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Hajj Without Mahram: Indian Women Realize Long-Cherished Dream

DELHI – For the first time, Muslim women in India will be allowed to perform hajj without a male guardian, according to a change of rules allowing elderly women to fulfill the lifetime spiritual journey to Makkah.

“Our heartfelt wish has been fulfilled,” Shamim Bano, 56, who has been waiting four years for this day, told Indian Express on Sunday, July 22.

“It is a matter of luck. So what if our husbands are no longer around, we will help each other out.”

Bano is one of the first four Indian Muslim women to be granted the permission to travel to hajj without a male guardian, or mahram.

Set to leave on July 28, Hasmitul Nishah, Mumtaj, Nur Jahan and Bano would also be among the first Indian women benefiting from a change  in rules by Saudi Arabia allowing women above 45 years of age to do hajj without a mahram, in groups of four.

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The four women, all widows, were dependent on sons to travel with them. With their sons facing difficulties to raise the amount needed for hajj, the new rule has helped them fulfill their long-cherished dream.

It was Jahan, a relative of both Shamim and Mumtaj, who told them about this development.

“Three of Nur’s sons live in Saudi Arabia and they informed us that Haj would be allowed without mahram this time. I jumped at the opportunity and convinced Nur and Mumtaj to go with me. But when I went to the hajj office, they said we need a group of four for our application to be accepted,” Bano said.

Hasmitul, whose husband had died in 1999, was the fourth one to join the journey.

“My eldest son had been promising to take me for Haj for years. I have four sons but it is hard for them to take leave from their work or arrange the money. Bano (Shamim) spoke to my elder son, and he said he would pay my expenses,” she said.

The four are set to leave for ‘Haj House’ in Lucknow on July 26.

“Do not worry,” Hasmitul said. “We will help each other out, and since it is a place of god, people would help us.”

“This could be the first and last journey of our lives outside the country,” Bano smiles. “And a long-awaited one.”