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Last Updated: 2009/10/22
Summary of question
Is it permissible for women to expose their feet the same way they are allowed to expose their hands?
Are there any marja’s who allow women to expose their feet the same way they are allowed to expose their hands?
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Detailed Answer

The great marja’s don’t allow such a thing and believe that it is obligatory to cover the feet up to the ankles (except for when praying, given that no non-mahrams see their feet then). The only marja’ that makes an exception and says that even the feet don’t need to be covered is Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi. [1]

For more information, please read the following passage:

In the risalahs of marja’s and mujtahids, Imam Khomeini being the foremost, it has been stated: “The woman needs to cover her body and hair from non-mahram men. As a matter of fact, it is an obligatory precaution for her to cover them from a boy who still hasn’t come of age but can distinguish between good and bad and reached an age in which he might look at her out of lust. [2] Also, it is impermissible for women to wear anything that might draw the attention of non-mahrams because of its color, appearance or the way it is worn and leads to corruption and haram acts. [3]

In response to the same question mentioned above, Ayatullah Khamenei says: “Women must cover their entire body from non-mahrams, and only the face (the part that is washed in wudhu, not all of it) and hands from the tip of the fingers till the wrists are an exception.” [4]

Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi: “It is necessary for women and girls (who have come of age) to cover their entire bodies except for the face (the part washed in wudhu) and hands till the wrists from non-mahrams. This amount can be covered by any clothing that isn't tight and isn't considered an “ornament”, although the chador is the best choice. Women and girls can expose their heads, necks, a portion of their chests and their hands and feet in front of those mahram to them, but must cover the rest, therefore, it isn't permissible for them to be half-naked in front of them and just because a certain dress code is common in a certain place doesn’t necessarily mean it is permissible and changes the abovementioned ruling. [5] [As was said,] No certain clothing must be worn, all that is important is that it neither be tight nor be considered an “ornament”. [6]

Ayatullah Sistani: “It doesn’t make a difference; women mustn’t expose more than the face and hands up to the wrists in front of non-mahrams. [7] As for looking at the body of women who don’t care about covering it whom if are ordered to do so, will not heed is permissible, given that one doesn’t look with lust or fear of it leading to other sins; this goes for all women, whether they are kafirs or not, and also, there is no difference between the hands and face and other parts of the body that usually isn't covered. [8]

Having said that, the hijab is an indisputable issue in Muslim society and observing it (covering the entire body except the hands and face) is necessary in all environments and countries, regardless of the customs each may have (as is completely observed by Muslim women even in America and Europe and other non-Islamic societies), and failing to do so is a sin. [9] Of course, in different places or as a result of difference in careers, its form may vary, which isn't very important in Islam’s opinion, although as was said, the chador is the better choice. [10]

For further information, see:

1- The ruling of hijab and the reasons for forcing others to observe it, Question 1174 (website: 1177).

2- The amount of covering for women, Question 496 (website: 537).

3- The reason for hijab, Question 825 (website: 884).

4-The hijab in Islam, Question 431 (website: 459).

5- Women and covering the feet, Question 5982 (website: 6164).

[1] A written istifta’ sent to his office; Seyyid Mojtaba Hoseini, Resaleye Danshjouyi, pg. 188.

[2] Tawdihul-Masa’el (annotated by Imam Khomeini,  vol. 2, pg. 488.

[3] Ibid, vol. 2, pg. 1012.

[4] Istifta’ from his office.

[5] Istifta’ from his office.

[6] Ibid, vol. 2, pg. 492.

[7] Istifta’ from his office.

[8] Tawdihul-Masa’el (annotated by Imam Khomeini, vol. 2, pg. 488.

[9] Some say that not observing the hijab is a “small sin” (and not of the “great sins”) that borders “great sin”. That is why when a person commits a small sin, it is said that he/she has begun a great sin and this is why it is said that repeating a small sin is a great sin and that there is no clear boundary between the small and great sin.

[10] With help from Question 3439 (website: 4132).

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