10 July 2008

What is a Mahram In Islam? - Explained

by Maulana Sultan, UK

Introduction

Allah Ta’aala has given us a religion called Islam. Not just as a religion, but also as a complete way of life. A system of life which tackles and provides solutions for every immoral aspect of life and sets boundaries so that mankind does not exceed nor fall below the levels required to live a healthy, balanced and pure life and above all, a life in obedience to Allah. Anyone who has studied Islam in depth and seen the different aspects of life covered by Allah in the Qur’aan and by the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in Ahadeeth, will have no choice but to stand in awe and amazement as to how great and true these solutions of life are, that are taught to us by Islam.

One of the aspects of life covered in Islam is the interacting of males and females. As mentioned above, this aspect of life also has boundaries set in place. With certain things in life, there must be boundaries so that we can know the extent of what we can and cannot do since we are not wild and reckless but rather, civilised people. Also so that we know how far we can go in a matter before problems occur.

Definition Of Mahram & Ghayr Mahram

With regards to the interacting of males and females, the males are classed into two groups.
  • ‘Mahrams’ and
  • ‘Ghayr Mahrams’

‘Mahrams’:
This category refers to all those males whom a woman cannot marry at anytime in her life whatsoever. In other word a male who is forbidden permanently, forever (i.e. one’s father, brother or son etc).

‘Ghayr Mahrams’:
This category refers to all those males whom a woman is permitted to marry (e.g. a cousin or just a random Muslim male) or a male whom it is forbidden to marry at that moment in time but may become permissible to marry in the future due to a change in circumstances. In other word a male who is temporarily forbidden (e.g. a Muslim female who is already married is temporarily forbidden to marry another Muslim male as long as she is married. But once she divorces her current husband and passes her ‘Iddah’ (waiting period after divorce), she may now marry another Muslim male and he is no longer forbidden for her).

Importance Of Mahram & Ghayr Mahram

Often, in Islamic law, the above categories are required to establish certain Islamic rules. This is why one will find that the above categories are sometimes conditions, requirements or the basis of several Islamic laws.

Example 1:
Regards the Islamic topic on marriage, the above categories i.e. being a ‘Mahram’ or ‘Ghayr Mahram’ define who a person can and cannot marry.

Example 2:
Likewise regards the Islamic topic on ‘Hijaab’ and whom a woman must cover herself a certain amount in front of, again will be determined by whether the male is a ‘Mahram’ or not.

Example 3:
Also, with regards to the permissibility of women travelling more than the distance of a ‘Shar’ee safar’ (Islamic journey approximately 48 miles from one’s city’s border) depends on whether she can find a ‘Mahram’ to accompany her or not. If found then her travelling that distance or more is permissible otherwise not.

Example 4:
Similarly one of the main conditions, which make ‘Hajj’ compulsory for a woman, is the presence of a ‘Mahram’ with her throughout her journey. Again, if she does not find a ‘Mahram’ to accompany her during her journey to do ‘Hajj’, then she is not permitted to go do ‘Hajj’ nor is it compulsory upon her until she finds a ‘Mahram’ that can accompany her.

As it is obvious from the above examples, the knowledge of the term ‘Mahram’ and ‘Ghayr Mahram’ are very important, as they are the conditions or the basis of several Islamic rules as shown above, hence all the more reason to know and understand who is a ‘Mahram’ and who is not.

Overall Purpose of Mahram & Ghayr Mahram

As mentioned above, the terms ‘Mahram’ and ‘Ghayr Mahram’ play an important role within Islam under different Islamic topics but regardless of this its purposes within these different topics are similar. In other words the purposes of this separation of ‘Mahrams’ and ‘Ghayr Mahrams’ whether it be during matters of ‘Hijaab’, an Islamic journey, marriage or even ‘Hajj’, are similar. There are many purposes and wisdoms behind this separation a few of which will be mentioned.

Firstly, one of the main purposes of this separation is to safeguard people from immoral acts that occur because of unnecessary interacting and intermingling of certain males and females. Allah the All-knowing, the Most wise, knows the causes of corruption and shameless acts and helps people safeguard themselves from these by setting rules in place. Society struggles to deal with corruption, immoral acts and problems such as arguments, affairs, trust between husband and wife, attacks on women and so on. Whereas Islam tackles these problems from their root i.e. unnecessary interacting and intermingling of certain males and females, which without doubt is the cause of many problems in society. For example, many arguments are caused through unnecessary interacting and intermingling of certain males and females. Likewise affairs occur due to unnecessary interacting and intermingling of certain males and females. Also, often a lack of trust between husband and wife is created because of things that happen during unnecessary interacting and intermingling of certain males and females. Then later on, a lack of trust leads to arguments. Similarly, attacks that are carried out on women are mostly brought about through unnecessary interacting and intermingling with males. People constantly search themselves for a way or system that they think will solve these problems and fail to follow the system given by Allah that actually deals with these problems since he is All-knowing, Most wise.

Another purpose and wisdom behind separating ‘Mahrams’ and ‘Ghayr Mahrams’ is that it protects the honour and chastity of women. Through unnecessary interacting or intermingling of women and men, if a woman falls prey to corruption and commits a shameless act, then this will be the cause of her losing her real honour and chastity. In this modern day and age, society wishes to grant women freedom, honour and rank but fail to realise that real honour is not achieved by granting women freedom but rather by protecting them from the corruption and shameless acts of life, which Islam does, if followed. Even women themselves have fallen for this false idea of honour and try to fight for more freedom and rights, thinking that this will give them honour and rank. Islam is often criticized for its degrading and lack of honour of women, but as shown above, this could not be any further from the truth. Women want honour and rank and it is what Allah wants for them also but their idea of how to achieve it is different from that of Allah’s. If women wish for honour and rank, then remember that honour lies in the obedience of the laws of Allah, who himself is the one who gives honour.

…and you (Allah) grant honour to whom you will and you disgrace whom you will.
(Surah: 3 Al-Imraan, Verse: 26)

Lastly, another wisdom behind this separation is that it serves as a boundary to maintain a balanced and pure society and religious life, which in turn will help a person focus on his or her sole purpose in life i.e. the obedience and worship of Allah. Wherever the unnecessary interacting and intermingling of genders is found, then one will clearly see that without doubt, this is something that diverts a person’s attention from the purpose of life and the fulfilment of one’s Islamic duties as well as from the remembrance of Allah. Hence, by creating these restrictions, Allah aims to help us focus on the reality of life and bring this to our attention. Once a person understands this then these restrictions no longer seem like restrictions but rather a mercy from Allah.

Will One Then Not Take Heed?

Allah the All-knowing, the Most wise, out of his mercy has given us these laws to follow only for our benefit and success and so that we do not stray from the straight path and fall into corruption as people before us have done. Should we then not be truly grateful? If so, then we should show our gratitude through our actions by obeying Allah. Whether we take heed and become obedient to him by following the laws set by him or not, Allah will not be affected the slightest. He does not need nor depend on our obedience nor does he benefit from it. The only ones who will benefit will be ourselves with success in this world and the hereafter…if only we knew.

“Indeed, this is no less than a reminder to mankind, for whomsoever wishes to walk straight.”
(Surah: 81 At-Takweer, Verse: 27-28)

Who is more merciful to mankind than one who continues to help those who are obedient to him as well as those who are disobedient to him but gains nothing from it?

Male Perspective : List Of Mahrams

From a male’s perspective, women he is permanently forbidden to marry and with whom Islamic restrictions do not apply are:
  • Father’s wives
  • Mothers and above (i.e. grandmothers, great grandmothers etc, maternal or paternal)
  • Daughters and below (i.e. granddaughters, great granddaughters etc)
  • Sisters (regardless of whether it be one’s real sister, sister with whom your mothers are the same but fathers different or whether it be a sister with whom your fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Aunts (i.e. one’s mother’s/father’s sister, again regardless of whether it be their real sister, sister with whom their mothers are the same but fathers different or whether it be their sister with whom their fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Nieces (i.e. daughters of brother/sister regardless of whether they be one’s real brother/sister, brother/sister with whom your mothers are the same but fathers different or brother/sister with whom your fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Foster Mother (i.e. lady by whom one was breast fed before the age of two)
  • Foster Sister (i.e. a female who was breast fed by the same lady as one was)
  • Mother-in-law and above (i.e. grandmother-in-law, great grandmother-in-law etc, maternal or paternal)
  • Daughter of wife from another marriage (with the condition that both husband and wife have been alone together)
  • Daughter-in-law and below (i.e. son’s wife, grandson’s wife etc)
  • Wife (not forbidden in marriage but is an exception therefore no restrictions apply with one’s wife)

Male Perspective : List Of Gher Mahrams

From a male’s perspective, women he is permitted to marry or who are temporarily forbidden and with whom Islamic restrictions apply are:
  • These include all those not listed above

(The list above and below is a summary of Surah: 4 An-Nisaa, Verse: 22-23 & Surah: 24 An-Noor, Verse: 31)

Please note that regards to one’s foster mother, there is a narration of the Prophet, which mentions that whoever is made forbidden through genealogical relation is forbidden through fosterage. In simple terms, one’s foster mother is like one’s mother and her children become one’s foster brothers and sisters and her father becomes one’s foster grandfather and similarly all those types of people normally forbidden are also forbidden in fosterage (i.e. foster father/mother, foster brother/sister, foster uncle/aunt, foster daughter/son etc)

Please note there are a few more detailed rules regards the above and below but have not been mentioned in an attempt to keep this article simple. Where detail has been given, then it is in order to answer common and important queries.

Female Perspective : List Of Mahrams

From a female’s perspective, men she is permanently forbidden to marry are the opposite of the above since if marriage is forbidden, then it is forbidden both ways i.e. if a female is forbidden for a certain man then that man is forbidden for her also. You can never say that a certain female is forbidden for me but I am not forbidden for her! Also, those with whom Islamic restrictions do not apply are:

Mahrams (i.e. forbidden to marry permanently forever at anytime):
  • Step father (with the condition that both step father and one’s mother have been alone together)
  • Fathers and above (i.e. grandfathers, great grandfathers etc, maternal or paternal)
  • Sons and below (i.e. grandsons, great grandsons etc)
  • Brothers (regardless of whether it be one’s real brother, brother with whom your mothers are the same but fathers different or whether it be a brother with whom your fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Uncles (i.e. one’s mother’s/father’s brother, again regardless of whether it be their real brother, brother with whom their mothers are the same but fathers different or whether it be their brother with whom their fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Nephews (i.e. sons of brother/sister regardless of whether they be one’s real brother/sister, brother/sister with whom your mothers are the same but fathers different or brother/sister with whom your fathers are the same but mothers different)
  • Foster son (i.e. a boy who a lady has breast fed before the age of two)
  • Foster Brother (i.e. a male who was breast fed by the same lady as one was)
  • Father-in-law and above (i.e. grandfather-in-law, great grandfather-in-law etc, maternal or paternal)
  • Husband’s sons
  • Son-in-law and below (i.e. daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband etc)
  • Husband (not forbidden in marriage but as an exception is classified as a ‘Mahram’ and therefore no restrictions apply with one’s husband)

Female Perspective : List Of Gher Mahrams

From a female’s perspective, men she is permitted to marry or who are temporarily forbidden and are those with whom Islamic restrictions apply:
  • These include all those not listed above

25 comments - Click link below to add yours:

Riaz, UK said... 10/7/08 1:41 am  

Thanks for this !

Anonymous said... 22/7/08 4:31 pm  

IS STEP DAUGHTER'S HUSBAND IS MY MAHRAM

Anonymous said... 25/7/08 10:36 am  

he is your mahram whilst he is married to your step daughter

Anonymous said... 11/8/08 3:57 am  

what about aunt's husbands? are they mahram or ghier mahram? please reply at mercyphier_xar@hotmail.com

Anonymous said... 24/10/08 6:09 am  

Where in the Quran does it say that a man should not touch a woman who is not related to him?

Sajid said... 15/11/08 5:26 pm  

Q. Where in the Quran does it say that a man should not touch a woman who is not related to him?

A. It's clearly mentioned in saheeh ahadeeth.

Anonymous said... 17/1/09 4:59 am  

Thanks for sharing good and correct information. - Imran.

Anonymous said... 1/2/09 10:57 am  

Is your father's uncle's daughter mahram for you?

Anonymous said... 27/2/09 12:18 am  

Q. Asalamu Alaikum,
I reverted to Islam 7years ago and I am orginally from a british white christian background therefore my blood mahram are not muslim.
My husband has recently passed away and mashallah, I have been looked after by my husbands family who love me dearly.
I understand that upon death I am no longer considered married to my husband however, mashallah my in-laws will continue to look after me as their own.
Upon marriage my father-in-law became a mahram to me however how does this stand now I am a widow?
As my in-laws are discussing taking me on Hajj next year inshallah, as I now do not have any other mahram that would ever be able to go with me. Is it still permissable for my father-in-law to be my mahram after my husbands passing?
Jazakallah Khair

Anonymous said... 1/4/09 4:21 pm  

I wanted to know if a brother in law was gher mahram to me (female), he is married to my sister and they are both older to then me.

Jazakallah Khair

Anonymous said... 28/8/09 3:17 am  

Is my stepsister mahram?

Anonymous said... 7/9/09 5:26 pm  

my husband has recently passed away....can my father in law still be a mahram to me???
please advise

Anonymous said... 11/12/09 8:50 pm  

Jazakallah Khair

Anonymous said... 17/1/10 3:45 am  

is a student of same age or less by 2 yrs a gher mahram?? can a lady lecturer marry a student , who is 2 yrs younger than her??

Anonymous said... 22/2/10 5:59 pm  

Fatima (SA)
I am a 35 year old woman, married for 10 years with 3 sons (Budroodeen, Moeneeb & Ies'raa'fiel). However my husband is Christian. My niyah is to complete my hadj this year, which has been my niyah for 10years. Is there anyone with advise. Insha-Allah.
Jazakallah Khair

Anonymous said... 26/2/10 1:39 pm  

Assalamu alaikom,

Fatima, sister, if your husband is Christian then by Islamic law your marriage is invalid. A Muslim woman can not under any circumstances be married to a kafir. If you were Muslim when you married him then this was clearly haram. If you converted to Islam after already being married, then he should have been given the option to accept Islam. Since you said you've been married for 10 years and he's still Christian then he obviously has no interest in becoming Muslim. Therefore it is fardh to divorce him. The entire time you live with a non Muslim is tantamount to zina and if your children were born during this time then they are considered illegitimate. I don't mean to sound harsh about this just presenting the facts in light of Qur'an and Sunnah. and Allah SWT knows best.

Anonymous said... 26/2/10 1:40 pm  

Salam,

Your father's uncle's daughter is your cousin, she is NOT mahram for you.

Anonymous said... 26/2/10 1:42 pm  

Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullah,

The Prophet (saw) said: Beware of entering into a gathering of (non-mahram) women. A Companion (ra) asked: 'What about the in-law?' The Prophet (saw) replied: The brother in-law is death (ie his seclusion with women is as serious and as dangerous as death). (Bukhari & Muslim)

Being alone with a brother in-law may lead to disaster if a sin is committed, or may spell divorce for the woman if her husband cannot contain his jealousy. Beware of being alone with a non-mahram woman - fear this as you fear death.

Anonymous said... 16/3/10 3:57 pm  

Assalam-o-alaikum

Q: is a student of same age or less by 2 yrs a gher mahram?? can a lady lecturer marry a student , who is 2 yrs younger than her??

A: yes she can marry him

and Allah SWT knows best.

Anonymous said... 2/4/10 9:21 pm  

Assalamuralaikum

A man has already divorced his wife, can he now marry to the wife's niece (daughter of wife's sister)? Does this nika hold valid in Islam?

Anonymous said... 9/5/10 4:22 am  

Can my brother and brother-in-law be Mahram of my wife?

Anonymous said... 22/7/10 1:32 pm  

Can a younger brother (20) can do message if the sister has a foot cramp and she in in pain and no female are there.

Anonymous said... 23/8/10 4:25 pm  

can a woman go to hajj with her sister and brother in law?

Anonymous said... 27/9/10 2:33 pm  

Brother in law is a a ghair mahram

Anonymous said... 23/5/11 6:43 am  

Can I marry a girl who have the following relation with me. She is my grandmother's sister's(From different mother) grand daughter's daughter. Please reply to logstoakbar@gmail.com

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