Intimate parts (Islam)
The intimate parts of the human body must, according to Islam, be covered from the sight of others with clothing. Exposing the intimate parts of the body is unlawful in Islam (see Sharia) and is regarded as sin. Precisely which body parts must be covered varies between different schools of Islamic thought. The Quran admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly and cover their breasts and genitals. The Quran explicitly states that "O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women" (Quran 33: 32) and as such has separate rules specifically for the wives of the Prophet. However, many people often mistake it for rules for all Muslim women.
In Arabic, the term 'awrah or 'awrat (Arabic: عورة) derives from the root ‘a-w-r which means "defectiveness", "imperfection", "blemish" or "weakness". However, the most common English translation is "nakedness".
In Persian and Kurdish (Persian: عورت) as well as Urdu, the word 'awrat derived from the Arabic 'awrah, had been used widely to mean "woman". Consulting Mohammad Moin's dictionary of Persian, 'awrah leads to two significations:
- Nakedness, shame
- Young woman.
Other derivatives range in meaning from blind in one eye, false or artificial, among others. Traditionally the word 'awrat, alongside the word za'ifeh (which derives from Arabic ḍa'īf (Arabic: ضعيف), meaning weak) has been associated with femininity and women who lived under the protection of a man. In modern day Iran, using the two words ( 'awrah and za'ifah) to refer to women is uncommon and is considered sexist language. Instead, the words zan and xânom are used. In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the word za'if is still used in the Tajik dialect of Persian and its subdialects.
In Turkish, avrat is one of the ways to say 'woman', but is used more in the rural area and may also mean 'wife', especially the way the husband calls his wife.
In the Quran
The below verse is about privacy as the Quranic text states:
"... and let those among you who have not yet come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions; before the morning prayer, and while you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and after the late-night prayer. (These) three times are of privacy for you, other than these times there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending (helping) each other."
It states: "A group of them ask the Prophet for leave, saying, “Our houses are 'awrah", even though their houses are not awrah. Their intent is to flee the battle. "
In this case, the term 'awrah means "vulnerable".
The text states:
"O ye children of Adam! We have bestowed dress upon you to cover your nakedness...".
"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the believing women, to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known (as respectable woman) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." -Al-Ahzab:59 (Qur'an)
The Quran admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly and cover their breasts and genitals. The Quran explicitly states that "O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women" (Quran 33: 32) and as such has separate rules specifically for the wives of the Prophet. The Qur'an tells the male believers (Muslims) to talk to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad behind a hijab and also banned male believers (Muslims) to marry the wives of Prophet Muhammad
In the Hadith
Awrah refers to anything which can be easily harmed just like a bare or exposed place. Therefore it becomes clear that the body of a woman is referred to as vulnerable because it is like a house which contains no walls and can be easily harmed and must be covered with the appropriate clothing.
Differences between men and women
In Sunni interpretations, the 'awrah of a man refers to the part of the body from the navel (not inclusive) to the knees. Whether the knees are included is a subject of scholarly debate, with the Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali schools of thought holding that they are not included, and the Hanafi school holding that they are.
Women's 'awrah is a more complicated issue and it changes according to the situation:
- In ritual prayer: a woman should cover her entire body excluding her face and her hands from the wrist to the base of the fingers (as well as the feet including the ankles, according to the Hanafis). She should also cover part of her forehead and the area under the chin. A woman should cover her hair and body while performing the ritual prayer, whether she is praying in presence of her husband or she is praying alone in her chamber, as the basis for covering in prayer is different from the basis for covering in front of people.
- In front of her husband: There is no restriction in Islam on what body parts a woman may show to her husband in private. The husband and wife can see any part of each other’s body especially during sexual intercourse.
- In privacy: It is recommended that a person cover his or her sexual organs even when alone in private. There are exceptions when there is need, such as when taking a shower or going to the toilet.
- Among other women: The 'awrah of a woman amongst other women is the same as the 'awrah of men (from her navel to her knees). 'Awrah in front of non-Muslim women is a point of debate. Some scholars say that women should cover all but the hands and face, while according to the most preferred opinion, a Muslim woman can reveal in front of a non-Muslim woman as much as she would in front of other Muslim women.
- It is from the shoulders (inclusive) down to the knees (inclusive). (Maliki and Hanbali opinion)
- It is from the stomach (inclusive) down to the knees (inclusive according to the Hanafis but not according to the Shafi'is). (Hanafi and Shafi'i opinion)
- It is from the navel (not inclusive) to the knees (inclusive). (Alternate Hanafi opinion)
- In front of male children: If the child understands what the 'awrah is, then it is not considered permissible for a woman to uncover her 'awrah in front of him.
- In front of non-mahram men: There is a difference of opinion on which body parts a woman should cover in front of men who are not her mahram. In the contemporary world, there is a general argument that the body of a free woman (except for her face and her hands) is 'awrah and therefore must be covered not only during prayer but also in public and in front of all non-mahram men. The Hanafis view the feet to be excluded from 'awrah as well, however they must be covered in prayer.
Whether a woman was obligated to cover her face is more controversial. Most contemporary scholars agree that women's covering of the face was not mandated by the Quran or by the traditions of Muhammad. However, many classical jurists held that such covering was nonetheless strongly recommended, or even required in times of fitnah. Al-Razi, for example, held that by covering her face a married woman made clear that she was not available. Notably, a man is permitted and even encouraged to look at the face a woman he is considering marrying, even in countries where he normally would not be allowed to.
In the contemporary world, the minority of Muslims insist that a woman's awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands, which must be covered at all times in front of non-mahram men.
The practice of covering the face is common in several Muslim countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman) but not common in other countries (like Malaysia, Indonesia, present-day Iran, present-dayTurkey and majority of south Asia). These differences reflect different interpretations and understanding of Sharia.
Relation with hijab
As the Quran does not mandate it, exposing the awrah is not regarded as sin in Islam. Man-made rules (Hadith) requires it in some places. Man-made rules (Hadith) vary from country to country. Muslim men and women are not required to wear clothes that do not reveal their awrah. The concept of awrah is linked with hijab. The modest dress is considered a means to fulfilling the covering of awrah but the debate is focused on how much of the male or female body should be covered.
Many Muslim women, particularly those living in Europe or in South East Asia, wear the headscarf. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear. Other styles also cover the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but the face and the hands are not covered, as they are not considered awrah for those Muslims who wear it.
Salafi women in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen veil their faces by wearing the niqab because they believe the face of a woman is considered awrah .  Some interpretations say that a veil is not compulsory in front of blind, asexual men.
According to most scholars, the woman’s voice is not awrah in principle, for according to the Hadith, women used to complain to the Prophet and ask him about Islamic matters. However, women are not allowed to speak in a soft or alluring voice.
In Islam, women may generally be allowed to sing, but they are not allowed to call the Adhan or pronounce the Talbiyah aloud in Hajj. As narrated by Aisha (the wife of Muhammad): "That once Abu Bakr came to her on the day of 'Id-ul-Fitr or 'Id ul Adha while the Prophet was with her and there were two girl singers with her, singing songs of the Ansar about the day of Buath. Abu Bakr said twice. "Musical instrument of Satan!" But the Prophet said, "Leave them Abu Bakr, for every nation has an 'Id' (i.e. festival) and this day is our 'Id."
Also, according to the tradition, in the ritual prayer, a woman should invite the attention of the Imam by clapping, instead of saying "Subhanallah" which is for men. There is a difference of opinion whether or not a woman can recite the Quran when in the presence of non-mahram men.
- Martin et al. (2003), Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World, Macmillan Reference, ISBN 978-0028656038
- Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary pg 131
- Moin Dictionary, 1994
- El Guindy, Awrah, page 141
- Quran 24:58-Sura Al-Nur
- Surah Al-Ahzab 33:13
- Tafsir An-Nur Volume 2 Page 45
- Quran Sura- Al-A'raf 7:26
- Sura Al-Anbia 91, Sura Al-Muminun 3
- Majma' Al Bian, Commentary upon the Quran, 33:14.#2312
- Mohammad Salih Al Munajjid (March 7, 2009). "Wearing Hijab in front of Christian". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
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- The Hanbali school of thought also views the face as the awrah, though this view is rejected by Hanafis, Malikis and Shafi'is.
- Hsu, Shiu-Sian. "Modesty." Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an. Ed. Jane McAuliffe. Vol. 3. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. 403-405. 6 vols.
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- Marfuqi, Kitab ul Mar'ah fil Ahkam, pg 133
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- According to this strictest opinion, the entirety of the woman is awrah. As Faqeeh Qadhi Ibn Al-Arabi said: “And all of the woman is awrah; her body, her voice, and it is not permissible for her to uncover that unless out of necessity, or need such as witnessing (in court), or a disease that is affecting her body…” [Ahkaam Al Qur'aan 3/1579]
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- Women's Awrah
- Is The Female Voice Awrah?
- Ruling on covering the face, with detailed evidence
- Niqab is not Fard
- Why I wear Hijab, Not Niqab[dead link]