Pakistan allows women Haj without male guardian – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has given women conditional permission for Haj without being accompanied by a close male relative, known as mehram, making it easier for those who could not do so due to strict social conditions.
Saudi Arabia had last year allowed women of all ages to make the annual Mecca pilgrimage without a mehram on the condition that they go in a group.
Since there were diverse opinions on the issue among various Islamic schools of thought, Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry had sought the opinion of the Council of Islamic Ideology. The council is the constitutional body tasked with giving legal advice on religious matters to the government and parliament.
The council explained that the Jafri, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools of thought permit Haj for women without a mehram but the Hanafi and Hanbali schools insist on a male relative — husband, son or father. The council proposed that a woman could go for Haj without a mehram if allowed by her parents or husband.
“A woman who enjoyed the company of reliable women and the one who did not feel insecure while travelling or during the pilgrimage could perform Haj without a mehram,” the council noted.
The council stressed that the group with which the woman was going on Haj should be scanned by the religious affairs ministry and the individual allowed only after its members were found “trustworthy and honest”.
Saudi Arabia’s move last year to drop the mehram condition for Haj was part of social reforms rolled out by de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been trying to shake off the kingdom’s conservative image and open up its oil-reliant economy.
Since his rise to power, women have been allowed to drive and travel abroad without a male guardian — all these progressive steps coming against the backdrop of a relentless crackdown against critics of his rule, including women rights activists.
The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a must for able-bodied Muslims with the means to do so at least once in their lifetime.

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