Can Women Move Out To Go and Study, Whether Locally or Abroad?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad

Question

Is it permissible for a woman to go to another country or state whether Muslim or non-Muslim to study medicine? How far can she travel to do this because she cannot study medicine in her city? What if she is studying something other than medicine? Can she live alone or live with other Muslim or non-Muslim women in a hostel or apartment while studying? How far can she stay?

Answer

Thank you for your question. May Allah reward you for choosing to educate yourself for the sake of helping the ummah, and pleasing Allah and His Messenger.

Travel

A woman may not travel outside the city limits except with a mahram (member of her unmarriageable kin, such as a father, uncle, or brother). [The Reliance of the Traveller, m10.3] There is a dispensation and alternative followable position in the Shafi’i school if she travels in a group.

Please see the details at these links:
A woman living alone in a foreign country
Can I Perform Umra without a Mahram? (Shafi‘i)
The Ruling on a Woman “Traveling” by Herself, without a Mahram
Is there a dispensation in the Shafi`i school for a woman to travel with a safe group upon need

Please see the Hanafi ruling here as well:
Can Women Travel Without a Mahram?

Living Alone

It is permissible for her to live alone, or with other girls, Muslims or non-Muslim, whether close to home or abroad. There would be some dislike in it if she was not safe. The actual distance of the school does not matter. One may find that a school that is close by is quite comparable to a school that is on another continent. One should not be dazzled by the distance, but one should choose their school wisely. Please see the details of living alone here:
Can I, as a Woman, Live on My Own? [Shafi’i]

Study

It is permissible for her to study abroad or locally in order to study medicine or any other subject. If she was studying a subject that was communally obligatory, there would potentially be even more leeway. The best course of action for her safety and objectives would be for a mahram to take her to her destination, and help her settle in. Optimally, he could accompany her every time she wants to travel, but if not possible, then there is leniency in our school and in the Maliki school, as you can see from the links above.

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.