Awrah or Awrat (Arabic: عورة‎) is a term used within Islam which denotes the intimate 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.



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".[1]

In other languages

In Persian and Kurdish (Persian: عورت) as well as Urdu , the word awrat derived from the Arabic awrah, had been used widely to mean "woman". Consulting Mohammad Moin's dictionary of Persian, awrah leads to two significations:

  1. Nakedness, shame
  2. Young woman.[2]

Other derivatives range in meaning from blind in one eye, false or artificial, among others.[3] Traditionally the word awrat, alongside the word za'ifeh (which derives from Arabic za'if, meaning weak) has been associated with femininity and women who lived under the protection of a man. In modern day Iran, 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 Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the word za'if is still used in the Tajik dialect of Persian and its subdialects.

In Urdu, awrat (aurat) is practically the only way to say 'woman';[4][5] this is also true in Hindi. As an illustration, the women's rights organization based in Islamabad is called Aurat Foundation.

In Turkish, avrat is one of the ways to say 'woman', but is used more in the rural area and may also mean 'wife', especially the way the husband calls his wife.

In the Quran

Muslims performing the ritual prayer. During the Salat, the awrah must be covered.

The term as it is used in the Quran shows awrah as confined neither to women nor to the body. The Quranic text reveals the use of the term in various passages Surah Al-Nur and Surah Al-Ahzab.

The below verse is about privacy as the Quranic text states concerning underage boys:

"... and let those among you who have not yet come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions; before the morning prayer, and while you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and after the late-night prayer. (These) three times are of privacy for you, other than these times there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending (helping) each other."[6]

Another passage in the Quran that uses the term awrah, is in Surah Al-Ahzab where it is mentioned twice in the same segment and concerns fleeing from battle.

It states: "A group of them ask the Prophet for leave, saying, “Our houses are awrah", even though their houses are not awrah. Their intent is to flee the battle. "[7]

In this case, the term awrah means "vulnerable".[8]

There is another context that relates the story of creation of 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...".[9]

Another word which almost has the same meaning of awrah, is the word farj or furuj.[10] Another quote concerning covering the awrah is:

"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the believing women, to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known (as respectable woman) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." -Al-Ahzab:59 (Qur'an)

In the Hadith

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 must be covered with the appropriate clothing.[11]



In Sunni interpretations, the awrah of a man refers to the part of the body between the navel and the knees which must be covered when in public and also during prayer. According to the Maliki, it is disliked but not prohibited to show the thighs.


Women's awrah is a more complicated issue and it changes according to the situation:

A Yemeni woman covering her face with niqab. Some women who wear the niqab believe that a woman's face is also part of her awrah
  • 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 from 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 cover his or her sexual organs even when alone in private. There are exceptions such as when taking a shower or going to the toilet.
  • 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 women.[12][13][14]
A Turkish woman wearing a headscarf. Some 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 while covering the rest.[15][16][17]
  • In front of male 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.[18][19]
  • In front of non-mahram men: There is a difference of opinion on which body parts a woman should cover in front of men who are not her mahram. In the contemporary world, most Muslims hold that entire body of the woman, except her face and hands, is part of her awrah, so those are the parts of her body that must be covered during prayer and in public settings.[20][21][22]

The majority of Salafi Muslims, however, believe that a woman's awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands.[23] [24][25][26][27][28][29]

The practise of covering the face is common in some Muslim countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan) but not in other countries (like Malaysia, Indonesia, present-day Iran, Turkey. One should note as Islam is a global religion and not just for one nation, it has the possibility of different interpretations of the Divine Law within itself. Therefore, fuqaha can draw different results from the Islamic sources, according to the needs of different societies.

Relation with hijab

Women wearing shuttlecock burqas, the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

As exposing the awrah is sin regarded as in Islam, men and women are required to 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.

Many Muslim women, particularly those living in Europe or in South East Asia, wear the headscarf.[citation needed] The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.[citation needed] 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 Arabia and Yemen veil their faces by wearing the niqab because they believe the face of a woman is considered awrah .[30] [31][32][33]

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.[34] However, women are not allowed to speak in a soft or alluring voice.[35]

In Islam, women may generally be allowed to sing, but they are not allowed to call the Adhan or pronounce the Talbiyah aloud in Hajj. As narrated by Hazrat Aisha (the wife of Muhammad): "That once Abu Bakr came to her on the day of 'Id-ul-Fitr or 'Id ul Adha while the Prophet was with her and there were two girl singers with her, singing songs of the Ansar about the day of Buath. Abu Bakr said twice. "Musical instrument of Satan!" But the Prophet said, "Leave them Abu Bakr, for every nation has an 'Id' (i.e. festival) and this day is our 'Id."

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 the presence of non-mahram men.

Certain scholars have concluded from the above differences that a woman's voice is also her awrah in some cases.[36][37][38]

Challenging awrah restrictions

Muslim Indian-American writer Asra Nomani wrote of her own struggles with clothing restrictions based on awrah as she attended school and college, and after. She wrote in the context of Sıla Şahin's posing for German Playboy in May, 2011 -- "not [as] a fan of porn as a symbol of empowerment, but ... understand[ing] why Şahin has responded to our community sanctions about honor, shame and modesty" as she did. Nomani also related these accounts to France's banning of the veil "in part because [the veil] perpetuates the notion that a woman's body is forbidden." Ultimately, Nomani wrote that in the search for "a happy medium of sexual freedom ... perhaps acts like Şahin's will prove liberating" and also a step towards "finding a middle ground" in the way Nomani's own "experimentation of ... youth settled down into [her] own sense of modesty in [her] 40s."[39]

See also


  1. ^ Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary pg 131
  2. ^ Moin Dictionary, 1994
  3. ^ El Guindy, Awrah, page 141
  4. ^ Don't Say Aurat
  5. ^ عورت
  6. ^ Quran 24:58-Sura Al-Nur
  7. ^ Surah Al-Ahzab 33:13
  8. ^ Tafsir An-Nur Volume 2 Page 45
  9. ^ Quran Sura- Al-A'raf 7:26
  10. ^ Sura Al-Anbia 91, Sura Al-Muminun 3
  11. ^ Majma' Al Bian, Commentary upon the Quran, 33:14.#2312
  12. ^ Mohammad Salih Al Munajjid (March 7, 2009). "Wearing Hijab in front of Christian". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  13. ^ Fiqhus Sunnah
  14. ^ BBC (October 29, 2008). "Awrah". Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  15. ^ "Are a Woman's Breasts Part of her Awra in front of Mahram Men?". 
  16. ^ Mohammad Salih Al Munajjid (March 7, 2009). "Woman’s ‘awrah in front of other women and mahrams". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  17. ^ Fiqhus Sunnah
  18. ^ Mohammad Salih Al Munajjid (March 7, 2009). "Woman’s ‘awrah in front of her children". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  19. ^ Fiqhus Sunnah
  20. ^ The Hanbali school of thought also views the face as the awrah, though this view is rejected by Hanafis, Malikis and Shafi'is.
  21. ^ Hsu, Shiu-Sian. "Modesty." Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an. Ed. Jane McAuliffe. Vol. 3. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. 403-405. 6 vols.
  22. ^ Abdullah Atif Samih (March 7, 2008). "Not comupulsory to cover the face.". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. [dead link]
  23. ^ Mohammad Nasir (March 23, 2007). "In Defense of The Obligation of Niqab". Seeking Ilm. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  24. ^ Al-Mutaqqun (March 7, 2008). "Revelation of Al-Hijab". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  25. ^ Fiqhus Sunnah
  26. ^ Hillel Zain (March 7, 2008). "Awrah". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  27. ^ Hillel Zain (March 7, 2008). "Guide to Hijab". Salimin. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  28. ^ Abdullah Atif Samih (March 7, 2008). "What is Awrah?". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  29. ^ Marfuqi, Kitab ul Mar'ah fil Ahkam, pg 133
  30. ^ Marfuqi, Kitab ul Mar'ah fil Ahkam, pg 133
  31. ^ Abdullah Atif Samih (March 7, 2008). "Do women have to wear niqaab?". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  32. ^ Munajjid (March 7, 2008). "Shar’i description of hijab and niqaab". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid (March 7, 2009). "Is a woman’s voice ‘awrah'?". Islam Q&A. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  35. ^ Shaykh Amjad Rasheed (March 7, 2009). "Is a woman�s voice `awra'?". SuuniPath. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  36. ^ According to this strictest opinion, the entirety of the woman is awrah. As Faqeeh Qadhi Ibn Al-Arabi said: “And all of the woman is awrah; her body, her voice, and it is not permissible for her to uncover that unless out of necessity, or need such as witnessing (in court), or a disease that is affecting her body…” [Ahkaam Al Qur'aan 3/1579]
  37. ^ Aminah H. (March 7, 2009). "Is the female voice awrah?". Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  38. ^ Shaikh Khalid Yasin (March 7, 2009). "The Awrah Of Muslim Women Is Also The Voice". YouTube. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  39. ^ Nomani, Asra Q., "Playboy's Muslim Cover Girl: Is Sıla Şahin Good for Women?", The Daily Beast, May 1, 2011 8:36pm. Retrieved 2011-05-03.

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