Many ‘scholars’ claim a Muslim woman is only permitted to travel with a man whom she cannot marry (‘a mahram’). While some propagate that this is the case for any travelling, others believe she can travel within a specified distance. They differ as to how far this is, with a range spanning from 25 to 64 miles.
They use ahadith such as the ones below and calculate the distance based upon how far people at the time would have been able to travel in 3 days:
Narrated Ibn `Umar:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel for more than three days except with a Dhi-Mahram.” (The Book of Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer), Sahih Bukhari)
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
It is not lawful for a Muslim woman to travel a night’s journey except when there is a mahram with her. (The Book of pilgrimage, Sahih Muslim)
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel except with a mahram (her husband or a man with whom that woman cannot marry at all according to the Islamic Jurisprudence), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a mahram.” A man got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I intend to go to such and such an army and my wife wants to perform Hajj.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Go along with her (to Hajj).(The Book of ‘Penalty of Hunting while on Pilgrimage’, Sahih Al Bukhari)
I have included the book each hadith is found in because this often sheds light upon the context and what was intended by the hadith. Surely, the collectors of the ahadith placed each one in a specific book because that is the topic they believed the hadith was about.
Interestingly, Imam Bukhari put one hadith above in the book concerning shortening the prayer (i.e. the length of a journey for which you would combine prayers) and the other in a book relating to Hajj. Imam Muslim also put his in the Book of Hajj.
Now, if you’ve read any of my other blogs, you already know that I believe the evidence speaks for itself – as long as you are listening. We have to ask ourselves, why did the collectors of these ahadith place them in the books of Hajj.
What was the context of these ahadith? The last hadith (narrated by Ibn Abbas) indicates the Muslims were still at war and Hajj especially would have been a time of threat. The man in the story intended to join an army but was told instead to accompany his wife to perform Hajj. Simply put, it would not have been safe for a woman to travel for Hajj without someone who would physically protect her.
Furthermore, we have evidence that the Prophet’s wives travelled without a mahram in the following hadith in Bukhari:
Narrated Ibrahim’s grand-father that ‘Umar(ra) in his last Hajj allowed the wives of the Prophet(ﷺ)to perform Hajj and he sent with them ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan(ra) and ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Auf(ra).
Obviously, Umar and the wives of the Prophet understood the religion better than the ‘scholars’ of the modern world. Neither of the men sent with the wives were mahram for them all. Some claim that maybe each wife was accompanied by a mahram also but we have no sound evidence of this.
On the other hand, it is completely plausible that women needed a mahram when it was deemed unsafe to travel alone and that the Muslims at the time understood this. So, once it was safe, women did travel independently.
As always, my intention is not to issue a ‘fatwa’ or my interpretation as the truth. It is merely to research and evaluate the evidence being commonly used by ‘scholars’. It is up to each Muslim to come to their own conclusion. May Allah (azza wa jall) guide us all.