Saudi Arabia Ends Male Guardian Requirement for Women Attending Hajj

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—When Lina Mokhtar and her two sisters saw the information last month that

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—When Lina Mokhtar and her two sisters saw the information last month that Saudi Arabia would for the 1st time officially permit women to perform the hajj with out a male guardian, the three of them instantly set in their programs.

On Saturday, Ms. Mokhtar and one particular of her sisters will be section of a constrained team of some 60,000 worshipers to commence the pilgrimage—the second time the Covid pandemic has led Saudi authorities to lower the quantities of those people permitted to perform the ceremony, a as soon as-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims in a position to bodily and economically in a position to make the journey. In regular years a lot more than two million pilgrims acquire for the hajj.

Sisters Rana, and Lina Mokhtar at the Kaaba, the constructing at the middle of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, a several years in the past.


Lina Mokhtar

Ms. Mokhtar was astonished by the go to do away with the prerequisite that women pilgrims require a mahram, a shut male relative, to accompany them, but hailed the selection.

“It is type of tough based on a person else or inquiring a mahram of yours, ‘Please enable us go to hajj,’” stated the Jeddah-based current market researcher in her late 40s. “You can make that selection yourself.”

A number of of her woman friends also registered for the hajj this calendar year when they listened to the information, seeking to seize the opportunity. Though most of their programs weren’t accredited by the hajj ministry, the probability to come to a decision on their very own regardless of whether to apply or not was a welcome modify, she stated.

Formerly “it would have experienced to have been a collective selection,” she stated. “Now the selection is all yours, it’s not tied to any person else.”

The selection to fall the prerequisite for mahrams is the latest go in modern years by Saudi Arabia to loosen some restrictions on women, especially Saudi citizens, that critics and human-legal rights groups have stated turns them into second-class citizens.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia commenced making it possible for women around 21 years of age to travel overseas with out a male guardian’s permission. The govt also formerly lifted the ban on women driving, even when jailing some of the woman activists who referred to as for that go and criticized the government’s place on women’s legal rights.

Muslim worshippers are seen circling the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in the Grand Mosque.


bandar al-dandani/Agence France-Presse/Getty Pictures

For Ms. Mokhtar, it will be her second time doing hajj. But the 1st time she did it, with her brother as her mahram, she was in her mid-20s and explained herself as a lot more foolish and just hunting to tick a box to say she experienced produced the pilgrimage at least as soon as in her lifetime.

But in modern years she experienced determined she needed to perform it yet again, now that she is more mature and a lot more focused on it as a spiritual experience.

“I feel like I’m a lot more experienced and it will be a a lot more significant journey for me now,” she stated. “It will be a entirely distinctive experience.”

Ms. Mokhtar’s father is much too aged to meet up with the age necessities for hajj this calendar year and her brother is traveling. They would have been her only accessible mahrams because she is not married. Her sister, Rana, who is also doing hajj with her, is married, but her husband wouldn’t have been in a position to get time off from operate to accompany her.

Muslims who prayed at the Grand Mosque throughout Ramadan before this calendar year preserved social distancing thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.


saudi press agency/Reuters

The sisters will travel to Mecca from Jeddah on Saturday as section of an organized team. For days, Ms. Mokhtar has been planning herself, spiritually and materially. In addition to dresses appropriate for a bodily powerful pilgrimage and a prayer mat, she has been packing N95 masks,


wipes and hand sanitizer.

The commonly 5-day ritual, with pilgrims packed shoulder-to-shoulder, will be a day longer this calendar year to permit for spacing out of worshipers.

“With 60,000 folks it will, God keen, be a lot more relaxed,” Ms. Mokhtar stated, in particular throughout rami jamarat, the symbolic stoning of the devil. “That was incredibly tough. Folks constantly get hurt.”

Inspite of the formal modify making it possible for women to show up at with out a male relative, not everybody is on board.

All pilgrims will have to go to hajj with tour organizations, which assists to greater organize the substantial gathering of folks doing several rituals around several days and locations. But the business Ms. Mokhtar and her sister at first tried using to indicator up with however experienced a ‘mahram only’ clause.

“I did not know that some would acknowledge you and some wouldn’t,” she stated. “It’s not a huge deal…but it is about the principle. We should really have the preference.”

Dunia Mohammad experienced the exact trouble. When her hajj software was acknowledged this calendar year and she tried using to indicator up with a tour business, her 1st preference informed her that they weren’t accepting women with out a mahram.

“That was a bit baffling,” stated the 33-calendar year-aged client services worker.

Progress for women in Saudi Arabia hasn’t followed a easy trajectory. Though the govt has relaxed certain rules, they have faced opposition from some elements of the country’s conservative modern society which has eschewed any modify when it arrives to women’s legal rights.

Worshippers at the Grand Mosque on the early morning of Eid al-Fitr in May possibly.


abdulghani essa/Agence France-Presse/Getty Pictures

If the govt hadn’t relaxed the mahram prerequisite, Ms. Mohammed stated she could not have been in a position to go: Her father, who is her only shut male relative, is sick and are not able to perform hajj.

But she added that undertaking the at-occasions tough 5-day pilgrimage with a man has its gains as very well.

“If I experienced the preference I would unquestionably want to go with a mahram since going with a man helps make items a ton a lot easier, for example in phrases of carrying items,” Ms. Mohammed stated, with a chuckle. “Like when it’s time to collect the jamarat (stones), the gentlemen commonly do that.”

Publish to Raja Abdulrahim at [email protected]

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