By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: ‘Travelling for the obligatory Hajj and Umrah without a Mahram (male companion) is not permissible in Islam,” declared top Islamic jurists and Ulema at the annual Islamic Jurisprudential Seminar of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India (IFA) held in Hyderabad. The declaration has far-reaching ramifications in the face of Hajj Committee of India’s decision allowing women to go on Hajj without Mahram as about 3,500 Indian Muslim women have performed Haj without ”Mahram” so far since this restriction was lifted in 2018.
Delhi based Fiqh Academy held its 29th and 30th seminars jointly from October2-4, at the campus of the Islamic research institution ‘Al-mahadul Aali Al-islami in Hyderabad. Academy’s seminars generally discussed contemporary topics and issues in order to offer solution and guidance in the light of Qur’an and Hadiths or by way of ijtehad.
Travelling without Mahram was one of the important topics of the 29th seminar. In the light of papers received on the subjects and questions raised by the scholars, the academy said travelling sans mahram by women is a ‘fitna’ (evil)’. The seminar has approved 5-point proposals unanimously on this matter.
The proposal on Umrah and Hajj reads:
“1. The rider of a mahram for a woman to travel is related to prevent fitnah (evil) whether the distance is a short distance or less. So if there is an apprehension of fitnah, then a journey less than the distance of permissible (sharai) journey is allowed for a woman without a mahram will not be permissible. Travelling is a situation in which emergencies may arise, no matter what the length of the journey is.
- Under normal circumstances, a woman should not travel the permissible (Shari’ah) distance alone, even if an apparently safe system of travel is available. However, travelling without the companionship of the husband or mahram in case of necessity can be allowed with a safe travel system.
- Since the journey of Umrah and Hajj is long and lasts for several days, a woman needs the help of a man during this whole period, which cannot be completed without a husband or a mahram. Therefore, it would not be permissible for women to go on Umrah and Hajj with a group of trustworthy women without a husband or a Maharam – older women need the help of a man even more, so for them too only trustworthy women will not be allowed to go without”.
- Without a Mahram or even in case of Mahram cannot afford expenses of the Hajj; a woman cannot go on Hajj and Umrah with the Hajj Committee or a caravan of Hajj Tours.
- The prohibition of traveling to Hajj as mentioned in sections 2 and 3, but in other schools of thought or madhabs it is permissible for women to travel for Hajj with trustworthy women without a mahram or a husband, those people can practice according to their madhabs.”
The bottom line of these proposals is that it is not permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram, whether the trip is for an act of worship such as Hajj, or to visit her parents, or it is a permissible kind of journey for other purposes.
This may trigger a new debate in the country on women’s Hajj journey without mahram (permissible male companion). It is to be noted that around 3,500 Indian women have performed Hajj without ”Mahram” after the Hajj committee of India did away with the compulsion of a male companion with women on the pilgrimage in 2018. This decision was hailed as the Modi government’s “historic” reform by its supporters.
Haj was cancelled for Indians in 2020 and 2021 with Saudi Arabia deciding that only a limited number of people residing in the Kingdom were allowed to perform Haj due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fiqha academy’s decree on this subject that ‘No woman should travel except with a mahram’ put a spoke in the Hajj committee’s wheel. However, in other schools of thought, travelling without a mahram in case of necessity is permissible but it is not allowed in the ‘Hanafi madhab’ as most of the Indian Muslims follow this Hanafi madhab.