Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I am willing to study in a city that is 50 minutes by plane away from my family. When I will there I’ll be residing in a very safe place. Is it permissible for a woman to fly a distance of about 350 miles (50 minutes) alone?
Answer: As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu
First of all, regarding the distance after which travelling becomes impermissible for a woman:
It is the same as the distance after which prayers are shortened, i.e. 48 miles, regardless of whether that distance is covered quickly (e.g. on an airplane) or slowly (e.g. by car or by foot).
Secondly, Fatwa # 1 below conveys the permissibility of a Muslim woman residing alone in a foreign country, as long as her safety and security is relatively certain and her reason for being there is permissible in itself. Although the issue of residing alone was not specifically asked about, this fatwa has been provided for your benefit since it relates to your situation.
Third, regarding the issue of a Muslim woman travelling without her husband/mahram, two fatwas are given. Please read these fatwas below in full, in order to properly understand the issue. Fatwa # 2 goes into detail regarding this issue. A number of hadith are provided along with detailed explanation, and many citations are given to relied-upon Islamic texts. The conclusion is that a Muslim woman may not travel beyond 48 miles from her place of residence without her husband or a mahram (i.e. unmarriageable kin such as father, son, brother, uncle, etc.). However, Fatwa # 3 conveys the position of some Maliki scholars for the permissibility of a Muslim woman travelling beyond this distance. According to these scholars, this is permissible as long as she is with a group of people with whom her safety and security is relatively certain. Modern air travel normally fulfills this condition, according to these scholars. Hence, it is clear that there is some difference of opinion of scholars on this issue. In one of his previous answers, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani summarized the issue as follows:
“There are permissive fatwas from some respected, traditional scholars. But safety lies in caution. As such, what I have heard from two fuqaha of great knowledge, wisdom and taqwa, Shaykh Adib al-Kallas of Damascus and Shaykh Mahmoud Ashraf Usmani of Pakistan is that women should NOT do so under normal circumstances. They explained the fiqhi reasoning behind this: it is convincing. It is also what taqwa and caution would indicate. The Prophetic hadiths on the issue are well known. The way of those two seek the path of the next life is to avoid dispensations and the ‘easy way out’ on such matters inasmuch as reasonably possible.”
Fatwa # 1
A woman living alone in a foreign country
Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
Question: What is the ruling of man who leaves his wife alone in a foreign country so that she can call people to the religion of Allah?
Answer: A woman living alone in a foreign country is not forbidden as long as her honor and religion is safe, whether she is there to call people to Allah, Most High, or for another purpose that is permissible, such as visiting relatives and the sort.
However, it is not permissible [in the Shafi`i school] for her to move from the country that she is in, such that she would be traveling alone without a mahram, even if it is with the intention of calling people to Allah, Most High. It is also impermissible for her to live alone in a place where her religion and honor is not safe.
السؤال: ما هو حُكم مَن يترك زوجته وحدَها في دولة أجنبية لتقومَ بالدعوة إلى دين الله؟
الجواب : إقامةُ المرأة وحدَها في دولة أجنبية غير ممنوع طالما كانت تأمن على عرضها ودينها سواء كانت تقيمُ هناك للدعوة إلى الله تعالى أم لغرض آخر مباح كزيارة رحم ونحو ذلك ، لكن لا يجوز لها أن تنتقل من بلدتها التي هي فيها فتسافر وحدها من غير محرم ولو كان ذلك بقصد الدعوة إلى الله تعالى . وكذلك يحرمُ إقامتها وحدَها إن كانت لا تأمن على عرضها ودينها .
Fatwa # 2
Can Women Travel Without a Mahram? By Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
(follow the link above to read the fatwa)
Fatwa # 3
Is there a dispensation in the Shafi`i school for a woman to travel with a safe group upon need?
Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
Question: Is there a dispensation in the Shafi`i school for a woman to travel with a safe group upon need when she does not have a mahram (unmarriageable kin) that she can travel with?
Answer: When a woman travels without her husband or mahram, there is some detail to discuss. If the purpose of her travel is to perform an obligation, such as the hajj or umra, according to our school, it is permissible for her to travel by herself, if she feels it is safe for her. Included in this is travel for seeking a livelihood, if no one else spends on her, as the scholars have explicitly stated, because seeking halal livelihood is obligatory. However, she must be sure to observe the rules of covering and not be in seclusion with men.
As for a trip that is for something non-obligatory, it is haram for her to travel without a husband or mahram, even if she feels it is safe, and I have not heard anything in our school that permits it.
I have seen in Maliki works a position that it is permissible if the travel is with a secure group and some of the later scholars have relied upon this. I asked the erudite scholar, Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Shanqayti al-Maliki and he said that it is permissible to follow this opinion and to act upon it in their school, such as airplane passengers if they are many. In this is some room for ease.
(Translated by Shazia Ahmad)
السؤال : هل ثم رخصة في المذهب الشافعي للمرأة أن تسافر في قافلة مأمونة عند الحاجة مع عدم إمكان السفر مع محرم ؟
الجواب : في سفر المرأة من غير زوج أو محرم تفصيلٌ ؛ فإن كان سفرُها لأداء واجبٍ كالحج والعمرة عندنا فيجوز لها السفرُ وحدَها إن أمنت على نفسها ، ومن ذلك السفرُ لطلب الرزق كما صرحوا به إن لم يُنفق عليها أحدٌ ؛ لأن طلب الحلال واجب ، لكن عليها مراعاةُ الأحكام بستر العورة وعدم الخلوة بالرجال .
أما إن كان سفرُها لغير واجب فيحرم عليها من غير زوج أو محرم وإن أمنت على نفسها ، ولا أعلم قولاً في مذهبنا يبيحُ ذلك . نعم رأيتُ في بعض كتب المالكية قولاً بالجواز إن كان السفر مع جمعٍ مأمونٍ واعتمده بعضُ المتأخرين منهم ، وقد سألتُ عنه العلامةَ الشيخَ محمداً الحافظ الشنقيطي المالكي فقال : يجوز تقليدُه والعملُ به في مذهبهم كمسافري الطائرة إن كانوا كثيرين ، وفيه سعة .
[Shaykh] Umer Mian