STUDENTS of local universities are now observing a long break - it began last June and undergraduates would only registered back in early September. To kill time, one of my daughters who was at UIAM with her two girlfriends who were at other universities recently planned a four days three nights holiday in Langkawi.
The girl informed about the journey (seeking permission) to her mother (my wife) who then passed the message to me. I kept quiet, thinking they would read my mind of not approving for such a journey...well I was in the thinking that 'this is an era of my father - when he disapproved something he was totally silent on the matter'.
But I was totally wrong and was caught off guard when a few days before the journey, my daughter told me she would leave on the stated time and date and 'reminded me' that the plane ticket and hotel reservation had been booked and paid!
My throat dried; my mind raced back to a few 'tazkirah' (lessons) by an 'ustaz' at the 'masjid' near my house, who reminded that no 'Muslimah' (Muslim women) should travel to faraway places without being accompanied by her husband or 'mahram' (unmarriageable kin).
He said even to perform hajj, which is the fifth article in 'Rukun Islam' (Articles of Faith), Muslim female must be accompanied by her husband or 'mahram' then whats more to lesser important obligations such as working, studying and of course holidaying which is totally out of question.
When the 'ustaz' opened the floor for questions; I raised up this issue: "Say my wife who is government servant is required to attend a course in Langkawi (we are staying in Melaka), then what options do we have?"
The 'ustaz' was 'strict' in his answer. First, he said my wife must seek permission from me (her husband) but if I gave my consent, it does not mean that she could go with her group of male and female colleagues.
He said if permission is not given of course she cannot attend the course; and if the husband gave his consent, then she must have her husband or a 'mahram' accompanying her. The general understanding is that it is prohibited in the Shariah for a female to travel without a 'mahram' under all circumstances.
Regarding the 'mahram' issue, I searched in the internet and found the site www.central-mosque.com which discussed a question from a reader that might give an insight for me and readers.
The question read: Are there any exceptions to this rule? If a woman wishes to travel to another city for a religious conference/seminar without the company of a 'mahram' male, would that be permissible? If she wishes to travel alone (or with a sister) to a Muslim country to undertake Islamic studies, would that be permissible? If she wishes to travel to visit her parents in the home country, but her husband or another 'mahram' cannot join, would she be able to travel independently? Is the rule to be applied differently in this age when most travelling, in flights etc., is done in collective groups?
The answer given states that generally, it is impermissible for a woman to travel the distance of three days (equivalent to 48 miles) without her husband or a ''mahram' accompanying her. There are many clear narrations of the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. in this regard.
One of the 'hadith' which was quoted in the article read: "Sayyiduna Abu Sa’id al-Khudri r.a. narrates that the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said: “Let no woman travel for more than three days unless her husband or a 'mahram' is with her." (Sahih Muslim)
Another one read: "Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas r.a. narrates that the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said: “'A woman must not travel except with a 'mahram' and a man must not enter upon her except if she has a 'mahram'. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 1763)
Why are women not allowed to travel without 'mahram'? Firstly, it was Allah's command; just obey it and you be blessed and rewarded handsomely. And if you disobeyed Allah's command after you have the the knowledge about it, then it is up to you; the consequences you bear it yourself.
Regarding the ban, scholars said it was because travel usually causes exhaustion and hardship, and because women are weak and need someone to look after them and stay with them, and things may happen in the absence of her 'mahram' that she is not able to deal with. These are things that are well known and are frequently seen nowadays because of the large number of accidents involving cars and other means of transportation.
Moreover, if a woman travels alone she may be approached and tempted to do evil, especially when there is a great deal of corruption. Someone may sit next to her who does not fear Allah and he made may doing 'haraam' (forbidden) actions seem appealing to her. It is perfectly wise that the woman should be accompanied by her 'mahram' when she travels, because the purpose of having her 'mahram' present is to protect her and look after her. Travelling is a situation in which emergencies may arise, no matter what the length of the journey is.
The discussion on 'mahram' was a very long one; readers could read it at the mentioned site but in this article I would like to continue about the story of my daughter holidaying in Langkawi and how I tried my best 'to be presence' as her 'mahram' on the 'fantasy island'.
As mentioned earlier my daughter and her friends had book the hotel and plane tickets. I told my daughter to book a room for me at the same hotel but for the journey I choose to catch the train from KL Sentral to Alor Star and then took the ferry at Kuala Kedah to Langkawi. The journey by train was much, much cheaper compared to 'a last minute journey' by plane which would be too costly for me to afford it!
The Langkawi journey burnt hundreds of ringgits from my pocket but I was satisfied for being able to stick to our beloved religious obligations - well, a Muslim woman must be accompanied by her 'mahram' on her journey. I am a rightful 'mahram' of my daughter and I am fully responsible towards her.
Making reflections on the event, I now know how hard parents especially the father have to face teenager problems; perhaps there was truth in the Malay saying of 'menjaga sekandang kerbau lebih senang daripada menjaga anak dara seorang' (to attend to a herd of buffaloes is easier than taking care of a virgin-girl).
Thus I was in Langkawi from 10-13 August; how I spend my days there? Spying on my daughter and her friends? No way, I let them free to do things they like as long as their activities do not contradict with the Islamic teaching. Alhamdulillah (all praise to Allah) my 'presence' was being felt, one of my daughter's friend thanked me for putting concern for their well being.
In Langkawi I spend long hours in its many and beautiful, splendor 'masjids' such as Masjid Hanna, Masjid Aisyah and Masjid Huda. In the corridor of Masjid Hanna in Kuah, I found a rotational displaying rack with many pamphlets on Islam in English and as I was about to take them I noticed a note on top of the rack which read: "For Non-Muslim Only".
I was taken aback; I told myself that I am a Muslim, thus I should not removed the pamphlets for they were for non-Muslims only. Perhaps many Muslims do not dare to take away the pamphlets; that explained why the rack was dusty as it was not attended for a long time. The question is why the authorities concerned placed the rack in the 'masjid' where not many non-Muslims pay a visit?
Perhaps the rack with the notice 'For Non-Muslim Only' or better still without such wording should be placed at places of great public interest especially among Western travelers such as at the airport, ferry terminal, hotels, beaches and shopping complexes rather then put to idle in the 'masjid'.
The days ran fast; alhamdulillah, my daughter was back home; I realized the 'happy look' on her face after spending a well deserved holiday (at least on her side) and as for me I could feel the calmness in me for being able to oblige to the Islamic teaching on matters regarding a journey...- ES