Is it permissible to be bare below the sleeves in hospitals?

The Prophet (peace be on him) said:

The woman’s entire body must be covered. (Sunan Tirmidhi)

This means that a woman in the presence of a non-mahram (i.e her brother or husband and anyone she cannot marry), is required to to be covered modestly, excluding her face, hands and feet, in the Hanafi school.

There is, however, some flexibility in the shariah, as per the fatwa in the Hanafi school which makes it permissible for a woman to bare her arms up to the elbows, which they do not consider to be part of her nakedness (awra) if there is a need because they can become exposed during her day to day tasks as when she’s doing the dough for baking.

The necessity to protect life

In situations such as in hospitals where regulation require medical staff to be bare below the elbow, it is permissible for women to uncover their forearms, particularly for the safety of patients.

As per the aims of the shariah, saving lives and protecting health, and by proxy, abiding by the infection control procedures of the trust, takes precedence over other concerns

Alternatives to bare below the elbow

According to current NHS guidelines, alternatives to being bare below the elbow are wearing disposable over-sleeves or 3/4 length sleeves. Full length sleeves are permissible where there is no direct patient care. Many hospitals set their own dress code policy and may not be aware of national guidance. Muslims staff can raise awareness and call for a change to hospital policy. Please refer to: https://britishima.org/nhs-uniform-guidance/

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.