2019 has seen solo travel on the rise, and this includes Muslim ladies too. Scholar opinions differ on the issue, and up till today, there are still perceptions that travelling alone is muddled with fears and uncertainty. It may be even frowned upon especially from the older generation. Must a female traveller always be accompanied by a male companion (her mahram)?
With the changing circumstances of modern times, travelling now is a lot different from what it used to be decades ago. With the advent of technology and communication modes, you can be connected and contactable regardless of where you are on the globe. But is that a sound enough reason to allow Muslim women to travel alone? Read to discover some of the perspectives of well-read scholars.
Muslim women cannot travel alone
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَا يَحِلُّ لِامْرَأَةٍ تُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ أَنْ تُسَافِرَ مَسِيرَةَ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ لَيْسَ مَعَهَا حُرْمَةٌ
It is not lawful for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for a day and a night without her guardian.
Depending on this general text, some scholars including Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Ahmad bin Hamdal, are of the opinion that a Muslim woman cannot travel by herself. She must travel with her guardian, or mahram, such as her husband or brother during a journey which may have potential danger.
This prohibition is not meant to burden or restrict the basic right of movement of Muslimahs, but for the protection from dangers that she may encounter during the journey as the religion upholds the dignity and honour of women.
Muslim women can travel alone
School of Imam Shafi’I, Imam Malik and scholars deduced that the condition (of travelling with a mahram) is not required if it is certain that a woman is travelling without a reasonable expectation of danger that may jeopardise both her safety and religion.
It has been narrated that the Prophet S.A.W said, “And if you live a long life, you will surely see women travelling from Hira till they tawaf the Ka’ba, fearing no one except Allah” [Bukhari and others].
Imam Ahmed’s report of the hadith includes: “By He in whose hands is my soul, verily Allah will bring this matter [Islam] into completion till women travel from Hira and tawaf the Ka’ba without being accompanied by anyone.”
Umar Ibn al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه) also allowed the Prophet’s wives (Mothers of the Believers) to travel for Hajj with a group of believers and sent with them Uthman Ibn Affan and Abdul Rahman ibn Auf.
The reason why Muslim women are prohibited to travel without a guardian is to protect her from thieves, wild animals, waterless deserts and robbers. Travelling in modern times have changed from how it was, during the time of the Prophet S.A.W.
The scholars deduced that if a Muslim woman is able to fulfil all the conditions that enable her to travel safely, and she has trustworthy companions with her, then it is not prohibited for her to travel on her own. In any case, a woman must still seek permission from her guardian before undertaking a journey.
In another opinion, Imam Al-Baji, the Maliki scholar mentioned in Al-Muntaqa Sharh Al-Muwatta (vol 3 p95) that a Muslim woman’s travel alone is subject to whether she is travelling with a small group of people, or a large number of people who can help guarantee her safety.
Likewise, it was mentioned by Maliki scholar Al-Hatab in Mawahib Al-Jalil Sharh Mukhtasar Khalil (vol 2 p523) that it is prohibited for a Muslim woman to travel without a mahram with a small number of people.
In light of the above, it is based on the person to choose the opinion he or she believes in, without taking other opinions into consideration as well. We have to consider all the hadith that are relevant, and see the conclusion that all of these collectively lead to.
The scholars’ opinions differ on the issue. I am no scholar but my personal opinion is that a Muslim woman may travel alone, but must try her best to ensure her safety is not jeopardised, and if possible travel with someone trustworthy.
And Allah knows best.