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Respect for the Female Body: Covering the Awrah (intimate parts) in Islam


Sukendar is an Associate Professor in Islamic Studies, and currently serves as the Head of the Department of Religious Studies, at Walisongo State Islamic University, Semarang Indonesia. Apart from teaching at the University, he is also involved in several centers in peace and conflict transformation.


This paper discusses the Islamic concept of awrah (body parts that must be covered) and the hijab, focusing on Muslim women in Indonesia.

Key Points:

  • Hijab is not just headwear, but refers to covering the awrah.
  • There’s debate about the extent of awrah, with interpretations ranging from full-body covering to excluding face and hands.
  • The author presents three main interpretations:
    • Full-body covering (excluding jewelry)
    • Face and palms are not awrah
    • “What is usually seen” varies by context
  • Most Indonesians follow the second interpretation (face and hands not awrah).
  • The Muhammadiyah organization promotes a hijab style showing the face and hands, emphasizing modesty over strict covering.
  • This approach allows women to be active in public spaces while maintaining Islamic identity.

Additional Notes:

  • The paper criticizes the idea that hijab is solely about piety or oppression of women.
  • It acknowledges variations in hijab use across cultures and contexts.
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