Women may travel without a mahram for three days and nights: A study of the hadiths

There are numerous authentic hadiths that mention restrictions on women traveling without a mahram (a relative like a husband or father). I was recently asked about the exact nature of the restriction, so I decided to do a thorough hadith study using the probabilistic hadith verification method. For those who want the conclusion immediately: the opinion I prefer is that women should be permitted to travel without a mahram if the journey is under three days and nights (72 hours). Also note that some scholars, such as al-Baji, believe that this restriction only applies to young women, not elders.

But we go into the study, below is a listing of the opinions of some of the great scholars of the past on this issue:

  • Ibn Taymiyyah and his students: If the road is safe, a woman is permitted to perform Hajj alone without a mahram. She is also permitted to engage in any other kind of travel as long as her safety is ensured.
  • Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal: A woman is permitted to perform Hajj without a mahram if she is with a group of women.
  • Ibn Sireen: If she is with other Muslims, then there is no issue with her performing Hajj without a Mahram.
  • Imam Malik: She can perform Hajj with a group of women without a mahram.
  • Imam al-Shafii: She can perform Hajj without a mahram as long as she is accompanied by a trustworthy free female woman.

It is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that Umar b. al-Khattab permitted the wives of the Prophet to perform the Hajj without a mahram while being accompanied by Uthman b. Affan and Abd al-Rahman b. Abu Bakr. (Reference for the above scholarly opinions and hadiths: Fatwa from IslamOnline – Arabic PDF)

Note that if there is a restriction on women’s travel, it only applies to traveling. As discussed in this answer, a woman is allowed to go to another city or country to attend university without a mahram going with her if she is able to safely reside there (for example among fellow Muslim women) if there are no great hazards to her religion.

Below is a diagram of the result of my study, which includes all the hadiths I found with their chains:

Below is a listing of the relevant contents of the hadiths, arranged from the most reliable to the least reliable, along with the Companions they came from and the hadiths’ probability of authenticity. Note that all of these hadiths are considered sahih or authentic by hadith scholars despite their divergent contents:

  • Abu Hurayra 36%: No woman should travel more than the distance of a day’s and night’s journey without a mahram. (Muwatta)
  • Abu Saeed al-Khudri 13.82%: No woman should travel “more than three nights” without a mahram. (Bukhari, Muslim, Bayhaqi, Musnad Ahmad)
  • Ibn Abbas 12.96%: Women can only go on hajj if they have a mahram with them. (Bukhari and Musannaf Abu Bakr b. Abi Shayba)
  • Abu Hurayra 9.35%: No woman should travel more than a day without a mahram. (Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Ibn Khuzayma, al-Mustadrak)
  • Abu Saeed al-Khudri 6.48%: No woman should travel without a mahram. (Musnad Ahmad)
  • Abu Hurayra 3.88%: No woman should travel more than the distance of a three-day journey without a mahram. (Musnad Ahmad)
  • Abdullah b. Amr b. al-Aas 3.20%: No woman should travel more than the distance of a journey of three [days and nights] without a mahram. (Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq, al-Mujam al-Awsat)
  • Abu Saeed al-Khudri 2.80%: No woman should travel for more than three days without a mahram. It mentions Ayesha saying “Not all woman have mahrams.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban)
  • Ibn Umar 0.6%: No woman should travel for more than three [days and nights] without a mahram. (Sahih Ibn Hibban)

We can use probability theory to combine these authenticity scores as follows.

1−((1−0.36)×(1−0.1382)×(1−0.1296)×(1−0.935)×(1−0.0648)×(1−0.0388)×(1−0.032)×(1−0.028)×(1−0.006)) = 0.973765972

(0.36+0.1382+0.1296+0.935+0.0648+0.0388+0.032+0.028+0.006)÷9 = 0.192488889

(0.973765972+0.192488889)÷2 = 0.5831

The meaning is that there is a 58.31% probability of authenticity for the principle that there is some sort of restriction on women traveling without mahrams, but we don’t know yet what the restriction is. This is a very high probability because sahih starts at 30%. Anything above 60% is sahih al-sahih, meaning it is many times more authentic than the average sahih hadith you run into, and this score almost reaches that.

We can now combine the probabilities of only those hadiths whose contents the say the same things:

  • Abu Hurayra 36%: No woman should travel the distance of a day’s journey without a mahram.
  • Abu Seed al-Khudri and Ibn Umar: 16.97%: No woman should travel for more than the duration of three days and nights without a mahram.
  • Abu Hurayra 9.35%: No woman should travel for more than the duration of a day (and night?) without a mahram.
  • Abu Hurayra and Abdullah b. Amr 7.02%: No woman should travel more than the distance of a three days’ and nights’ journey without a mahram.
  • Abu Saeed al-Khudri 6.48%: No woman should travel at all without a mahram.

We can ignore Abu Saeed al-Khudri’s 6.48% hadith that says no woman should travel without a mahram because it is contradicted by his own more authentic hadith (13.82%, over twice as authentic) that says a woman shouldn’t travel longer than three nights without a mahram.

Besides hadiths, we also have athars, or sayings of the Companions and Successors, on this issue. Below is a listing of the ones I found:

  • Al-Hasan al-Basri 36%: No woman should travel for more than three [days and nights] without a mahram. (Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq)
  • Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri 36%: Ayesha was told about Abu Saeed al-Khudri’s hadith that says women should only travel with mahrams, and she said “Not all women can find a mahram.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba)
  • Ikrima the freedman of Ibn Abbas 21.6%: A woman should not travel for more than three [days and nights] without a mahram. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba)
  • Ibn Umar 18%: No woman should travel for more than three [days and nights] without a mahram. (Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq)

It seems to me that we have two choices now:

  • To rely on one Companion, Abu Hurayra, for his 36% authenticity hadith, which says that no woman should travel the distance of a day’s journey without a mahram.
  • To rely on the three hadiths of Abu Seed al-Khudri and Ibn Umar, with a combined authenticity score of 16.97%, and the non-hadith sayings of al-Hasan al-Basri, Ibn Umar and Ikrima, with a combined authenticity of 42.02%, which say that no woman should travel more than the duration of three days and nights without a mahram.

To me personally the second option is far more attractive, due to it relying on two Companions and two highly respected successors (al-Hasan al-Basri and Ikrima, the most respected freedman of Ibn Abbas), and due to it making life easier. Since everything we are dealing with here is authentic, we might as well choose the easier authentic option that comes from many respected individuals.

Conclusion

It appears that if there are any doubts about a woman’s safety during travel, then she shouldn’t travel alone for more than three days without a mahram. But if her safety is ensured, for example by being accompanied by trustworthy individuals, then she is permitted to travel without a mahram without any time restriction.

11 thoughts on “Women may travel without a mahram for three days and nights: A study of the hadiths

  1. Anonymous

    All that is wrong with Muslim world can be seen in these questions people ask. So much energy on things can u wear this, can a Muslim man or woman do this or that ect. These hadiths are curse on Islamic world suffocating it to death. Its 21 century and our lives are so different from 50 yrs ago not to mention >1000yrs ago. We can respect our heritage without these so called hadith science. This is not science its simply not. Physics, math, chemistry is, not this. Thank GOD Muslims are starting to wake up and fight this nonsense. For all of you who read this check out this brave soul facing death penalty for his opposition to hadith and other criminal regime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC4TuYrSNJs Brother Hassan Al-maliki currently in jail by hadiths propagators Saudi regime/ulema.

    Reply
    1. Vedad Grozdanic

      As-salâmu ‘alaykum, wa rahmatu-llāhi wa barakâtuh.

      ….. …..

      A “hadīth” is a saying of the Messenger of Allāh, Muhammad, blessings and peace of Allāh be upon him.

      According to the respected modern scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Sālih al-Munajjid, may Allāh preserve him: there are almost one-hundred âyât in the Qur’ân, in which Allāh tells us to obey the Prophet Muhammad, sall-Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

      ….. …..

      With regard to some people in modern times, who reject the idea of studying hadīth in general, Shaykh al-Munajjid says: “Their suggestion that the Sunnah is contaminated with fabricated ahadīth is not valid, because the scholars of this ummah took the utmost care to purify the Sunnah from all alien elements.”

      ….. …..

      For more information:

      https://islamqa.info/en/answers/3440/the-misguided-sect-of-al-qur146aaniyyeen

      May Allāh increase us in knowledge.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Vedad, are you seriously saying and this. Hadiths are fabricated that why most schools choose what to accept. Its simply a fact and pls dont’s use these salafi saudi shaykh as your resource. I mean look at their history born out of foreign influence french, British and american to do what? To bring down last Islamic empire the Ottomans. Did you know that French and British were forcing Muslims throughout to accept their rule over holly cities. Yes Muslims were rejecting their hold on Mecca and Medina. Salafist Muslims are disease on our faith, that ideology thx to oil money has almost destroyed Islamic civilization. Islamic civilization includes music, arts, economic prosperity and most of all personal freedom to live you life as you wish. It respects our differences. That is why Islam had its golden age because it was open and welcoming.
        Hadiths are used NOT to improve Muslim lives but to keep Muslims in chains forever trapped in empty discussions what you can or not DO. Most of the time you can’t do almost anything. We should be talking about artificial intelligence, economic development and not with what hand did a prophet eat. Our wholy book is quran the only book that is not tainted by men. But you belive what you want. Judging by your name you come from Balkans as I do, you just have to see how salafi ideology has started to influence a very European moderate version of Islam. Some women started to walk back in those dreadful burkas. That was unheard of 20 years ago. Thank GOD most folks reject that ideology. We need reformation ASAP and not blind obedience to mullahs. And dont say that’s GOD will because, its not. this is hungry greedy ideology wrapped in religion.

        Reply
        1. Vedad Grozdanic

          Al-hamdu li-laah.

          I can understand that you would have such a perspective.

          ….. …..

          Tell me about yourself: How long have you studied Islam? Are you a Haafiz of the Qur-aan? Do you speak the Arabic language fluently?

          On what basis do you make the claim that a Hadith is fabricated? It seems that you do not understand the concept of what a “Hadith” is.

          ….. …..

          Also: what is your name?

          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            Name Mirza.
            no I do not speak Arabic and I am not hafiz either. Hadith are sayings and traditions of the prophet.
            The logic drives me to that conclusion. The outcome of what has what has become out of mulsim world. Islam has become dogma do/do not. Hadith make a prophet look like a pedophile, yes most likely due to sunni exaggeration about his relationship with Aisha as his favorite wife. Are u kidding me? This was done so Abu Bakr position would be strengthend as new caliph over Ali. Pure politics Vedade. Not to mention craziness about impurities what can you touch or not. I mean do you think folks in 7th century had running watter or sewer. Today they got rulles about minicule things like how to enter bathroom etc. No end to this jargon of unimportant things.Look we can go back and forth about it. Bottom line is our world is broken. Arab world according to UN is the only part in the world where no economic or democratic improvment has taken place since the end of cold war. Poverty , dictator ship, religiuos fundamtalisam are on our daily menu. Yes west has its dirty hands too involved but this our isssue that needs fixing. Religion is big part of it it needs to fit the modern world so reformation is needed. I know there is hadith against that too. We need to give women full rights so can have 100% contribution of everyone everyone, mixing in work place schools and so on. Look at us in former Yugoslavia and how emancipation did amazing things for everyone. I’ll give you personal example. When my great grandma had to take burka due to new law she was so ashamed that she thought of commit suicide out of shame. That same women when asked by mom 20 yrs later if she would put niqab on her face again she said NEVER she hated it. You see attitudes change as well as interpretation of reliogious text. Maybee the start is to take the myth out of hadiths and start regarding them as voluntary spiritual guidence and not some devine law.
            She a book by Shayak Atabek Shukurov about fake hadiths he is from Hanfi school. He said he could only vouch for 200 hadiths to be authentic. And they are over half milion recorded hadiths. They have more rational approach Hanafi.
            Anyways selam to you to and have a good day.

    2. Fasha

      I second your point Mirza. After knowing the true essence of this religion, I believe logic to be one of the things. I have high doubts and tend to avoid hadith altogether. I am not rejecting it but I do not view it to be the ultimate source of my understanding of this religion as Quran is. The majority of it tends to dictate on how one should lead/live their life from A-Z. It is implied in the Quran that we are a hasty creature. Things are dictate not to burden a creature more than what they could bear. Surely if it is forbidden, Allah would have mentioned it in the Quran as is the issue with pork. There is no grey area for what is sure.

      Why do I have to restrain myself to something that I believe has nothing to do with my faith in God and illogical to my mind? What’s the difference between 1 day and 3 day? Was there a scientific reasoning for this? Why only women? A man could not be harm but a woman could easily be? Crimes happened even to the innocent. If I have made preparation and study the situation based on the majority opinion and it to be positive, surely I should leave the rest of the outcome to God no?

      Is it not restrictive for a woman to be traveling without a mahram? Why do I have to travel with a mahram for it to be deemed appropriate for me? Make my travel plans based on the suitability and availability of another person when the need is not even compulsory to my situation? Is the verse “Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? 22:46” could not be applied to the women since we have a restriction that does not come from the Quran? Surely I jest since we could travel for a period of 3 days only! Men are free to wander the earth but women could be too with a mahram?

      It makes me feel frustrated and angry. Islam views the men and women as equal but seeing a hadith like this suggest otherwise. Of course we are different from biological point of view but this is not one of it! I am an able independent woman so why should I not received the same treatment in terms of traveling? And then to be dismissed as “I understand why you feel like this but”. Do you not feel privileged being a man looking at a hadith like this?

      This is one of the things that I disagree with. And by being so does not make me not a Muslim nor does it affect my faith.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Salaamu alaikum. Say, if a group of Muslim women want to do a week long trip? Does spending their nights at an inn does not break the requirement of a mahram during their trip? I learn somewhere that when a Muslim woman or a group of them are going on a trip, then booking and staying at an inn (or hotel all the same) will break this hadith into taking effect.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for the conclusion update! The explanation in this article is well-researched and is easy to accept. May Allah bless you.

    Reply
  4. Vedad Grozdanic

    Al-hamdu li-llâh. May Allāh reward you.

    I am working on improving my character, so that I do not argue with people whilst discussing Islam.

    ….. …..

    Shaykh Hamza Yūsuf, may Allāh have mercy on him, once related from a scholar that it is prohibited for ordinary Muslims to argue with one another about the religion; and that it is disliked for scholars to argue with one another about the religion. The shaykh also related that Imâm Mâlik Ibn Ánas, rahīmuhu-llāh, would leave any religious gathering if the people there started arguing with one another.

    ….. …..

    I would like to respond to one point that you made, which was the suggestion that “women travelling with mahrams” somehow does not make rational sense, as women supposedly do not face a higher risk than do men of encountering dangers during their journeys.

    According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 91% of rapes committed are by men, towards women.

    The article goes on to say that, in the majority of rapes cases, the victim knew the perpetrator. Still, this reality would indicate that women are more in need than are men, in general, of having accompaniment when going on journeys, as they are more susceptible to physical harm. This reality exists in the United States, despite the fact that the U.S. is a progressive country in many ways.

    Additionally, the unfortunate reality of human trafficking is alive and well throughout the world. I have read horrifying stories of people in various countries, who have been kidnapped. Honestly, even though I am a man, I myself would want human accompaniment if I was to travel to places that are considered “more dangerous.” The following link discusses the phenomenon of human trafficking:

    https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking
    Source: https://www.nsvrc.org/node/4737

    ….. …..

    Al-hamdu li-llâh; these are broad topics. There is much to discuss.

    And Allāh knows best.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      selam Vedade from mirza.
      I appreciate our disccussion though I do not share the view that it’s bad to discuss or even argue as long it’s respectfull. That is life and life is politics. Some of most famous muslim philosphers used to have arguments like Ibn Sina and Al Ghazali. Though not of such heavyweight as those two, we certainly can contribute to topics that we are passionate about. Problem is, it seems most of us have hard time in general accepting other point of view people have often strong feelings about things.
      You adressed one point in terms sexually attacks and human trafficking r/t women and travelling
      Offcourse I agree one should take the percautions to stay safe. I too, like company and if I think it would be safer that is quite rational approach. One could see historically why anyone would be better of im company. Back in a day there was no 911 one could call for help. You could be kidnapped sold into slavery or killed. Luckily we don’t live in those times. My problem with Islamist & Islamism today is that they use these practical solutions and turn them into something evil in order to imprison women. Can’t travel can’t work can’t educate yourself etc etc. Not all muslims do that but salafi ideology and traditional conservatives all have some form of misogyny wrapped up in religion. Hiding behind God to justify injustice is not religion or spirituality to me, its being coward. All fundamentalis have that in commen, an appearant concern females safety it justification for 2nd class citizenship. Christian and Catholic church are great example of that. Only reinterpation of religious text can change that. That is all ready taking place in muslim world. These among many other changes are comming just look at Tunisia. This is very painful for us Muslims and I aknowalge that but women liberation will have profound effects on Islam for better. This does not have to mimic western style but we should accept what’s good and reject bad and it has to be female decision primarily. We men can support them and should not be afraid. Let us be partners and not in conflict. I don’t dismiss the worry from conservatives but sometimes you may like somthing so much that you can suffocate under that love. Muslim world needs peace, freedom, stable govermants and so many things. This my objection against hadith, some of it is helpfull and inspiring but most of it, is just not applicable to modern world. Collected 150 years after prophet death pbuh. There is a hadith that prohibits hadith collection. Caliphs used to prohibit them from being written down. But most likely at that time there was a conflict between who gets to interpret religion. Religious ulema or the caliph, guess who prevailed. That was used to strengthen their position. They only them have the right to interpret religion. Instead God and a believer we now have God, mullah and beliver, sounds like Catholic church to me. Thats how protestants came. We should use hadiths that enlightened islam and our prophet and reject the one that bring bad light to our faith. Anyways selam and best wishes.

      Reply

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