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A Comprehensive Guide to a Woman's Nakedness (awra)


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#1 ummitaalib

ummitaalib

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 01:29 PM

 
<QUESTION>

Please can you explain in detail, what is a woman’s awra (satar) in front of her mahrams, Muslim & non-Muslim women? If you can cover all the different situations, it would be beneficial as many people are confused.

 
<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The covering of one’s nakedness (awra) is of utmost importance for a male and female in Islam, thus the Qur’an and Sunnah have laid great emphasis with regards to this. We also see the various books of Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) discussing the issues relating to the Awra of both the male and female in great detail. In this brief article, I will attempt to shed some light and look comprehensively as to what is a woman’s Awra.

 

Awra is an Arabic term the plural of which is Awrat. Linguistically, it means a hidden and secret place, and a person’s Awra is that which must be kept hidden. It also refers to everything that causes shame when exposed, thus, the Awra of an individual is the area of the body which (normally) causes embarrassment if exposed. (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, 9/370).

 

In the terminology of Islamic Jurisprudence, Awra refers to the area or part of the body that must be covered with appropriate clothing. In the English language, it is normally translated as ‘nakedness’ or ‘area of the body that must be concealed’. Many people (normally form the Indo/pak) refer to it as ‘Satar’. For the purpose of simplicity, I will use the term ‘Awra’ in this article, Insha Allah.

 

The Awra of a woman

A woman’s Awra can be initially divided into two categories:

 

1) Inside prayer

 

2) Outside prayer

 

The latter is then divided into further sub-categories:

 

a) In seclusion

b) In front of the husband

c) In front of Muslim women

d) In front of Mahram males (unmarriageable kin)

e) In front of non-Mahram males

f) In front of non-Muslim women

g) In front of non-Muslim Mahram males

 

1) Awra inside prayer (Salat)

A woman’s Awra whilst performing Salat consists of the whole body except the face, hands and feet. Allah Most High says: “O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel (zeenah) at every time and place of prayer.” (Surah al-A’raf, 31)

 

The majority of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all), their followers (tabi’un), Jurists and exegetes of the Qur’an have deduced from this verse (along with the other evidences) the obligation of covering one’s Awra in prayer. (See: Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 4/205, Ma’arif al-Qur’an (English), 3/565)

 

Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who experiences menstruation (i.e. who has reached puberty, m) except with a head cover (khimar).” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 641, Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah and others)

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned Durr al-Mukhtar:

“The Awra for a free woman (i.e. not a slave, m) is her full body including her descending hair according to the correct opinion, except for the face, hands……and feet”. (See Radd al-Muhtar, 1/405).

 

Therefore, a woman must cover herself properly when performing Salat. Everything besides the face, hands and feet must be covered. The face must be covered properly so that no hair is exposed. Also, care should be taken that no part from above the wrists and ankles is exposed.

 

It must be remembered that the Awra whilst performing Salat must be covered regardless of another person being present or otherwise, and regardless of whether one is performing Salat in dark or light. (Maraqi al-Falah, 210)

The feet, according to the more correct opinion, is not regarded as part of Awra. However, due to the difference of opinion with regards to it, it would be more precautious and advisable to cover them, as it will be explained in detail later.

 

With regards to the area below the chin, it should be remembered that the limit of the face in length starts from the point where the hairline usually begins to the bottom of the chin, and in breadth the portion between the two earlobes. (Maraqi al-Falah, P. 58)

 

Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that the area below the chin is not included in the face, thus it would fall within the legal definition of Awra, and one should try to cover it. However, because of the difficulty in covering it, if a little part of it became exposed, there should not be a problem.

 

Finally, (in this section), the Awra must be concealed from before entering into Salat and must remain concealed until the end. If quarter of a part/organ that requires concealment is exposed before initiating Salat, then Salat will not be valid from the outset. If however, quarter of the organ which is included in the Awra becomes exposed during Salat, then, if this remains to the duration of reciting Subhan Allah thrice, Salat will become invalid, otherwise, it will be valid. (See: Maraqi al-Falah, P. 242)

 

Note) One should consult a scholar with regards to how the parts of the body are categorized and divided, for at times, one may regard a organ of the body to be one part, whereas, legally, it may be considered to be two parts.

 

2) Awra outside prayer

 

a) Awra in privacy and seclusion

It is necessary (wajib) (and recommended according to another opinion) in the Hanafi school, to cover one’s minimum nakedness (between the navel and knee for both men and women) even when alone. The exception to this is when there is a need, such as taking a shower, relieving oneself, or changing one’s clothes. Even in such situations, it is recommended to minimize the exposure.

 

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Modesty is part of faith (iman).” (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)

 

Ya’la ibn Umayya reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Verily Allah is modest and discreet and He likes modesty and discretion. When one of you takes a bath, one should cover one’s self.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Nasa’I & Musnad Ahmad). This is a command of recommendation when alone.

Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) said in his Durr al-Mukhtar:

 

“(And to cover one’s Awra), this is a general obligation, even when alone, according to the correct opinion, unless it is for a valid reason.”

 

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) writes whilst commentating on the above in his Radd al-Muhtar:

“(al-Haskafi’s statement “Even when alone”) That is: Outside of prayer, it is obligatory to cover one's Awra in front of others by scholarly consensus, and even when alone according to the correct opinion…..

 

Now, the apparent meaning of covering one's Awra when alone outside of prayer (in this context) is that only which is between the navel and knees, such that even women do not have to cover other than that (when alone) even if it is of their Awra in front of others….

 

(al-Haskafi’s statement “According to the correct opinion) For Allah Most High, even though He sees the covered just as He sees the naked, sees the one with their nakedness uncovered leaving proper manners and sees the covered exhibiting proper manners. These proper manners (here) are obligatory whenever there is ability to exercise them.

 

(al-Haskafi’s statement “Unless it is for a valid reason”) Such as, using the toilet or cleaning one self (istinja)”. (See: Radd al-Muhtar, 1/405, matlab fi satr al-awra).

 

Therefore, (according to the more correct opinion), a woman must cover even in privacy between her navel and (including) knees except when there is a need, such as relieving herself, showering, changing her cloths, etc…

 

b) Awra in front of the husband

In principle, it is permissible for the spouses to look at any part of each others body. As such, there is no Awra in front of the spouse (for this will be exempted from the ruling of concealing in privacy due to need).

 

Scholars mention however, that although it is permissible for the spouses to look at any part of the partner’s body, it is disliked that they become completely naked during cohabitation. A cover or sheet over the naked bodies would be sufficient.

 

Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) private parts”. (Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith no. 662)

 

c)Awra in front of Muslim women

The Awra of a woman in front of fellow Muslim women is the same to that which is a man’s Awra in front of other men, i.e. from the navel up to and including the knees.

 

It is stated in al-Hidaya:

“A woman may see of another (Muslim, m) woman that which is permitted for a man to see of another man, due to them being from the same sex, and the non-existence of desire (shahwa) between them normally…..Similarly, due to the need and requirement of them exposing amongst themselves”. (See: al-Marghinani, al-Hidaya, 4/461).

Therefore, a woman must cover from the navel up to and including her knees in front of other Muslim women.

 

d)Awra in front of (Muslim) Mahrams (unmarriageable kin)

The Awra of a woman in front of her Mahram men (those with whom marriage is permanently unlawful), such as the father, brother, son, paternal uncle (father’s brother), maternal uncle (mother’s brother), father in-law, grandson, husband’s son (from another marriage), son in-law, etc consists of the area between the navel and knees, and also the stomach and back.

 

Thus, it will be permissible for a woman to expose the following parts of her body in front of Mahram males: head, hair, face, neck, chest, shoulders, hands, forearms, and legs from below the knees. It will not be permissible to expose the stomach, back or any area which is between the navel and knees. (See: al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/328 & al-Hidaya, 4/461).

 

This ruling is based on the verse of the Qur’an in Surah al- Nur:

“They (believing women) must not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons or their women…” (24-31).

 

It will also be permissible for a Mahram to touch those parts that are permissible to expose in front of them, provided there is no fear of temptation or desire.

 

Imam al-Quduri (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“There is nothing wrong in touching those parts that are permissible to see” (Mukhtasar al-Quduri).

However, it should be remembered that if there is a fear of temptation (fitna), then it will be impermissible to expose these parts even in front of Mahrams, neither will it be permissible to see or touch those areas of a Mahrams body. (See: al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab, 3/218).

 

e)Awra in front of non-Mahram males

The Awra in front of non-Mahram males (those with whom marriage is lawful), which includes cousin brother, brother in-law, paternal uncle (one’s father’s sister’s husband), maternal uncle (one’s mother’s sister’s husband), husband’s uncle, husband’s nephew, etc) consists of the whole body except the face, hands and feet. It is similar to that which is considered Awra in prayer (salat).

 

Imam al-Marghinani (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“It is impermissible for a man to look at the whole body of a non-Mahram woman (due to it being part of Awra, m) except for her face and hands, for Allah Most High says: “Women must not display their beauty and ornaments except what appear thereof” (al-Nur, 31). Sayyiduna Ali and Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with them) interpreted this verse with the face and hands... This is textual evidence on the impermissibility of looking at her feet (for it is awra, m), but Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him) said that it is permitted to look at her feet due to need”. (al-Hidaya, 4/458).

 

Imam al-Tumurtashi (Allah have mercy on him) states in Tanwir al-Absar:

“A woman’s Awra consists of her whole body except her face, hands and feet. However, she will be prevented from exposing her face in amongst men due to the fear of temptation (fitna)”.

 

Therefore, a woman’s Awra in front of non-Mahram men is her whole body except her face, hands and feet.

It must be remarked here that there is a difference between Awra and Niqab or Hijab. Due to the failure of distinguishing between the two, many people become victims of misinterpreting Islamic law in one way or another.

 

The face according to the scholars is not part of the Awra, yet, as we have seen in the text of Imam al-Tumurtashi, it will be necessary to cover it due to the fear of temptation and incitement. Ibn Abidin states: “(A young woman will be prevented from exposing her face), not because it is part of Awra, rather (for the fear of temptation)”. (Radd al-Muhtar, 1/406)

 

Thus, our discussion is solely regarding Awra, and not Hijab or Niqab. As far as the decisive ruling with regards to the covering of the face or otherwise is concerned, we leave that for another time.

 

It is also worth mentioning here that although the Fatwa position in the Hanafi Madhab is that the feet are not included within the Awra, but there is another strong opinion (within the madhhab and according to other Madhabs, such as the Shafi’is), that they are part of Awra, and must be covered. As such, legally, one will not be sinful for exposing them, but it would be advisable as a precautionary measure to cover them.

 

Moreover, (according to the Fatwa opinion), it is only allowed to uncover the feet up to the ankles. Anything above the ankles is from the Awra without a doubt. Many women wear veils, Burqas and Jilbabs that normally cover the ankles, but reveal the leg area above this while walking (especially in the wind, sitting and coming out of a car, etc), thus they commit the sin of exposing What is considered Awra according to all.

 

Therefore, we need to emphasise the importance of covering the feet. Covering the feet is just as important as covering the face if not more, for the face is not considered part of Awra, whilst, there is a strong opinion in the Hanafi Madhhab (and the Fatwa opinion in the other madhhabs) that the feet are.

 

Those who strongly call for and emphasise the necessity of covering the face (not that I object to them) must also realise that the feet are just of the same importance. At times, all the emphasis is laid upon the face, whilst the woman is seen to expose the area above the ankle while walking and there is no realisation that a sin is being committed.

 

f)Awra in front of non-Muslim women

The Awra of a woman in front of non-Muslim women is, strictly speaking, the same that is in front of non-Mahram men, i.e. the whole body besides the hands, face and the feet.

 

The verse of Surah al-Nur that we quoted earlier details the list of people besides whom a woman is not allowed to expose her beauty. Such people (as explained earlier) are known to be her Mahrams (unmarriageable kin). Also, in that verse, Allah Almighty states: “their women” (al-Nur, 31) indicating that a woman must only expose herself to her woman and not others.

 

The exegetes of the Qur’an differ with regards to the interpretation of this statement of Allah. Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“With regards to the statement of Allah “or their women”, there are two opinions. The first is that it refers to those women who are on the same religion (din) as them (i.e. Muslims, m). This is the opinion of the majority of the predecessors (salaf). Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) states: “It is impermissible for a believing/Muslim woman to uncover herself in front of non-Muslim women, and she is only allowed to expose that what is allowed in front of non-Mahram men… Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) wrote to Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah (Allah be pleased with him) to stop non-Muslim women from entering bath areas (hammam) with Muslim women.

 

The second opinion is that, it refers to all the women (i.e. she may uncover in front of all the women, m). This is the adopted opinion, and the opinion of the predecessors is based on superiority (istihbab)”. (See: Tafsir al-Kabir, 8/365).

 

As we have seen, that Imam al-Razi (Allah have mercy on him) adopted the second view in that a woman may uncover in front of non-Muslim women to the extent of what she is allowed to uncover in front of Mahram men.

However, many scholars chose the first view, and it is the view that is adopted by the Hanafi School. Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

 

“An unbelieving woman is similar to a non-Mahram man according to the correct opinion. Thus, she is not allowed to see the body of a Muslim woman”. (Radd al-Muhtar, 6/371)

 

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains:

“It is impermissible for a Muslim woman to uncover in front of a Jewish, Christian or a atheist woman except if she is her slave…It is also disliked that a corrupt woman (fasiqa) sees the body of a pious woman, for she may describe her to the men, thus she should avoid taking off her outer garment (jilbab) or scarf (khimar)”. (ibid).

It is evident from the text of Ibn Abidin that the main reason for the impermissibility of uncovering in front of a non-Muslim woman is that she may describe her to other men. If this is feared from a corrupt Muslim woman, then one should avoid uncovering in front of her also.

 

Therefore, the Awra of a woman in front of non-Muslim women is all her body except her face, hands and feet. Thus, a woman should cover in front of non-Muslim women whenever reasonably possible. However, scholars say that if this is difficult, then it will be permissible to expose some part of the body in front of them.

 

The ruling of covering in front of non-Muslim women is not as strict as the other situations, for, firstly, there is a difference of opinion between the scholars regarding it, and secondly, it may be at times very difficult to cover in front of women. The great exegete, Imam al-Alusi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

 

“This opinion (of not covering in front of non-Muslim women) is more appropriate these days, for it is almost impossible to cover in front of them”. (Ruh al-Ma’ani)

 

In conclusion, a woman should cover whenever reasonably possible in front of non-Muslim women, especially when there is fear that she may describe her to other men. Also nowadays, Fitnahs such as lesbianism have become so wide spread that it has become necessary for women to observe caution with non-Muslim women. However, if it is difficult to fully cover, then one may take the concession on not covering and minimising it to the minimum.

 

g)Awra in front of non-Muslim Mahrams

With regards to a woman’s Awra in front of her Mahrams who are non-Muslim, such as a non-Muslim father, brother, son, etc, I could not find an explicit ruling on the issue in the Hanafi School.

 

However, it seems that non-Muslim Mahrams are similar to other Mahrams in that a woman may expose herself besides from the navel to the knee and the stomach and back, provided there is no fear of temptation (fitna).

There are two reasons for this:

 

Firstly, the verse of the Qur’an and the statements of the jurists (fuqaha) are general when discussing Mahrams. They don’t distinguish between a non-Muslim and Muslim Mahram. The Qur’an permits a woman to expose herself (to a degree, as explained above) in front of her father, brother, son, etc without specifying that he be a Muslim.

Secondly, the Fuqaha explicitly mention that a Mahram with whom a woman may go on a journey of Hajj includes also a non-Muslim. Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

 

“A woman may travel for Hajj with her husband or a Mahram, even though if he (Mahram) is a slave or a non-Muslim or (he is considered a Mahram, m) due to breastfeeding. He must have reached puberty and is sane, and a boy who is close to puberty is like the one who has reached puberty, except a fire worshipper and an immoral and corrupt person”.

 

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains:

“The reason why travelling with a Mahram who is a fire worshipper is impermissible, is that they (fire worshippers, m) consider marriage with a close relative to be permissible”. (Radd al-Muhtar, 2/464)

 

Imam al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“A Mahram is one with whom marriage is permanently unlawful… whether this Mahram is a free person or a slave, for slavery is not contrary to the close relationship (mahramiyya), and whether he is a Muslim, a non-Muslim or an atheist (mushrik), for a non-Muslim Mahram normally safeguards her, except that he is a fire worshipper, for he considers marriage with her to be permissible”. (Badai’i al-Sana’i, 2/124).

 

It is stated in Fath al-Qadir:

“It is permissible for her to travel with all types of Mahrams except a fire worshipper, for he believes marriage with her to be permissible”. (Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir, 2/422).

 

In the Shafi’i Madhhab, we have a clear text permitting the uncovering in front of a non-Muslim Mahram. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Allah have mercy on him) states:

 

“It is not permissible to look at what lies between the navel and knee of one’s close relative (mahram); everything else is permissible, provided there is no desire (shahwah), and even if he is a non-Muslim, because the close relationship (mahramiyyah) makes marriage unlawful, so it is as if they were two males or two females”. (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj ala al-Minhaj)

 

Therefore, it would be permissible for a woman to uncover besides the area between the navel and knees, and the stomach and back in front of her non-Muslim Mahrams, provided two conditions are met:

 

1)That there be no desire (shahwah) or fear of temptation (fitna), especially when we live in a age where evils such as incest among the non-Muslims is becoming common,

 

2)That the non-Muslim close relative not be from among those who believe that it is permissible to marry close relatives,

 

Finally before parting, I would like to mention in relation to our discussion three points.

 

Firstly, it should be remembered that all the parts of the body that need to be covered (in the various situations discussed above) must be covered with clothing that is loose and opaque. The clothing must not be close-fitting whereby the figure of the body is visible or transparent by which the colour of the body is able to be seen. If this is not taken care of, then it will not be regarded to be sufficient covering of the Awra.

 

Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“Clothing that is considered to be sufficient covering is such that, it is not possible to see thorough them”.

 

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains:

“(It is not possible to see thorough them), meaning in a way that the colour of the skin can not be visible. This exempts thin and other see-through clothing… However, if the clothing is thick in a way that the colour of the skin is not visible, but it is tight to the body, then this should not prevent the validity of Salat… However, it is still impermissible to see that part of the body”. (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 1/410)

 

This excerpt of Ibn Abidin explains that if the skin of the body becomes visible in prayer, Salat will become invalid. However, tight clothing would not prevent the validity of prayer, yet it is still necessary not to wear tight-fitting clothing.

 

Secondly, in all the foregoing occasions where it is permissible to uncover and expose the body, if there is a fear of desire (shahwa) on either side or there is fear of temptation (fitna), then it will be necessary to cover. A woman may make this decision herself in accordance with the surroundings she is in.

 

Thirdly, it will be permissible to uncover and expose parts of the Awra in cases of extreme need and necessity, such as medication. However, care should be taken that this is limited to only the part that needs treatment. If treatment is needed on the actual private parts, then it would be better to receive treatment from someone of the same sex. However, if this is not possible, then it would be allowed to receive treatment from a specialist of the opposite sex, with taking due care of the injunctions and guidance of Shariah.

 

Allama Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) states:

“It is permissible for a male physician to view the affected area of a woman for the purpose of medication, provided it is minimised to only the area that actually needs treatment, for necessity is restricted to only the actual need. If the private parts need treatment, then a female should carry out the treatment, as seeing someone of the same sex is less of an evil.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 5/261)

 

The above was a comprehensive look at the Awra of a woman. The extent of the Awra differs from one occasion to another and from one person to another. The whole concept and idea behind this is that Islam desires its followers to live a life that is chaste and free from any type of corruption or immorality. This is a basis for every sound and pure society. May Allah guide us all to the straight path, and that we are able to act upon the injunctions of Shariah in a manner that is most pleasing to Allah Almighty.

 

And Allah Knows Best

 

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam

Darul Iftaa

Leicester , UK


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#2 ummitaalib

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 11:14 PM

Links to more information

 

 

The Hijab of Women and its Boundaries

By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

ilmgate

 

 

 

 

THE SHARI’ BASIS OF NIQAB (FACE COVERING) AND SHAYKH TANTAWI’S INCORRECT VIEW

askimam.org

 

 

 

Female Islamic Dress-Code

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam

darulifta

http://www.islamicte...mic-dress-code/

 

 

 

 

The Female Voice and Singing

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam

darulifta

 

 

 

 

Do old Women have to Wear Hijab?

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam

darulifta

 

 

 

 


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#3 ummitaalib

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 01:33 PM

Liberation Through the Veil

By Mufti Zubair Dudha

Islamic tarbiyah AcademyDewsbury UK

 

Attached File  HIJAB - ITA.pdf   415.45KB   123 downloads

 


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#4 ummitaalib

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 03:14 PM

Why is Your Answer about Hijab with Non-Mahram In-Laws so Lenient?

 

Question

I was reading one of your answers regarding the obligation of Hijab with one’s non-mahram in-laws titled: ‘Interacting and Hijab with my Sister in-Law.’ With all due respect, I do not agree with the Hijab concession given by yourself (and the Fatwa given by the scholars of Dar al-Uloom Karachi) for a woman in front of her non-Mahram in-laws, such as the brother in-law! There is so much Fitna out there these days. There are many cases of marital affairs taking place between in-laws. Didn’t the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) compare the in-laws to death? Please elaborate.

 

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

 

May Allah reward you for bringing this important issue to my attention. It seems that there has been some sort of misunderstanding, or the issue was not explained properly. Nevertheless, in order to correctly understand the Shari’a ruling, the matter needs to be explained in somewhat detail.

 

It is a known fact that Islam has laid down certain restrictions in regards to interacting with a non-Mahram (marriageable kin) member of the opposite gender, even if he or she may be a close relative. These restrictions are not limited to covering certain parts of the body; rather, they go much beyond that. In fact, the Qur’an and Sunna have put in place a set of rules relating to male-female interaction, which can be collectively termed the ‘Rules of Hijab’. Some aspects of these rules are as follows:

 

1) The Prohibition of Khalwah

Being alone with a non-Mahram of the opposite sex in a room or place where a third person is not easily able to enter upon them, or it is not usually accessible to others (khalwah), is categorically forbidden (haram) and hence must be avoided. There are many Hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) indicating this, for example:

 

Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ‘A man must not remain alone in the company of a woman, and a woman must not travel except that her Mahram is accompanying her.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari 2488)

 

Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ‘A man does not be alone with a woman except that the third amongst them is Satan.’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1171)

 

For more details on the rules of Khalwah, please refer to the answer posted previously on our website titled: ‘Being alone with someone of the opposite sex in a work situation’.

 

2) Covering the Awra

It is a categorically established ruling of Islam that both men and women must dress modestly such that their nakedness (awra) is covered properly with loose and non see-through clothing. A man’s Awra is from his navel up to and including his knees, whilst a woman’s Awra in the presence of non-Mahram men consists of her whole body except the face, hands and feet. As such, it is a grave sin to expose one’s Awra in the presence of Non-Mahrams. For more details, please refer to the answer posted previously on our website titled: ‘A Comprehensive Guide to a Woman’s Nakedness (awra)’

.

3) The Prohibition of Informal Interaction

Informal interaction between those who are not Mahram to one another, meaning talking freely and casually, joking around, being flirtatious in the conversation, is also categorically forbidden and a major sin.

 

In Surah al-Ahzab (v: 32), Allah Most High commands the wives of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in particular, and all Muslim women in general, to abstain from conversing with non-Mahram men in a soft and sweet tone. As such, when the need arises to talk, both the content and manner of conversation must be appropriate and free of anything enticing. The dialogue must be in a modest and restrained manner, and limited to the extent of need. For more details, please refer to the answer posted previously on our website titled: ‘Mixed Gatherings’.

 

4) The Prohibition of Wearing Perfume

It has been categorically forbidden in rigorously authenticated Hadiths for a woman to wear perfume when she is in the presence of a non-Mahram man.

 

Sayyiduna Abu Musa (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ‘If a woman wears perfume and passes by a group of [non-Mahram] men, and they smell her perfume, she is such and such.’ The narrator says that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) used stern words. (Sunan Abi Dawud 4170)

 

5) Lowering the Gaze

Allah Most High in Surah al-Nur commands both believing men and believing women to lower their gazes and guard their private parts (v: 30-31). As such, one important aspect of the ‘Rules of Hijab’ is for both genders to avoid casting lustful gazes at one another.

 

All four mainstream Sunni Schools of Islamic law (madhhabs) agree that it is unlawful and sinful for a man to gaze at a woman if there is certainty, strong possibility or even a doubt of being attracted to her (shahwa). As for when he is convinced that there is no possibility of attraction, the early Hanafi jurists did permit him gazing at her face. However, many later jurists ruled that this was close-to-impossible, especially in later times, hence even when there is no possibility of attraction; it is not permitted for him to look at the face of a young woman. Yes, if the woman is old, then there is some leeway. As for the woman, if she is convinced that she will not be attracted to the man and does not fear Fitna, it is permitted for her to gaze at a non-Mahram man. (See: Radd al-Muhtar, Mughni al-Muhtaj, Hashiyat al-Khurshi ala Mukhtasar al-Khalil and Al-Mughni)

 

6) Covering the Face (Niqab)

Scholars disagree whether it is necessary for a woman to cover her face from non-Mahram men. However, my position and the position of most of my teachers is that it is necessary (wajib) for a woman to cover her face in ‘normal’ situations. The transmitted and authoritative position of the Hanafi School, as mentioned in virtually all the major fiqh books, is that even though the face is not part of a woman’s nakedness (awra), it is still necessary for her to cover it, due to the many evidences found in the Qur’an and Sunna, and due to the fitna involved in not doing so. (Radd al-Muhtar 1/406)

 

However, due to the texts obligating the Niqab not being categorical, scholars state that if there is a genuine need (hajah) to expose the face; for example, a woman fears physical or extreme verbal abuse, or she fears harm unto herself when walking in a crowded area such as in Hajj, then it is permitted for her not to wear the Niqab, but she should try keeping her face away from non-Mahram men as much as possible.

 

Note that the level of ‘need (hajah)’ which allows her to expose her face is not the absolute situation of dire necessity (dharura) – which makes all prohibitions lawful such as eating pork and drinking alcohol to save one’s life. A level of ‘dire necessity’ is required for categorically-established prohibitions to become lawful, so one would have to be in danger of losing their life in order to eat pork or drink alcohol. In the case of uncovering the face, however, a lesser level termed ‘Hajah’ is enough to earn the concession. So a woman does not have to fear for her life; but rather, undue hardship and difficulty is sufficient. This distinction comes about due to the fact that the prohibition of uncovering the face is not categorically established like the prohibition of eating pork or drinking alcohol. (See: Takmila Fath al-Mulhim 4/261 and Usul al-Iftaa by Mufti Taqi Usmani)

 

It is clear from the above explanation that there are many aspects to the ‘Rules of Hijab’ between men and women. The first five rules – namely, the prohibition of being alone, the obligation of covering the Awra, the prohibition of interacting freely, the prohibition of applying perfume, and the obligation of lowering the gaze have all been categorically established from the sacred texts (with some minor differences in rule number five concerning the gaze). However, rule number six, concerning the obligation of a woman covering her face, is not categorically established from the texts of the Qur’an and Sunna. It is for this reason that some scholars do not consider covering the face to be Wajib, although our opinion, as discussed previously, is that it is Wajib for a woman to cover her face unless she fears genuine hardship.

 

It is also clear that observing the five categorically-established rules is more important than covering the face/wearing a Niqab. Yet, unfortunately, some women restrict the ‘Rules of Hijab’ to the wearing of the Niqab. They wear the Niqab, but are casual and informal when interacting with non-Mahram men. Others emerge out of their homes immersed in perfume yet they wear the Niqab! This defeats the whole purpose of wearing the Niqab. As such, it is extremely important for Niqab-wearing women, and indeed all Muslim women, to take care of the first five rules mentioned above.

 

Furthermore, as explained earlier, due to the first five rules being categorically established from the sacred texts, no concession is given except in situations of dire necessity. As such, the prohibition of being alone, for example, is not uplifted unless there is a situation of dire necessity similar to the situation which allows eating pork and drinking alcohol – where one fears for their life or risks losing an organ of their body. As for the obligation of covering the face, it is uplifted in lesser situations, and as such, if a woman finds genuine hardship in wearing the Niqab, then it is permitted for her to not do so. (One should consult a reliable scholar to check whether their situation is a ‘genuine’ situation of need).

 

It is in this context that major scholars from the Subcontinent and the Arab world (who normally consider covering the face to be Wajib) issued their legal verdict (fatwa) that in the case of a joint family where non-Mahram family members (such as one’s brother-in-law or one’s sister-in-law) live together in the same house or they regularly come in and out of the house, and thus, a woman finds genuine difficulty in wearing the Niqab all the time, it is permitted for her to expose her face, hands (only up to the wrists) and feet. Imagine how difficult it can be for a woman to keep her face covered with the Niqab within the house all the time!

 

However, this does not mean that all the other aspects of the ‘Rules of Hijab’ are also compromised. On the contrary, it will still be forbidden to be alone with the non-Mahram relative. It will still be obligatory for her to fully cover the rest of her body (awra). It will still be forbidden to interact freely. It will still be forbidden for the woman to apply perfume in the presence of the non-Mahram male. It will still be obligatory for the man to lower his gaze as much as possible. In other words, the previous answer is only compromising one non-categorically established ruling due to genuine hardship, but all the other categorically established rulings of Hijab must still be strictly adhered to, especially Khalwah and informal interaction.

 

Finally, you referred to the Hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) compared one’s in-laws to death. Let us first look at the translation of the Hadith and then seek to explain it.

 

Sayyiduna Uqba ibn Amir (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ‘Beware of entering upon women.’ A man of the Ansar said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what about in-laws?’ He (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘In-laws are death!’ (Sahih al-Bukhari 4934 and Sahih Muslim 2172)

 

This Hadith is not in relation to the covering of the face; but rather, the words of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace): ‘Beware of entering upon women’ themselves indicate that the prohibition is of being alone in privacy with a non-Mahram. It is for this reason that Imam al-Bukhari mentions this Hadith under the heading: ‘Chapter: A man should not be alone with a woman unless he is a Mahram, nor visit a woman whose husband is absent.’ The Hadith is mentioned in Sahih Muslim under the heading: ‘Chapter: On the prohibition of being alone with an unrelated woman and entering upon her.’

 

Commenting on this Hadith, Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) explains that this Hadith prohibits being in privacy with a non-Mahram woman – something which is agreed upon by all the scholars. He then quotes Layth ibn Sa’d (Allah have mercy on him) who says that the ‘in-laws’ in the Hadith refers to a relative of the husband other than his father and sons [who are considered Mahram to his wife), such as his brother, nephew and cousin.

 

He further explains that as for his saying: ‘In-laws are death’, it means that one should be extra careful with non-Mahram in-laws since the possibility of mischief (fitna) is greater. Given the comfortable, social atmosphere that may exist within the home, it is very easy for him to approach the woman and be with her in private, without people blaming him for doing so. (See: Nawawi, Al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim, P: 1626)

 

As such, this oft-quoted Hadith is actually warning against being alone with a non-Mahram relative. It is surely unlawful for a man to be alone in a room with his sister-in-law, for example. The Hadith is not discussing the issue of covering the face/wearing the Niqab.

 

In conclusion, the concession given to a joint family, where one lives with a non-Mahram such as the brother-in-law, is limited to uncovering the face. However, all the other major aspects of the ‘Rules of Hijab’ such as not being alone in a room and not communicating freely must still be adhered to strictly.

 

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam

Darul Iftaa

Leicester , UK

 

Source


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#5 Haya

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 08:34 PM

 In the case of uncovering the face, however, a lesser level termed ‘Hajah’ is enough to earn the concession. So a woman does not have to fear for her life; but rather, undue hardship and difficulty is sufficient. This distinction comes about due to the fact that the prohibition of uncovering the face is not categorically established like the prohibition of eating pork or drinking alcohol. (See: Takmila Fath al-Mulhim 4/261 and Usul al-Iftaa by Mufti Taqi Usmani)

It is clear from the above explanation that there are many aspects to the ‘Rules of Hijab’ between men and women. The first five rules – namely, the prohibition of being alone, the obligation of covering the Awra, the prohibition of interacting freely, the prohibition of applying perfume, and the obligation of lowering the gaze have all been categorically established from the sacred texts

 

 

 
If one is willing to do hijab then I think it's very easy to follow the five rules of hijab, but on many occasions it becomes hard to do niqab in front of non-mahram relatives, I always wondered if we will be sinful for exposing face in such cases. But Alhamdulillah it seems from the post that it's not sinful.

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#6 ummitaalib

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:25 AM

It is necessary to cover the face Haya...for a full explantion I think you should read this explanation;

 

http://www.askimam.o...on_detail/18325

 

The following is from the conclusion 

From the aforementioned it is clear, that not only is the veiling of the face established in Islam, it is also based on concrete evidences. This has been the continuous practise of the past fourteen centuries. As the great scholar of Al-Azhar, Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has said,

ولم تزل عادة النساء قديما وحديثا يسترن وجوههن عن الاجانب[102]

“It has continuously been the practice of women since time immemorial to cover their faces from strangers.”(Fath al-Bari 9/324)

 

 
Your comment:
but on many occasions it becomes hard to do niqab in front of non-mahram relatives,

 

I dont think thats a genuine reason to uncover the face


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#7 Haya

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 07:56 AM

&nbsp;

ummitaalib, on 10 Dec 2014 - 01:25 AM, said:

 

It is necessary to cover the face Haya...for a full explantion I think you should read this explanation;&nbsp;http://www.askimam.o...on_detail/18325&nbsp;The following is from the conclusion&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Your comment:

 

&nbsp;I dont think thats a genuine reason to uncover the face

 

:sl:

 

api I know its necessary to cover the face, and I also know its importance. What I was trying to say, Its not always possible to cover the face, e.g. my Sister lives with her in laws, they live in the same house, have a same dinning room, so how it is possible for her to do niqab?It's possible only if her husband supports her, her in laws pretend to be religious but as per them there's no niqab in front of relatives.

 

Plus, in my home everyone (aside from my brothers) thinks the same i.e. no niqab in front of relatives, so when non-mahram relatives come to stay, seriously I found it hard. I did think it maybe my lack of Iman. Nonetheless, I'm wiling to try to change :insh:

 

Q: I try my best to not come in front of non-mahram relatives but when my mum is ill, I have to serve them something to eat cos she can't... not sit there but just say salaam and serve them and leave the room, so will I be sinning if I don't do niqab in that situation?

 

If it's not asking too much then I'd also like to know what you do in such situations, if you don't feel comfortable sharing your experience here, then via email?


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#8 ummitaalib

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:41 PM

Wa'alaykumus salaam warahmatullaah

 

Firstly I'd like to mention that from what I have read and heard in bayans, I cannot stress the importance of covering in front of non-mehram males in laws. It is said that there is less likely hood of fitnah with someone while out and about however with men and women living in the same house or socialising a lot there are so many opportunities of fitnah. In most communities the interaction between a woman and her brothers in law are very lighthearted and there are ample opportunities of being alone in a room as well...

 

One of the misconceptions that is present in Muslim societies in general is the laxity towards relations with a brother-in-law. However when we look at the teachings of Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) we find that we should be very careful because that laxity can easily lead to sin.

 

إياكم والدخول على النساء . فقال رجل من الأنصار : يا رسول الله ، أفرأيت الحمو ؟ قال : الحمو الموت

Rasullullah (salallhu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Beware of entering upon women.” So a man from the Ansaar (the native residents of Madinah) said: O Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam): What about the brother-in-law? He (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said “The brother-in-law is death”1

 

This hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alayhi) in his Sahih, by Imam Muslim (rahmatullahi alayhi) in his Sahih, by Imam Tirmidhi (rahmatullahi alayhi) in his Sunan and others show how diligent one must be with the relatives of the husband who are not mahram to the wife.

(Full Q/A HERE)

 

 

There is no harm in you and your wife living in one house with the rest of the family members you mentioned. All that you have to be careful about is that your wife does not go out in front of your brother or be alone with him in the house, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade non-mahrams (unrelated men) to enter upon women. He said: "Beware of entering upon women." One of the Sahaabah said to him, "O Messenger of Allaah, what about the brother-in-law?" He said: "The brother-in-law is death!" (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, 9/330).

 

Al-Nawawi, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: "What is referred to in the hadeeth is all the husband’s (male) relatives apart from his father and sons. People customarily take the matter of a man being alone with his brother’s wife as being of little consequence; to indicate the seriousness of the matter, it was likened to death. Indeed, one should be more cautious about the brother-in-law than about a stranger.

 

 

 

Secondly, it can be done Haya. Even in small houses and living together it can be done. It is more difficult where there is no support from the husband but the wife would then need to keep trying making her husband husband understnand without arguments and fights or where things get out of hand...along with abundant du'a for Allah ta'ala to ease the situation.

 

Ok as for personal experience, I will mention a short summary of  the experience of not just myself but many of my friends here so that inshaAllah it serves as a means of guidance and help to others.

 

Yes it is difficult however as I mentioned it can be done inshaAllah. Many relatives get upset and even stop talking however it has been known that those very relatives come around after some time (I believe it is because Allah ta'ala, in Whose control are hearts, has turned their hearts). The initial difficulty is a test and all that is required is steadfastness and reliance on Allah ta'ala.

 

As for :

Q: I try my best to not come in front of non-mahram relatives but when my mum is ill, I have to serve them something to eat cos she can't... not sit there but just say salaam and serve them and leave the room, so will I be sinning if I don't do niqab in that situation?

 

Better to call the father or a brother to get the food and if there is no one than the face and the rest of the body  still has to be covered. Sometimes we  may have to welcome a non mehram in law or pass them something...it can still be done from behind the veil and by not using soft tones or talking unnecessarily.

 

Here in the UK I know many families who observe strict rules when families get together or when living together. Men and women sit separately, with men serving the men and women serving the women. Please note that most houses are quite small yet Alhamdulillah, purdah is strictly observed. I can vouch that it can be done because a very close family member lived with in laws in one house for quite a long time and there was no relaxing of the rules..Alhamdulillah.

 

The biggest test is when there is no support from the husband. I know of situations where the wife has continued to cover despite the husband's disapproval and continued serving him and trying her best not to create a situation....in most cases the husband eventually accepts it and even supports it.


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#9 Haya

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 09:15 PM

It is more difficult where there is no support from the husband but the wife would then need to keep trying making her husband understnand without arguments and fights or where things get out of hand.

 

The only non-mahram person in my sister's house is her brother in law. According to her husband and mother-in-law it's more important to socialize with relatives than doing niqab. If they want they can easily get a separate accommodation but they think that family ties, unity and love can get weakened by it. I think it must be included in prenuptial agreement that wife shouldn't be restricted from maintaining shar'i hijab and niqab.

 

 

 

Better to call the father or a brother to get the food and if there is no one than the face and the rest of the body  still has to be covered. Sometimes we  may have to welcome a non mehram in law or pass them something...it can still be done from behind the veil and by not using soft tones or talking unnecessarily.

 

Yes most of the times my younger brothers take the food to the guests when my mum isn't well enough to do it, but when they're busy outdoors then the problem starts. But :insh: I'll try...

 

 

I've one more question, what should we do in family parties or different family occasions?  Not attend them simply? But, what if sometimes we're forced to attend them?

 

Many relatives get upset and even stop talking

 

 

 

Yes that's true. Some of my relatives think that I'm arrogant and I don't have manners. Even some of them assume that I consider that they have a evil character, while I just try to maintain hijab. But :alhamd: I really don't care whatever non-religious people think of me.


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#10 ummitaalib

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 01:22 AM

The only non-mahram person in my sister's house is her brother in law. According to her husband and mother-in-law it's more important to socialize with relatives than doing niqab. If they want they can easily get a separate accommodation but they think that family ties, unity and love can get weakened by it. I think it must be included in prenuptial agreement that wife shouldn't be restricted from maintaining shar'i hijab and niqab.

 

Unfortunately and sadly this is the situation in many families....as for the agreement, yes though I think many would not accept the condition ) :

 

 

But :insh: I'll try...

Allah ta'ala make it easy for you

 

 

I've one more question, what should we do in family parties or different family occasions?  Not attend them simply? But, what if sometimes we're forced to attend them?

 

Can one be forced to go?

 

Parties, weddings etc where we know impermissible things like intermingling will take place, and we cannot cover properly and no separate facilities are arranged then we do not have to accept the invitation. It takes courage to refuse to go because either the husband or the in laws or others are sure to get upset. So then the choice is between pleasing Allah ta'ala or the relatives. I think one has to make a stand at some point and face some hardship because of it but it eases the way afterward....please note that my answers are from my own self


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#11 Haya

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 07:41 AM

as for the agreement, yes though I think many would not accept the condition 

 

Don't accept it even prior to marriage?  Then their proposal shouldn't be accepted at all.


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#12 Bint e Aisha

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Posted 27 July 2017 - 11:08 AM

Q & A: Is No Niqab in Hajj Proof for No Niqab at All?

 

By: Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf

 

 


Edited by Bint e Aisha, 27 July 2017 - 11:11 AM.