Arba'een marks a "pivotal event in history" in which the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot, where Husayn ibn Ali, the third Imam of Shia, and his army were killed and beheaded by the army of Yazid I. -- Wikipedia

The hajj pilgramage can be complicated by lack of mahram (see How do unmarried women with no mahram go on a pilgrimage to Mecca?) and the laws in Saudi Arabia (How to independently visit Saudi Arabia?). It seems Arba'een Pilgrimage may be an alternative for a woman who is unable to perform hajj pilgramage for this reason.

Question: Can a Muslim woman go on Arba'een Pilgrimage without a mahram?

Of course, Karbala is in Iraq, which is having a war at the moment, and my country's travel advice says "Do not travel. We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq because of the extremely volatile and dangerous security situation." But let's put that aside for this question.

Update: I was unaware of a Shia/Sunni split on the matter before asking. I personally am non-denominational, but answers should be of lasting value (not just for me personally). I originally (mistakenly) accepted a proposed edit to add the "shiism" tag. This has been corrected.

I would also like to point out that I'm aware that it is not a kind of "hajj replacement". My motivation is that I cannot perform hajj due to lack of mahram, and I'm considering it as an alternative to doing nothing. I am simply thinking about it.


3 Answers 3


From the perspective of Sunni Islam, your question is to be divided into two questions:

  1. Is traveling for a woman without a guardian allowed in Islam?
  2. Is it allowed to go for pilgrimage to Arba`een (also known as Karbala)?

For the first question, traveling for a woman without a guardian is considered not permissible for the most part, in the view of most scholars, with exceptions to those fleeing wars, oppression in religion, and other cases. Other scholars allow traveling with women of trust. Basically, unless it is of a real importance, traveling without a guardian or women of trust is not permissible in the view of majority of scholars. (Arabic source)

For the second question, in Sunni Islam, all prayers are to be sought and directed to Allah only, not any other creature. So, generally speaking, if someone is visiting a grave of someone to seek help, and pray for his problems to be relieved, thinking that it might somehow make the prayers more acceptable, then it is not permissible. This is also true when visiting Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) tomb. However, if you are visiting the tomb to pray for the dead, and as remembrance of good deeds and good fellowship, then it is permissible.

From this perspective, visiting Arba`een (it is not considered pilgrimage in Sunni Islam) is permissible if one upholds the rules regarding visiting tombs in general. However, it is viewed that Arba'een is more about seeking help from Hussain (PBUH), and that it is associated with slandering of other companions of the prophet (PBUH). For such reasons, it is not permissible. (Arabic source)

On a side note, please note that the majority of scholars agree that it is permissible for a woman to go for Hajj without a guardian if she is with women of trust. (Arabic source) I am not sure about the official standing of Saudi Arabia immigration department, but I would advice you to seek help and advice from your nearest Muslim community, and I pray that your wish is fulfilled by doing Hajj.


Following infatuated comments, I have looked into the Tawassul concept in Sunni Islam, and it is indeed upheld by the majority of scholars of four fiqh schools. So it is permissible to pray to Allah by invoking the position of prophets and pious people. (source)

However, it is also notable that there are rulings of what one can't do when visiting graves, and it is not appropriate for this question to expand on the subject, but it includes touching the graves, setting besides them, slapping of the self, and out crying. (Arabic source: Palestine House of Ifta'a).

  • 1
    The part on the reasons for visiting Imam Hussein's shrine is still misleading but as you mentioned the rest of the questions go way beyond the scope of the original question, that is, travelling with non-mahram, so let's leave it at that.
    – infatuated
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 6:10

The answer depends on how much Hussain is revered. That varies by sect and I'm not sure you have chosen any specific sect.

Both Sunnis and Shias honor Hussain (similar and different ways). Shias honor him more (they also have a 10 night mourn him in the first 10 days of Muharram), because he was also their Imam. I've know/seen Sunni brothers/sisters who visit and I know of some Sunnis who say he usurped against the caliphe Yazid.

Having that said Sunnis mostly believe that a Mahram must always be present. Shias don't believe such. Permission (of the guardian) is enough. Though most men accompany their wife/daughter/mother with other men because it's an extremely difficult trip.

About your country saying not travel:

I've traveled their 4-5 times after Saddam. Never had an issue. Many of my relatives went there in the past 3-12 months. Nothing happened. Though a very few have gone there and have been killed.Statistically less people going to the cities for pilgrimage in Iraq are killed than—people driving and having car accidents.

The major terror is not in Karbala, Najaf.

My advice: Have faith in Allah, go there with a group and be alert.


Can a Muslim woman go on Arba'een Pilgrimage without a mahram?

Yes, she can go to the Aba'een Pilgrimage without a mahram, provided she is self-assured that your safety is secured. The very same applies to the obligatory hajj.

Rule 60: It is not a condition for a lady, performing an obligatory pilgrimage, to be accompanied by a male, among her mahaarim, provided her safety is secured. If not, she must be accompanied by a trusted male even for a fee, should she afford it. Otherwise, pilgrimage is not obligatory on her.

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