Saudi Arabia Ends Male Guardian Requirement for Women Attending Hajj

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—When Lina Mokhtar and her two sisters observed the information final month that Saudi Arabia would for the initially time formally enable gals to execute the hajj with out a male guardian, the a few of them right away set in their applications.

On Saturday, Ms. Mokhtar and just one of her sisters will be component of a constrained group of some 60,000 worshipers to start out the pilgrimage—the second time the Covid pandemic has led Saudi authorities to slash the quantities of all those permitted to execute the ceremony, a at the time-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims able to physically and monetarily able to make the journey. In normal many years much more than two million pilgrims acquire for the hajj.

Sisters Rana, and Lina Mokhtar at the Kaaba, the constructing at the centre of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, a few many years back.


Lina Mokhtar

Ms. Mokhtar was surprised by the move to do absent with the prerequisite that gals pilgrims require a mahram, a near male relative, to accompany them, but hailed the choice.

“It is sort of difficult dependent on someone else or inquiring a mahram of yours, ‘Please allow us go to hajj,’” claimed the Jeddah-dependent sector researcher in her late 40s. “You can make that choice you.”

Quite a few of her woman friends also registered for the hajj this yr when they heard the information, wanting to seize the chance. Even though most of their applications weren’t authorised by the hajj ministry, the opportunity to make a decision on their own no matter whether to apply or not was a welcome transform, she claimed.

Beforehand “it would have had to have been a collective choice,” she claimed. “Now the choice is all yours, it’s not tied to somebody else.”

The choice to fall the prerequisite for mahrams is the newest move in the latest many years by Saudi Arabia to loosen some limitations on gals, specially Saudi citizens, that critics and human-rights teams have claimed turns them into second-course citizens.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia began making it possible for gals in excess of 21 many years of age to vacation abroad with out a male guardian’s authorization. The authorities also previously lifted the ban on gals driving, even even though jailing some of the woman activists who identified as for that move and criticized the government’s place on women’s rights.

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


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

For Ms. Mokhtar, it will be her second time doing hajj. But the initially time she did it, with her brother as her mahram, she was in her mid-20s and explained herself as much more foolish and just searching to tick a box to say she had created the pilgrimage at the very least at the time in her lifetime.

But in the latest many years she had made the decision she preferred to execute it once more, now that she is more mature and much more targeted on it as a non secular encounter.

“I feel like I’m much more experienced and it will be a much more significant journey for me now,” she claimed. “It will be a wholly various encounter.”

Ms. Mokhtar’s father is much too aged to meet the age necessities for hajj this yr and her brother is traveling. They would have been her only available mahrams given that she is not married. Her sister, Rana, who is also doing hajj with her, is married, but her partner would not have been able to take time off from function to accompany her.

Muslims who prayed at the Grand Mosque throughout Ramadan previously this yr preserved social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


saudi press agency/Reuters

The sisters will vacation to Mecca from Jeddah on Saturday as component of an structured group. For days, Ms. Mokhtar has been preparing herself, spiritually and materially. In addition to garments appropriate for a physically powerful pilgrimage and a prayer mat, she has been packing N95 masks,


wipes and hand sanitizer.

The typically five-working day ritual, with pilgrims packed shoulder-to-shoulder, will be a working day for a longer time this yr to enable for spacing out of worshipers.

“With 60,000 individuals it will, God inclined, be much more peaceful,” Ms. Mokhtar claimed, particularly throughout rami jamarat, the symbolic stoning of the satan. “That was incredibly difficult. Men and women usually get hurt.”

Regardless of the formal transform making it possible for gals to go to with out a male relative, not every person is on board.

All pilgrims must go to hajj with tour corporations, which aids to improved organize the large accumulating of individuals doing numerous rituals in excess of numerous days and locations. But the company Ms. Mokhtar and her sister at first tried using to sign up with still had a ‘mahram only’ clause.

“I did not know that some would accept you and some would not,” she claimed. “It’s not a large deal…but it is about the basic principle. We should really have the alternative.”

Dunia Mohammad had the similar issue. When her hajj application was approved this yr and she tried using to sign up with a tour company, her initially alternative educated her that they weren’t accepting gals with out a mahram.

“That was a little bit bewildering,” claimed the 33-yr-aged purchaser company employee.

Development for gals in Saudi Arabia hasn’t adopted a clean trajectory. However the authorities has peaceful selected guidelines, they have confronted opposition from some parts of the country’s conservative society which has eschewed any transform when it comes to women’s rights.

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


abdulghani essa/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

If the authorities hadn’t peaceful the mahram prerequisite, Ms. Mohammed claimed she may not have been able to go: Her father, who is her only near male relative, is unwell and are unable to execute hajj.

But she included that performing the at-times difficult five-working day pilgrimage with a male has its rewards as properly.

“If I had the alternative I would absolutely want to go with a mahram because heading with a male will make items a great deal simpler, for instance in conditions of carrying items,” Ms. Mohammed claimed, with a giggle. “Like when it’s time to accumulate the jamarat (stones), the adult males normally do that.”

Generate to Raja Abdulrahim at [email protected]

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