Under new rules, women in Saudi Arabia perform Hajj without ‘mehrem’

Woman leaving for the hajj
Pakistani pilgrim Bushra Shah bids her husband farewell before leaving for the hajj -- the first time she can do so without a male guardian Fayez Nureldine AFP

Citing the AFP, France24 told the story of Bushra Shah, a 35-year-old Pakistani, who realized a childhood dream by making the great pilgrimage to Mecca, and under new rules she’s doing it without a male “guardian”. Hajj  

The hajj ministry has officially allowed women of all ages to make the pilgrimage without a male relative, known as a “mehrem”, on the condition that they go in a group.

The decision is part of social reforms rolled out by de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to shake off the kingdom’s austere image and open up its oil-reliant economy.

Citing the AFP, France24 reported Shah as saying before setting off from her home in Jeddah, the major port city in western Saudi Arabia “It’s like a dream come true. My childhood dream was to make the hajj.”

For the young mother, making the pilgrimage with her husband and child would have been a distraction that would have prevented her from “concentrating completely on the rites”.

Shah is one of 60,000 pilgrims chosen to take part in this year’s hajj, which has been dramatically scaled down for the second year running because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi officials have said that 40 percent of this year’s pilgrims are women.

Shah is very proud that women are “now independent and do not need a guardian.”

Her husband stayed in Jeddah to look after their child. He “strongly encouraged” his wife to make the trip alone, after the government’s decision to ban children from participating in the hajj this year.

Authorities previously required the presence of a male guardian for any woman pilgrim under the age of 45, preventing many Muslim women around the world from making the hajj.


Source: france24
Image source: AFP-france24