The covering of the feet during prayer with respect to females

Name: Hana. A

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Question: is it a must to cover the feet for women when she is praying even among Mahrams?

Answer: Wa alaykum salam and shukran for your interest in this rather interesting topic. We shall keep it brief and quote the Imams of the madhahib [four authodox Sunni schools] and share some of their opinions.

Imam al-Shafi‘i [1] said in al-Umm [kitab al-Umm] (vol. 1, p.89):

وَكُلُّ الْمَرْأَةِ عَوْرَةٌ إلَّا كَفَّيْهَا وَوَجْهَهَا وَظَهْرَ قَدَمَيْهَا عَوْرَةٌ

All the woman is ‘awra except for her hands and face. And the bottom of her feet are ‘awra.

We therefore say that the Imam of the Madhab [al-Shafi’I said that the ‘awrah of a free-woman includes her entire body, except for the face and hands whileone of the Shafi scholars within the school said that the ‘awrah of a free-woman includes her entire body, except for the face, hands, and feet.

The Prophet [peace be upon him] is reported as having said, “Difference of opinion amongst the scholars is a mercy to my Umma”.

Imam al-Muzani [2] (the foremost student of Imam al-Shafi’i, d.264h) in the work entitled [Mukhtasar al-Muzani fi furu’ al-Shafi’iya] (p.219) said:

Allah the exalted said [In the Quran]: “They do not show their adornment (zina) except that which is apparent“. He [al-Muzani] said: [This refers to]The face and hands.

Imam al-Rafi’i (d.623h) said in Fath al-‘Aziz sharh al-Wajiz (vol.4, p.88):

As for the woman, if she is a freewoman, all of her body is ‘awra except for her face and hands because of His statement: “They do not show their adornment (zina) except that which is apparent“. The commentators of Quran said it is the face and hands. What is meant is not just the palms. Rather the front and back of both arms up to the elbow are both excluded from the ‘awra.

Imam al-Nawawi [3] (d.676h) said in Rawdat al-Talibin (p.1170 or vol.2, p.455):

The man looking at the woman: It is forbidden to look at her ‘awra, and to her face and hands if he fears fitna. If he does not fear fitna there are two views: Most of the Shafi’iyya, especially the earlier scholars, said that it is not forbidden because of the saying of Allah the exalted: “They do not show their adornment (zina) except that which is apparent” and this is understood to mean the face and hands. But it is disliked, as stated by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and others.

Imam Abu Hanifa said: al-Hasan bin Ziyad narrated from Abu Hanifa that it is permissible to see her feet also, and al-Tahawi also mentioned it. This is because, just as she necessarily shows her face in her transactions with men, and just as she necessarily shows her hands when she’s taken and giving things, she also necessarily shows her feet if she is walking barefoot or with sandals because she may not always have socks available. [al-Sarakhsi (d.490h) in al-Mabsut (vol.12, p.371):]

The Madhab of Imam Malik is more lenient and covers a depth regarding the awrah which the rest of the madhab does not cover.



[1] Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-`Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi`i, Abu `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i al-Hijazi al-Qurashi al-Hashimi al-Muttalibi (d. 204), the offspring of the House of the Prophet, the peerless one of the great mujtahid imams and jurisprudent par excellence, the scrupulously pious ascetic and Friend of Allah, he laid down the foundations of fiqh in his Risala, which he said he revised and re-read four hundred times, then said: “Only Allah’s Book is perfect and free from error.”

He is the cousin of the Prophet – Allah’s blessings and peace upon him – descending from al-Muttalib who is the brother of Hashim, `Abd al-Muttalib’s father. Someone praised the Banu Hashim in front of the Prophet, whereby he interlaced the fingers of his two hands and said: “We and they are but one and the same thing.” Al-Nawawi listed three peculiar merits of al-Shafi`i: his sharing the Prophet’s lineage at the level of their common ancestor `Abd Manaf; his birth in the Holy Land of Palestine and upbringing in Mecca; and his education at the hands of superlative scholars together with his own superlative intelligence and knowledge of the Arabic language. To this Ibn Hajar added two more: the hadith of the Prophet, “O Allah! Guide Quraysh, for the science of the scholar that comes from them will encompass the earth. O Allah! You have let the first of them taste bitterness, so let the latter of them taste reward.” Another hadith of the Prophet says: “Truly, Allah shall send forth for this Community, at the onset of every hundred years, someone who will renew their Religion for them.” The scholars agreed, among them Abu Qilaba (d. 276) and Imam Ahmad, that the first narration signified al-Shafi`i, and the second signified `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz and then al-Shafi`i.

He was born in Ghazza or `Asqalan in 150, the year of Abu Hanifa’s death, and moved to Mecca at the age of two, following his father’s death, where he grew up. He was early a skillful archer, then he took to learning language and poetry until he gave himself to fiqh, beginning with hadith. He memorized the Qur’an at age seven, then Malik’s Muwatta’ at age ten, at which time his teacher would deputize him to teach in his absence. At age thirteen he went to see Malik, who was impressed by his memory and intelligence.

[2]: Isma’il bin Yahya bin Isma’il bin ‘Amr bin Ishaq, more famously known as Ibrahim al-Muzani, was born in 174 AH. Imam al-Muzani studied under Imam al-Shafi’i, Nu’am bin Hammad, and others. His students include: Ibn Khuzaymah, al-Tahawi, Zakariyya al-Saji, Ibn Jawsa, Ibn Abi Hatim, and many others. Imam al-Muzani was a mountain of knowledge and a great debater, so much so that his teacher al-Shafi’i once remarked, “If al-Muzani debated with the devil, he would certainly win.”

[3] Muhy ud-Din Yahya ibn Sharaf an-Nawawi was born in the 631h in the village of Nawa, south of Damascus, Syria. Coming from Nawa, he is given the descriptive name of Al-Nawawi.

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