The Ruling on a Woman “Traveling” by Herself, without a Mahram


As salamu ‘alaykum,

My question is: What is the hukm (ruling) on a Muslimah traveling by herself in the USA.

The situation: A Muslimah has no family with her except her 2 kids, one 11yrs and the other is about 2yrs old. She lives in Arizona and wants to take them to Disneyland in California and also walk the beach (early when no one is around). A non-Muslim female friend may attend with her. The trip is about 340 miles away and she will stay there for about 4 days. Is it permissible for her to travel this far to have fun because she has no mahram in this country to go with her?

Jazak’Allaahu Khairan

Country: United States


Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,

It is impermissible for a woman to travel except when accompanied by a mahram. The Prophet Muhammad said,

لا تسافر المرأة إلا مع ذي محرم

“A woman may not travel except for when accompanied by a mahram.”

How we understand this hadith shall be subsequently discussed. First, is a review of some of its many channels of transmission, such as:

Imam Bukhari in his Sahih (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1425/2004. 4 vols.):

1) Abu al-Nu’man > Hammad b. Zayd > ‘Amr b. ‘Abbas > marfu’. (2/27) Also, via Qutaybah b. Sa’id > Sufyan > ‘Amr. (2/328)

2) Sulayman b. Harb > Shu’bah > ‘Abd al-Malik b. ‘Umayr > Qaza’at Mawla Ziyad > Abu Sa’id al-Khudri > marfu’. (2/27-28)

3) Is-haq b. Ibrahim al-Hanzali > Abu Usamah > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (1/278) Also, Musaddad > Yahya > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’. (Ibid)

4) Adam > Ibn Abi Dhi’b > Sa’id al-Maqburi > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (1/278)

Imam Muslim in his Sahih (Cairo: Dar al-Taqwa. 18 vols. in 9. Printed with Imam Nawawi’s commentary):

1) Zuhayr b. Harb > Mohammad b. al-Muthanna > Yahya al-Qattan > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (9/1618) Also, Abu Bakr b. Abi Shaybah > ‘Abdullah b. Numayr > Abu Usamah > ‘Ubaydullah. (9/1619) Also, Mohammad b. Rafi’ > Ibn Abi Fudayk > Dahhak > Nafi’. (Ibid)

2) Qutaybat b. Sa’id and Uthman b. Abi Shaybah > Jarir > ‘Abd al-Malik > Qaza’ah > Abu Sa’id al-Khudri. (9/1619) Also, Mohammad b. al-Muthanna > Mohammad b. Ja’far > Shu’bah > ‘Abd al-Malik. (Ibid) Also, Abu Ghassan al-Misma’i and Mohammad b. Bashshar > Mu’adh b. Hisham > Qatadah > Qaza’ah. (Ibid)

3) Qutaybat b. Sa’id > Layth > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (9/1619) Also, Zuhayr b. Harb > Yahya b. Sa’id > Ibn Abi Dhi’b > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah. (9/1620) Yahya b. Yahya > Malik > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah. (Ibid)

4) Abu Bakr b. Abi Shaybah and Zuhayr b. Harb > Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah > ‘Amr b. Dinar > Abu Ma’bad > Ibn ‘Abbas > marfu’. (9/1620)

Imam Tirmidhi in his Sunan (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1426/2005. 6 vols. with an index, and Ahmad Shakir and Dr. Mustafa al-Dhahabi’s tahqiq):

1) Ahmad b. Mani > Abu Muawiyah > ‘Amash > Abu Salih > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (3/307)

2) al-Hasan b. Ali al-Khallal > Bishr b. ‘Umar > Malik b. Anas > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (3/308)

Imam Abu Dawud in his Sunan (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1420/1999. 5 vols. with an index, and Dr. Sayyid Mohammad’s tahqiq):

1) Qutaybat b. Sa’id > Layth b. Sa’d > Sa’id b. Abi Said > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (2/747) Also, Yusuf b. Musa > Jarir > Suhayl > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (2/748)

2) Uthman b. Abi Shaybah > Hannad > Abu Mu’awiyah and Waki’ > ‘Amash > Abu Salih > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (2/748)

3) Ahmad b. Hanbal > Yahya b. Sa’id > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (2/748)

Imam Ahmad in his Musnad (Beirut: Mu’asasat al-Risalah. 50 vols. with Shu’ayb Arna’ut’s tahqiq):

1) Yahya > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (8/231) Also, Ibn Numayr > ‘Ubaydullah. (10/384)

2) ‘Abd al-Razzaq > Ibn Jurayj > ‘Abd al-Karim al-Jazari > ‘Amr b. Shu’ayb > his father > ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr > marfu’. (11/319)

3) Sufyan > ‘Abd al-Malik b. ‘Umayr > Qaza’ah > Abu Sa’id. (17/91)

4) Bahz > Abu ‘Awanah > Qatadah > Abu Nadrah > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (18/13-14)

5) Yahya b. Mujalid > Abu al-Waddak > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (18/73-74)

Imam Daraqutni in his Sunan (Beirut: Mu’asasat al-Risalah, 1424/2004. 6 vols):

1) Abu Mohammad b. Sa’id > Mohammad b. ‘Ali b. al-Hasan b. Shaqiq > his father > Abu Hamzah > Jabir > Abu Mashar > Salim > Abu al-Jad > Abu Umamah > marfu’. (3/228) And, it comes in the footnote:
Tabarani in his Mujam (8016) [with a slightly different wording] > ‘Umar b. Hafs al-Sadusi > Abu Bilal al-Ash’ari > al-Mufaddal b. Sadaqah Abu Hammad al-Hanafi > Aban b. Abi ‘Ayyash > Abu Mashar al-Tamimi > Qaza’ah > Abu Umamah > marfu’. (Ibid)

Imam Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (India: Da’irah al-Ma’arif al-‘Uthmaniyyah, 1344. 10 vols):

1) Abu ‘Ali al-Rudhabari > Abu Bakr b. Dasah > Abu Dawud > Ahmad b. Hanbal > Yahya b. Sa’id b. ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (3/138)

2) Abu al-Fawaris > Mohammad b. Ahmad al-Sawwaf > Bishr b. Musa > Abu Nu’aym > ‘Amash > (h) Abu Tahir > Mohammad b. ‘Umar b. Hafs > Ibrahim b. ‘Abdullah al-Absi > Waki’ > ‘Amash > Abu Salih > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (Ibid)

3) Abu ‘Abdullah al-Hafiz > Mohammad b. Ya’qub > Yahya b. Mohammad b. Yahya > Musaddad > Abu al-Fadl b. Ibrahim > Ahmad b. Salamah > Mohammad b. Bashshar > Mohammad b. al-Muthanna > Yahya > ‘Ubaydullah > Nafi’ > Ibn ‘Umar > marfu’. (5/227)

Hafiz Abu Abdullah al-Hakim in his Mustadarak (Cairo: Dar al-Haramayn, 1417/1997. 5 vols):

1) Ahmad b. Ja’far > ‘Abdullah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal > his father > Abu Hisham al-Makhzumi > Wuhayb > Mohammad b. ‘Ajlan > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (1/610)

Ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami. 4 vols. with Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami’s tahqiq):

1) Yusuf b. Musa > Jarir > Sufyan > Abu Bishr al-Wasiti > Khalid > Suhayl > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (4/135)

2) Bundar > Abu Hisham al-Makhzumi > Wuhayb > Ibn ‘Ajlan > Sa’id b. Abi Sa’id > his father > Abu Hurayrah > marfu’. (Ibid)

3) Mohammad b. Yahya > Mohammad b. al-Mubarak > Sadaqat b. Khalid > Yazid b. Abi Maryam > Qaza’ah > ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr b. al-‘As > marfu’. (4/134)

Hafiz Abu Ya’la in his Musnad (Damascus: Dar al-Ma’mun li al-Turath. 14 vols. with Husayn Salim Asad’s tahqiq:

1) Dawud b. Amr > Mohammad b. Muslim > ‘Amr b. Dinar > Abu Ma’bad > Ibn ‘Abbas > marfu’. (4/394)

Hafiz Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf (Dar al-Qiblah with Mohammad ‘Awwamah’s tahqiq):

1) Waki’ > ‘Amash > Abu Salih > Abu Sa’id > marfu’. (4/4)

2) Ibn ‘Uyaynah > ‘Amr > Abu Ma’bad > Ibn ‘Abbas > marfu’. (4/6)

Hafiz Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabir (Maktabat Ibn Taymiyyah. 25 vols):

1) al-Husayn b. Is-haq > Mohammad b. Hayyan al-Mazini > Sulayman b. Yazid Abu Dawud mawla Bani Hashim > ‘Ali b. Yazid > Abi Hani > Sh’abi > ‘Adi b. Hatim > marfu’. (17/80)

Hafiz Ibn ‘Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr):

1) With his sanad to ‘Ata’ > Ibn Jurayj > Ibn ‘Abbas > marfu’. (67/31)


Accordingly, this narration has come to us from a significant number of channels [turuq]. In the first tabaqah we find:

1) Ibn ‘Umar,

2) Ibn ‘Abbas,

3) Abu Hurayrah,

4) Abu Sa’id al-Khudri,

5) ‘Adi b. Hatim, and

6) ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr.

Thereafter, the narration was transmitted by them to their students, and so forth until today. In some of the narrations, it is mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad delivered these words in a khutbah. (Tabarani, al-Mujam al-Kabir 11/425) Accordingly, the narration would have been current amongst the Prophetic companions. A more exhaustive search may turn up even more asanid (and possibly turuq) for the narration. The ruling is established by authentic hadith evidence; the Madhhab has taken it from there.

Some of the narrations’ wordings differ, Hafiz Ibn Hajar stated,

“‘The woman does not travel...’ Thus, ‘journey’ is understood without restriction. It is restricted in Abu Sa’id’s narration with ‘a journey is two days,’ in Abu Hurayrah’s narration with ‘a day and a night,’ and in Ibn ‘Umar’s narration, with ‘three days.’ The majority of scholars have acted upon it generally, on account of the differing wordings. Imam Nawawi said, ‘The point in fixing [a limit of time or distance to consider what is or is not a journey] is not what is understood literally from the expression. In fact, everything that is termed ‘safar[a journey]’ is impermissible for a woman, except for when she has a mahram.’” (Fath al-Bari 4/75)

The great scholar, Hafiz Munawi, also opined according to what Imam Nawawi mentioned, as comes in Fath al-Qadir 6/398, “what is termed a ‘journey’ by custom [‘urf].”

In brief, the majority opine, without restriction, that it is not permissible for a woman to embark on what is considered ‘safar,’ except for when accompanied by a mahram. This is considering that the mentioned distances defining a ‘journey’ in the narrations are particular to different questioners and places. (See: Sharh Sahih Muslim vol. 9, pg. 103-04)

Essentially, it is not possible to reconcile between the different mentioned restrictions: one, two, and three days; therefore, generality is maintained. Thus, it is impermissible for a woman to travel on whatever is termed ‘safar [a journey]’ besides when accompanied by a mahram. Accordingly, it does not matter how long a journey is – everything that is termed ‘safar’ is impermissible for a woman without a mahram.

Imam Nawawi stated,

“It is permissible to go on an obligatory pilgrimage with a husband, mahram, or trustworthy woman; and it is not permissible except for with one of them, even if the way is safe. And there is a weak view that it is permissible when the way is safe…”

Imam Nawawi’s discussion continues,

“…regarding a non-obligatory pilgrimage, a journey for visitation or trade, and every non-obligatory journey, it is not permissible according to the relied-upon view, except for with a husband or mahram. And it is said [as a lesser opinion] that it is permissible with women or a dependable woman, similar to an obligatory pilgrimage.” (Sharh al-Muhadhdhab 8/342-43)

Therefore, it is not permissible according to the Shafi’i School’s relied-upon opinion that she travel from Arizona to California except for in the company of a mahram or husband.

Regarding the lesser opinion that Imam Nawawi indicated towards pertaining to Hajj, Ibn al-Rif’ah stated,

“Karabisi related [as a qawl qadim – an opinion from the ‘Iraqi School which was later retracted] that Imam Shafi’i said, ‘when the way is safe, the journey is permissible without other women.’ Abu al-Tayyib, Sahib al-Murshid, Ruyani, and Baghawi made it their independent opinion [ikhtiyar]. They relied on ‘Adi b. Hatim’s narration, [that the Prophet Muhammad said to him], ‘if you live long enough, a woman shall travel from Hirah until she makes tawaf of the Ka’bah while not in fear.’ And, ‘Adi said, ‘I saw that.’…Thus, the previous narration is taken to mean when she has no fear for herself, in general.”

Hence, the idea of a woman traveling unaccompanied for Hajj is related from some authorities. It is related as Imam Shafi’i’s qawl qadim. Imam Bayhaqi related the qawl qadim; as did Imam Nawawi. (al-Sunan al-Kubra 5/226; Rawdat al-Talibin 2/284) Again, the view pertains to Hajj.

Regarding a non-obligatory journey, Ibn al-Rif’ah’s discussion continues,

”On a journey of obedience, like visiting parents, a supererogatory pilgrimage, or a permissible act like business, the madhhab is upon what Bandaniji stated following Abu Hamid that a mahram is stipulated. Even so, some of the As-hab related it to an obligatory journey. Qaffal made it his independent opinion [ikhtiyar]. And, [Ruyani] stated in al-Bahr, ‘It is the most sound and most analogous according to me; however, it is disliked [makruh].’” (Kifayat al-Nabih 7/49-51)

This wording is also mentioned in Bahr al-Madhhab vol. 5, pg. 31, without mention of it being disliked.

The previously mentioned texts of Kifayat al-Nabih and Bahr al-Madhhab mention the independent views [ikhtiyar] of Ruyani and Qaffal that pertain to her traveling on a non-obligatory journey, with the consideration that she be accompanied by other women. In Rawdah, this is clarified by Imam Nawawi. (2/284) Imam Nawawi deems their position as lesser, and affirms that in the relied-upon opinion [al-asahh] she needs a mahram/husband.

Therefore, Ruyani’s and Qaffal’s ikhtiyar match the muqabil al-asahh, as it comes in Rawdah. In Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, the relied-upon view (requiring a mahram/husband) is mentioned as “madhhab sahih mansus.” (8/342) And thereafter with the sighat al-tamrid “qila,” the lesser view (being accompanied by a dependable woman or women) is related. (Ibid)

In conclusion, the relied-upon view is that she may not travel without her mahram/husband. Another opinion allows for her to travel with a dependable woman or a group of women.

And Allah knows best. Fatwa Dept.