Female Pilgrims: The Question of Pe...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Female Pilgrims: The Question of Performing Rites and Equal Rewards

Female Pilgrims: The Question of Performing Rites and Equal Rewards

         Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and it is an obligation upon Muslim males and females alike if they are physically and financially able to perform it. God Almighty says: "Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to God by people who are able to undertake it" [Quran 3, 97].

Hajj is Women's Jihad

      The mother of the believers, 'Aisha (may God be pleased with her) recounted seeking permission from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to engage in Jihad, to which he responded, "Your Jihad is pilgrimage." This profound statement emphasizes the esteemed status of Hajj for women in Islam, equating it with the noble act of Jihad. It underscores the spiritual significance and importance of the pilgrimage in the life of a Muslim woman, highlighting that her devotion and dedication in fulfilling this religious duty are equivalent to the striving in the path of God. Thus, Hajj stands as a pivotal opportunity for women to demonstrate their faith, devotion, and commitment to Islam, contributing to their spiritual growth and fulfillment of religious obligations.

Countless Muslim women around the globe have yearned to undertake the sacred journey of 'Umrah or Hajj, a pilgrimage of unparalleled significance. Yet, for various reasons or circumstances, they have been unable to secure a male guardian to accompany them, a source of disappointment. However, they are now blessed with the opportunity to embark on this profound journey alone. This landmark decision, permitting women to visit the two Sacred Mosques independently, sheds light on a crucial aspect concerning the legal rulings and rewards associated with women's participation in these rites. Throughout the sacred journey of Hajj, Muslim women engage in a deeply spiritual odyssey, encountering unique challenges along the path of fulfilling their religious duties. Among these challenges are the natural cycles of menstruation, which temporarily restrict certain rites during the pilgrimage. However, rather than being disheartened, female pilgrims draw comfort from the understanding that their obedience to God's commands during these times carries equal rewards, highlighting the inclusive nature of worship and the boundless mercy of the Divine.

Hajj and The Concept of (‘Ubūdīyah)

        Pilgrimage in the Arabic language means aim, destination or purpose. The reason is clear: This pilgrimage is the ultimate journey of showing submission (‘ubūdīyah) to God. It is the ultimate destination in which you turn to the House of God – the Ka‘bah – with both body and heart. The essence of submission ('Ibadah) lies in the obedience to the commands of God. For women, this obedience manifests not only in acts of worship such as prayer and fasting but also in refraining from these rituals during menstruation, as directed by God's decree. This divine instruction acknowledges the natural biological processes unique to women while affirming their devotion and adherence to God's commands. By abstaining from prayer and fasting during menses, women exemplify their unwavering commitment to fulfilling God's directives, demonstrating that true 'Ibadah encompasses both acts of devotion and respectful adherence to divine ordinances, thereby enriching their spiritual journey and strengthening their connection to their faith.

Despite these temporary limitations, Muslim women find strength and reassurance in the teachings of Islam, which emphasize equality and divine mercy. In the Quran, God states, "And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer - those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed" (Quran 4:124). This verse serves as a reminder that in the eyes of God, the worth of an individual is not determined by gender but by the sincerity of their faith and the righteousness of their actions.

Equal Rewards

       The notion of equal reward for equal devotion is reiterated in the Prophetic traditions. Abu Huraira (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "When a woman observes her five prayers, fasts during Ramadan, preserves her chastity, and obeys her husband (in that which pleases God), she may enter Paradise from any of the gates of Paradise she wishes" (Bukhari). This Hadith underscores the significance of women's spiritual efforts and their eligibility for divine rewards, irrespective of the challenges they may face.

Moreover, the merciful nature of Islam provides a framework for accommodating the needs of female pilgrims during Hajj. Recognizing the biological realities of menstruation, Islamic jurisprudence grants women exemption from certain rituals during their menstrual period. Instead of viewing this exemption as a hindrance to spiritual progress, it is regarded as a manifestation of God's compassion and understanding towards His female worshippers. In essence, the Hajj journey for Muslim women is not solely about the physical acts of worship but also about the internal journey of faith, resilience, and spiritual growth. While temporary obstacles may arise, they do not diminish the significance of a woman's devotion or her capacity to earn divine rewards. Rather, they serve as opportunities for patience, perseverance, and trust in the wisdom of God, and this is the essence of worship and sincere servitude to God Almighty.

Therefore, Muslim jurists uphold the permissibility for women experiencing menstruation, postnatal bleeding, or ritual impurity to engage in all the rites of Hajj except for Tawaf and the performance of the two rak'ahs associated with Tawaf. Consequently, a woman in menstruation or postnatal bleeding may enter into the state of Ihram, though it is recommended for her to bathe beforehand. Additionally, it is permissible for women in these conditions to partake in the recommended baths during Hajj, to stand at 'Arafat, and perform other rites, as indicated by the Prophet's statement, "Do what pilgrims do except for Tawaf." A woman experiencing menstruation or postnatal bleeding must maintain the Hajj rituals and abstain from performing Tawaf until she achieves purity. In cases where a woman fears her companions may depart before she can complete Tawaf, and she cannot wait until her menstruation ends, some scholars permit her to circumambulate the Ka'bah while wearing a sanitary pad to prevent any soiling of the mosque. However, regarding Tawaf Al-Wada' (Farewell Tawaf), it is permissible for a woman to omit it.

To this effect, it is imperative for female pilgrims to approach Hajj with a mindset of gratitude and optimism, knowing that their efforts are recognized and rewarded by the Most Merciful. Instead of feeling disheartened or marginalized by temporary limitations, they should embrace the opportunity to deepen their connection with God and draw closer to His divine presence.

The empowerment of female pilgrims during Hajj extends beyond the mere performance of physical rituals; it resides in their steadfast faith, resilience, and unwavering trust in the mercy of God. Embracing the inclusive teachings of Islam and acknowledging the equal rewards promised to all believers, irrespective of gender, women embark on the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj with assurance. They understand that their dedication is deeply valued and cherished by the Most-High, affirming their rightful place in the spiritual tapestry of Islam.

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