A proposed Haj policy abolishes subsidy for Haj pilgrims (File)
A member of the Haj policy committee
has defended a suggestion to allow women to go on pilgrimage alone without a mehram
or someone to escort her, after some people criticised the new draft policy.
Haj policy committee member Kamal Farooqi said in some schools of Islamic jurisprudence, women can travel without a mehram
-- her husband or a male relative like her father, brother and paternal and maternal uncles.
"In the Hanafi sect, women are not allowed to travel without a mehram
for Haj and otherwise. But in some other schools, and in Shias, it is allowed. A woman can perform Haj alone if there is no mehram
," Mr Farooqi said.
"But when we are forming a Haj policy, we are forming it for Muslims of all schools of jurisprudence, not just for Hanafis," he said, adding he himself is a Hanafi Muslim. "And above all, this condition is not binding on anyone. Nobody is forcing women to travel alone if they don't want to."
He said that as per Saudi Arabian rules, a woman below 45 years cannot travel with a namehram
-- the opposite of mehram
"It is totally opposite of the Hanafis' stand. They allow women to travel alone, but not with a namehram
. So the Saudi government, in my view, should have no problem in allowing women above 45 years to perform Haj in a group of four," Mr Farooqi said.
He said the committee travelled across the country as well as to Saudi Arabia and consulted a large number of stakeholders and scholars of different schools of thought before finalising their recommendations.
Shia scholar Maulana Kalbe Jawad Naqvi has welcomed the recommendation.
"As per our maslak
(sect) a woman can perform Haj alone. So the recommendation, if accepted, will allow Shia women to perform Haj all by themselves if they want," Mr Naqvi said.
He said for those who do not want to travel without a mehram
, the rule is not binding.
The Minority Affairs Ministry had formed a committee comprising top Muslim experts under the chairmanship of retired Indian Administrative Service officer Afzal Amanullah in February to review the Haj policy and suggest measures to improve the overall experience of the pilgrimage. The committee recently submitted its report to the ministry.
One of the recommendations said that women above 45 years should be allowed to perform Haj without a mehram
in a group of four. This has not gone down well with the majority of Islamic clerics of the Hanafi school who see the recommendation as going against the Sharia.
"We cannot understand the purpose of this recommendation because as per Islamic Shariat a woman cannot travel alone without a mehram
," Maulana Niaz Farooqui of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) said.
He said that apart from the Shariat prohibition, safety and security of women during the travel and stay in a foreign country are also an issue. "The government can make a policy but those who follow Shariat will not go without mehram
," he said.
The Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmed Bukhari, too criticised the recommendation and said that an important diktat of Shariat was being ignored to garner some popularity.
"Women are not allowed to travel alone and there is no ambiguity in this. Now those who have this recommendation should come clear on whether this diktat of Shariat is no longer valid for an important religious obligation like Haj," Mr Bukhari said.
He said the Saudi Arabian government will have to decide whether it accepts this proposal. The ministry has not yet finalised what recommendations it is going to accept.