Woman travelling accompanied by a group of other women without a mahram – Shaykh Fawzan

In order to preserve both the man and woman’s honor and to safeguard their hearts from temptation, and as a means of blocking the pathways that lead to corruption, a woman is restricted from traveling alone without a mahram. This is since if a woman is accompanied by a mahram, he will preserve her, safeguard her and take care of her needs. The Prophet  said: “It is not lawful for a woman that believes in Allaah and the Last Day to travel the distance of two days unless accompanied by a mahram.”[3]

In one narration it states: “a day and a night”[4] while in another narration it states: “to travel” without specifying a time-frame.[5]

What is intended here is that a woman should not travel alone without a mahram. If she does so, i.e. travels without a mahram, she would be disobeying Allaah and His Messenger, committing what Allaah has forbidden and exposing herself to fitnah. This applies generally to all situations and time periods.

As for what some people claim ­ that if a woman travels accompanied by a group of other women, this takes the place of a mahram ­ then this is a view that is in opposition to the Prophet’s statement: “It is not lawful for a woman that believes in Allaah and the Last Day to travel the distance of a day unless accompanied by a mahram.” [6]

A group of women do not serve as a mahram for a woman. The mahram of a woman is well-known ­ it is a male that she is forbidden to marry due to family-ties, such as her father, her son, her paternal uncle, and her maternal uncle…or due to some allowable reason, such as marital ties, like the father of her husband or the son of her husband, or such as foster-suckling ties based on the Prophet’s statement: “Foster-suckling makes forbidden that which is forbidden due to family-ties.” [7]

Therefore, a woman’s mahram is any male that she is forbidden (to marry) due to a family-tie or some allowable reason. This forbiddance (of marriage) must also be endless, i.e. everlasting. So what doesn’t fall into this category is the temporary (marital) forbiddance such as the wife’s sister and the wife’s paternal and maternal aunt. This marital forbiddance is only applicable for a prescribed time. This is why the husband cannot serve as a mahram for his wife’s sister even though he is forbidden from marrying her since this marital forbiddance is temporary. In the same manner, he cannot be a mahram to his wife’s maternal and paternal aunt. This is what a mahram is. As for a group of women, they are not a mahram.

The Prophet  stipulated that a woman be accompanied by a mahram when traveling under all circumstances, regardless of whether she travels by foot, on a riding beast, in a car or by airplane.

Some people today claim that there is no problem if a woman travels by airplane and her mahram dispatches her in the departure airport while another mahram picks her up at the arrival airport. We say: No, this is not permissible, since she has traveled without a mahram. And the Prophet  said: “It is not lawful for a woman that believes in Allaah and the Last Day to travel the distance of two days unless accompanied by a mahram.” This applies to whether she travels on foot, by car or on a riding beast. The Prophet  did not specify. However, the cause is there, and it is due to the fitnah that is feared will befall her ­ even if she is on an airplane. So she is not safe from fitnah even on board a plane.

Furthermore, let’s suppose for example that the airplane is forced to change its destination and so it lands in a different country ­ who will pick her up in this other country? That is why there must be a mahram present along with the woman.

This is such that once a man came to the Prophet  and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I have enlisted for such and such battle expedition, but my wife has gone out for Hajj.” The Prophet  told him: “Go back and make Hajj with your wife.”[8]

The Prophet  turned this man away from battle so that he may accompany his wife on Hajj and serve as a mahram for her. This is proof that having a mahram is a condition for a woman to travel on Hajj or to other places, regardless of whether she is with a group of people or not. This is why the scholars of Fiqh, may Allaah have mercy on them, mentioned that one of the conditions in which Hajj becomes obligatory on a woman is when she has a mahram available to travel with her. So if one is not available for her, she is then not obligated to make Hajj until a mahram does become accessible for her.

Foot Notes:
[3] Reported by Imaam Al-Bukhaaree (2/219-220) from the narration of Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudree
[4] Reported by Imaam Muslim (no. 1339) from the narration of Abu Hurairah
[5] Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (4/18) and Muslim (no. 1341)
[6] Reported by Imaam Muslim (no. 1339) from the narration of Abu Hurairah
[7] Reported by Imaam Al-Bukhaaree (3/149) from the narration of Ibn `Abbaas
[8] Reported by Imaam Al-Bukhaaree (2/219) from the narration of Ibn `Abbaas

Source : Advice to the Muslim Woman – Shaykh Saalih bin Fawzaan al-Fawzaan [Book]