taught by Yasir Qadhi
What is ‘Awrah?
Awrah comes from the Arabic word ‘aara, which means to criticize or find fault. Awrah is that which people would criticize if you were to expose. It is something which you are embarrassed to tell others about, or your deficiencies. Of course, when we apply it in Islamic sciences, we are talking about our physical awrah.
Hayaa` is a Branch of Imaan
Bahz ibn Hakim asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what are we allowed to show of our ‘awrah?” He replied, “Guard your ‘awrah except with your wife or your right hand possession.” I asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what if the people are tightly congested?” He said, “If you are able to hide it such that no one is able to see, then do so.” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! What if we are alone?” He replied, “Allah has more right that you be ashamed of Him than other people.” [At-Tirmidhi]
The only person you can show your ‘awrah to without any restriction is your spouse.
Another very important thing to note from this hadith: the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that you should be more shy of Allah. You should not walk around naked even when you are alone also because it causes you to be shameless. Such actions are also disrespectful to Allah.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Prophet (may peace be upon him) said: Iman has over seventy branches, and modesty is a branch of Iman. [Muslim, 1/55]
A Perfect Ruling
The concept of ‘awrah varied from place to place and civilization to civilization. Allah did not place a very strict rule on the nations before us, in particular the laws of the Jews and Christians were much more lax. For them, there was no ‘awrah between members of the same gender. The concept of ‘awrah for them was much more lax. Allah made it perfect in our shari’ah.
The last verses of Surah Ahzaab mention that the people of Isra`eel irritated Musa. Allah had to free Musa of the charge that they put against it. The Qur’an is ambiguous about the story; we learn of it in more detail in Bukhaari. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that the Yahood would take baths in front of one another without any shame; it was allowed. That is why it is so prevalent in all of Europe. This was a part of their shari’ah. They still think it is permissible. Anyways, so the men took baths in front of one another, but Musa ‘alayhis salaam would not take a bath in front of them because he was more shy. He was following a more perfect ruling. He would go behind a rock and take a bath there.
This is something so vulgar – but Bani Isra`eel began to mock the manhood of Musa; they thought that something must be wrong with him. It hurt Musa ‘alayhis salaam. Allah says in the Qur’aan that they caused him pain and irritated him. He couldn’t do anything, so Allah freed him of the charge.
One day, the Prophet Musa was taking a bath behind the rock. The clothes were on the rock and the rock began to move quickly away from Musa. So Musa ‘alayhis salaam had to stand up and began running after the rock, crying out, “O rock, my clothes!” As he ran, he passed by the people bathing in the river. They saw him and, “wAllahi, there is nothing wrong with him at all!” And like all prophets, he was perfect in all aspects, and so he was perfect physically as well. When Musa caught up with the rock, he beat the rock so hard that the marks are even visible today.
“Let no man look at the ‘awra of another man, nor should a woman look at the ‘awra of another woman.” [Muslim] This ruling cancelled the rulings of the previous shari’ahs.
Realize that guarding one’s ‘awrah is a sign of faith and shyness, modesty and imaan. It is something naturally engrained in human beings.
To be Dressed is in the Fitra
Allah says in the Qur’an (A’raf, 26): “O children of Adam, we have revealed clothes to you in order to hide your nudity, and also to decorate yourselves. But the clothing of taqwa is better.”
What does it mean that Allah sent down garments? It means that from the very beginning, mankind was clothed. This is in contrast to what modern science says. We give our ancestors much more credit than they do. Adam clothed himself, prayed to Allah. Therefore, all societies and cultures have always had some time of garments. There are some extreme cases, but even then, they usually have some kind of cover on their private parts. It is within our innate conscious – our fitra.
People who think they are “progressing” by forming nudist colonies are worse than animals. Allah blessed us with clothes, and if anyone discards them, they are rejecting this blessing of Allah.
Allah criticizes the children of Adam for falling prey to the plots of shaytaan. “O children of Adam, don’t let shaytaan lead you astray and expose your nakedness as he did with your father Adam.” (Surah A’raf)
Of those who fell prey to the plots of shaytaan in this regard were the jahiliy Arabs. They had some strange, perverted logic with which they justified doing tawaf around the Ka’bah naked. They had this strange theology: “Why should we have to wear clothes in front of God?” or “These are the clothes in which we disobeyed, so why should we wear them?”
Allah called their nakedness fahisha. It is vulgar and lewd, of a sexual nature. Allah also called zina fahisha. (A’raf, 28) Those ignorant Arabs said that Allah told them to do this, and their forefathers did it as well. Allah says that He never commands to do anything that is vulgar.
Another way Islam guards our ‘awrah is the command to lower our gazes. We don’t want to see the ‘awrah.
Why do we have to seek permission before entering the house? Why do we ring the doorbells? It is waajib and a sin not to do so. It is to protect the ‘awrah.
The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “If any one of you asks for permission three times and it is not given, then let him go away.”
See also the tafsir of 24:27 on the Etiquettes of entering the home.
next up inshaAllah:
Fiqh of Men’s Clothing