The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has granted conditional permission for women to undertake Hajj or Umrah without a mahram or male guardian. This decision came in response to a query from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, where the CII stated that women facing no potential harm during their journey to the holy sites of Islam can perform Hajj and Umrah without a male guardian.
The council highlighted that the Ja’fari, Shafi’i, and Maliki schools of jurisprudence permit a woman to embark on the pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina without a male guardian if she is accompanied by other trustworthy female companions. However, it clarified that an unmarried, widowed, or divorced female pilgrim must seek permission from her parents, and a married woman should obtain permission from her husband.
Saudi Arabia had granted women worldwide permission to perform Umrah and Hajj without a mahram last year, aiming to ease the lives of women facing social challenges or difficulties in finding a mahram. The move was seen as progressive, allowing women greater independence in fulfilling their religious duties.
Before this change, women could only undertake the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage if accompanied by a male guardian, with some exceptions allowing them to join large groups of other women. The CII’s conditional permission aligns with the evolving perspectives on women’s rights and religious practices in the Muslim world.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Pakistani nationals attempting to reach developed countries in Europe and North America, seeking to escape challenging economic circumstances through illegal means.
The recent disappearance of PIA employees in Canada suggests that a similar trend may also be emerging among white-collar workers in the country. Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to perform Umrah and Hajj without a mahram has been influential, not only in facilitating religious obligations but also in addressing social challenges faced by women.
The move acknowledges the changing dynamics of women’s lives and challenges the traditional requirement of a male guardian, providing greater accessibility and flexibility.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) plays a significant role in providing advisory opinions to the legislature regarding the compatibility of laws with Islamic sharia or jurisprudence. While the recommendations of the council are non-binding on the parliament, they reflect evolving interpretations of Islamic principles.
The CII’s conditional permission for women to perform the Hajj or Umrah without a male guardian aligns with the broader shift toward inclusivity and gender equality within the context of religious practices.
As societies continue to grapple with changing norms and values, such decisions contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Islamic teachings, accommodating the diverse needs and circumstances of believers.