No sharaee restriction on women travelling with non-mahrams if their safety is assured

Riyadh: A distinguished religious scholar of Saudi Arabia and adviser to the royal office, Sheikh Abdul Hasan Al Abikan gave a fatwa recently that if security of women is assured, there is no sharaee restriction about their travelling without mehrams. He sharply criticised those who consider employing women from foreign countries without mehrams for household jobs as legal but declare mehrams essential for common women’s travelling. According to Al Arabia dotnet, Saudi royal mufti says that women travelling without mehram by air or any other means is permissible if the safety of their life, property and honour is assured.

It may be noted that Sheikh Al Abikan’s recent fatwa is in contradiction of Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Ifta Council according which travel by women without a mehram is forbidden. In Ifta Council’s fatwa the command of Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam has been quoted that ‘No woman can travel without one of her mehrams’. Al Abikan’s recent fatwa was telecast on Al Arabia TV’s news bulletin in which he has given many arguments in favour of women travelling without mehram. According to him, a large number of Imams and Ulama had permitted women travelling without mehram even in that age when travels were undertaken in deserts and horses and camels were used for travel. Imams and interpreters of the Qur’an and Islamic jurists were unanimous in their view that if women enjoy safety of their life, property and honour, they can travel without mehrams.

He has given many more arguments in favour of his fatwa. He says that Sheikhul Islam Ibn Timia (R.A.) had declared women’s travel without mehrams permissible. He mentioned Prophet’s Hadees as proof that ‘a time will come when a woman with ornaments on will travel alone from Makka to San’a and she will have no fear of anyone except Allah and wild wolves.’ He strongly criticised the section of people who adopt double standards about women travelling without mehram. He asked how it was possible that women from other countries can come without mehrams to work as house maids in the houses of Saudis which these people consider permissible but in general they put the condition of mehram essential for their own (women’s) travelling alone? He said (sarcastically) that if a woman from a foreign country comes to Saudi Arabia for Haj without mehram it is not permissible but if she comes for working in their house, it is permissible. He said that the contradiction about travel of women without mehram among Saudis is beyond comprehension. He further said that if inspite of peace and safety we impose restriction on the women travelling alone, people in general will face great difficulties. We should analyse sharaee command to find out what the reasons were behind women not being allowed to travel alone, and when there are no such reasons, restriction becomes meaningless, he said.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2011 on page no. 12

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