Is it permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram to study at university?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
In the Holy Quran Allah Tala has said that women should stay in their homes:
“And remain in your homes.” (Al-Ahzaab v.35)
Furthermore, there are various other hadiths, which support the fact that women during the Holy Prophet (saw) time remained in their homes. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has said that women should stay indoors, because when they come out Satan makes her a means of spreading evil amongst Muslims.
“A woman is an object of concealment, thus when she emerges, Satan uses her a means of spreading evil.”
Ibn-Khuzaymah and Ibn-Hibban have also reported the following hadith.
“A woman is closer to her Lord when she is (hidden) in the midmost of her house.”
Islam’s approach to women staying at home is that they will be prevented and saved from the mischief of the outside world. However, Islam being a divine religion has understood that sometimes, and in some situations, women need to come out of their homes for their personal needs.
This can be derived from the following hadith:
“For women, there is no share in going out except if it is necessary.” (Tabrani)
Although Islam has permitted women to leave their homes for necessities, it has placed some guidelines for them. One of them being that if they are travelling for more than three days (48 miles), their husbands or their mahrams (unmarriageable kins) should accompany them.
They are many clear narrations regarding this:
1) “A woman must not travel except with a mahram and a man must not enter upon her except if she has a mahram.” (Bukhari p.250 v.1)
2) “A woman must not travel for three days except with a mahram.” (Muslim p.432 v.1)
3) “It is unlawful for a woman who believes in Allah and the last day that she travels the distance of three nights without a mahram accompanying her.” (Muslim p.433 v.1)
Allamah Ibn Aabideen Shami (RA) writes that it will be impermissible for a woman to travel the distance of three days and three nights without a mahram. However, it will be permissible for her to travel a distance, which is less than that without a mahram because of need. (Raddul Muhtar p.465 v.3)
The reason why Islam takes these measures is to protect women from any sort of harm e.g. physical attacks from immoral people, or thieves who might rob them where they will be defenceless to stop them.
Regarding your question, in this day and age, it is necessary that Muslim brothers and sisters, within the boundaries of Shariah, go into different fields and help the Muslim community.
There is nothing wrong with the sister in question going to university to study, but it has to be within the boundaries of Shariah. Therefore, in light of the Quran and Hadith, it will not be permissible to travel to another country without a mahram. Similarly, if she wants to study outside the city of London (without a mahram), but it is greater than the 48 miles distance, then this will also be deemed impermissible. If however, it is within the 48 miles radius it will be permissible for her to go to study.
Only Allah knows best
Written by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham