A wife's work-related travel, without a mahram
What is the ruling of a woman traveling to attend conferences? This concerns my sister who is a professor in the faculty of medicine who will be traveling without a mahram [a male relative she cannot ever marry]. Keeping in mind that she is over forty-five years old: what is the rule and the necessary conditions for her traveling to avoid committing a sin?
The basic rule when a woman travels is that she be accompanied by a mahram. Proof to this is the hadith [narrated through] Ibn ‘Abbas :
A woman must not travel unless she is accompanied by a mahram, and no man is to enter into her company unless she is accompanied by a mahram.1
However, some Maliki jurists and jurists from other schools allow a woman to travel alone if the way and destination are safe. This is based on the hadith of ‘Adi ibn Hatem that the Prophet said to him:
And if you live a long life, you will surely see a woman traveling from Hira till she circumambulates the Ka‘bah – fearing no one except Allah.2
Imam Ahmad’s narration incudes:
By He in whose hands is my soul: verily Allah will bring this matter [the religion of Islam] into completion till a woman travels from Heera, circumambulates Ka‘bah without being accompanied by anyone.
They said that the cause for prohibition in the first hadith is when the path is not safe and there is a lack of security. One can follow this opinion because of its facilitation and vastness. This, however, is limited by her husband’s approval (if she is married), or her guardian’s (if she is not).
Based on this and in reference to the question: your sister can travel unaccompanied by a mahram provided that it is safe, and following the opinion of the scholars who permit this.
1. Bukhari, Muslim.