Does a Muslim woman NEED a man in order to travel?

2B731165-B8BE-4FA9-B2F6-599E6655A8AFMany ‘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.

To fast or not to fast?

7705E6AB-C9E7-4758-BBB5-CAACC5E1D7EEWith Ramadan not too far, I thought I’d write about fasting for pregnant and breast feeding women. There are a variety of actions taken by Muslim women – some choose to fast, others don’t in Ramadan but make up the fasts later. Some pay the fidya (‘a small amount of money expiating for each fast missed’) while a minority do both (make up those fasts later and pay the fidya).

 

Why the different actions?

 

The answer is one word. ‘Scholars’.

 

The Muslim male dominated clergy have different opinions and for many a Muslim woman, the action she takes this Ramadan is determined by whose opinion she decides to follow.

 

The religion is clear on the matter.

 

We look first to the Qur’an for evidence. Surah Al Baqarah has verses 183 & 184.

 

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَتٍ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

These translate to read – ‘ Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so you may increase in Taqwa.’ (183). ‘Fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, feed a Miskin (i.e.poor person). So whoever pays, it is good for him. And that you fast is GOOD (often translated as ‘better’) for you if only you know.’ (184).

 

According to verse 184, there are 2 groups;

 

1. Those who are sick (i.e. Whose health has changed from well to unwell) and anyone travelling makes up the fasts after Ramadhan.

 

2. Those who would fast with difficulty. The word in Arabic ‘yuteequnahu’ (in bold above) means when you can ‘bear/tolerate something’. So these people could fast but it may harm them either immediately or in the longer term. This group pays the fidya (i.e. feed a poor person for every fast they have missed).

 

So, which group do pregnant and breastfeeding women fall into?

 

Some ‘scholars’ put breastfeeding and pregnant women into the first group because they claim it is a temporary condition so the fasts should be made up after Ramadan. Others claim it is the second group and if women feel fasting will harm them or their baby, they can miss the fasts and pay the fidya. The third faction err on the side of caution and state these women are in both groups mentioned in the verse and hence must make up the fasts and pay the fidya!

 

This is puzzling as there is a hadeeth from the Prophet (sallalahu alahi wa Salam) narrated by Anas bin Malik al Ka’abi which states, ‘Allah relieved the traveller from half of the prayer and relieved the pregnant woman and the suckling woman from fasting.’

Collected by Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi (who said it’s chain is hasan/good) and Sheikh Albanee authenticated it more recently giving it Saheeh status.

 

We also have evidence from the companions;

 

Ibn Abbas upon seeing seeing his servant girl who was pregnant/suckling said, ‘you do not observe the fasting, you pay the fidya and you do not need to make up the fasts.’ (From Abu Dawud & cited by At Tabari in his tafseer).

 

Ibn Umar when asked by his wife when pregnant if it was possible not to fast, said ‘Do not fast, feed a poor person for each day and do not make up the fasts’. (Ad Daraqutni).

 

These answer the question without any doubt. Breastfeeding and pregnant women belong in the second group. They do not fast but pay the fidya instead.

 

Now, going back to the verse above, English translations usually fail to convey the complete and beautiful meaning of the words which only come through in the original Arabic. The Lord is telling us there is good in both actions. Good for those who make up the fasts (due to temporary sickness or travel) AND for those who end up paying the fidya (and not fasting). One action is not better or of more value. So pregnant and breast feeding women need not feel they are missing out or pressure to fast.

 

This is the route we must travel to find the truth of our religion. Start at the beginning with the words of Our Lord, the Quran. Then, look to the example of the Prophet followed by the Companions as opposed to taking the opinions of those who base their views on the opinions of those before them!

 

Following ‘scholars’ leads to unnecessary hardship and harm (the research is there, if you’re interested) for pregnant and breast feeding women and for their babies. It leads to innovation for us all.

 

The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire.” Narrated by Muslim and an-Nasaa’i.

 

Let us find our way back while we still can.