The Hajj Ministry of the Saudi Arabia government has issued new guidelines relating to the holiest pilgrimage of Muslims all over the world and has now officially allowed women of all ages to make the pilgrimage without a male relative, known as a “mehrem” but on the condition that they go in a group.
Previously the law dictated that the presence of a male guardian for any woman pilgrim younger than 45 is necessary, thus preventing many Muslim women around the world from making the hajj.
The move is a part of the social reforms rolled out by the de facto leader of the Arab country – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to shake off the kingdom’s image as a strict, hardcore image and open the oil-reliant economy.
Ever since he rose to power, he had taken many steps towards reforming the country. Under his rule, the country allowed women to drive and to travel abroad without a male guardian, even against a backdrop of a relentless crackdown against critics of his rule, including women’s rights activists.
The move has been welcomed by Muslim women across the globe as women, a 42-year-old Egyptian woman- Marwa Shaker, who works for a civil society organization said that “Hajj without a guardian is a miracle”.
Now she’d be travelling to Mecca with three of her friends, the mother of three had tried several times to make the pilgrimage before the pandemic. But she was unable to because her husband had already been and was not permitted to go again so soon.
She added that “I feel enormously joyful. God has called me despite all the obstacles.”
However, the dizzying social changes are meeting some resistance in the deeply conservative kingdom as travel agencies are still reluctant to accept women travelling without a male companion for the hajj and some have even posted advertisements ruling out groups of unaccompanied women.
The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam which is a must and should be done at least once in their lifetime for able-bodied Muslims with the means to do so.
Every year hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world come for the Hajj but this year only 60,000 pilgrims have been chosen to take part, which is a number dramatically scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic.