Because people have asked so many questions on here about who is your mahram and who is not, I have stopped approving specific questions/comments because this is not a fatwa blog, nor is it run by anyone knowledgable. If anyone has any such questions, please direct them at your Imam or anyone else knowledgable in your community. JazakAllah khayr for understanding.
Who are your mahrams – the men you cannot marry/have sexual relations with and do not have to observe hijaab in front of ?
My husband seems to be quite lost these days on exactly who a woman’s mahrams are, so I thought I’d do a little reading for him. (Yay! One thing I actually might know more about than him! :) My source was primarily my Fiqh of Love notes (taught by Shaykh Yaser Birjas), but I double-checked with Islam Q&A to make sure I didn’t have discrepancies. Please correct me, someone, if you happen to find any mistakes!
To begin, mahrams can be split into 3 categories:
1) mahrams by blood
2) mahrams by marriage
3) mahrams by breastfeeding
Most of your mahrams are summed up in this ayah, where Allah says:
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (24:31)
Mahrams by Blood
Mahrams by blood are pretty simple to understand. They are your mahrams because they are related to you by blood :)
1. Your descendants (son, grandson, gread grandson, etc)
2. You ancendants (father, grandfather, greatgrandfather, etc)
3. Your parents’ descendants (your brother, your brothers’ sons, your sisters’ sons. This includes half-brothers and half-siblings.)
4. The first generation of your grandparents’ offspring.
That is – your mother’s brothers, your father’s brothers. These are your maternal and paternal uncles by blood. This does not include, for example, your mother’s sister’s husband. In Urdu, we call this relationship khalu, your khalu is NOT your mahram! He is not your uncle by blood, rather he is your uncle through marriage.
Mahrams by Affinity/Marriage
This is also where things get sticky. People assume a lot of mahrams once they are married. The most obvious mistake: the brother in law. The brother in law is NOT your mahram! As a matter of fact, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that the brother in law is death. Now, before you freak out, read the following hadith:
‘Uqba b. Amir reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “Beware of getting, into the houses and meeting women (in seclusion).” A person from the Ansar said: “Allah’s Messenger, what about the husband’s brother?” Whereupon he said: “The husband’s brother is like death.” [Muslim 26/5400]
It’s true. That is usually the person most couples feel comfortable around. The husband thinks, “He’s my brother, I trust him.” And the wife thinks, “He’s my husband’s brother, like he’s going to look at me like that?”
Since when did intentions dictate Shari’ah? They are not your mahrams. If your husband were to pass away (Allah preserve our husbands!) it is completely halal for his brother to marry you. An example of this would be ‘Uthmaan radiyallahu ‘anhu – he married one daughter of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. When she passed away, the Prophet married him to another of his daughters.
Anyway, so back to the mahrams :)
Your mahrams by marriage are:
1.) Ancestors of your husband. (That would be your husband’s father, his grandfather, etc.)
2.) Your descendants’ husbands (basically, flipping the coin on #1). (This would be your son-in-law, your granddaughter’s husband, etc.)
3.) The husbands of your ancestors (your mother’s husband…which would be your father, lol. Your stepfather, your grandmother, etc).
4.) The husband’s descendants.
This, of course, would include your sons and any children your husband may have had with another wife. And it also includes your step sons. A note, however: by contract, a man’s stepdaughter is still halal for him. After consumation, she becomes completely haram. So the mahram relationship which is established to step children is after the parents consummate the marriage.
1.) My brother in law is my mahram. We already addressed that :D
2.) My cousins are my mahrams. I don’t even know why people don’t observe hijaab in front of their cousins. Don’t they realize Muslims marry cousins all the time? It is completely halal. I think the fact that we are family makes us more comfortable and we forget the Law of Allah.
3.) My khalu and pupha are my mahrams. These would be uncles that married into your family. A simple rule of thumb: any uncle that married into the family is not your mahram unless you can prove it :D
4.) Anybody I call khalu or uncle is my mahram. Really? :/ That’s interesting. Your mother’s and father’s cousins are NOT your mahrams. Heck, they’re not your MOM’s or DAD’s mahrams, so why would they be your mahrams?
5.) People I call “nieces” and “nephews” are my mahrams. This would be…let’s see. Your mother’s sister’s grandkids. WHY? Your cousins are not your mahrams, so why would their kids be? People may think when reading this: “This chicks’ crazy. Why is she even talking about them? There’s probably a gazillion years age gap.” Not in some families where they are loads of kids.
edited to add: Your blood nieces and nephews (siblings’ children) are your mahrams, but NOT your spouse’s siblings’ children. There is a big difference between the two.
6.) Well, the list could drag on….
Just because your call someone “aunty”, “uncle”, “brother”, “sister” does NOT make them your mahram! Be careful of who you remove hijab in front of, even if they are family. InshaAllah I hope this post helped make things simpler :)
I realize that there are also Mahrams by breastfeeding. I would have to do a lot of reading before writing about that, however, so inshaAllah another day :)
some links to checkout: