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Author Topic: Awrah of women amongst women  (Read 2697 times)
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« on: Jun 03, 2008 05:57 PM »


I think we had this discussion before and some sisters couldn't understand this. Now I think it may have been because of madhab differences. Anyway here is some general information. --J.

These are some statements of the Shafi’i jurists regarding the ‘awrah of a woman amongst other women. The strongest view of the madh-hab, without doubt, is that it is permitted for a woman to look at another woman save for what is between her navel and knees. There is disagreement amongst the Shafi’i jurists regarding what can be exposed in front of a disbelieving woman however.

Im?m An-Nawawi said while talking about Salah, “The ‘Awrah of a free woman is everything but her hands and face…”

Shaykh Sulaym?n Al Jamal in his Haashiyah explaining what is meant says,
“And this is her ‘awrah in Salah. And her ‘awrah amongst the muslim women and the Mah?rim men (fathers etc) is what is between her navel and knees. As for her ['awrah] in front of Aj?nib (foreign) men it is all of her body.”1

Im?m Ash-Shirw?ni said,

The third issue pertaining to looking at 'awrah] is when a woman looks at another woman, and the ruling is the same ruling as a man looking at another man. This is the ruling of a Muslimah looking at a Muslimah, but as for a Dhimiyyah3 then there is disagreement. Al-Ghazzali stated, ‘And the correct view is that she is like a Muslimah’. Imam Al-Baghawi stated, ‘The correct view (sahih) is that it is forbidden for her to look at a Muslimah.’ [...] An-Nawawi said, ‘And the correct view is what was declared correct by Imam Al-Baghawi’ and the rest of the disbelieving women enter are just as the dhimiyyah regarding this issue, as mentioned by Al-Umraani, And Allah Knows Best!”4

It should be mentioned here that the verdict of the author of Kifayat Al-Akhyar was that it was permitted for a man to look at the entire body of another man except for what is between the navel and the knees. This is, however, when there is security from fitnah (i.e. sexual desire). For if one fears fitnah then it is haraam to look at the body period. The same if such a case exists when looking at the Mahaarim (those who are non-marriagable & related).5

The Shaykh also mentions the proof for Imam Al-Baghawi’s opinion being within the verse:
“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.”

He explained the words:
“or their women” as meaning “That the disbelieving women (kaafiraat) are not from “their women”, i.e. the women of the believers.”6

When looking to the Tafsir of Imam Al-Baghawi, however, we do not see him declaring a stronger view. Though he may have chosen a view in another of his works. In his tafsir of “of their women” he states,

“What is intended is that it is permissible for a woman to look at the body of another woman save for what is between the navel and knees just as the muhrim men. This is when the woman is a Muslimah, but if the woman is a kaafirah is it permitted for her to unveil herself in front of the disbeliever? There is disagreement amongst the people of knowledge. Some of them said that it is permitted just as it is permitted to look at a Muslim as they are included in the word ‘women’. Some of them stated that it is not permitted because the kaafirah is not of of “our women” and that is because she is an Ajnabiyyah (lit. foreigner or unrelated) in religion. And Umar ibn Al-Khattab wrote to Abi Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah that it was forbidden for the women of the people of the book to enter the lavatories (or private places) with Muslim women.”7

Ibn Kathir, a Shafi’i, also agrees that it is forbidden. He states in his tafsir:
“(or their women) meaning that she may also manifest her adornment to Muslim women, though not in front of the women of Ahlul-Dhimmah, as they may describe their features to their husbands. This is haram for all women, but mor eso in the case of the women of Ahlul-Dhimmah, due to the fact that there is nothing to prevent them from doing that, however Muslim women know that it is haraam and thus would be deterred from doing it.

Rasulullah (’alayhis salaam) said, ‘No woman is to describe another woman to her husband so that it is as if he is looking at her.’ This is reported in the two Sahihs from Ibn Mas’ud.”

He then quotes the statement that Imam Al-Baghawi quotes from Umar ibn Al Khattab as reported in the Sunan of Sa’id ibn Mansur. He goes on to quote Imam Mujahid ibn Jabr as saying,
“Their women means the Muslimaat, not the Mushrikaat. And it is not [permitted] for a Muslimah to uncover in the presence of a Mushrikah.”

[End quote from Ibn Kathir's Tafsir]

This was also the view of Jalalud-Din As-Suyuti, the Shafi’i Mujtahid, who said in his tafsir,

“And the disbelieving women leave the meaning of ‘their women’, and it is not permitted for the Muslimaat to uncover in front of them.”

Al-Qurtubi, as well as Ibn Kathir and others, quote the following report from Ibn ‘Abbas:

“It is not permitted that a Muslimah allow herself to be seen by a Jewish or Christian woman, as they may describe her to their husbands.”

It should be noted that Imam Ibn Abdus-Salam, a well known leading Shafi’i stated that this verse could refer to the disbelieving women as well8

And May Allah bless our beloved Sayyid An Nabi Muhammad, his family, his companions, and followers Amin!

Footnotes (Click ? at the end of the note to Go Back to Original Place in the article) :

   1. Haashiyatul Jamal ‘Alal Sharh Al-Minhaaj 1/411
   2. Haashiyat Ash-Shirwaani Alaa Tuhfat Al-Muhtaaj
   3. i.e. a non-Muslim woman who has a peace treaty with the Muslims
   4. Kifayatul-Akhyar pg 331 publ. Dar-us-Salam
   5. see ibid pg 440
   6. Ibid.
   7. Ma’alim At-Tanzil pg 904
   8. See His Tafsir of the Qur’an
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