Praise be to Allaah.
the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings be upon
the one who was sent as a Mercy to the worlds, our Prophet Muhammad, and upon all his
family and companions.
There follows a number of principles and guidelines on the issue of: Looking
for the purposes of medical treatment.
Firstly: the awrah [that which should be covered] of a man
is the area between the navel and the knees, because the Prophet
(peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) said: What is between the navel and the knees is
awrah. (A hasan hadeeth narrated by Ahmad, Abu Dawood and
al-Daaraqutni). This is the view of the majority of scholars.
Secondly: all of a woman is awrah and is to be covered
before strangers (non-mahrams), because of the aayah (interpretation of the
And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them
from behind a screen [al-Ahzaab 33:53]
and because of the hadeeth, All of a woman is awrah. (Narrated
by al-Tirmidhi with a saheeh isnaad).
This is the correct view according to the madhhab of the
Hanbalis, one of the two views of the Maalikis and one of the two views of the
Thirdly: deliberately looking at awraat is one of the
things that are strongly forbidden. One is required to lower the gaze and refrain from
looking at them, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at
forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is
purer for them. Verily, Allaah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women
to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts
(from illegal sexual acts)
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: A
man should not look at the awrah of another man and a woman should not look at the
awrah of another woman. (Narrated by Muslim).
And he said to Ali (may Allaah be pleased with
him): Do not look at the thigh of anyone, living or dead. (Narrated by
Abu Dawood; it is a saheeh hadeeth).
Fourthly: if it is not permissible to look at
awraat it is also not permissible to touch any of them, even when there is some
cloth or clothing in between. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said: I do not shake hands with women. (Narrated by Maalik and Ahmad.
This is a saheeh hadeeth). And he said: If one of you were to be
stabbed in the head with an iron needle, this would be better for him than if he were to
touch a woman whom it is not permitted for him to touch. (Narrated by
Tabaraani; it is a saheeh hadeeth). Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on
him) said: Where it is forbidden to look it is also forbidden to touch, and is more
forbidden, because that is more pleasurable.
Fifthly: things that are considered to be awrah are of
varying types and degrees. The thing that is most awrah is the private
parts, front and back. Then there are things that are less awrah such as
a man's thighs in front of another man.
Sixthly: young children under the age of seven are not subject
to the rulings on awrah. The awrah of boys who are able to distinguish matters
between the ages of seven and ten is the private parts, and the awrah
of girls of the same age is the area from the navel to the knees. (All of this is in cases
where there is no fear of fitnah). The awrah of a dead person is the same as the
awrah of a living person. To be on the safe side, a hermaphrodite (person whose sex
is not clear) should be considered to be a woman in terms of awrah, because such a
person may be a woman.
Sixthly: in cases of necessity, things that are ordinarily
forbidden are permitted. The scholars are agreed that it is permissible for a male doctor
to look at the site of illness in a woman when necessary, within the limits set by
shareeah. Similarly, a male doctor may look at the awrah of a sick man. But he
should look at the site of the complaint only as much as is necessary (and no more). The
rulings apply to female doctors as to male doctors. This ruling is based on the idea of
giving priority to the principle of saving life over the principle of covering the
awrah, in cases where there is a conflict between the two.
Seventhly: Necessity should be evaluated according to its
degree. Although it is permissible to uncover, look and touch, etc., for the
purposes of treatment in cases of urgent necessity, it is not permissible under any
circumstances to go beyond the Islamic limits or ignore the regulations set out by
shareeah. These regulations are as follows:
Priority should be given to the treatment of men by men and women by
women. When a sick women needs to be uncovered (for medical treatment), preference should
be given to a qualified female Muslim doctor; if such is not available, the order of
preference is then a female non-Muslim doctor, a male Muslim doctor, and lastly, a male
non-Muslim doctor. If it is sufficient to be treated by a female general practitioner
(GP), she should not go to a male doctor even if he is a specialist. If a specialist is
needed, she should go to a female specialist, but if one is not available, then the female
patient may uncover in front of a male specialist. If the female specialist is not
qualified to treat the problem and the situation calls for the involvement of a
highly-skilled, qualified male specialist, then this is permissible. If there is a male
specialist who is more highly-skilled and more experienced than the female doctor, the
female patient should still not go to him unless the situation requires this extra level
of experience and skill. By the same token, a man should not be treated by a woman if
there is a man who is able to carry out the treatment.
It is not permissible to uncover more than is necessary; only the area
that needs to be examined should be uncovered. At the same time, the doctor should try to
lower his gaze as much as he can, and he should be aware that he is doing something which
is basically forbidden, and he should seek the forgiveness of Allaah for anything he may
do which oversteps the mark.
If describing the problem is sufficient, then it is not permissible to
uncover; if it is possible to examine the site of the problem by just looking, then it is
not permissible to touch; if it is possible to examine by touching with a cloth over the
site, then it is not permissible to remove the cloth, and so on.
In allowing a woman to be treated by a male doctor, it is conditional
that she not be alone in the room with him. So the woman has to be accompanied by her
husband, mahram or another woman who is trustworthy.
The male doctor must also be trustworthy and above suspicion with regard
to his character and religious commitment. In this case it is sufficient to take people at
The more something is regarded as awrah, the more strictly should
the rules be applied. The author of Kafaayat al-Akhyaar said: Know that the
basic idea in cases of need is to look at the face and hands. In order to look at the rest
of the body, there should be a certain and definite need, and in order to look at the
private parts, there should be an extra-certain need. Hence one should be extremely strict
in cases such as childbirth and the circumcision of young girls.
The need for treatment should be urgent, such as sickness, unbearable
pain, worrying weakness and so on. If there is no sickness or urgency, then it is not
permissible to uncover the awrah, such as in cases where a person imagines he is
sick or in cases of cosmetic issues.
All of the above applies only in cases where there is no fear of fitnah
or provocation of desire on the part of either the doctor or the patient.
Finally, it is essential to remember and fear Allaah with regard to
this important matter. The shareeah has set out many precautions in order to be on
the safe side, and has prescribed clear and serious guidelines. One of the most widespread
problems of our times is the lax attitude that people have taken towards the issue of
uncovering the awrah in clinics and hospitals, as if it is permissible to show
everything to a doctor and to do any forbidden thing in his presence. The same applies to
educational programs which are brought without censorship from the kaafir countries,
imitating them by taking a lax attitude to such matters in the case of education, training
The Muslims have to pay attention to educating qualified women in the
various specialties, so that needs may be met. They should also draw up schedules and
organize shifts in hospitals and clinics in such a way that Muslim women need never be put
in an awkward position, or feel neglected or be subjected to the annoyance of a male
doctor when she asks for a female doctor to treat her.
We ask Allaah to help us to understand our religion properly and to
help us to follow the rules of shareeah and take care of the rights of the Muslims.
And He is the Source of help and the Guide to the Straight Path.