Women - Key Issues
Some of the most disputable points in relation to Hajj are, not surprisingly, regarding women:
- The issue of Mahram
- Covering of the face while in Ihraam
- Visiting of graves
At this point we would like to remind the readers about a hadith regarding doubtful things. Although this hadith is a reminder to us all, we find it pertinent to mention it in this chapter as some of the serious disputable issues are regarding women.
Narrated An-Nu'man bin Bashir (may Allah be pleased with him): I heard Allah's Messenger (e) saying:
"Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (unclear) things, and most people have no knowledge about them. So whoever saves himself from those doubtful (unclear) things, he saves his religion and his honour. And whoever indulges in these doubtful (unclear) things, is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else, and at any moment he is liable to get in it.
(O people!) Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allah (Azawajal) on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things. Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body, if it becomes good (reformed), the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart." (Bukhari)
It is essential that you be accompanied by your husband or some other mahram on the journey for Hajj.
Mahram: Apart from your husband, a male relative whom you cannot legally marry (at any time in your life), i.e., brother, father, son, husband's father.
Abu Hurrairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said:
"It is forbidden for any woman who has faith in Allah and the Day of Judgement to undertake the distance of a day or more without being accompanied by a mahram." (Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad)
Your sister's husband cannot be your mahram, even if your sister is present. Although you cannot marry him, while he is married to your sister, you can actually marry him if they are divorced or she dies.
Below are a few points, which are common practice today. Are they acceptable? NO!
û A man making an agreement with a married woman who is about to make Hajj and has no mahram, that he will be her mahram.
û A woman taking a non-related man as her brother so that he can be a mahram for her and then treating him as a mahram.
û A woman travelling together with a group of women. Not all scholars agree on this point.*
û Also, similarly travelling along with a man who is a mahram for one of them claiming that he is mahram for all of them.
The immediate questions that arise are:
- What about women doing their fardh Hajj?
- What about unmarried women?
- What about women without sons or brothers?
One additional condition for eligibility to perform Hajj for a female, is that she should have a mahram. In general, the Saudi Arabian embassy will not issue Hajj visas for women without a mahram. However, women over the age of 45 that have no mahram, may obtain a visa if they are travelling with an organised Hajj group.
If a women has no mahram (and this situation is permanent), and she has the money, then she should send somebody to perform the Hajj on her behalf.
* There are many books that ascribe to the view that for a woman's fardh Hajj, she can travel with a group of other women. None of the major references we used for this content ascribe to this view.
The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said:
"No man should be in the company of a woman alone. Unless the woman is accompanied by a mahram or her husband, she should not undertake a journey."
"A man told the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) that his wife had gone for Hajj while he had enrolled himself for a particular battle. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) told the man to accompany his wife on Hajj instead." (Bukhari and Muslim)
I'ddah (waiting period)
If a woman is in her i'ddah period (her husband died), she MUST complete her i'ddah period first, even though she may meet all the other requirements of Hajj (mahram, money, health, etc.) before she can embark on her journey. The i'ddah period is 4 months and 10 days as per the Qur'an. See surah al-Baqarah ayah 234. If her husband dies while they are on Hajj, then she may complete her Hajj rites.
All pilgrims MUST perform Tawaaf-al-Ifadah. Tawaaf-al-Wadaa (farewell tawaaf) can be omitted by menstruating or post-natal bleeding women.
If your passport contains a photo of you without a head covering, you should have it changed. It is Haraam (forbidden) to display such photos, apart from it causing you embarrassment during the trip.
Ensure that your departure dates from Makkah allow you enough time to complete Tawaaf-al-Ifadah, in the event of your menstruation starting prior to you having completed it.
Check what the accommodation packages offer. Shared rooms; couple rooms; en-suites; food included, etc. Prepare yourself physically and mentally.
Ensure that you have all the necessary medicines and toiletries. The clothes, toiletries and other items to take with you are covered in chapter two of this book.
Take some of the traveller's cheques in your name. Also keep some of the cash money with you. Avoid keeping all your money in one place.
Mentally prepare yourself for the toilet, bathroom and sleeping facilities in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
No attractive clothes, perfume or make-up should be worn while going to the mosque or in the company of non-mahram men.
Other points regarding the clothes:
ü It must be thick enough to be completely opaque (non see-through).
ü It must be loose enough as not to make clear the shape of the body.
ü The material itself must not be decorative.
ü It must not resemble the dress of men.
ü It must not resemble the dress of disbelieving women.
ü It must not be ostentatious.
Keep the following hadith in mind whenever you feel the difficulties of Hajj:
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: Once I asked the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) for permission to take part in jihad, and he said,
"The Jihad of women is Hajj." (Bukhari and Ibn Majah)
The clothes for Ihraam can be of any colour.
Some women refuse to enter into the state of Ihraam at the meqaat as they are in their menses. They argue that they should first become clean. However, a woman in menses can and should get into the state of Ihraam at the prescribed place and can perform every religious rite, except tawaaf and salah. See under menstruation in this chapter for more details.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: We went with the Messenger of Allah (saw) during the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage...Aisha said: "The monthly period began. When it was the night of Arafat, I said to the Messenger of Allah (e): ‘I entered into the state of Ihraam for Umrah, but now how should I perform the Hajj?’ Thereupon he said:
‘Undo your hair and comb them, and desist from performing Umrah, and put on Ihraam for Hajj.’
She (Aisha) said: ‘When I had completed my Hajj he commanded 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abu Bakr (her brother) to carry me behind him (on horseback) in order to enable me to resume the rituals of Umrah from Tana'ym, the place where I abandoned its rituals’." (Muslim)
Covering the face and hands while in Ihraam
The hadith related in Bukhari states that a woman should not cover her face with a Niqaab (sewn face cover) or cover her hands with gloves.
Some people use this hadith to “prove” that women are not supposed to cover their face and hands while in the state of Ihraam. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) told the men that they should not wear fitted clothes (shirts or trousers), but that did not mean that they should go naked. Similarly the women are instructed not to wear gloves and a niqaab. This does not mean that their face and hands should not be covered.
The hadith narrated by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) proves that they did cover their faces while in the presence of non-mahram men:
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "The riders had been passing by us while we were with the Apostle . When they came opposite to us or parallel to us we (the women) would let our veils down on our faces and heads, and when they had passed away we unveiled our faces." (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
So if you normally cover your face then it is acceptable to do so while in Ihraam, as long as you don't do it with a nikaab. There is also no need to wear a baseball type hat to avoid your scarf from touching your face as many sisters do, as there is no basis for this.
Women should cover their feet (with socks or otherwise), especially during salah. For some unknown reason many women do not cover their feet. It is a requirement as instructed by Allah that their aurah must be covered and the feet are part of a women’s aura.
While in Ihraam it is permissible to remove the socks or change one’s clothes.
Visiting of Graves
The strongest view as per my sources of reference is that it is not recommended for a woman to visit graves.
The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, "May Allah curse the women who are frequent visitors of the graves." (Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi)
This is another controversial issue. Also the book most commonly used by many people (Fiqh-us-sunnah) contradicts this view.
Keep in mind your objective- to perform a perfect Hajj. The visiting of various graves is neither a requirement nor a rite of Hajj. It would be good perhaps to err on the side of caution: meaning that, if there is uncertainty or disagreement on a particular issue, “stay on the safe side“.
Take heed of the instruction given to us by our beloved Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) as related in the hadith:
"Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (unclear) things, and most people have no knowledge about them. So whoever saves himself from those doubtful (unclear) things, he saves his religion and his honour. And whoever indulges in these doubtful (unclear) things, is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else, and at any moment he is liable to get in it..." (Bukhari)