Are the feet 'awrah for women?

The pious predecessors and madhabs of Islam made it clear whether or not the feet are 'awrah. The majority of the madhabs concluded that the feet fall under 'awrah in specific situations. In some situations, this does not fall under 'awrah. The different situations thus determine whether or not the feet fall under 'awrah.

There are several situations where the feet fall under 'awrah. This is for example the case in prayer and around non-mahram people.

A non-mahram is anyone you can marry according to Islam. Think of strangers outside your family or in your family (sons of your aunts, husband of aunts, brothers-in-law etc).

There are also situations where the feet are not 'awrah. This is when you are with mahram people or with certain women. Mahrams are those whom according to Islam you cannot marry (grandfather, father, brother, sons of brother or sister, own sons etc).

  1. In prayer
  2. Around non-mahram men
  3. Around mahram men
  4. With women

Do the feet fall under awrah in prayer?

There are some who believe that the feet do not need to be covered in prayer. They take that from the Hanafi madhab. The majority of scholars and schools of jurispudence agree that the feet must be covered.

The feet of a Muslim woman should be covered in prayer. This is the view of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad. They are covered with a long dress, shoes or thick socks (so as not to expose the shape).

Maliki madhab

Arabic: ونقل عبد الملك بن حبيب (ت238هـ) في الواضحة عن الإمام مالك أنه قال : «وتصلي المرأة الحرة ظهور قدميها كتفيها ودلاليها، ولا يظهر منها غير » . في
لابن زيد (1/205)

English: Imam Malik said:
"The free woman prays in a thick and covering garment that covers the backs of her feet while bowing and kneeling, and a khimar (head scarf) covering her shoulders and her form, and nothing of her appears except from the face and the hands."
[Al-Anwadir wal-Ziyadat 1/205 by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani]

Shafi'i madhab

Arabic: المرأة عورة إلا كفيها ووجهها وظهر قدميها عورة
[الأم، باب الصلاة 1/ 109]

English: Imam Shafi'i said:
"The whole woman is awrah (in prayer), except the face and hands. The soles of her feet are (also) awrah."
[Al-Umm, chapter of the prayer 1/109 of Imam Shafi'i]

Hanbali madhab

Arabic: وفي مسائل ابن هانيء: سألته – أي أحمد – عن المرأة في كم ثوب تصلي؟ : درع وخمار وتغطي رجليها , درعا سابغا رجليها.
[(بن هانئ في مسائله (رقم 286]

English: Imam Ahmad said:
"The woman prays in a Khimar and a long dress. The dress must be long enough to cover the feet."
[Masail ibn Hani 286]

So the feet should be covered in prayer according to the majority of Madhabs. The Muslim woman who exposes this during prayer will, according to the correct opinion, have to repeat her prayer. This is not the case when it happened by accident. In that case, it should be covered as soon as possible.

Around non-mahram men

Does the Muslim woman cover her feet in front of non-mahram men? The majority of the madhabs believe so, and that is the correct opinion.

The opinion of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad is that everything the woman is 'awrah in front of non-mahram men. This also means that the feet must be covered.

Arabic: أخبرنا محمد بن الحسن بن هارون، قال: حدثنا محمد بن الصباح، قال: حدثنا عبد الله بن رجاء، عن ابن عجلان، عن سمي، عن أبي بكر بن عبد قال: كل شيء من المرأة عورة حتى ظفرها
أحكام النسا ص33 من ابو بكر الخلال

English: Abu Bakr ibn Abd al-Rahman (student of Abu Hurayrah) said:
"Everything of the woman is 'awrah, down to her nail."
[Ahkaam an-Nisaa page 33 athar 23, from Al Khallal]

The Hadith used to indicate that the feet fall under awrah is the Hadith in Sunan Tirmidhi. Umm Salamah (wife of the Prophet (ﷺ)) asked about covering the feet when she is outside.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
"Whoever has his garment dragged out of pride, Allah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection."
Umm Salamah asked: “What should women do with their hems? He said: “They should lower it a hand span.” She said: But then the feet will be seen. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Then lower it a cubit (44 centimeters), but no more than that."
[Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1731 (Hasan Sahih)]

And then comes the question: "What if my abaya gets dirty from the ground outside?". That is exactly what the Prophet was asked about.

Umm Salamah (the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him)) reported:
I said to the Prophet (ﷺ): "I am a woman whose clothes drag on the ground, and I may walk through a dirty place." The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) thereupon said: "That which comes after purifies it."
[Sunan al-Tirmidhi 143 (Hasan)]

So the Abaya is purified by what comes after. One does not have to worry about the Abaya getting dirty when it is dragged over the ground. If obvious impurity appears on it, it should be removed.

Around mahram men

The Muslim woman does not have to cover her feet when she is with men who are her mahram. She is allowed this because of the verse from Surah Nur.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and not to show their beauty but what should be visible of it. And they must wear the veils completely over their bosoms and not display their beauty openly except to their husbands, their fathers, their fathers-in-law, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, or the sons from their sisters...
[Surah Nur verse 31]

With women

For Muslim women it is allowed to uncover their feet in front of certain women. For example, she may expose this to Muslim women, but not to disbelieving women.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity and not show their beauty except what should be visible of it. And they must wear the veils completely over their bosoms and not openly display their beauty, except to: ... their women ...
[Surah Nur, verse 31]

Tafsir: { أو آبائهن أو آباء بعولتهن أو أبنائهن أو أبناء بعولتهن أو إخوانهن أو بني إخوانهن أو بني أخواتهن أو نسائهن } ( ٣١ ) المسلمات يرين منها ما يرى ذو المحرم ، ولا ( ترى ) (٣١٤٨) ذلك من اليهودية ، و( لا ) (٣١٤٩ ) ، ولا المجوسية .

Yahya ibn Sallam said:
"As for the Muslim woman, she may see whatever her mahram men may see. As for the Christians, Jews or Zoroastrians, they may not (look at the Muslim women's hair, face, hands, feet, neck, etc).
[Tafsir Yahya ibn Sallam page 818]

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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