Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally
An ustadh told me that it is sinful for men to wear sleeveless or short sleeve shirts in public, stating that the shoulder and arms are awrah (nudity) for men in public. Is this in accordance to majority opinions of scholars?
Answer: Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,
It is not sinful for men to wear sleeveless or short sleeves in public, because they do not fall within the ‘awrah area that is obligatory to cover.
A Man’s ‘Awrah (Shafi’i)
The ‘awrah for men in the Shafi’i school encompasses the area between a man’s navel and his knees, not including either. A man’s ‘awrah remains the same whether he is in a state of prayer or in public. The shoulders and arms, obviously, do not fall within that area, and are therefore not considered ‘awrah.
Minimum Legal Standards and Carrying oneself with Dignity
It is, strictly speaking, permissible to only cover the area defined above as ‘awrah. However, these legal requirements are set as minimum standards, and do not indicate what is recommended or expected for a person to cover. A person’s determination of what (or what not) to wear will depend on what is considered decent given surrounding circumstances. This includes a person’s culture, environment, and situation, not to mention common sense. Generally speaking, acting in a manner considered improper according to a society’s accepted norms is disliked.
Source: Mughni al-Muhtaj