بسم اللــــه الرحمـــــــــن الرحيم
■ When Can A Woman Leave Her Home Without A Mahram? ■
The Questioner says: What is the ruling on a woman going to the market without being accompanied by a ‘mahram’ (male chaperone), and in what is standard/base rule in this?
That which has been legislated in the religion is that a woman must be accompanied by a ‘mahram’ on her travels. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘It is not permissible for a woman to travel except if she is accompanied by a ‘mahram.’
There is no evidence that stipulates she must be accompanied by a mahram when she goes to the market, her workplace, her farm, or when tending to her livestock etc.
In fact, it is reported in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim that Asmaa’, the daughter of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them both) used to go to the farm of Zubair Ibn Awaam, (her husband) which was far away. She would go there carrying fruit pits on her head, without being accompanied by him (may Allah be pleased with them all).
Thus, a woman is required to be accompanied by her mahram only whilst travelling – not if she is going to the market or to tend to her needs.
However, it is incumbent upon her (when leaving her home without a mahram) to avoid potential causes of harm; such as places of indecency and to stay clear of people who do not fear Allah (The Majestic and Most High). If the environment itself or the time of day are a cause of harm or ‘fitnah’ (temptation to commit sin) for her, then she must prioritise her well-being (by staying away from going out at those times).
If her going out without a ‘mahram’ is free from the aforementioned ills then it is not ‘haraam’ for her to do so. However, it is better for her to go out whilst accompanied by a mahram, especially in places such as markets, where she must conversate with salesmen.
This conversation may be a cause of ‘fitnah’ for her, or she may be cause the cause of fitnah for him – and women are weak. She may also intermingle with people who do not fear Allah. She is therefore advised not to enter the markets unless she is accompanied by a ‘mahram’. Although, if she were to do so with integrity, complete her transactions with a saleswoman or even a salesman without softening her tone of voice whilst speaking to him, we cannot say this is ‘haraam’, especially if she covered appropriately.
She is not allowed to present herself inappropriately or to wear perfume (in public). The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Any woman that applies perfume, leaves her home and passes by a group of men so they may smell her scent is a fornicater. (Narrated by Abu Mousa in The Musnad of Imam Ahmad with an authentic chain of narration.)
The prohibition of a woman leaving her home without a mahram depends on the harms that result from it. If found to be harmful (in a particular case) then she is prevented from this.
To give a general fatwaa prohibiting all women from going to markets without a mahram is incorrect.
May Allah grant you all success.
Abu Sufyaan Saami Al-Ghaani
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