Awrah: islamically, this refers to the area of a human being that is considered private, and, for lack of a better description, “not for public consumption.”
We know of many reports that the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said, “once a woman achieves puberty, it is not befitting that she show anything except this (indicating his face) and this (indicating his hands up to the wrists).” So we know about a woman’s awrah … but how about a man’s awrah? Know that the scholars divided this issue into two parts–awrah in prayer, and awrah out of prayer. And the main proof of a man’s awrah is a hadith where the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم) states that a man’s awrah is between his navel and his knees in prayer.
First, for out-of-prayer: scholars agree that private parts (front and back) are awrah, but differed on whether the thigh is part of awrah or not. Why did they differ? There are two proofs that apply here:
- In one report, during the battle of Khandaq, the companions reported that they could see the thigh of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) as they all dug the trench.
- In another hadith, ‘Aisha (رضالله عنها) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم) was sitting in his house, when Abu Bakr (رضالله عنه) came in, then ‘Umar (رضالله عنه), then ‘Uthmaan (رضالله عنه)–and before ‘Uthmaan came in, the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) covered his thigh area. (when ‘Aisha (رضالله عنها) asked why for ‘Uthmaan, and not the others, he said “shall I not be shy of the one whom the angels are shy of?”) [Sahih Muslim 31⁄5906]
What’s the end-conclusion? Wallahu ‘alim, the safer opinion is that it is awrah, and should be covered. How, then, do you explain the above two hadith?
- For the trench incident, scholars say that was an exception–it was exposed because of the digging, it wasn’t intentional.
- For the hadith of ‘Aisha, notice the narrator–the wife of of the Prophet! It may be that she (رضالله عنها) was in a position where she could see what the other companions could not. Also, she narrates “thigh or knee,” meaning it’s not certain that his thigh WAS uncovered.
Next, regarding prayer: we have two hadith from the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم). In one, he advised men to cover from the navel to the knees in prayer. And–and this is cruicial–in the second, he said “do not pray with your shoulders open [i.e. uncovered].”
From this, scholars mention that men MUST have their shoulders covered when they’re praying–so next time you hit the beach, make sure you take a shirt with you, or keep your towel handy.
But more importantly–Hajj! One of the mistakes people make is that they pray with their right shoulder exposed! It’s not a requirement to have it exposed for the trip, except for running that one valley. This actually detracts from their salaah! Subhanallah!
And that “wraps up” the topic of awrah! May Allah grant us full understanding of this small but vital part of our deen and protect our prayers from nullification, ameen!
Abdul-Bary Yahya. Lecture. AlMaghrib. The Purification Act. University of Toronto, Toronto. November 2006.