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I’m a woman, can I move away from home after I graduate?

I’m a woman, can I move away from home after I graduate?


I’m a woman and would like to move away after I graduate but at the end of the day, my parents won’t allow it because of the living without a non-mahram issue. I tried to find some kind of evidence but I can’t. Is it actually allowed for a woman to live somewhere far without a non-mahram? I suppose this is petty but I’d actually like to know. Thanks always for your informative answers! 🙂

Salaam alykum,

Please don’t even thank me, I’m honestly flattered that you think those things, and I hope that I can continue to help in whatever small way I can.

Your question is very interesting because it highlights very important aspects of Shariah that are routinely forgotten. I am specifically speaking of the “lens” that one uses to either create or adjudicate a law in Islamic jurisprudence.

In order to do this properly, your procedure must factor in three considerations:

makaan (place)

waqt (time)

tafa’eel (implementation)

In short, you must consider the place, the time-period, and your ability to implement/enforce the law. If you do not do this, you have committed a major error in the process of evaluating the question in front of you. I would highly suggest, when trying to apply Islamic injunctions upon yourself, or when reading/considering another person’s (Sheikh, Mufti, or your MSA haram police) interpretation, see if they have accounted for this. If not, from a pure procedural level, you/they have made a mistake.

Please keep this in mind, because it will become very important in understanding my perspective in answering your question.

Okay, so when we take the concept of mahram, as per usual, we have two sources, unsurprisingly it is The Qur’an and the Hadith.

The basis for who constitutes your mahram is found in Surah An-Nur, specifically in ayah 31. As becomes obvious, whether by reading the ayah in question, or (better yet) the entire Surah, it becomes clear that travel is not mentioned.

There are, of course, various Hadith that mention the impermissibility of women traveling alone for various periods. Some say three days, some say two, some say not even one. The ways that internet Muftis deal with this is actually very funny, but, that’s another issue.

People will say, “well, see, it says you can’t, so, case closed, right?” Er. Wrong. Very, very wrong. The problem with the ways that they are taking these Hadith is that they have not seen the fundamental issue that these Hadith were concerning themselves with: the safety of women.

The reason why these Hadith even exist, and we’ll not even get into the relative strength or weakness of them, is because of safety. I mean, real safety, like, a woman traveling alone on horseback, will be sold into slavery, killed, raped, etc. Let’s remember the sort of society that we are originally dealing with, these guys would bury unwanted daughters, alive.

We seriously need to stop idealizing the early Muslims. Yes, there were some incredible people there, but can we please realize that these people were not exactly fantastic to begin with. I mean, God doesn’t throw down His Final Revelation because things are fabulous.

So when these Hadith are talking about safety, we’re talking about real tangible threats. Driving a few hours up the highway to visit your mother is very different that traveling that same distance without roads, police cars, cell phones, emergency response vehicles, and air conditioning (most important to me, obviously). Basically, I doubt you live in a society where you have to factor in “bandits” when traveling, or the possibility that they will sell you into slavery, so, can we at least all agree that the situations are distinctly different?

Historically speaking, raids, bandits, slave-traders, and the like were major concerns. Being able to adequately patrol your trade routes was a critical key to the economic success of a society. We’re not just talking Silk Road here, we’re talking, can we transport things we value (material or otherwise) from point A to B in a predictable, consistent, and safe way?

The simple fact of the matter is that we do not live with those same concerns. Yes, there is no doubt that there are always dangers when traveling alone, male or female, and that will be a scary unknown. However, to attempt to apply the same sort of standards from those Hadith to our current situation does two things: it denigrates the progress we have made on a societal level through technology (ambulances, 9-1-1, police networks, etc) and secondly, it actually makes the concerns of The Prophet and the Sahaba to being “like ours,” which not only makes us misunderstand them, but it denigrates their courage and human progress.

Don’t get me wrong, in many things, people will always be people, but, even beyond my legal perspective, it is dangerous to not factor in the situation when applying not just this particular question, but nearly any Islamic injunction. The misuse and misunderstanding of our religion and its dictates is extremely dangerous.

I will tell you why it is dangerous, forget about the typical misuse of religion dangers, but think about the vibrancy and the strength of belief of Muslims in their religion. For all our faults, generally caused by our failure to uphold Islamic injunctions, there is something to be said to our Ummah’s dedication to our faith. An important Western journalist describes “Islamic society’s rock solid faith,” with “bishops have talked of their envy at Islam’s strength and vibrancy while the postmodern world continues to ravage the edifice of traditional belief in the West.”

Our continued belief stems from various reasons, but, what I think makes Islam particularly strong is its daily applicability. Even if you do not find anything particularly wrong with requiring women to have a mahram while they travel, I ask you to at least recognize that there are issues that we must at leastconsider before continuing further. We, as a Muslim society, must determine ourselves whether the status enlisted in the Hadith and subsequent rulings are still applicable today. If we do not do this, the religion will become less useful for more people, and Islamic values will soon be pushed aside.

Now, before you get mad at me, unfollow me, or write me an angry message take a deep breath. There are various injunctions in both The Qur’an and the Hadith that deal with slavery, but, it’s clear, when you read The Qur’an that slavery was something to be detested and eliminated. The legacy of slavery in the Muslim world (i.e. Mameluks, Janisarry’s, etc) illustrate how these injunctions, while not outright eliminating slavery, still engendered very different societal structures. So, now that slavery is not something we (commonly) deal with, do we still usually use Qur’anic injunctions or Hadith concerning slavery?

Remember those three categories I mentioned earlier? After reading what I’ve said so far, how does what you’ve read look now?

As far as whether it is allowed for a woman to live somewhere far from her non-mahram, I don’t think our modern Muslim society has actually dealt with this idea, and thus, people simply either apply the rule or don’t, as a way to illustrate how “conservative” or how “liberal” they are. The reason why classical Islamic opinions did not generally deal with this issue (to my knowledge, I may be wrong) is because a woman living alone was unthinkable to any society, let alone Muslim ones.

As far as my personal opinion, utilizing the jurisprudential tool of Istislah, or public good, I think that if we are to take for granted, that the danger posed to women today is drastically less than to the women addressed in the Hadith (remember The Qur’an does not deal with these travel considerations) then it is in the public’s interest that women advance themselves as much as they can. Furthermore, the Hadith in question do not concern themselves with women living alone, they are concerned with traveling alone. Thus, any question over my use or the applicability of Istihslah, can be referred to that absence (of Hadith addressing habitation).

If our women are smart, our children will be smart, and thus our investment in the advancement of a woman’s studies and personal development (career or otherwise) can only ensure that her children, and by extension our society, will benefit as a result.

If the issue is just about you “leaving home” because you want to leave, I’d counsel you to reconsider. You will never get the time back that you could have spent with your parents, and for those who have not had the gift of parents, I’m sure you can concede that while they (parents) may frustrate us, there is nothing more important than family.

Finally, while there are so many factors to consider, from a legal perspective, especially in light of how travel is done today (i.e. jet planes) that we must fundamentally reconsider how we apply these Hadith. As far as living goes, I think that, again, is determined by the purpose of moving away from your home which is relative more to your Islamic duty to take care of your parents (for men and women), rather than on the basis of being with or without a mahram.

However, even that being said, I would ask this of Muslim men and women, and it is something I ask myself: Would you even want to be far away enough that, God forbid, should you need to return home, you couldn’t return home quick enough?

Insha Allah, I hope I answered your question. If you, or anyone else, has any other questions regarding this or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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