’48-mile cap for women travelling sans escort’
LUCKNOW: Darul Uloom Deoband has issued a travel advisory for women. The latest fatwa by the Islamic seminary rules that a single woman must not venture beyond 48 miles unless escorted by a ‘mehram’ — defined as a close kin with whom marriage or sex would be considered incestuous. Apart from this, a husband also qualifies as ‘mehram’. The fatwa has invited derision from activist Muslim groups.
The edict was in response to a query to Darul-Ifta (Deoband’s fatwa department): “Is a married woman permitted to travel to another country with her female sibling?” The response (511/308/d) posted on the Deoband website on March 2 said: “She cannot travel without a ‘mehram’. It’s mentioned in the Hadees that a woman should not travel for more than 48 miles except in the company of a ‘mehram’ relative.”
Justifying the fatwa, Deoband’s spokesperson Adil Siddiqui told reporters on Tuesday that their intent is to protect women. “The fatwa is relevant considering growing crime against women. Therefore, no Muslim family should have any objections,” he said.
The ruling, made public on International Women’s day, raised the hackles of activists who condemned the attempts to “shackle women by insecure maulanas”. The issue was discussed threadbare at the meeting of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) and each of the 253 participants vowed to ignore it completely.
“To try and impose 1,400 years old restrictions when people travelled in kafila is absurd,” said Naeesh Hasan, the founder president of BMMA. “This in an era when women pilots fly planeloads of people across thousands of miles without their fathers or husbands lurking in the cockpit.”
Bazm-e-Khawateen chief Beghaum Shahnaz Sidratwell (76) wanted to know what happened to women who had no mehram. “I was the lone daughter of a widowed mother and have been moving alone ever since I can remember. The maulanas must think of better ways to make their presence felt,” she said.