In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
The Muslim woman’s movement is “strictly restricted” only to the degree of her personal safety.
When we hear about women in modern “free” society –Britain, Germany, Canada, the U.S., and also in India– having to band together in “marches” to take back their neighborhood from rapist(s) and girls being preyed upon, one can greatly appreciate the wisdom of Islam that women not travel about (in certain unfamiliar areas) unescorted, by a male companion of her immediate family.
Even the Canadian government recognizes the danger to women travelling alone.
The Toronto Star, Tuesday, February 28, 2012, p. A 10, carried the article by Richard J. Brennan, “National Affairs Writer,” titled: “Don’t forget to pack a fake husband, federal guide tells female travellers” which states that “Foreign Affairs Canada” encourages single women travelling by themselves abroad to wear a “fake wedding ring” and carry a picture of an “imaginary” husband [married women are to carry a picture of their husband] to ward off unwanted male attention. The travel guide is said to note that “women face greater obstacles [than men] when travelling alone””
The Toronto Star Saturday, November 3, 2012 in the article Top 10 safety tips for women travellers by Evelyn Hannon, notes the vulnerability of women travelling alone.
As late as 2015 women were warned against travelling alone. The Toronto Star, Friday, September 18, 2015, under the article “U.S tourist in India says she was gang-raped,” page A12, written by Fred Barbash of the Washington Post notes:
-“A 46-year-old American tourist” says she was “gang-raped” in India. The rape is “one of several” reported by female tourists; plus many rapes of Indian women
-“A 30-year-old American woman” was said to be gang-raped in 2013
-Japan warned its women visitors to India after “two rape allegations” by Japanese women
-In 2012 “tourists from Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark” reported they were raped
-“The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs” urges women to “exercise vigilance” and warns against using public transport at night without “known and trustworthy companions,” to restrict “evening entertainment” to familiar venues, and to avoid “isolated areas” when alone at any time, the article notes.
Even in local schools (and colleges) girls are molested, and perhaps raped and forced to perform oral sex on boys. (This difficulty can be eliminated in a well-secured all-female school).
Women can go out by themselves to take care of their needs: “O women! You have been allowed by Allah to go out for your needs”–(Bokhari Vol. 7, # 164).
Significantly, the above statement by the Prophet that women are permitted to go out for their needs. What is to be considered is the background to which this statement was made.
At the time of the Prophet’s marriage to Saudah –when this permission was given, before the Hijrah (the Prophets migration from Makkah to Madinah)– Islam was still besieged by the enemy; and thus, not safe for Muslim women, who were subjected to annoyance by the enemy, to be travelling alone.
While this permission may still have had some restrictions, after the triumph of Islam (and in places of peace and security) this restriction would seem to be lifted. For women to obtain an education is definitely a “need.”
While there is probably no environment that is completely safe for a woman (or man), Islam has given severe punishment for violating a woman; which crime may fall under ‘mischief in the land’ and carries up to the maximum penalty of death–(ref; Qur’an 5:33). Muhammad Ali on this verse:
“The words used here imply originally all those opponents of Islam who waged war on the Muslims and made mischief in the land by causing loss to the life and property of innocent Muslims who fell into their hands. But it has generally been accepted as including all dacoits and murderers who cause disorder in a settled state of society. In fact, when war came to an end in Arabia and the kingdom of Islam was established over the whole peninsula, the enemies of Islam, being unable to oppose its authority openly, resorted to dacoity and murder to disturb the peace which was now established in the land. Hence, though it is such enemies that are primarily spoken of here, the words are general and include all cases of murder and dacoity.
The punishment described is of four kinds, which clearly shows that the punishment to be inflicted in any particular case would depend upon the circumstances of the case, as well as the time and place where the crime was committed. For instance, if murder has been committed in the course of dacoity, the punishment would include the execution of the culprit, which may take the form of crucifixion if the offence is so heinous or the culprit has caused such terror in the land that the leaving of his body on the cross is necessary as a deterrent. In other cases, the punishment may be imprisonment, where the severer punishment of cutting off of hands is deemed unnecessary. The judge would take all the circumstances into consideration and inflict such punishment as he thought necessary. A particular case dealt with under this verse was that of a tribe called ‘Urainah. Some men of this tribe came to the Prophet, and accepted Islam. They fell ill and were sent by the Prophet to a place at a little distance from Madinah for change of climate and recovery of health. But when they regained health, they killed the very people who had served them and went off with their camels. Then they committed dacoities and violated the chastity of women, and they were severely punished (B. 4:66, i.e. Vol. 6, ch. 103, #134), and the comments on it in ‘Aini). Many other cases of this nature are recorded by IJ.” (Muhammad Ali’s translation of the Qur’an with notes, text, and commentary can be viewed online: www.muslim.org).