Are a Muslim Woman’s Non-Muslim Relatives Acceptable as Mahram for Traveling?

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.

[Arabic source of the shaykh’s answer]

And Allaah knows best.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson 

37 thoughts on “Are a Muslim Woman’s Non-Muslim Relatives Acceptable as Mahram for Traveling?

  1. Asalamu alaikum..
    Im a medical student in Iraq-kurdistan region and i applied last year in 10/2014. my question is that do kurdish studtents’ name appear in the list and when?

  2. Assalamo Alikom wa rahmatul lahi wa barakatuh

    Shiekh Moosa, could you write an article on ruling about “Raising Index Finger during embracing Islam” .Because,it is quite spread nowadays.Laymen might think that this is Sunnah.

    Jazakumul laho khira

  3. Assalaamu alaykum

    My father doesn’t pray
    And my mother want to know what she have to do?
    She really wanne know
    Does she have to boycot him or can she have intercourse with him or not?
    We have advised him a lot but he doesn’t listen.
    Please answer this.
    *we live in belgium

    BarakAllahoe fiekoem

    • Wa ‘alaykis-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Be kind to your father and mention the virtues of prayer to him. Read from a book like Riyaadh as-Saaliheen about the virtues of prayer. Ma Allaah give you success.

  4. Likewise, is it permissible for the sister to travel with her husband’s father, or her daughter’s husband? Jazak Allahu khair

  5. Assalaamu’alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, may Allaah preserve you and reward you immensely. I was not sure where to ask this question.

    I am a young woman and my family are forcing me to find work although I love to be at home serving them. They say that the rulings regarding women are not always applicable, and every man and woman now needs to work in order to survive. There are extremely limited jobs in women-only environments, and most women must work alongside men without observing the veil. She has to take on masculine qualities in order to compete in the workplace, and as a result, men do not wish to marry her. What can the woman do now she is in such a vulnerable position? She is forced to support herself because the living expenses have become so high, and men deny their responsibility of maintenance, so almost every woman is pursuing a career. Please advise the young sisters in the west how we can please our Lord in these times.

    BaarakAllaahu feekum

    • Wa ‘alaykis-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. This is one of the signs of the Last Day – that women would be assisting their husbands in the marketplaces, as mentioned in an authentic hadeeth from ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood in the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad. We remind our brothers to be men and take care of their women. Allaah says (what means): “Men are in charge of women, because of the favor Allah has given one over the other, and because of what they [the men] spend [on the women, for maintenance] from their wealth.” (4:34)

      Work hard and tire yourself out for them. Its what men do. Stop forcing them into the workplaces unnecessarily. Stop ruining your wives and daughters, abusing your authority over them, making them work for you, to give you money to take care of YOUR financial responsibilities. Be a man and take a second job before you ask your wife or daughter to work. If they wish to work in a halaal working environment, then facilitate that for them, and remember: the money they make is THEIRS, not yours. If they voluntarily contribute to the expenses of the house, remember: That is a charity they are giving you, not an obligation on them. The recipient of charity is required to show gratitude to someone who spends on him. Remember that and thank your women sincerely if they voluntarily contribute to the expenses of the household.

      The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said (what means): “All of your are shepherds, and all of you will be questioned about your flocks.” (al-Bukhaaree & Muslim) Please convey this advice to them. And Allaah knows best. May Allaah give them success.

      • Jazaakallaahu khayr.
        Can you please post the first Hadith you mentioned, about a sign of the Last Day being the women helping their husbands in the marketplaces.

        • إن بين يدي الساعة تسليم الخاصة وفشو التجارة، حتى تعين المرأة زوجها على
          التجارة

          انظر سلسلة الأحاديث الصحيحة رقم 647

          • On 04-15-2003 after ‘Asr, our shaykh Rabee’ ibn Haadee (hafithahullaah) was discussing some ahaadeeth about the fitnahs to come, so I got the opportunity to ask the shaykh about the part of the hadeeth in question: Women helping their husbands in business.

            The shaykh said it means that they will be in the marketplaces themselves. He asked us, “Don’t you see the women in the marketplaces these days?” We said, “of course.” So he gestured indicating that this is the meaning of the hadeeth. So then I asked him, “Shaykh, so the hadeeth means the women will be out in the marketplaces themselves?” He said yes. Then I asked him about Khadeejah’s business, may Allaah be pleased with her. He said that she used to send the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) to do business for her, and she did not go out herself. He said that the women did not used to go with their husbands out to do business…

            From: http://www.salafitalk.net/st/printthread.cfm?Forum=8&Topic=1435

      • JazaakAllaahu khayran for your response.
        May I also ask, am I sinful for disobeying my parents by not working?
        And will these guidelines regarding the roles of men and women always be applicable? Meaning, some have said it can only be applied in the Muslim lands, and that we need to adapt to our country.

      • As salaamu alaikum wa rahmahtullahi wa barakaatu Brother Moosa. This post was extremely informative to me as I am currently in this situation where although my husband has two jobs I still make more than he does so therefore I pay the majority of the bills. I know that anything I contribute is sadaqa in shaa Allah but my issues come when I wan to spend money on things for myself or my parents. He tells me that I have to get permission from him to spend the money that I earn. I’ve had trouble finding any proof of this and he has yet to provide it. Can you please offer some clarity for me in shaa Allah? He is also looking for a second wife and when asked how is he going to maintain her when he can’t maintain me I’m told to let him worry about that. What is the permissibility of this matter? Jazakallah khair for your time and all that you contribute to this ummah.

        • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. The hadeeth (( خير النساء التي تسره إذا نظر وتطيعه إذا أمر ولا تخالفه في نفسها ولا مالها بما يكره )) comes to mind. It means: “The best of women is the one who is pleasing when looked at, obedient when ordered, and one who does not oppose him (her husband) regarding her personal self or her wealth in a way he dislikes.” It was collected by al-Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad and others. Review: Silsilatul-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah #1838. And Allaah knows best.

          • Jazakallah khair for responding as quickly as you did. I read and understand that Hadith but does that mean that he can use my earnings to pay the bills? He usually keeps my debit card and does with the money as he sees fit.

  6. السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

    Similar to the above, how do brothers studying in one of the Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia provide for their wives when they are not allowed to work whilst studying in the Kingdom? And perhaps most cases wives are the ones who work whilst the Husband studies, so what’s your advice on getting the balance right. BaarakAllaah Feekum

    • وعليك السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

      1. Get a nod, then get a part-time job. Meaning: Ask for approval from an official at the university for a part-time job to take care of your family.
      2. Or work during the summers and save up.

      Life is very easy in Saudi Arabia. One can live well and eat relatively healthy for very little. Learn how to take advantage of the best of local produce and foods, and how to make that stretch. We used to find half a chicken for SR 5 (a little over a dollar) and pull the meat off of the bones and make something for the whole family (a big one) with that, and then use the bones to make a pot of soup as well. Use the qulaabah (SR 1, like 25 cents) as refried beans on burritos made with local tortilla bread (SR 2 for 8 or 10). Lots of great ideas out there. Learn from those who have been ilving there. Give up on Western restaurants and imported foods, they are just way outside your budget. Make a once-a-month treat something like dinner from al-Baik or Taazij. Don’t take people’s charity and then eat Baskin & Robin’s ice cream and Pizza Hut, shame on such a person. May Allaah give you success.

  7. Ameen! BaarakAllaah Feekum

    Perhaps you could maybe write an article on how the Student of Knowledge should spend his time & money whilst in Madinah or Makkah or Riyadh? Would be very beneficial specifically for those of us who are not good with time management or money.

    جعل الله في ميزان حسناتك

  8. I am working in an environment where all men’s and women’s staff will be there but still found myself unpleasant though wearing Hijab but by exposing my face ,due to this reason I am feeling uncomfortable and guilty.But I need to follow the rules of the company there thay won’t allow us to wear mask on our face its seems as unprofessional to the company. So do Allah forgives me ? For this and my husband too .I have got so many responsibilities and helpless can’t go for another job as everything is overloaded on my shoulders since long time, recently got the job in a Company. Before I used to work as a teacher.

  9. Asalamulaika! Jazaaka Allahu Khyran for this article. Very beneficial Alhamduliah. I just wanted to know when you will posted part 3, 4 and 5 of the ruling of Zakkat on YouTube?

  10. Asalamualaika. My question related to this is if a muslim woman marry in western culture to a non muslim man. Their marriage in that world is legal and accepted even in islam may not be accepted. So her family is non muslim except a few member. So her daughter who is muslim, can the husband of the mother be her mahram? The man is in the family in relationship with the mother for 10 years and later married. So the mother is togehter with him long before she accepted islam and the man supported the daughter of his wife with islamic books and Quran. Even he is not a muslim.

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Such a marriage is invalid. Chaste Jewish women and chaste Christian women may marry Muslim men (Quran 5:5), but a believing Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man of any type. (60:10) And Allaah knows best.

  11. As Salaamu Alaykum:

    I love this benefit, yet it also made me feel sad at the same time…This is so prevalent here in the USA. Also, what about sisters whose husbands are disabled and unable to work? Money must be made to save towards hijrah and even so, will a Muslim country support a disabled person from another country.

  12. As Salamu Alaykum, Brother Moosa baaraka Allahu Feek. What is the ruling for a merchant whose wife assists him for the purpose of interacting with female customers?
    Does this hadith about wives assisting their husbands in the market place as a sign of the last day mean that it is haram?
    And, are their any circumstances in which it is acceptable and halal for a woman to assist her husband in the marketplace, as in the case of the wife dealing solely with the female customers?

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. A woman assisting her husband in something halaal is halaal. If it includes free intermingling between the genders or other impermissible matters, then it is not. Women interacting directly with other women in business is perfectly halaal. And Allaah knows best.

      • Assalamu alaykum
        What of therefore dealing with women when, for example, buying something at a supermarket or getting a ticket etc?

  13. As Salaamu Alaikum, If 2 people divorce, is it permissible or impermissible to still send beneficial islamic reminders via email; like in a group email? Barakallahu feekum

  14. Asalamu alaikum, Brother Moosah my daughter just got married a few months ago. My daughter was living with us so my husband acted as her walee, even though she has a muslim father and brother living out of state. My question is the marriage still valid

    • Wa ‘alaykis-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Cooperate with local officials in rectifying the matter, as such a contract is invalid and legally ineffective, unless the father assigned the step-father to act on his behalf or the father was disqualified by a judge. And Allaah knows best.

  15. Assalamou alaykoum I hope you are fine ustadh and all the brothers and sisters who read this website. I am actually in Makkah and I want to know when and where shaykh Muhammad Bazmoul and shaykh El Ethiopi give classes please. BaarakAllah ou fik and shokrane for your quick answer. Hayekom Allah.

    • wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Yes, the husband’s grandfather is mahram, she can relax her hijaab modestly around him, and travel with him as her mahram. The grandfather is from the generality of “the fathers of their husbands” referred to in Quran 24:31, and from Allaah alone is our success.

  16. As salaamu alaikum I have a question..is it permissible for a girl to marry without the physical presence of her wali,but her wali is agree and he sent the declaration letter(stating that he give permission to her daughter to marry that man)..his daughter is living in other country and he’s is other country and it’s not easy for him to reach her..if she get married is this marriage walid?
    Waiting for your response…Jazakallahu khairan…

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. That is upon the officiating body to decide, however it is very risky to rely upon letters and phone calls. The court system in Saudi Arabia safeguards the people’s rights very well, and they require the presence of all parties involved. Wal-hamdulillaah.

  17. Assalamu alaykum

    Excuse me for being off topic.

    I read a fatwa from the lajnah which mentioned the impermissibility of men teaching women without a barrier? How did the prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) teach the women? Was it from behind a cloth or barrier?

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