The Prohibition of Looking at the 'Awrah of Others

Looking at the 'awrah (Awrah (lit., that which is to he hidden) denotes those parts of the body which Islam requires to be covered in front of others whether of the same or the opposite sex. (Trans.)) of another person must be avoided. The Prophet (peace be on him) forbade that any person should look at the 'awrah of another, whether of the same or the opposite sex, and whether with or without desire, saying, A man should not look at the 'awrah of another man, nor a woman of a woman, nor should a man go under one cloth with another man, nor a woman with another woman. (Reported by Muslim, Abu Daoud, and al-Tirmidhi. Scholars have inferred from this that two men, or two women, should not lie under the same covering so that parts of their bodies touch)

The 'awrah of a man referred to in this hadith is from his navel to his knee, although some scholars, such as Ibn Hazm and some Maliki jurists, do not include the knee. With respect to a man who is not her mahrem, a woman's 'awrah is her entire body excepting only her face and hands, while with respect to a mahrem such as her father or brother it is different. This we will discuss later.

What it is haram to look at is also of course haram to touch with the hands or with any other parts of the body.

What we have said concerning the prohibition of looking at or touching the parts of the body which must be covered becomes void in case of need or necessity such as first aid or medical treatment. At the same time, what we have said about the permissibility of looking becomes void in case of lust, as the ways leading to sin must be blocked.