Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan
Question: 1. May a muslim woman uncover her hair in front of her non-muslim sister/mother/first degree female relative? If so can she uncover in front of her, as she would in front of a mahram muslim male? i.e. everything except what is between the navel and the knees (excluding back and sides). Is it relevant whether the non-muslim is a first-degree relative or second-degree relative? 2. May a muslim woman uncover her hair in front of her non-muslim brother/father/ father-in-law? 3. Does the issue/illah (as in the Maliki madhab) revolve around describing the woman to a non-mahram male?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
1. The Hanafi opinion that a Muslim woman cannot uncover in front of non-Muslim women applies to non-relatives (ajnabiyyat). [Mawsu’a Fiqhiyya Kuwaitiyya]. Also, the definition of a mahram (male relative who a Muslim woman can never marry) includes non-Muslims [Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i].
Hence, a Muslim woman would be allowed to uncover in front of non-Muslim relatives, male or female, that which she can uncover in front of Muslim relatives, which legally speaking would be any part of her body except from the navel to the knees, and except her stomach and back. However propriety, dignity and modesty would entail that she wear loose clothes and not uncover much of her body. There is no difference of this ruling whether the person is a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) or second-degree relative (grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle).
An exception to this permissibility is if she feared that there would be some sort of temptation (fitna/shahwa) or that they might describe her physical features to non-relatives. [Nahlawi, Hadhr wal Ibaha]
2. The father-in-law, even if he is non-Muslim, is considered a woman’s mahram. [Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i] Therefore, the above ruling extends to the non-Muslim father-in-law yet with the same exception of fear of temptation or description. Caution and discretion should be exercised.
3. The legal reasoning for the prohibition of uncovering in front of non-Muslim women that are not relatives is fear of description, i.e., that they would describe her physical features to unrelated men. The same ruling can apply to uncovering in front of a corrupt Muslim woman (fajira) based on the same reasoning, that is, fear of description. [Nahlawi, Hadhr wal Ibaha]
And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani