Nigerian women stopped from reaching Mecca: ‘We’re not living in the Prophet’s times!’

Photo posted on the citizen journalism website Sahara Reporters. This photo was sent by relatives of the Nigerian women stuck at the airport. 
 
Saudi Arabia has expelled over a thousand Nigerian women who had come on a religious pilgrimage to Mecca because they were not accompanied by male guardians. Our Observer, a Nigerian blogger, denounces this as an outdated vision of Islam.
 
After detaining the pilgrims for five days at Jeddah airport, Saudi authorities started sending them back to Nigeria. According to Saudi law, women need to be accompanied by their legal guardian - which can be a father, brother, or husband – in order to travel.
 
However, according to the Nigerian authorities, the two countries had struck a deal allowing groups of women to enter Saudi Arabia so long as representatives of the Nigerian Pilgrimage Commission accompanied them. This diplomatic spat led Nigeria to temporarily suspend flights to Saudi Arabia.
 
About 3 million Muslims travelled from all over the world to Mecca for haj last year. This pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam; all Muslims who are able to do so must travel to Mecca at least once in their lives. About half of Nigeria’s population of 160 million people is Muslim, but most practice a form of Islam that is less restrictive than in Saudi Arabia, where women wear veils and are prohibited from driving.
 
Photo posted on the citizen journalism website Sahara Reporters. This photo was sent by relatives of the Nigerian women stuck at the airport.
Contributors

"We have to concede that travelling today is not like travelling in the past"

Abubakr Sideeq is a Nigerian blogger. He writes the blog “Focus on Faith.” The following is an excerpt from a longer post he wrote, which you read in full here.
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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.
 
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