How Can Muslim Women Navigate the World of Fitness and Shopping When Other Women Are Not Covered Properly?

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad

Question

What part of the body is permissible to look at when a Muslim woman looks at a non-Muslim woman? Is there a distinction between lesser ‘awra (e.g., thighs) that would be permissible for women to view versus greater awrah (bikini area/genitals) that would be impermissible?

I am referring to fitness videos where the instructor is female and dressed in activewear, at a women’s-only swimming pool where women wear scanty swimwear, or when shopping for women’s undergarments and intimate clothing or browsing women’s fashion/glamour magazines where female models are posing.

Answer

May Allah reward you for your scrupulousness as your questions are spot on and serve as an excellent reminder for myself and others.

Nakedness

It is not permissible for a Muslim woman to view another woman’s nakedness in what is between her navel and knee. This means that the clothing over that area must be loose, long enough, and thick enough so it’s not transparent. There is a difference in viewing a woman’s thigh as opposed to seeing her genitals. Both are sinful but viewing the genitals would be worse and potentially more sinful. Viewing someone’s nakedness by mistake would not be sinful if one glanced accidentally and looked away immediately.

Please see more details here:
Why Is the Thigh from the Nakedness According to the Hanafi School?
A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra)
Was It Sinful for Me to Accidentally View Naked Photos While Trying to Delete Them?

Fitness and Shopping

Fitness has taken the world by storm, and its apparel has too. A Muslim should do her best to avoid viewing a woman’s nakedness, whether in a fitness class, shopping online, browsing magazines, at a pool, or anywhere else. If one wants to apply one’s taqwa (God-consciousness) and avoid such situations, I am sure that one will never lose out and only increase in their taqwa and find something better to fulfill one’s needs.

If one feels one cannot avoid it altogether, I recommend following this verse from the Quran, “So be mindful of Allah to the best of your ability, hear and obey, and spend in charity—that will be best for you. And whoever is saved from the selfishness of their own souls, it is they who are ˹truly˺ successful.” [Quran, 64:16]

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.