahrams


Q: Is it permissible for a female to take a flight on her own, if a mahram drops here on one side of the journey and a mahram picks her up on the other side? Basically for the duration of the flight there is no mahram.


A: Severe warnings have been sounded in the Ahaadith for a woman travelling without a mahram. In the case in question, though she will be dropped off at the airport by her mahram and will be picked up at her destination by another mahram, however since she will be travelling throughout the journey without a mahram, it will not be permissible.

عن ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لا تسافر المرأة ثلاثة أيام إلا مع ذي محرم (بخاري #1086)

Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: "It is impermissible for a woman to travel for the distance of safar except in the case where she is accompanied by a mahram." (Bukhaari #1086)

عن أبى سعيد قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا يحل لامرأة تؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر أن تسافر سفرا فوق ثلاثة أيام فصاعدا إلا ومعها أبوها أو أخوها أو زوجها أو ابنها أو ذو محرم منها (أبو داود رقم 1728 - ترمذي رقم 1169)

Hazrat Abu Saeed (Radiyallahu Anhu) reports that Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: "It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah Ta’ala and the day of qiyamat to travel for the distance of safar or more without a mahram. However if she travels with her father, brother, husband, son or any other mahram, it will be permissible." (Tirmizi #1169, Abu Dawood  #1728)

وعن ابن عمر قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم سفر المرأة مع عبدها ضيعة (مجمع الزوائد #5302)

Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: "A woman travelling with her slave (or any other na mahram) is destruction to her Deen." (Majmuz Zawaaid #5302)

And Allah Ta'ala (الله تعالى) knows best.

الحرة لا تسافر ثلاثة أيام بلا محرم (رد المحتار ​6/390)

( و ) مع ( زوج أو محرم ) ولو عبدا أو ذميا أو برضاع ( بالغ ) قيد لهما كما في النهر بحثا ( عاقل والمراهق كبالغ ) جوهرة ... لامرأة حرة ولو عجوزا في سفر

و قال في الشامي​ة : قوله ( حرة ) ... أشار به إلى أن ما استفيد من المقام من عدم جواز السفر للمرأة إلا بزوج أو محرم خاص بالحرة, قوله ( في سفر ) هو ثلاثة أيام ولياليها (رد المحتار 2/464)

Answered by:

Mufti Zakaria Makada

Checked & Approved:

Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)

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Can a woman travel alone without any relative?


AssalamuAlaikum. Mufti Saheb. There is a Hadith that a time will come that woman would travel from Sanaa to Hazramaut and she will not be harmed. This Hadith indicates that when such a time comes then it will be permissible for woman to travel alone. In today’s time Dctr Shabir Ally says that it is permissible and that Hadith that forbids is regarding such a time which they were scared.

Can you please explain?




In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

Hereunder is the Hadith referred to in the query.


عَنْ خَبَّابِ بْنِ الأَرَتِّ قَالَ شكونا إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وهو متوسد بردة له في ظل الكعبة فقلنا ألا تستنصر لنا ألا تدعو لنا؟ فقال قد كان من قبلكم يؤخذ الرجل فيحفر له في الأرض فيجعل فيها فيجاء بالمنشار فيوضع على رأسه فيجعل نصفين ويمشط بأمشاط الحديد ما دون لحمه وعظمه فما يصده ذلك عن دينه والله ليتمن هذا الأمر حتى يسير الراكب من صنعاء إلى حضرموت لا يخاف إلا الله والذئب على غنمه ولكنكم تستعجلون. 

Translation: Khabbaab Bin Arit Radiallahu Anhu said: We complained to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam (about our condition) while he was leaning against his sheet cloak in the shade of the Ka`ba. We said, Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you invoke Allah for us? He said, among those who were before you a (believer) used to be seized and, a pit used to be dug for him and then he used to be placed in it. Then a saw used to be brought and put on his head by which the head would split into two halves. His flesh might be combed with iron combs and removed from his bones, yet, all that did not cause him to revert from his religion. By Allah! This religion (Islam) will be completed (and triumph) till a rider (traveler) goes from San`a' (the capital of Yemen) to Hadramout fearing nobody except Allah and the wolf lest it should trouble his sheep, but you are impatient. Bukhari

Take note the Hadith refers to a راكب (male traveller) and not a woman.

However, there is another Hadith narrated by Adi bin Hatim Radiallahu Anhu in reference to a woman.


Hereunder is the Hadith 

حَدَّثَنِى مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْحَكَمِ أَخْبَرَنَا النَّضْرُ أَخْبَرَنَا إِسْرَائِيلُ أَخْبَرَنَا سَعْدٌ الطَّائِىُّ أَخْبَرَنَا مُحِلُّ بْنُ خَلِيفَةَ عَنْ عَدِىِّ بْنِ حَاتِمٍ قَالَ بَيْنَا أَنَا عِنْدَ النَّبِىِّ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - إِذْ أَتَاهُ رَجُلٌ فَشَكَا إِلَيْهِ الْفَاقَةَ، ثُمَّ أَتَاهُ آخَرُ، فَشَكَا قَطْعَ السَّبِيلِ. فَقَالَ «يَا عَدِىُّ هَلْ رَأَيْتَ الْحِيرَةَ». قُلْتُ لَمْ أَرَهَا وَقَدْ أُنْبِئْتُ عَنْهَا. قَالَ «فَإِنْ طَالَتْ بِكَ حَيَاةٌ لَتَرَيَنَّ الظَّعِينَةَ تَرْتَحِلُ مِنَ الْحِيرَةِ، حَتَّى تَطُوفَ بِالْكَعْبَةِ، لاَ تَخَافُ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللَّهَ» 


Translation: Adi bin Hatim Radiallahu Anhu said: While I was in the city of the Prophet, a man came and complained to him (the Prophet, ) of destitution and poverty. Then another man came and complained of robbery (by highwaymen). Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam said, "Adi! Have you been to Al-Hira?" I said, "I haven't been to it, but I was informed about it." He said, "If you should live for a long time, you will certainly see that a lady in a Howdah traveling from Al-Hira will (safely reach Mecca and) perform the Tawaf of the Ka`ba, fearing none but Allah. Bukhari


Here in this Hadith, the travel is from Heera to the Kaaba Shareef and not from Sanaa to Hadramaut.

Deducing laws of Shariah directly from Ahadith is the function of the Mujtahideen like the four Imams of Fiqh, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafee, Imam Ahmad Bin Hambal Rahimahullah. They were experts of the Qur’an and Ahadith and related sciences. It is incorrect for a non-Mujtahid, let aside a non Aalim to deduce laws of Shariah directly from the Qur’an and Ahadith as such a deduction will not be consistent with any principle and it will be riddled with many contradictions.


If the Hadith meant that a woman could travel alone without a Mahram in safe times then there was no time that a woman was more protected and safe than the era of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam as the era of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam is described as خير القرون (the best of eras).

Women were given respect, dignity and honor. They were liberated from all forms of domestic, social and economic injustices of the past.


Women were announced equal to men in attaining virtuous deeds.


إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا.


Translation: Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. Surah Al-Ahzaaab verse 35


Despite such a pure and safe environment, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam stated the following:


عن نافع عن عبد الله بن عمر عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لا يحل لامرأة تؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر تسافر مسيرة ثلاث ليال الا ومعها ذو محرم.

Translation: It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for the distance of three days except with a Dhu-Mahram (i.e. a male with whom she cannot marry at all, e.g. her brother, father, grandfather, etc.) or her own husband).  Sahih Muslim

قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ:لاَ تُسَافِرِ المَرْأَةُ إِلَّا مَعَ ذِي مَحْرَمٍ، وَلاَ يَدْخُلُ عَلَيْهَا رَجُلٌ إِلَّا وَمَعَهَا مَحْرَمٌ، فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَخْرُجَ فِي جَيْشِ كَذَا وَكَذَا، وَامْرَأَتِي تُرِيدُ الحَجَّ، فَقَالَ: اخْرُجْ مَعَهَا.


Translation: Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam said: It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel except with a Mahram (unmarriageable kin), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a Dhu-Mahram. A man asked Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam: "O Messenger of Allah! My wife is going on Hajj (pilgrimage), while I want to participate in a battle, what should I do? Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said: "Go out with her. 


The most explicit evidence on this issue is the incident of Aisha Radiallahu Anha during Hajjatul Wida. Makkah Mukarramah was already conquered. It was the pure environment of the Haj of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. The enemies of Islam were suppressed and the Islamic law was in full force. When Hazrat Aisha Radiallahu Anha wanted to perform Umra after Haj, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam advised Hazrat Aisha’s brother Abdur Rahman to accompany her from Makkah to Tan’eem which is at the border of Haram. The distance between Tan’een and Haram is only about 5km. Hazrat Aisha Radiallahu Anha could have traveled by herself to Tan’eem as it was in the era of Islamic law and the Haj of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. Hazrat Aisha could have traveled with other Sahabiyyaat to Tan’eem. Why did Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam specifically chose Abdur Rahmaan to accompany her?


The answer is simple, Hazrat Aisha Radiallahu Anha was a Shar’ie Musaafir and she had to abide by the laws of Shariah of traveling with a Mahram.

Any person who is correctly schooled in Hadith will not rely merely on an indication in the Hadith to deduce a ruling. 


There are two modes of expression of speech; 


  • •          One is نص (the objective of the speech). 
  • •          The other isظاهر (secondary to the objective of the speech). 


Whilst we consider the secondary points in Hadith, that should not be in conflict with the primary objective of the speech. 

In the two Ahadith stated in the beginning about safe travel, the primary objective of the speech is emphasis on safety and protection. This is illustrated with example of a rider traveling in one Hadith and woman traveling in another Hadith. It is incorrect to use this illustration of safety to deduce that a woman can travel alone in safe time as that is not the primary objective of the Hadith, especially when there are many Ahadith prohibiting women traveling alone without a Mahram.


Furthermore, no Mujtahid has made such a deduction. Hereunder are the rulings of the four Imams of Madhabs on woman travelling alone.


According to the Hanafi and Hambali schools of thought, it is not permissible for a woman to travel the distance of three days (equivalent to 48 miles) without her husband or a Mahram (unmarriageable kin) accompanying her. 


According to the Shafie school of thought, a woman is only permitted to travel with a Mahram or her husband or a group of women.


According to the Maliki school of thought if a woman cannot find a Mahram to travel with her for a Wajib travel and she does not have a husband, then she is allowed to travel with a group of pious men or a group of pious women.


As for non Wajib travel, the normal principle will apply as stated hereunder.


أمّا سفر التّطوّع والمباح فلا يجوز لها الخروج فيه إلاّ مع محرمٍ أو زوجٍ .


Translation: As for a voluntary and permissible travel, a woman is not permissible to travel except with a Mahram or a husband. Mausu’atul Fiqhiyyah Al-Kuwaitiyyah 304/23


It is incorrect to assume that the Hadith is referring to today’s time. Please consider the following reports about how unsafe it is for woman to travel alone.

  • •          The agency Eric Mower + Associates asked 400 U.S. women about their perceptions on safety when traveling alone. The results reveal that overall, women feel uncomfortable or unsafe traveling solo (although two out of three have done so). Furthermore, two in five women report that they have experienced sexual harassment while on the road alone.


  • •          FBI Special Agent David Rodski told reporters the number of sexual assaults during flights is increasing "at an alarming rate," and added, "We're not sure why."

            Last year, CNN reported it is difficult to determine just how frequently assaults happen on commercial flights because no federal regulatory agency tracks that data nationwide. 

The FBI doesn't have complete confidence in the official number of midair sexual assaults, because so many cases may go unreported, said Brian Nadeau, assistant special agent in charge with the Baltimore division of the FBI. Investigators believe the numbers are almost certainly much higher.


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, one of the world's largest flight attendant unions, surveyed nearly 2,000 flight attendants in 2016 about their experiences with midair sexual assaults. Among those who responded, 1 out of 5 said they received a report of passenger-on-passenger sexual assault while working a flight.


  • •          Airlines are under pressure to provide separate women’s seating to combat the lecherous spread of male passengers over the dividing armrests, amid a surge in midair sexual assaults.


And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mahomed Yasser Yunus Hussen

Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

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