DEF : The woman’s mahram is anyone whom it is permanently forbidden for her to marry because of blood ties, breastfeeding or marriage ties. This is not based on traditions and customs; rather it is based on sharee’ah.
Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, has stated which women are mahrams for men, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):“Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster mothers who gave you suck, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives’ mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in — but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in them (to marry their daughters), — the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily, Allaah is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”.[al-Nisa’ 4:23].
So a woman’s mahrams on the basis of blood ties are: her son, her father, her brother, her brother’s son, her sister’s son, her paternal uncle and her maternal uncle.
Are cousins Mahrams?
As for cousins, it is permissible to marry them, and it is not correct for a cousin to be her mahram under any circumstances, even if custom dictates that he should not marry her.
No one has the right to regard as permissible that which Allaah has forbidden, or to regard as forbidden that which Allaah has permitted, or to claim that a cousin may look at his female cousin or be alone with her, because that is contrary to sharee’ah. Rather the woman must observe hijab before her cousins as she observes hijab before all non-mahram men.
Further if we analyse Allaah has mentioned those before whom it is permissible for a woman to show her adornments, and He did not mention the cousin because the cousin is not one of her mahrams. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful”[al-Noor 24:31].
Ruliing on Inlaws
It was narrated from ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Beware of entering upon women.” A man from among the Ansaar said: “O Messenger of Allaah, what about the in-law?” He said: “The in-law is death.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4934; Muslim, 2172.
The in-law is the husband’s relative.We notice here that the Sahaabi wanted to make an exception in the case of the husband’s relatives, but the ruling was re-emphasized in the strongest terms, because no one regards it as strange if he enters the house.
Al-Nawawi said: With regard to the Prophet’s words, “The in-law is death,” what this means is that the fear in his case is greater than in the case of others, and evil is expected on his part and the fitnah (temptation) is greater, because he is able to reach the woman and be alone with her with no one denouncing him, unlike the stranger or non-mahram. What is meant by the in-law here is the husband’s relatives, except for his father/grandfather and sons/grandsons.His father/grandfather and sons/grandsons are mahrams of the wife and it is permissible for them to be alone with her; they are not described as “death”. Rather what is meant here is the brother, nephew, uncle, cousin and others who are not mahrams. People customarily take things lightly with regard to them, so a man will often be alone with his brother’s wife. This is what is described as death and it is more important that he be stopped than a stranger, for the reasons we have mentioned above. What I have mentioned is the correct meaning of the hadeeth… Ibn al-A’raabi said: This is something that the Arabs say, as in the phrase al-asad al-mawt (the lion is death), because meeting it is like dying. Al-Qaadi said: What is meant is that being alone with the in-laws leads to fitnah (temptation) and the destruction of one’s religious commitment, so this is described as being akin to the destruction of death. Sharh Muslim, 14/154.
A woman being alone with an Na mehram
It is not permissible for a man to be alone with a woman
who is not his mahram, because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “No man should be alone with a woman unless there is a mahram with them.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1862) and Muslim (1341). And he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “No man is alone with a woman but the Shaytaan is the third one present.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1171) and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated in Sharh Muslim (14/153) that there was consensus among the scholars that it is haraam for a man to be alone with a woman who is not his mahram. This was narrated by al-Haafiz in al-Fath (4/77).
“Being alone with” (khalwah) refers to when the man and woman are in a place where no one can see them.
The scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas were asked: Does khalwah (“being alone with”) refer to when a man is alone with a woman in some house, far away from the eyes of people, or does it refer to any situation in which a man is alone with a woman, even if they can be seen by others?
They replied: What is meant by the “being alone with” (khalwah) that is forbidden in sharee‘ah is not only when a man is alone with a woman who is not his mahram in a place where they cannot be seen; rather it also includes situations in which he is alone with her in a place where she can converse with him and he can converse with her, even if they can be seen by other people, but their words cannot be heard, whether that is out in the open or in a car or on the roof of a house, and so on. That is because khalwah has been forbidden because it is the harbinger of zina and the means that leads to it. So everything that could lead to that, even making an arrangement to do that later, comes under the ruling of physical khalwah or being alone in a place where they cannot be seen.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn ‘Abd-Allah ibn Baaz; Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaaq ‘Afeefi; Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn Ghadyaan; Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn Qa ‘ood
Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 17/57
Khalwah can be avoided with the presence of a mahram or the presence of a righteous woman, according to the correct opinion.
Woman’s awrah in front of other women and mahrams
The ‘awrah of a woman in front of her mahrams such as her father, brother and nephew is her entire body except that which usually appears such as the face, hair, neck, forearms and feet. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):“and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women”[al-Noor 24:31].
What is meant by adornment is the places where adornments are worn: the place for a ring is the hand, for a bracelet is the forearm, for an earring is the ear, for a necklace is the neck and chest, and for an anklet is the leg.
Traveling without a mahram
It is not permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram, whether she is travelling to do an act of worship such as Hajj or visiting her parents in order to honour them and be kind to them, or travelling for permissible purposes such as going on vacation etc. The evidence for that is as follows: The general meaning of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “No woman should travel unless she has a mahram with her, and no man should enter upon her unless her mahram is present.” A man stood up and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, my wife has gone out for Hajj, and I want to go out with such and such an army.” He said: “Go and do Hajj with your wife.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1862.
Muslim (1339) narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allaah and the Last Day to travel one day’s distance without a mahram.” There are many ahaadeeth which forbid a woman to travel without a mahram; they are general in meaning and apply to all kinds of travel.
It is well known that travel involves exhaustion and difficulty. Because of her weakness, a woman needs someone to help her and look after her. Things may happen to her that make her panic and act out of character if there is no mahram present. This is well known nowadays when there are so many car accidents and other kinds of transportation accidents. Moreover, travelling alone exposes her to temptation, especially since there is so much corruption. Men who do not fear Allaah may sit neat her, and haraam actions may become attractive to her. Similarly if she is travelling alone in her car, she is exposed to other kinds of danger, if the car breaks down or if evil people conspire against her, and so on. It is perfectly wise that she should be accompanied by a mahram when travelling, because the purpose behind the mahram’s presence is to protect her and look after her, especially if something bad happens. Travel exposes her to such things regardless of how long it takes.
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The point is that whatever is known as travelling, women are forbidden to travel without a husband or a mahram.
Travelling alone for hajj
The Standing Committee was asked whether it is permissible for a woman to travel to Hajj without a mahram. They replied as follows: It is not permissible for a woman to travel for Hajj or for any other purpose without a mahram.
Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 11/97
Thus it should be clear that Islam is the foremost system when it comes to protecting women and taking care of them, and respecting and honoring them, and regarding them as precious jewels that must be guarded against evil.
Ruling on shaking hands with Na mehrams of the opposite sex
For a man to shake hands with a non-mahram woman (one to whom he is not related) is haraam and is not permitted at all. Among the evidence for this is the hadeeth of Ma’qal ibn Yassaar (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If one of you were to be struck in the head with an iron needle, it would be better for him than if he were to touch a woman he is not allowed to.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5045).
There is no doubt that for a man to touch a non-mahram woman is one of the causes of fitnah (turmoil, temptation), provocation of desire and committing haraam deeds. No one should say that their intention is sound or their heart is clean, because the one who was the purest of heart and the most chaste of all, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) never touched a non-mahram woman, even when accepting bay’ah (oath of allegiance) from women. He did not hold their hands when accepting their bay’ah, as he did with men; their bay’ah was by words only, as was reported by his wife ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her). She said that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would test the believing women who emigrated to him with the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “O Prophet! When believeing women come to you to give you the bay’ah (pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with Allaah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood (i.e., by making illegal children belong to their husbands), and that thye will not disobey you in any ma’ruf (Islamic monotheism and all that which Islam ordains), then accept their bay’ah and ask Allaah to forgive them. Verily Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [al-Mumtahinah 60:12] ‘Aa’ishah said: “So whoever of the believing women agreed to these conditions, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would say to her: ‘I have accepted your bay’ah by words.’ By Allaah, his hand never touched the hand of any woman when accepting their bay’ah; he accepted their bay’ah by saying ‘I have accepted your bay’ah on this basis.’”
(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4512; according to another report: he accepted their bay’ah by words… the hand of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) never touched the hand of any woman except a woman he owned . Reported by al-Bukhaari, 6674).
Some Muslims feel too embarrassed to refuse when a woman offers her hand to them. In addition to mixing with women, some of them claim that they are forced to shake hands with fellow-students and teachers in schools and universities, or with colleagues in the workplace, or in business meetings and so on, but this is not an acceptable excuse. The Muslim should overcome his own feelings and the promptings of the Shaytaan, and be strong in his faith, because Allaah is not ashamed of the truth. The Muslim could apologize politely and explain that the reason he does not want to shake hands is not to offend or hurt anybody’s feelings, but it is because he is following the teachings of his religion. In most cases this will earn him respect from others. There is no harm done if they find it strange at first, and it may even be a practical opportunity for da’wah. And Allaah knows best.
Manners when talking to Na mehram
The conditions for speaking to a na mehram are mentioned in the following aayaat (interpretation of the meaning):
". . . And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen; that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts . . ." [al-Ahzaab 33:53]
". . . then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner." [al-Ahzaab 33:32]
Ibn Katheer, may Allaah have mercy on him, said in his Tafseer: "This means that they should not speak softly. Allaah commanded them to speak in a concise and decisive manner (i.e., they should be serious and brief in their speech, and not be vague or talk aimlessly). There should be no possible indication on the face that could be taken to indicate any softness in the heart, as the Arab women (before Islaam) used to do when speaking to men, by making their voices soft like women who are taking care of small children, or like prostitutes. Allaah forbade women to do that.
The phrase "lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire" means lest such a person should hope for immoral deeds, indecency or romance. "Speaking in an honourable manner" means speaking in a way that does not go against Sharee’ah or offend people. Women are encouraged when speaking to men to whom they are not related and to mahrams among their in-laws to be somewhat rough or abrupt in their speech, without raising the voice, because they are commanded to lower their voice.
Speaking with a woman to whom one is not related (i.e., not mahram) should only be for a specific need, such as asking a question, buying or selling, asking about the head of the household, and so on. Such conversations should be brief, with nothing doubtful in either what is said or how it is said.
The idea of limiting speech with women to the five instances mentioned in the question needs to be approached with caution, because they could be taken as examples instead of limits. One must also adhere to the conditions set out by the Sharee’ah even in instances where such conversations are necessary, such as in da’wah, giving fatwas, buying or selling, etc. And Allaah knows best.
We ask Allaah to set the Muslims’ affairs straight, and to guide us all to the straight path, for He is All-Hearing, Ever-Near and Ever Responsive. May Allaah send blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon his family and companions. Aameen