Questions & Answers

Can a Muslim Woman Travel Alone

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Questions such as why human beings were created, and why certain events occur as opposed to others, and why someone had to die and not another, can not be answered by the human mind in and of itself. A simple reason is the fact that human beings are not even able to uncover the mysteries of their own brain! The human mind is only able to identify existing rules, which Allah has put in nature, and use them to come up with new connections. That is why Allah,

  the One and Only Perfect Creator of the universe, has sent messengers, Prophets (peace be upon them all) since the beginning of time, from among the best of human beings, to guide human beings…

Can a Muslim Woman Travel Alone


This issue is quite debatable among scholars, especially when they come to discuss whether or not women could go perform Hajj without Mahram (conditional upon the presence of just companions of course). Their differences pertain to whether they take the letter (face value) of the Prophet’s Hadeeths related to this issue or the purpose of it and why the Prophet PBUH gave that specific verdict, and whether it was related to conditions/constraints at the time or it is just beyond time, culture, and specificity in general…
We should not, as Muslims, argue too much in Fiqhi opinions, as too much dispute on those issues would cause discord (fitna) among brothers and sisters. Plus, these variations are actually a mercy from Allah SWT as you can choose the one you feel better about. And the rule in Fiqh says “Sin lies on the one who gave the fatwa, not on the one who asked for it”…
Whichever view you choose, always bear in mind that Allah SWT said:
1: Surah Number: 6, Ayah Number: 119
And why should you not eat of that over which the Name of Allah has been pronounced when He has already made plain to you what is forbidden, except when you are constrained (i.e. had to do)? Many are those who mislead through ignorance on account of their fancies, but your Lord best knows the transgressors.

وَمَا لَكُمْ أَلاَّ تَأْكُلُواْ مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَقَدْ فَصَّلَ لَكُم مَّا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِلاَّ مَا اضْطُرِرْتُمْ إِلَيْهِ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا لَّيُضِلُّونَ بِأَهْوَائِهِم بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُعْتَدِينَ

So for instance, if a woman has a husband who is always flying, and she is alone in the country, what could she do?
I personally appreciate Dr. Y. Qaradawy’s argument related to this particular issue, available at: HajjE&cid=1124781357697
Wa `Alaykum As-Salaam Waramatullah Wabarakatuh!

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

All praise and thanks are due to Almighty Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear sister, thanks for contacting us, may Allah make our humble efforts, exerted solely for His Sake, come up to your expectation, Amen.
Responding to your question, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:
The principle in Shari`ah is that a woman is not to travel by herself; rather, it is obligatory upon her to have as her companion her husband or a mahram. This ruling is founded on what was reported by Al-Bukhari and others from Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A woman is not to travel except with a mahram, and a man is not to enter upon her except if she has a mahram.”

And also on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is quoted to have said: “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel a distance of one day and one night without a mahram with her.” Abu Sa`id narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A woman is not to travel a distance of two days without her husband or mahram with her.”

And Ibn `Umar narrated that: “She is not to travel for three nights, except if she has a mahram.” Apparently the differences in narrations are because of the different questioners and the questions posed. Abu Hanifah preferred the last hadith of Ibn `Umar and was of the opinion that a mahram is not needed except in travels in which prayers are shortened (also reported by Ahmad). These hadiths include all types of travel, whether or not it is necessary, like visiting, trading, seeking knowledge, or anything else.

The basis for this ruling is not an evil assumption about the woman and her manners, as some people unreasonably think, but it is to take care of her reputation and dignity. It is to protect her from the desires of those who have diseased hearts, from the assault of a rapist or a thief. And this is even more so in places that the traveler must pass through, like deadly deserts, in a time when there is no sense of security, and where the places are unpopulated.

But what is the ruling on a woman, who does not find a mahram to accompany her in a legitimate travel, whether obligatory, preferred or permitted? And there is within her reach a group of protective men, or trustworthy faithful women, and the roads are safe? The jurists have researched this topic whenever they discussed the obligation of Hajj upon women, and they kept in mind the Prophet’s injunction prohibiting a woman from traveling without a mahram. Their thoughtful opinions include the following:

1. Among them are those who hold on to what is apparent from the mentioned hadiths, they prohibit traveling without a mahram, even for the obligation of Hajj. And there is no exception to this rule.

2. There are those who make an exception for older women who have passed the age of being subject to temptation, as has been transmitted from Al-Qadi ibn Al-Walid Al-Yaji, from the Maliki Juristic school. It is especially for women in general if we look at the meaning as was said by Ibn Daqiq Al-`Eid.

3. Some of them make the exception that as long as the woman is with trustworthy and faithful women, then the travel is permissible. Furthermore, some conclude that it is enough for just one free trustworthy and faithful Muslim woman.

4. And some concluded that the roadway must be safe. This is the opinion that was chosen by Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. He mentioned that Ibn Muflih in Al-Faru` said: “Every woman can perform Hajj without a mahram as long as she will be safe.” And he said: “This is directed towards every travel in obedience... Al-Karabisi transmitted this from Ash-Shafi`i pertaining to the supererogatory Hajj. And some of his companions also said this about supererogatory Hajj and about every travel that is not obligatory, like visiting and trading.”

Al-Artham transmitted from Imam Ahmad: “A mahram is not a condition in the obligatory Hajj.” His justification for this is his saying: “Because she goes out with women, and with all those whom she is safe with.” Ibn Sirin even said: “With a Muslim it is okay.” Al-Awzai said: “With a just people.” Malik said: “With a group of women.” Ash-Shafi`i said: “With a trustworthy faithful Muslim woman.” And his companions said: “By herself if there is safety.”

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar said: “What is well-known with the Shafi`is is that it is conditional that there be a husband, mahram, or trustworthy faithful women.” And in another saying: “It is enough for just one trustworthy faithful woman.” In a saying transmitted by Al-Karabisi, authenticated in Al-Muhadhab, is that she can travel by herself if the roads are safe. If this is what was said about traveling for Hajj and `Umrah, then this ruling should be uniform concerning all types of travel, as some scholars have agreed.

The purpose here is to safeguard the woman and protect her, which is fulfilled by knowing that the roadway is safe and that trustworthy faithful men and women are present.

The proof of the permissibility of a woman traveling without a mahram is incumbent upon there being security and the presence of trustworthy faithful people. What was reported by Al-Bukhari is that during the final Hajj of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), he gave permission to the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to perform Hajj. So he sent with them `Uthman ibn `Affan and `Abdur-Rahman. This act is considered to be a consensus, for all of them, `Umar, `Uthman, `Abdur-Rahman Ibn `Awf and the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) agreed to it, without any objection.

Second is what was reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim from the hadith of `Ada Ibn Hatim that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told him about the future of Islam and how its light will be spread throughout the earth. Among what he mentioned is: “The day is near when a young woman will travel from Al-Hira (a city in Iraq), going to the Sacred House with no husband accompanying her. She will fear none but Allah.” This information does not only prove that this will happen, but proves its permissibility, because it was mentioned in a phrase praising the spread of Islam along with its sense of security.

Here I will state two additionally important precepts:

The first is that the basis of rulings on acts of dealings is to focus on their meanings and purposes. This is the opposite of rulings on acts of worship, whose main focus is on showing full compliance to Allah’s order, before focusing on their meanings and purposes, as was firmly established by Imam Ash-Shatibi, who clarified this and verified it with proofs.

The second is that prohibited things are not permitted except if there is a dire need. And things that are prohibited so that they can be an obstruction to evil are permitted during times of need. And there is no doubt that the prohibition of a woman traveling without a mahram stems on the necessity of blocking channels to evil.

It is incumbent upon us to look at traveling in our time. It is not like how traveling was in the past. It is no more filled with the dangers of the arid deserts, or awe of being encountered with thieves, highway robbers, etc. Now traveling is by various modern means of transportation that usually gather large amounts of people at a time, like ships, airplanes, buses, or cars that travel in caravans. Thus, this provides plenty of confidence and reliability, removing feelings of fear for the woman, because she will not be by herself in any place.

Thus, in the light of the above, I see no objection to woman performing Hajj within such safe environment, which provides all the necessary security and contentment.