This is a detailed fiqh question and there are a variety of opinions based on different scenarios and contingencies. But the ultimate concern has always been about the honor and safety of women. Some critics claim that “restricting women’s mobility” by requiring a mahram is “disgraceful,” “illogical,” and “laughable.” How so? Quite the contrary. Making our mothers, daughters, and wives fend for themselves when traveling between cities (i.e., more than 48 miles, etc.) is what is problematic.
Even if a husband takes a more permissive opinion on this issue, can he really be comfortable and have peace of mind with his wife traveling alone between cities, flying long distance, etc., etc.? If so, I’m afraid said husband doesn’t care much for his wife. Even non-Muslims in our present day understand that traveling alone has risks. Honestly, I am restless even when my wife drives to the local grocery store by herself. We live in a dangerous world unfortunately. Even if you don’t accept the 48 mile rule, how can you not see where it’s coming from and its clear utility? Are you just that naive about the world? If you don’t accept that opinion, fine, but no need to insult it or call it backwards, laughable, or a relic of the past.
Consider this NY Times report. “A number of experts tell me that it is possible that violence [against female travelers] is on the rise in part because more women than ever are traveling alone, and are venturing ever farther off the beaten path.”
And it is fascinating how insisting on a mahram is depicted as yet another example of Muslim men oppressing women. I guess it is oppressive in the same way that chivalry is oppressive to the feminism-addled modern mind. Hundreds of female travelers are reported as being raped every year, but it’s those who insist on escorting female travelers who are the oppressors obviously.
A simple analogy. I don’t let my young children leave the house unsupervised because it’s a dangerous world with a lot of psychos and kids are physically vulnerable. (I know this all too well due to a family tragedy.) That physical vulnerability is the crux of the matter. Am I oppressing my kids in this way? Of course not. Obviously, my wife is more physically capable than a child, but the basic principle still stands. It is my responsibility to make sure she is safe. And alhamdulillah she is sane enough to understand this too and she has heard of too many cases of Muslim women getting harassed and assaulted, so she insists that I escort her when necessary.
Things are so backwards these days that even something as simple and straightforward as this — something that all people of the past, Muslim and non-Muslim accepted as obvious as day — has been morphed into an example of Muslim oppression and the regression of Islam. It is truly maddening. It’s like everyday, living in the Twilight Zone…