Satr-e Awrat and Ladies' Covering Themselves
Those parts of a responsible person's body which are haram for him (or her) to open and show others and for others to look at while in Salaah or everytime are called Awrat parts. Men and women were commanded to cover their awrat parts through the suras of Ahzab and Nur, which were revealed in the third year of the Hegira. In Hanafi and Shafi'i Madhhabs a man's awrat parts for Salaah are between lower part of his navel and lower parts of his knees. The knees are awrat in Hanafi and the navel is awrat in Shafi'i. The Salaah performed with these parts open is not acceptable. When performing the Salaah, it is sunnat for men to cover their other parts [arms, head], [and to wear socks if a long robe or a gown is not available]. It is makruh for them to perform the Salaah with these parts exposed.
All parts of free women, except their palms and faces, including their wrists, outer parts of their hands, hanging parts of their hair and under their feet are awrat for Salaah, in Hanafi. There are also valuable books saying that outer parts of hands are not awrat. According to them, it is permissible for women to perform Salaah while outer parts of their hands up to wrists are bare. But, for having followed all the books, it is better for women to perform Salaah wearing a gown with sleeves long enough, or a head cover large enough, to cover their hands. There are (savants) who said that women's feet were not awrat in Salaah, but those same savants said that it was sunnat to cover and makruh to open them when performing Salaah and when going out. [It is written in the book Kadihan that hanging parts of hair are like feet]. If one-fourth of a man's or woman's awrat part remains bare as long as one rukn, the Salaah becomes annulled. If a smaller part remains ex posed, the Salaah does not become nullified, but it becomes makruh. For instance, the Salaah of a woman one-fourth of whose foot has remained bare will not be sahih. If she herself uncovers it, her Salaah becomes annulled immediately. [See second chapter!]. It is written in Umdat-ul-Islam, "A woman's Salaah which she performed with bare heelbone, ankle, neck or hair is not accept able. Thin tissue that lets the shape or color of the thing under it be seen is equal to none." [Please see seventeenth chapter!] In Shafi'i, a woman's whole body is awrat all the time other than her two hands and her face.
Hadrat Ibni 'Abidin 'rahmatullahi 'alaih' says in Radd-ul-mukhtar:
It is fard to cover one's awrat parts outside of Salaah as well as when performing Salaah. It is tahrimi makruh to perform Salaah by covering oneself with silk or with usurped or stolen clothes. However, since a person has to cover himself, a man can use something made of silk, if he cannot find something else. It is fard to cover oneself when one is alone, too. A person who has clean clothes is not permitted to perform Salaah naked in the dark even when he is alone. When alone and not performing Salaah, it is fard for women to cover between their knees and navels, wajib to cover their back and bellies, and adab to cover their other parts. When alone in the home they can busy themselves around with their heads bare. When there is one of the eighteen men that a woman can show herself to, it is better for her to wear a thin headdress. When alone, one can open one's awrat parts only when necessary, e.g. in a toilet. It has been said (by savants) that it is makruh, or that it is permissible or it is permissible when at a small place, to open one's awrat parts when one is alone and making ghusl. When not performing Salaah, it is necessary to cover oneself even with clothes smeared with najasat.
It is written in Al-Fiqh-u-alal-Madhahibil-Arba'a, "The four Madhhabs do not exactly agree on the parts of body men and women have to cover when they perform the Salaah or on the parts which are haram for men to show one another, for men to show women, and for women to show their mahrams. However, it is haram in all the four Madhhabs for women to show men and female non-Muslims their bodies other than their faces and inside and outside their hands, and for these people to look at them". In the Shafi'i Madhhab, on the other hand, their faces and hands are awrat (and therefore must be covered) in the presence of men who are namahram to them. It is permissible for women to open their faces and palms to men who are namahram to them, yet men are not permitted to look lustfully at faces or palms of those women who are namahram to them, no matter whether they are Muslims or disbelievers. When there is no necessity, it is makruh to look without lust at those parts of women that are permissible to look at, e.g. at faces of namahram women, at pictures of their awrat parts, at awrat parts of children that have learned to speak. Awrat parts of those children that have not started to talk yet are only their saw'atayn [private parts]. It is not permissible to look at the private parts of boys until they are ten years old and of girls until they become attractive, and later, to look at all their awrat parts. Animals do not have awrat parts. Also, it is haram to look lustfully at boys' faces, yet it is permissible to look at them without lust even if they are beautiful.
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