Is It Necessary for a Woman to Cover Her Feet in Front of a Stranger?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I have heard that in Hanifi fiqh a women does not have to cover her feet in-front of a stranger. What is he proof for this?

Answer: Assalam alaykum wa rahmatuLlah,

Yes, according to the most expansive position in the Hanafi school, a woman’s feet are not from her legal nakedness (‘awra) and she does not have to cover them.

However, there is some difference of opinion within the school regarding this matter which can be summarized in the following positions:

(1) They are not from her nakedness, as chosen and deemed soundest by al-Wiqaya, Kanz al-Daqa’iq, al-Hidaya, al-Muhit, and others due to the hardship in covering, particularly by those who may not have anything to cover with.

(2) They are from her nakedness. This is what Qadi Khan deemed most correct in his Fatawa, and it is also the position al-Aqta’ and al-Isbijabi chose, as per the outward purport of the traditions (hadith). This is what would appear to be the manifest transmission (zahir al-riwaya) of the school.

(3) They are from her nakedness, yet not during the prayer. This is what was chosen by al-Ikhtiyar and al-Fatawa al-Sirajiyya.

Having said that, the jurists explained that this difference applies to the sole or underside of the foot. As for the top part, some argued that there also appears to be a difference of opinion, and thus, they are either (a) from the nakedness, or (b) not from it. Though some jurists held that there is no difference of opinion on the top part of the foot, and it is simply not included in these discussions.

As for the tradition cited by Imam Abu Dawud in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) informed of the nakedness of a woman, and then proceeded to make two exceptions by pointing to his hands and face, it is a probabilistic text which establishes the dislikedness of looking at a woman’s feet, yet not the obligatory nature of covering them.

The upshot, therefore, is that the entire foot is not from her nakedness as later scholars, such as Imam Shurunbulali, state explicitly due to what they deemed as necessity. What this entails is that the way of praiseworthy caution and scrupulousness would be to cover your feet in front of unrelated males, and likewise during the prayer, yet not object to nor reprimand those who may practice otherwise.

[Shaykh Abu al-Hajj, Muntaha al-Nuqaya ‘ala Sharh al-Wiqaya (2.115); Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (1.272); Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah with Tahtawi’s Gloss; Halabi, Ghunyat al-Mutamalli fi Sharh Munyat al-Musalli [Halabi Kabir] (211)]

Please also see: A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra) and: Is the area under the chin from the nakedness of a woman? and: Can I Remain Naked When I’m Alone?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

قال الإمام محمّد أمين في ردّ المحتار: ((قوله: (على المعتمد) أي من أقوال ثلاثة مصححة، ثانيها عورة مطلقا، ثالثها عورة خارج الصلاة لا فيها. أقول: ولم يتعرض لظهر القدم. وفي القهستاني عن الخلاصة: اختلفت الروايات في بطن القدم ا ه. وظاهره أنه لا خلاف في ظاهره. ثم رأيت في مقدمة المحقق ابن الهمام المسماة بزاد الفقير قال بعد تصحيح إن انكشاف ربع القدم مانع: ولو انكشف ظهر قدمها لم تفسد، وعزاه المصنف التمرتاشي في شرحه المسمى إعانة الحقير إلى الخلاصة. ثم نقل عن الخلاصة عن المحيط أن في باطن القدم روايتين، وأن الاصح أنه عورة، ثم قال: أقول: فاستفيد من كلام الخلاصة أن الخلاف إنما هو في باطن القدم، وأما ظاهره فليس بعورة بلا خلاف، ولهذا جزم المصنف بعدم الفساد بانكشافه، لكن في كلام العلامة قاسم إشارة إلى أن الخلاف ثابت فيه أيضا، فإنه قال بعد نقله: إن الصحيح أن انكشاف ربع القدم يمنع الصلاة، قال: لان ظهر القدم محل الزينة المنهي عن إبدائها، قال تعالى: * (ولا يضربن بأرجلهن ليعلم ما يخفين من زينتهن) * ا ه كلام المصنف.)) اهـ.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.