Transporting female students from Jeddah to Makkah and Rabigh without a Mahram

Q: We are a transportation company that transports female students in Jeddah from their homes to the university, schools or colleges and then transports them back. The buses are of the capacity of 12 passengers. The driver accompanies a Mahram (spouse or permanently unmarriageable relative) to them. Sometimes, we transport female teachers and students in groups from one place to another, for example to and from Makkah, Rabigh, and Masturah. Sometimes they travel a distance between 200 to 500 km. But they return on the same day in groups. It is worth mentioning that the driver accompanies his wife. What is your Eminence's Fatwa on that?

A: It is not permissible for a Muslim woman to travel without a Mahram (spouse or permanently unmarriageable relative) acting upon the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): A woman should not travel except with a Dhu-Mahram (spouse or permanently unmarriageable relative). (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: No person should be alone with a woman except when there is a Mahram with her, and the woman should not undertake a journey except with a Mahram. A person stood up and said: Allah's Messenger, my wife has set out for pilgrimage, whereas I am enlisted to fight in such and such battle, whereupon Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: (Part No. 17; Page No. 322) Go and perform Hajj with your wife. (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) It is unlawful for a woman to travel anywhere without a Mahram who takes care of her and protects her. A Mahram can be a husband or any unmarriageable relative due to cognation, suckling or marriage, such as her father, her son, her brother, her nephew, her paternal or maternal uncles, her husband's father, her step-son, her foster-son, her foster-brother and the like. This applies to any woman whether young or old, alone or in a group. Being in a group of women is not a substitute for a Mahram according to the generality of the meanings of the Hadiths, for this can not be protection from the expected harms. Therefore, the women and their guardians have to fear Allah and act upon the orders of Allah and His Messenger and avoid what Allah and His Messenger forbid. They have to maintain modesty and chastity and avoid the means leading to evil and temptation. Their greed in worldly benefits should not make them lenient in this matter. To be recognized in Shari`ah as a Mahram, a male has to be a sensible adult. A child below the age of adulthood cannot be considered a Mahram to his mother or sister. A woman cannot act as a Mahram for another woman. Accordingly, the driver's accompanying his wife does not make it lawful for him to travel with strange women or be in Khulwah (being alone with a member of the opposite sex) with them. Working in the transportation of traveling female students or teachers is therefore unlawful. The duty of the person who takes it as a career is to seek Allah's Forgiveness and never do it again. Other lawful means of earning your living (Part No. 17; Page No. 323) are a better substitute. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.