Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher
If upon completion of my salaah, I find that a few strands of my hair was showing out of my burkaa, (head covering), do I have to repeat my salaah?
Covering ones nakedness (awra) is a condition for the validity of ones prayer. The awra of a man is from his navel to his knees. The awra of a woman is all of her body excluding her face, hands and feet (though it is superior for her to cover her feet as well, as many scholars considered the feet to be part of her awra). If some part of ones nakedness shows during the prayer then it is excused so long as the exposed area is less than a quarter of a limb. A limb is an independent body part. Ibn Abidin mentions that the awra of the male is broken down into eight limbs. These he lists as being;
1. The penis and what surrounds it.
2. The testicles and what is surrounds them.
3. The anus and what is surrounds it.
4-5. Each of the two buttocks.
6-7. Each thigh with the knee.
8. The area between the navel and the pubic region including what is parallel to it from the sides and the back.
He mentions that the limbs of a woman are :
1-2. Each thigh with the knee.
3-4. Each buttock.
5. The private area and what surrounds it.
6. The anus.
7. The stomach.
8. The back and the sides.
9-10. Each shin (lower leg) with the ankle.
11-12 Each breast.
13-14. Each ear.
15-16. Each upper-arm with the elbow.
17-18. Each forearm with the wrist.
19. The chest.
20. The head.
21. The hair.
22. The neck.
23-24. Each shoulder. [Radd al-Muhtar, 1:274, Dar li Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi]
So just showing a few strands of hair will not affect the prayer as these will clearly be less that a quarter of ones hair.
If a number of limbs are partially exposed then the exposed areas are added up and compared to the area of the smallest exposed limb. If it is equal to or greater in area than a quarter of the smallest exposed limb then the prayer is invalid otherwise not. For example if a ladys one wrist and one ankle are exposed one will add up the exposed areas and compare them to the area of the smallest limb which in this case is the forearm (as the wrist is part of the forearm). As both the wrist and the ankle do not amount to a quarter of the forearm her prayer is valid. If however one wrist, one ankle and a small part of the ear are exposed then her prayer is most likely invalid as the wrist and ankle would most probably amount to a quarter of the ear, the smallest exposed limb.
Of course when adding up exposed areas of the body one need only estimate the areas; there is no need to get out a ruler and calculator and start calculating.
One thing to be kept in mind is that a quarter of a limb is only excused in terms of the validity of the prayer. To intentionally expose any part of ones awra is unlawful even though ones prayer might be legally valid. [Hashiya al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi al-Falah, 1:332, Dar al-Ilm al-Hadith]