Islamic concepts

Maḥram محرم — unmarriageable relative; close relative of opposite gender

مَحرَم مَحَارِم
noun singular plural
romanization maḥram maḥārim

A Maḥram is a close family member of the opposite gender, either biologically (a blood relative) or through your spouse (an in-law). It’s impossible to marry your Maḥram. As such, Maḥārim can freely socialize in a mixed gender environment. For example, women are not required to cover their head in the company of their close male relatives.

A woman’s Maḥārim (close male relatives)

A woman is allowed to be alone with such men, travel with them, and so on.

  • Her male blood relatives:
    • Upwards: male ancestors, e.g. father, grandfather, great-grandfather
    • Downwards: male descendants, e.g. son, grandson, great-grandson
    • Sideways: brothers, half-brothers
    • Upwards and sideways: uncles, e.g. father’s brother, mother’s brother, grandfather’s brother
    • Downwards and sideways: nephews, e.g. brother’s son, sister’s son
  • Her husband’s male blood relatives:
    • Upwards: husband’s ancestors, e.g. husband’s father, husband’s grandfather
    • Downwards: Husband’s male descendants, e.g. husband’s son from another marriage

Note that her husband is not her maḥram.

Also... breastfed by the same woman? Radāʿ?

A woman’s non-Maḥārim (men in general)

Non-Maḥārim include more distant male relatives, male friends, male co-workers, and unrelated men in society at large. A single woman is allowed to marry such a man.

  • Relatives through adoption or foster relatives
  • Cousins, e.g. uncle’s son, aunt’s son
  • Husbands of female relatives, e.g. aunt’s husband, sister’s husband
  • Her husband’s male relatives:
    • Sideways: husband’s brother
    • Upwards and sideways: husband’s uncle
    • Downwards and sideways: husband’s nephew

Activities affected by Maḥram status

A woman is allowed to be alone with such men, travel with them, and so on.

  • ʿAwrah

A woman’s intimate parts in front of close male relatives is from her navel to her knees, both in front and in the back of her body.

a) One’s wife’s mother (mother in-law), grandmother and on up: Marriage with her becomes unlawful by merely contracting marriage with the daughter, regardless of whether the marriage was consummated or otherwise.

Wet nurse

milk siblings, milk mother

not mahram but can unveil yourself...

  • Boys before they hit puberty
  • Male servants who are free of sexual desire
  • Male slaves (male servants under your permanent care)