What is the Islamic ruling regarding purdah (covering) of the feet?

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Last Updated on 16th July 2021

Someone asked Huzooraa whether it was permissible for Ahmadi Muslim women to exclude their feet from purdah. Huzooraa, in his letter dated 3 May 2018, gave the following reply to this question:

“When the Holy Quran addresses the commandments of purdah, it first commands believing men to lower their gaze. After this, whilst giving commandments of purdah to believing women, they are also firstly commanded to restrain their eyes. Then they are instructed to draw their head-coverings over their bosoms and not to disclose their beauty and not to strike their feet so that what they usually hide of their ornaments may become known to people.

“One of the meanings of not striking the feet on the ground is that if a piece of jewellery such as an anklet etc. is worn on the feet, its sounds may draw people’s attention and gaze to that lady wearing them which is contrary to the commandments of purdah.

“Similarly, if the feet are adorned with henna or nail polish etc. then such feet can be a form of attraction to men. As a result, the eyes of these men will turn to a woman who is not following these commandments of purdah. However, if the feet are not adorned with any kind of ornaments, then there would not be such attraction to those feet and it would not be a violation of purdah even if such feet were not covered up.

“The ahadith also contain various instructions regarding purdah. In one hadith, the Holy Prophetsa commanded women to cover their whole body except their face and hands. In another narration, the Holy Prophetsa was asked, if a woman did not have a skirt, whether she could pray in a veil and a tunic.

“The Holy Prophetsa approved, provided that the tunic was long enough to cover the back of her feet.

“According to another narration, on the occasion of the Battle of Uhud, Hazrat Aishara and Hazrat Umm-e-Sulaimra used to lift their skirts and fill jugs to give water to the men. The narrator says that in this condition, their anklets were visible.

“Whilst explaining the Quranic verses about purdah, the Promised Messiahas said:

‘In the same way, direct the believing women that they should restrain their eyes from looking at men outside the prohibited degrees and should safeguard their ears against listening to the passionate voices of such men. They should cover up their beauty and should not disclose it to anyone outside the prohibited degrees. They should draw their head-coverings over their bosoms and should thus cover up their heads and ears and temples. They should not strike their feet on the ground like dancers. These are directions which can safeguard against stumbling [Surah al-Nur, Ch.24: V.31-32).’ (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 28)

“Speaking of Islamic purdah, the Promised Messiahas said:

‘Islamic purdah is to fully cover the hair by wrapping a veil around the head and using a part of the veil to cover the chin and a part of the forehead as well as covering every part of adornment. The veil could, for instance, go around the face like this: (Here a sketch of a person’s facial features is shown. The areas that do not fall under the dictates of purdah are shown to be open while the rest is shown to be covered under purdah.) This kind of purdah could be easily tolerated by English women and this way, there would be no issue with going out on a walk as the eyes are uncovered.’ (The Review of Religions, Vol. 2, no. 1, p. 17, January 1905)

“Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra writes, in his commentary regarding lowering one’s gaze, that the aim of this is to prevent the gazes of men and women from meeting. Other than that, whenever she goes out, every woman’s feet, movements, height, the movement of her hands and many such things remain visible to men. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 6, p. 298)

“Therefore, the above-mentioned extracts prove that every part of a woman’s body which falls under the category of her adornment and could attract a non-mahram, must be covered under normal circumstances.”

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