Wajib Covering During Salat

The schools concur that it is wajib upon both men and women to cover those parts of their bodies during salat which should ordinarily be kept covered before ‘strangers’. Beyond that their positions differ. Is it wajib for a woman to cover, fully or partly, her face and hands during salat, although she is not required to do so outside salat? Is it wajib for a man to cover other parts of his body during salat apart from the area between the navel and the knees, though it is not wajib to do so outside salat?

The Hanafis observe: It is wajib upon a woman to cover the back of her hands and the soles of her feet as well, and upon a man to cover his knees in addition to the area between the navel and the knees.

The Shafi’is and Malikis say: It is permissible for a woman to keep her face and both the palms and the back of her hands uncovered during salat.

The Hanbalis state: It is not permissible for her to expose any part except the face.

The Imamis observe: It is wajib for both men and women to cover only those parts of their body during salat which they are supposed to cover ordinarily in the presence of a ‘stranger’. Hence it is permissible for a woman to expose during salat that part of her face which is washed during wudu’; her hands up to the wrists, and her feet up to the ankles both the back as well as the palms of hands and the soles of feet. For a man, it is wajib to cover the rear and the private parts, though better to cover the entire area between the navel and the knees.

The Requirements for the Covering during Salat

The covering should meet the following requirements where the ability and freedom to meet them exist:


The purity of the covering and the body are necessary for the validity of salat in the opinion of all the schools, although each of them concedes certain exceptions in accordance with the following details:

The Imamis state: Blood from wounds and sores, irrespective of its quantity, is considered excusable on the dress as well as the body if its removal entails difficulty and harm (mashaqqah wa haraj). A blood spot smaller than the size of a dirham coin, regardless of its being due to one’s blood or that of someone else, is also excusable provided that: it is in a single place and not in different places; it is not the blood of hayd, nifas and istihadah; it is not the blood of anything intrinsically najis, such as dog and pig, or the blood of a dead body (maytah).

Also excusable is the impurity (najasah) of anything that does not constitute part of essential dress during salat, e.g. a sash, cap, socks, shoes, ring, anklet and that which one carries with oneself, e.g. knife or currency. The najasah of the dress of a woman rearing a child, irrespective of whether she is the mother or someone else, is exempted on condition that it be difficult for her to change it and that she washes it once every day. In other words, in their opinion every najasah on dress or body is exempted in conditions of emergency (idtirar).

The Malikis observe: Cases of uncontrolled discharge of urine or excrement, as well as piles, are excusable; so is any impurity on the body or clothes of a woman suckling an infant that may be soiled by the infant’s urine or faeces. So also are exempted the body and clothes of a butcher, surgeon and scavenger. Also exempted is: blood – even that of a pig - if it is less than the size of a dirham coin: the discharge from boils, the excrement of fleas, and other things which need not be mentioned because they occur rarely.

The Hanafis say: Najasah, blood or anything else, if less than the size of a dirham coin is exempted. Also exempted in emergencies is the urine and excrement of a cat and mouse. Tiny splashes - as small as the point of a needle - of urine, the blood that unavoidably stains a butcher, and the mud on roads - even if it is usually mixed with najasah and provided the najasah itself is not visible - are exempted. Consequently, they consider najasah in a small quantity as exempted, such as the urine of an animal eating which is halal, if it covers a fourth of the clothes and less than one-fourth of the body.

According to the Shafi’is, every najasah which is in such a small quantity that the eye cannot see it is exempted. So is the mud on roads which is mixed with a small quantity of najasah, worms present in fruits and cheese, najis liquids added in medicines and perfumes, excrements of birds, najis hair in small quantity if they do not belong to a dog or a pig, and other things as well which are mentioned in detailed works.

The Hanbalis say: Minute quantities of blood and pus are exempted, and so is the mud on roads whose najasah is certain, as well as the najasah that enters the eyes and washing which is harmful.

2. Wearing Silk

There is consensus among the schools that wearing silk and gold is haram for men both during and outside salat, while it is permissible for women. This is in accordance with this statement of the Prophet (S):

حرّم لباس الحرير والذهب على ذكور أُمتي، وأحلّ لإناثهم

“Wearing silk and gold is unlawful for the men of my ummah, while it is lawful for its women”.

Accordingly, the Imamis observe: A man’s salat is not valid if he wears pure silk and any clothing embroidered with gold during it, regardless of whether it is a waistband, cap, socks, or even a gold ring. They allow wearing silk during salat in times of illness and during war.

The Shafi’is state: If a man performs salat while wearing silk or over something made of it, it will be considered a haram act, though his salat will be valid (al-Nawawi, Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, iii, 179). I have not found an express statement in the books of the remaining schools concerning the validity or invalidity of salat performed in silk, though the Hanafis as well as the Hanbalis (in accordance with one of two narrations) concur with the Shafi’is regarding the general rule that if there is any command prohibiting something which is not directly connected with salat such as the command prohibiting usurpation - the salat will be valid if it is not observed and the person will be considered as having performed a wajib and a haram act together. Accordingly the salat performed in a dress of silk is valid.

The author of Al-fiqh ‘ala al-madhahib al-’arba’ah reports a consensus (for the Sunni schools) that that it is valid for a man constrained to perform salat while wearing silk, and it is not wajib for him to repeat it.

3. Lawfulness of the Clothing

The Imamis consider it necessary that the clothing worn be lawfully owned. Hence if a person performs salat in usurped clothes with the knowledge of their being so, his salat is batil (invalid). This is also the opinion of Ibn Hanbal in one of the two statements narrated from him.

The other schools regard salat in usurped clothes as valid on the grounds that the prohibition does not directly relate to salat so as to invalidate it.

The Imamiyyah are very strict concerning usurpation, and some of them even observe: If a person performs salat in clothes in which a single thread is usurped, or carries with him an usurped knife, dirham, or any other thing, his salat will not be valid. But they also say: If one performs salat in usurped clothes out of ignorance or forgetfulness, his salat is valid.

4. The Skin of Animals Not Used for Food

The Imamis are alone in holding that it is invalid to perform salat while wearing the skin (even if tanned) of an animal whose flesh is not allowed to be eaten, as well as anything consisting its hair, wool, fur or feathers. The same is true of clothes bearing any secretion from its body- eg. sweat and saliva - as long as it is wet.

Hence, even if a single hair of a cat or any such animal happens to be present on the dress of a person performing salat and if he performs it with the knowledge of its presence, his salat is invalid (batil).

They exclude wax, honey, the blood of bugs; lice, fleas and other insects which have no flesh, as well as the hair, sweat and saliva of human beings.

They also consider salat invalid if any part of a dead animal (maytah) happens to be on the clothes, irrespective of whether the animal is one used for food or not, whether its blood flows when cut or not, and its skin is tanned or not.

A Subsidiary Issue

If there is only a single clothing to cover the body and that too is najis to an extent that is not excusable, what should one do if he has no alternative other than either performing salat in the najis clothing or in the state of nature?

The Hanbalis say: He should perform salat in the najis clothing, but it is wajib upon him to repeat it later.

The Malikis and a large number of Imamis observe: He should perform salat in the najis clothing and its repetition is not wajib upon him.

The Hanafis and the Shafi’is state: He should perform salat naked and it is not valid for him to cover himself with the najis clothing.