Satr Literally means ‘to cover’ or ‘to conceal’. ‘Awrat’ refers to ‘the parts of one’s body that must be concealed’. Hence, the combined expression ‘Satr-ul-‘Awrah’ would mean ‘covering the body area that must be covered’. In normal usage, the word ‘Satr’ usually refers to the ‘specific body-parts that must be concealed’.
‘Awrat (covering the body parts that must be covered) is Wajib at all times, whether or not one is offering Salah and whether alone or in front of another person. To expose ‘Satr’ without a genuine reason even when alone is not permissible; and in front of others or in Salah, covering the ‘Satr’ is Fard by consensus.
Rulings on ‘Satr’ are of two types:
- Rulings of ‘Satr’ for men and women during S
- Rulings of ‘Satr’ outside of Salah, in terms of who can look at certain body-parts of certain individuals.
A man’s Satr-e-‘Awrat is from below his navel to below his knees, i.e. covering this area of his body is Fard. The navel is not included in Satr, but the knees are.
Nowadays, many people wear pajamas in such a way that a part of their abdomen below their navel remains exposed. If they wear a dress which covers this area and its skin is not exposed then it is fine, otherwise, Haram.
If a quarter (of the area under the navel) remains exposed during Salah, then Salah will be invalid. Some audacious people expose their knees and even thighs in front of other people, this is Haram too, and anyone who is habitual of this is Fasiq (sinner)
For a free woman (because the era of slavery has ended, so nowadays, all women are free) and for a hermaphrodite – i.e. one who has both male and female physical features, and can neither be declared to be a man nor a woman – the whole body is ‘Awrat (area of concealing), excluding the face, palms and soles.
The hair hanging from her head, her neck and wrists are also ‘Awrat (and must be covered). It is Fard to cover these parts. Some scholars have not included hands in the ‘Awrat (i.e. something that must be covered).
If a woman offers Salah wearing a very thin scarf, which reveals the blackness of her hair, then her Salah will be invalid unless she covers it with something that conceals the color of her hair etc.
However, let it be clear that if less than a quarter of any body-part which must be covered, was exposed, then Salah is valid. Even if a quarter is exposed but instantly covered then Salah is still valid. If it remained exposed for the time-period of one action, i.e. saying thrice or if it was exposed intentionally, even if covered instantly, then the Salah will be invalid.
If a few areas of Satr were partially exposed such that each of the exposed areas is less than a quarter of that limb, but collectively the exposed areas are equal to a quarter of the smallest of those exposed limbs, then Salah is invalid. For example, if one ninth (1/9) of a woman’s ear and one ninth of her shin were exposed, and collectively they definitely equal a quarter of the ear, (hence) her Salah is invalid.
The rulings on Satr are very strict which calls for the need of both men and women to be very careful during Salah. May Allah guide us and prevent us from the negligence of Satr. Allah knows best.