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A woman who converts to Islam will often have no male Muslim relatives to act as a guardian (wali). I see online questions along the lines of "I'm a convert woman, have no guardian, and want to get married; what do I do?" The advice is usually pick some random knowledgeable Muslim man. But I feel there is more to the role of the male guardian than this, and I'm wondering how the convert woman would go about finding a (suitable) guardian in general, and not just for the wedding.

Question: How does a convert woman go about finding a guardian?

SeekersHub.org writes that having a male guardian is not obligatory in the Hanafi school. It thus seems possible for a convert woman to simply not have a guardian, but let's assume she wants one regardless.


As some examples of where a guardian would play a role beyond giving a "nod of approval" on the wedding day (this is as I understand things, which is not always fully accurate):

  • When a woman travels a long distance, it's better that she does so with a guardian for her safety. Actually, in Saudi Arabia the guardian's permission is needed to leave the country.

  • While hajj pilgramage can be performed e.g. as a group of women, entering Saudi Arabia requires a mahram, who may possibly be her guardian.

  • When considering a potential husband, a woman's guardian plays an active role in determining if he is a devout and suitable husband. He also has the responsibility to reject a man's proposal on her behalf, thereby protecting her e.g. if she fears he may react badly.

There's probably other instances which I failed to list. Wikipedia writes:

Some female Saudis consider male guardianship their "right". In a 2010 interview with the New York Times, Noura Abdulrahman, a female employee of the Saudi Ministry of Education, defended male guardianship as providing protection and love.

In Saudi culture, women have their integrity and a special life that is separate from men. As a Saudi woman, I demand to have a guardian. My work requires me to go to different regions of Saudi Arabia, and during my business trips I always bring my husband or my brother. They ask nothing in return—they only want to be with me. ...

In my particular case, it makes me feel like I'm missing out on an important aspect of Islam by not having a guardian. I'm aware the male guardian is portrayed negatively in Western sources. Nevertheless, if Allah has ordained that women should have a male guardian, I don't think I should just dismiss it because it's uncool in the area where I was born. I trust Allah.

  • I'm surprised by the claim that the Hanafis say a woman does not need a wali; as far as I know, she just doesn't need his consent for marriage. Can someone comment on this? – G. Bach Mar 27 '17 at 22:37
  • @G.Bach, is not the context and the claim in the SeekersHub clearly about the marriage? – ozbek Mar 28 '17 at 5:08
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    While travelling, you need a mahram and not a wali. A mahram is always only a blood relation (or your husband) and there is no way you can appoint an unrelated person as your mahram even if he be the Caliph. Dominant opinion is that a non-muslim can act as your mahram companion (islamqa.info/en/224532). Regarding Hajj, non-muslims are not allowed in Mecca and I am not sure how Saudia handles the case of convert women travelling alone, but if they don't allow you without a mahram then your best chance is to either marry first or get an existing family member to convert. – UmH Mar 28 '17 at 19:14
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The Islamic state acts as the Wali for someone who does not have a Wali. In a non-muslim state, you should look for someone who has the qualifications of a qadi(judge) to act as your wali; a Mufti or Imam of a mosque will be a good choice. If you are unable to contact an Imam then you may ask any upright Muslim to act as your Wali.

Note that the person you choose will not have any authority or responsibility other than the marriage contract, nor the rights and obligations of a Wali from the asabat (blood relations) ... this isn't some permanent bond that you are making, its a legal formality.

For reference, the rules of Wilayah according to the Hanafis and the Shafis.

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