'Awrah of the man

Islam has established different guidelines for both men and women. Just as women should cover their 'awrah, so should men.

Unfortunately, this subject is not been talked about enough, because nowadays little value is given to what the man does or does not cover.

The pious predecessors and schools of jurispudence believe that the man's 'awrah is between the navel and the knees. This applies to both in and out of prayer. There have erupted some disagreements among later scholars about whether the thighs are 'awrah, but this matter has been clarified.

Are the thighs 'awrah?

A disagreement has arisen about this. This is mainly due to those who came after the pious predecessors of Islam. These are the later Maliki scholars and Ibn Hazm.

The truth of the matter is that the thighs are 'awrah. Some narrations may seem to contradict one another which has caused some doubts in some people. The pious predecessors eventually agreed that the thighs are 'awrah. They mainly used the narration of Jarhad.

Jarhad reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) sat with us and my thigh was uncovered. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "Do you not know that the thigh is 'awrah?" [Sunan Abi Dawud 4014, Kitab al-Hammam, Chapter: The Prohibition of Nudity]

Jarhad reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) passed me when I was in the mosque with my thigh exposed. He then said to me, "The thigh is 'awrah." [Sunan Tirmidhi 2795, Manners, Chapter: About the thigh that is part of the 'awrah]

Those who believe the thighs are not 'awrah

Some use narrations to indicate that the thighs are not 'awrah. For example, they use the narration of Anas ibn Malik. This indicates that the thigh of the Prophet (ﷺ) was exposed. This cannot be used as proof because it can have different interpretations.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) rode and Abu Talha also rode and I rode behind Abu Talha. My knee touched the thigh of the Prophet (ﷺ) as he drove past. The Prophet (ﷺ) bared his thigh until I saw the whiteness of his thigh. [Sahih al-Bukhari 371]

Another narration used is from Zayd ibn Thabit. The thigh of the Prophet (ﷺ) fell on the thigh of Zayd ibn Thabit. This is an invalid argument because it was due to a predominant calm that overcame the Prophet (ﷺ) while receiving revelation.

Zayd ibn Thabit reported: I was sitting next to the Prophet (ﷺ) one day when the revelation came to him. The Prophet was overcome with calm and his thigh fell on my thigh as the calm overtook him. By Allah, I have never found anything heavier than the thigh of the Messenger of Allah, then he was relieved from it. The Prophet said: "Write, O Zayd." I took a shoulder bone and the Prophet said, "Write: Not equal are those who remain behind and those who wage jihad among the believers," to the end of the verse, "...a great reward," (4:95). So I wrote that on a shoulder bone. [Musnad Ahmad 21156]

Others also use the narration of 'Aicha, which said that the Prophet (ﷺ) bared his shin or thigh in front of Abu Bakr and Umar, but then covered it with Uthman.

This narration contains ambiguity as to whether it concerned the thigh or shin. This makes it invalid to use this as proof.

'Aicha reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) was lying in the bed in my apartment with his thigh or shins uncovered and Abu Bakr asked permission to enter. It was given to him and he spoke to him in the same state (the Prophet's thigh or shins uncovered). Then 'Umar asked permission to enter and it was given to him and he spoke in the same state. Then `Uthman asked permission to enter; the Prophet (ﷺ) sat down and corrected his clothes. He ('Uthman) then went in and spoke and he went out. 'Aicha said: Abu Bakr came in and you did not move and you did not correct your clothes, when 'Umar came in you did not move and you did not correct your clothes, but when 'Uthman came you moved and corrected your clothes. The Prophet (ﷺ) replied: "Should I not show modesty to one whom even the Angels show modesty?" [Sahih Muslim 2401]

Imam Bukhari gave more clarity about this. He moved more towards the opinion that the thighs fall under 'awrah. This is because the narrations on that are abundant and are a safer position.

مَا يُذْكَرُ فِي الفَخِذِ وَيُرْوَى عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، وجَرْهَدٍ، ومُحَمَّدِ بْنِ جَحْشٍ رضي الله تعالى عنهم، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ: الفَخِذُ عَوْرَةٌ ، وقَالَ عنه: «حَسَرَ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ عَنْ فَخِذِهِ» «وَحَدِيثُ أَنَسٍ أَسْنَدُ، وحَدِيثُ جَرْهَدٍ أَحْوَطُ حَتَّى اخْتِلاَفِهِمْ»، وقَالَ أَبُو مُوسَى رضي الله عنه: غَطَّى النَّبِيُّ رُكْبَتَيْهِ دَخَلَ عُثْمَانُ وقَالَ زَيْدُ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ رضي عنه: اللَّهُ عَلَى فَخِذِي، فَثَقُلَتْ عَلَيَّ حَتَّى خِفْتُ أَنْ تَرُضَّ فَخِذِي . Imam Bukhari said: It was narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas, Jarhad and Muhammad bin Jahsh, may God Almighty be pleased with them, on the authority of the Prophet (ﷺ): "The thigh is 'awrah." Anas, may God be pleased with him, said: "The Prophet (ﷺ) uncovered his thigh." The hadith of Anas is isnaad (stronger in chain) and the hadith of Jarhad is ahwaht (safer)." Abu Musa, may God be pleased with him, said: The Prophet (ﷺ) covered his knees when Uthman entered. And Zaid bin Thabit, may God be pleased with him, said: God sent revelation upon His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him and his thigh fell upon my thigh." [Introduction to 'Chapter What Is Mentioned About the Thigh' in Sahih Bukhari]

The madhahib agree that the thighs are 'awrah and that they should not be uncovered, in and out of prayer.

عبد اللَّه: سألت أبي عن الفخذ من العورة؟
قال: نعم، حديث جرهد عن النبي -صلى اللَّه عليه وسلم-: "الفخذ عورة"
"مسائل اللَّه" (221) Imam Ahmad said: "The thigh is 'awrah. This is established in the Hadith of Jarhad that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: "The thigh is 'awrah"" [Masail Abdullah 221]

Are the knees 'awrah?

The madhahib are of the opinion that the knees are not part of 'awrah. The narrations indicate that these used to be uncovered.

The Hanafi madhab is of the opinion that the knees fall under 'awrah. They use a report which says that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The knees are 'awrah." (Sunan Daraqutni 878 and others), but this is a weak narration.

Several narrations are used as an indication that the knees are not 'awrah. These are in Sahih Bukhari.

Abu Musa narrated: The Prophet (ﷺ) entered a garden and ordered me to guard its gate. A man came and asked permission to enter. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "Allow him and give him glad tidings of Paradise." See! It was Abu Bakr. Another man came and asked permission to enter. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "Allow him and give him glad tidings of Paradise." See! It was 'Umar. Then another man came and asked permission to enter. The Prophet (ﷺ) was silent for a while and then said: "Allow him and give him glad tidings of Paradise and a calamity that will befall him." See! It was `Uthman bin `Affan. ('Asim, in another narration, said that the Prophet (ﷺ) sat in a place where there was water, and he bared his knees or his knee, and when 'Uthman entered he covered it.) [Sahih al-Bukhari 3695]

Abu Darda reported: While I was sitting with the Prophet, Abu Bakr came, lifted a corner of his garment and uncovering his knee. The Prophet (ﷺ) then said: “Your companion has had a quarrel.” Abu Bakr greeted (the Prophet (ﷺ)) and said: "O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), there was something (i.e. quarrel) between me and the Son of Al-Khattab ('Umar). I spoke to him harshly and then regretted it, and asked him to forgive me, but he refused. That is why I have come to you." [Sahih al-Bukhari 3661]

The madhahib on the 'awrah of men

The various madhahib have clarified the issue. They described in their books of Fiqh the 'awrah of the man.

Below are the descriptions of the Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali schools. We find that the madhab of Imam Shafi'i provides the most clear description on the 'awrah of both men and women.

Maliki madhab

ابْنُ حَبِيبٍ: ويوضأ كما يتوضأ الحي، ويدخل الماء في ثلاثا ويستر عورته من سرته إلى ركبتيه، Imam Ibn Habeeb al-Maliki said: "In the washing of the dead, the same ablution is performed as in wudhu. Then water is poured over him three times. The 'awrah of the dead is covered, which is between the navel and knees." [Al-Nawadir wa Ziyadat 1/543 by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani]

Shafi'i madhab

قال الإمام الشافعي : «وعورة الرجل ما دون سرته إلى ركبتيه ليس سرته ولا ركبتاه من عورته» .
[الأم، باب الصلاة 1/ 109] Imam Shafi'i said:
"A man's awrah is that which is below his navel to his knees. Neither his navel nor his knees are part of the 'awrah (i.e. only what falls in between)."
[Al-Umm, Chapter of Prayer 1/109 of Imam Shafi'i]

Hanbali madhab

قال أبو بكر بن محمد بن صدقة: سألت أبا عبد اللَّه أحمد بن حنبل عن السرة من العورة؟
فقال: أسفل السرة إلى الركبة عورة
"طبقات الحنابلة" 1/156 Imam Ahmad said: "The 'awrah of the man is below the navel to the knee." [Tabaqat al-Hanabilah 1/156]

Abu Athari writes about basic principles within Islam. He uses his critical and well-researched way to spread knowledge of the first three Muslim generations.

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