In the Name of Allaah, the All Merciful, the Ever Merciful…
As reported by Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) and collected in the most authentic Hadeeth sources like al-Bukhaaree and Muslim, the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) forbade believing women from traveling without a mahram.
A mahram is a woman’s close male family member, like her father, grandfather, son, grandson, brother, or uncle.
Traveling means to leave one’s city, by a distance considered according to local customs to be a journey, not just normal daily movement around and outside of the borders of one’s city.
In the West, a woman often accepts Islaam and thereafter faces the difficulty of being the only Muslim in her family. She may ask: How am I to implement this hadeeth? Since my immediate male relatives are disqualified from being my walee (guardian) in a marriage contract, are they also disqualified from being my mahram during a journey?
This issue was recently addressed by Shaykh Muhammad ‘Umar Baazmool (may Allaah preserve him), Professor of Higher Studies at Umm al-Qura University in Makkah. He stated:
الذي عليه جمهور أهل العلم أنه لا يشترط في المحرم أن يكون مسلماً. بشرط أن يؤمن عليها من أن يزني بها أو يفعل بها ما لا يحل، و لذلك استثنوا المجوسي، فلا ولاية و لا محرمية له على ابنته المسلمة، لأن دينه المجوسية لا يمنعه من ذلك. وغير المجوسي من الكفار لا ولاية له، و له محرمية فيحل لها السكن معه والسفر معه، بالشرط المذكور.
بل هذا الشرط مراعى حتى في المجرم المسلم، فلا محرمية له إذا كان لا يؤمن عليها، ويعامل معاملة الأجانب، والله الموفق.
That which the vast majority of the people of knowledge hold to is that it is not a condition for one’s mahram to be a Muslim, so long as he can be trusted around her, not to commit incest or do something impermissible to her. Thus, they exempted a Majoosee (Zoroastrian), disqualifying him from wilaayah (being a walee for a marriage contract) and from being a mahram for his own Muslim daughter, since his Zoroastrian religion does not prevent him from such things. Aside from the Zoroastrians, other non-Muslims cannot be the walee (in a marriage contract), however they are valid mahrams which a Muslim woman can live and travel with, so long as they fulfill the condition mentioned.
This condition is even applied to a Muslim sex offender! He is not to have mahram status if he cannot be trusted around her. Instead, he is to be treated as someone outside the family, and Allaah is the One who grants success.
And Allaah knows best.
Written by: Moosaa Richardson