Islamic Lifestyle 

Indonesia’s women tip gender balance of haj pilgrims from 3 biggest Muslim populations

Salaam Gateway | by Emmy Abdul Alim | 23 August, 2017 Download |  Print

Men represent around 55 percent of all haj pilgrims every year. Our coverage of the three biggest Muslim populations--Indonesia, India, and Pakistan that together have sent just under half a million pilgrims to the haj this year--finds that the interpretation of "mahram" and the implementation of Saudi authorities' guidelines on male guardianship, is a key factor contributing to the gender imbalance. 

Indonesia has an agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow its women pilgrims of all ages to apply for the haj without a mahram, a ministry of religious affairs official told Salaam Gateway. Women pilgrims without male guardians are placed in a convoy with other single females and act as each other’s mahrams, allowing them to legally enter Saudi Arabia for the haj.

This is a responsive policy to a higher number of haj applications from women than men in most of the nation's provinces, and the world's longest haj waiting list, which is 37 years in some areas. 

As a result, Indonesia's women pilgrims have consistently represented around 55 percent of the nation's annual haj cohort. 

In contrast, both India and Pakistan disallow women from applying to go to the haj without a mahram, despite Saudi guidelines that allow women aged 45 and older to go to the pilgrimage if she travels with an organised group or family and submits a notarised No Objection Certificate from her mahram.

Pakistan has recently made an exception for Shia women aged 45 and above. 

Because of Indonesia's different mahram system, its women tip the gender balance of the 478,052 pilgrims from the three countries this year. 

Indonesia's women bring up the gender balance almost to parity -- 49.58 percent women to 50.42 percent men. 


More males than females perform the annual haj

Indonesia's different mahram system sends more women than men to haj

More men than women pilgrims: India may revisit mahram rules for haj

Pakistan haj mahram policy unaligned with Saudi's, exception for Shia women

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Indonesia’s women tip gender balance of haj pilgrims from 3 biggest Muslim populations