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A non-Muslim woman’s looking at a Muslim woman

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What is the 3awrah of a muslim woman in front of a non-muslim woman? I know that there are at least two positions in shafi3i madhab: 1) it is the same as non-mahram male 2) it is what is shown when working. Which position is the most reliable – mu3tamad? Jazaakum allah.

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Wa alaykum salam wa rahamtuLlahi wa barakatuHu,

The relied-upon opinion maintains that a Muslim woman may not expose herself to a non-Muslim woman. Others authorities in our School have also maintained that they are both merely considered as women; thus, belonging to a different religion does not restrict the issue of looking. A ruling along these lines is related from Ghazzali in Wasit and also given credence by Ruyani in his Bahr. This difference of opinion is referred to by the phrase, al-asahh, in Minhaj. What is related here from Ghazzali and Ruyani is not the relied-upon opinion; the relied-upon is the first.

Then, the first opinion entails two approaches: 1) that a woman may not expose anything of herself and 2) that she does not expose herself beyond what is shown when working ما يبدو عند المهنة.

The first opinion is related from Qadi Husayn, Baghawi, Mutawalli, and given preference to by Bulqini, Ibn al-Naqib, and others.

The second opinion is stated by Ibn Hajar in Tuhfah v. 7, p. 200, Ramli in Nihayah v. 6, p. 195 and by Khatib in Mughni v. 4, p. 213. Their reliance is on what is found in Rawdah and Fath al-‘Aziz. From scholars who come after them, in I’anat al-Talibin v. 3, p. 519, Abu Bakr Shata stated that this is the opinion – stated to be mu’tamad – which the three of them maintain. This is also the stance stated by Mahalli, which Qalyubi stated to be mu’tamad. (Kanz al-Raghibin w/ Qalyubi v. 3, p. 211)

While considering the second view, in the mentioned passages, ما يبدو عند المهنة is not further defined, while in other places, the ulama do mention more details. For instance, in Wasit v. 5 p. 32, Ghazzali included the head, neck, and parts of the shins and forearms. Ibn al-Salah related a similar assessment from Imam al-Haramayn in his commentary on Wasit. Additionally, Ibn al-Salah noted that some works restrict one’s exposing the forearms and shins to half. Furthermore, in his commentary on Tuhfah v. 2, p. 112, ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Sharwani cited a similar assessment from Khatib in Mughni, there see v. 4, p. 210; and in Tuhfah v. 7, p. 194.

It should also be noted that this is for the case when the non-Muslim woman is not related. Otherwise, then it is permissible for her to look at the Muslim woman – except for that which is between the navel and the knees. (See: Nihayat al-Muhtaj w/ Shabramallisi v. 6, p. 195)

And Allah knows best.

Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.

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