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Awrah or Aurat ( ) is a term used within Islam which denotes the parts of the body, for both men and women, which must be covered with clothing. Exposing the Awrah is unlawful in Islam and is regarded as sin. The exact definition of Awrah varies between different schools of Islamic thought.

Etymology

Etymologically, the term Awrah derives from the root ‘a-w-r which means "defectiveness", "imperfection", "blemish" or "weakness" – however the most common English translation is "nakedness".

In other languages

In Persian and Kurdish ( ) , the word "Awrat" derived from the Arabic "Awrah", had been used widely to mean "woman". Consulting Mohammad Moin's dictionary of Perisan language, Awrah leads to two significations: (1) nakedness, shame (2) young woman. Other derivatives range in meaning from blind in one eye, false or artificial, among others. Traditionally the word Awrat, alongside with the word Za'ifeh (which derives from Arabic Za'if, meaning weak) has been associated with feminity and women who lived under the protection of a man. In modern day Iranmarker, using the two words (Awrah and Za'ifah) to refer to women is uncommon and is considered sexist language. Instead, the words Zan and Khanum are used.

In Urdu, Awrat, is practically the only way to say 'woman'. Even the women's rights origanization based in Islamabadmarker is called Aurat Foundation. In Hindi, also, womankind is commonly refered to as "Aurat".

In the Quran

The term as it is used in the Quran shows Awrah as neither confined neither to women nor to the body.The Quranic text reveals the use of the term in the following passages: Sura Al-Nur 24:31, Sura Al-Ahzab 33:13.

Sura 24:31 refers in part to the underage males sharing the private place of women in whose presence women need not conceal their bodies. The term Awrah is used here in plural form Awrat.

"and female slaves or eunuchs or underage boys who have no sense of feminine sex and are not sexually matured to know the women's Awrah…".


The next passage is about privacy as the Quranic text states:

O believers, eunuchs and underage boys should not intrude your privacy at three times of day: before the dawn prayer, when you are resting at noon, and after the evening prayer.
These are three Awrah for you.


Another passage in the Quran that uses the term Awrah is in Surah Al-Ahzab which the term is mentioned twice in the same segment. The content is a battle scene in which men joined the Prophet out of Yathrib. It states: "A group of them ask the Prophet for leave saying “Our houses are Awrah, though their houses are not Awrah. Their intent is to flee the battle. "

Here the term Awrah means "vulnerable", as stated by the commentators.

There is another context that relates the story of creation and Adam and Eve in the Garden. In these two instances, the term Saw’ah is used as an equivalent to Awrah.The text states:

"O ye children of Adam!
We have bestowed dress upon you to cover your nakedness...".


Another word which almost has the same meaning of Awrah, is the word Farj or Furuj. Another quote concerning covering the Awrah is:

"O Prophet!
Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons, that is most convenient, that they should be known and not molested.
And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
-Al-Ahzab:59 (Qur'an)


In the Hadith

Further mentions of the Awrah can be found in the Hadith (traditions reported from the Prophet Muhammad). A Sahih Hadith states:

All of a woman is Awrah.
When she leaves her home, Satan looks at her.
and in some other versions:

The woman is Awrah and the nearest she is to her Lord's countenance in the privacy of her house.


The author of Majma' Al-Bayan has commented on this 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 most be covered with the appropriate clothing.


Definition

Men

In Sunni interpretations, the awrah of a man refers to the part of the body between the navel and the knees which should be covered when in public and also during the ritual prayer. According to the Maliki, it is also disliked but not prohibited to show the thighs. In Shia law, it is considered sufficient for a man to cover his genitals.

Neither men nor women should uncover their genitals at any time except when in privacy. Men and women should at all times wear garments that are loose and the material is not transparent as to see the skin colour and shape of the other (male or female).

Women

Women's Awrah is a more complicated issue and it changes according to the situation:
  • In ritual prayer: 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. 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 that 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 covers his or her sexual organs even when alone in private. There are exceptions such as when taking shower or going to the bathroom.
  • 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 woman.
A Turkish woman wearing headscarf.
Most Muslims hold that the face and the hands are excluded from Awrah parts.
  • In front of a mahram: (close male relative), a woman can show her face, head, neck, hands, forearms, feet and calves and she must cover everything else.


  • In front of her 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.


  • Awrah in front of unrelated men (either Muslim or non-Muslim) is also a matter of dispute.
Most Muslims hold that entire body of the woman, except her face and hands, is part of her awrah, that is the parts of her body that must be covered during prayer and in public settings.Salafi Muslims believe that a woman's awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands.

Relation with Hijab

exposing the Awrah is sin, men and women should wear clothes that do not reveal their Awrah. The concept of Awrah is, therefore, linked with hijab. In fact, 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.

Most Muslims, 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 Arabiamarker and Yemenmarker veil their faces by wearing the niqab because they believe the face of a woman is considered awrah.

Female voice

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. Although, women are not allowed to speak in a soft or alluring voice.

In Islam, women are generally not allowed to sing, call the Adhan or pronounce the Talbiyah aloud in Hajj. 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 presence of non-mahram men.

Some scholars have concluded from the above differences that a woman's voice is also her Awrah and that women should not raise their voices in public.

See also



References

External links




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