The necessity of a Mahram is based on the following Hadith:
حَدَّثَنِي زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي ذِئْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ، بْنُ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ لاَ يَحِلُّ لاِمْرَأَةٍ تُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ تُسَافِرُ مَسِيرَةَ يَوْمٍ إِلاَّ مَعَ ذِي مَحْرَمٍ ” .
Abu Huraira رضي الله عنه reported Allah’s Apostle ﷺ as saying: “It is not lawful for a woman who believes in Allah and the Hereafter to undertake a day’s journey except in the company of a Mahram.”
[Narrated in Sahih Muslim]
An acceptable Mahram for a woman can fall into the following categories:
Mahram Through Blood
- Grandfather (and further ancestors)
- Grandson (and further descendants)
- Nephew (sibling’s son and further descendants)
- Uncle (paternal or maternal and further ancestors)
Mahram Through Marriage
- Stepfather (mother’s husband)
- Stepson (husband’s son)
Mahram Through Fosterage
Whoever is considered a Mahram through blood relations is also considered a Mahram through foster relations. This is based on the following Hadith:
حَدَّثَنَا مُسْلِمُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، حَدَّثَنَا هَمَّامٌ، حَدَّثَنَا قَتَادَةُ، عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي بِنْتِ حَمْزَةَ “ لاَ تَحِلُّ لِي، يَحْرُمُ مِنَ الرَّضَاعِ مَا يَحْرُمُ مِنَ النَّسَبِ، هِيَ بِنْتُ أَخِي مِنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ ”.
Ibn Abbas narrated: “The Prophet ﷺ said about Hamza’s daughter, ‘I am not legally permitted to marry her, as foster relations are treated like blood relations (in marital affairs). She is the daughter of my foster brother.'”
[Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]
According to Imam Abu Hanifa رحمة الله عليه, a foster-mother is someone who has breastfed her child within a designated period of two and a half years. If this has taken place, the child’s foster relatives i.e. foster-father, foster-uncle, foster-grandfather will be considered Mahrams.
Women Over the Age of 45
Women over the age of 45 may travel with an organised group without a designated Mahram, provided she is given signed permission from her Mahram authorising her to travel with the group.
Age of the Mahram
According to the Hanafi, Shafi’i and Maliki schools of thought, the Mahram for a woman doesn’t have to have reached the age of puberty although he must be old enough to provide her with sufficient care. The Hanbali school of thought stipulates that he has to have reached the age of puberty to be considered a Mahram.