Let us understand the context in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned the oft-repeated hadiths [Islamic sayings] barring women from travelling alone. [Religious scholars who still believe women should not travel unaccompanied by a male guardian] have failed to consider the nature of travel during the era in which the Prophet’s edict was pronounced; a period in which a traveller had to traverse deadly deserts, in a time when there was no sense of security, and in places that were unpopulated.
We have to concede that travelling today is not like travelling in the past. Except on Nigerian roads, travelling is now devoid of the dangers of thieves and highway robbers. Modern means of transportation make it easy for large numbers of people to travel in peace and security. […]
"They were cordoned off in Jeddah airport like quarantined animals"
There is difference of opinion among Muslim scholars, in Saudi Arabia and in Nigeria for example, on the issue of mahram [male guardians] for female pilgrims. Rifqah ma’munah, female pilgrims travelling in safe company [meaning in large groups or in the company of women over 45] - a position upheld by majority of Muslim scholars - is what Nigerian [pilgrimage] authorities have been using for decades. They deserve some courtesy and respect from their counterparts in the holy land. […]
The worst part of the whole ordeal was what the poor hapless women bore. They were cordoned off in Jeddah airport like quarantined animals and they were starved and ill-treated. This is no way to behave to the guests of Allah from another country. The usual hospitality of the Saudis deserted them this time. Even if they feel the women were wrong, it is no justification for this wrongful treatment. I also wonder why they issued the visas to these women in the first place when they knew they would not be allowed into the kingdom.