Very recently, I was witnessing a discussion among family members regarding the issue of girls travelling to Darul Ulooms without Mahram for their studies.
At the outset, I would like to point out the fact that unfortunately in my home country there isnt any darul ulooms of high caliber for sisters to pursue their alima courses and the best alternative is South Africa, which is 4 1/2hrs - 5hrs by plane + whatever time it takes them to reach the Darul Uloom from the airport, which is thus more than 77kms.
Now the cost implications is quite high for an average earner here to afford a ticket to accompany the sisters as a mahram to the Darul Ulooms. So what basically happens in most cases is that sisters travel with a group of other sisters (maybe 2 or 3) to the Darul Ulooms and in certain situations a few have to travel on their own. They however maintain strict pardah.
One of the brothers who was involved in the discussion mentioned the fact that for girls to travel on their own without mahram, or with a group of girls without mahram, is absolutely prohibited in shariah. He said so after having a phone conversation with one of the muftis at Darul Uloom Deoband. The Mufti even mentioned to him that it is better for the sisters to stay at home rather than going to the Darul Ulooms for their alima courses. This one got me perplexed.
I would like to know what is the hanafi rule regarding the above as I do have a cousin who is pursuing her alima courses in SA and comes for holidays every Ramadan with a group of other girls but without any male mahram. The reason is that her father cannot afford to go and pick her up in SA to come to here and go and drop her again after Ramadan, but still makes a massive effort so that her daughter can at least come to spend Ramadan here.
So is it wrong to travel without mahram? What about those sisters who travel on their own to Darul Ulooms or in group of girls? Is it better for them to stay at home and not do their alima courses?