Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam alaykum
1. What is the awra (nakedness) of a young child? At what age does it apply?
2. Can a child see the awra of an adult, male or female? If so, at what age do the restrictions apply?
Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh,
The nakedness (awra) of a child depends upon their age. As such, the jurists (fuqaha) mention the following points which apply equally to girls and boys:
1. A baby or toddler has no nakedness. Some scholars specified that a child less than four years of age is considered in this category.
2. A young child, namely, above four, has a nakedness which includes his front private organ and rear orifice, exclusively, until seven years of age.
3. A child aged seven, at which point he is normally considered to be discerning, has a nakedness that includes his front private organ and rear orifice and what surrounds them both. The severity of this nakedness increases in gradual stages from seven years of age until ten.
4. From ten onwards, their nakedness is akin to the nakedness of adults.
Note that these are general guidelines which aren’t universally applicable because humans obviously differ in nature. Accordingly, what a specific child’s nakedness would be depends upon how “adult” they look, even if they are young in years.
As for children seeing the nakedness of an adult, technically the Sacred Law only directly applies to those morally responsible, thus to children once they hit puberty. However, they are instructed to begin upholding the law in a general capacity from seven years of age in order that they may become accustomed to and submit wholeheartedly to the Supreme Word of Allah Most High. But they aren’t accountable for seeing the nakedness of another person, whether unintentionally or otherwise, even though the latter is usually a clear warning sign of bad upbringing (tarbiya).
(N.B. The years stated are according to the lunar calendar.)
[Haskafi, al-Durr al-Mukhtar, quoting Haddadi’s al-Siraj; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (1.273)]
A Word of Caution
Please note that, out of proper and dignified decorum, children should be taught about covering their nakedness from two years old onwards. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught that, “Modesty is from faith,” and “Modesty brings about only good.” [Bukhari]
They should not be allowed to remain undressed while at home or outdoors. This will, insha’Allah, help them to understand from a young age about the concept of privacy and nakedness (`awra), and that looking or touching these private areas [whether of oneself, or another child or adult] is not permissible because it is a private area.
A caregiver would ideally teach the child about such modesty from a young age so that the child understands not to uncover themselves publicly, or allow themselves to be uncovered by another person [who is not their parent or guardian]. Even in the latter case, it would only be done for the purpose of washing the child, or helping them to dress [and not unnecessarily].
And Allah Most High alone knows best.
قال في الدرّ المختار: وفي السراج: لا عورة للصغير جدا، ثم ما دام لم يشته فقبل ودبر ثم تغلظ إلى عشر سنين، ثم كبالغ .اهـ
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.