Women’s Veil in the Presence of Children

If it is an undiscriminating boy who does not know what the women’s and men’s `awrah (parts that must be covered) are, it is not obligatory for a woman to veil herself in his presence. This is indicated in the Qur’anic verse in which Almighty Allah states that among the males in whose presence the believing women do not have to veil themselves are the (children who know naught of women’s nakedness) (An-Nur 24: 31). But if evidence of the sexual urge is noted among them, a woman should treat them like non-mahram men even though they may not have reached puberty. Regarding this verse, Imam Ibn Kathir said, “Because they are so young they do not understand anything about women or their `Awrah or their soft speech or their enticing ways of walking and moving. If a child is small and does not understand that, there is nothing wrong with him entering upon women, but if he is an adolescent or approaching adolescence, so that he knows and understands these things, and can make a distinction between who is beautiful and who is not, then he should not enter upon women without permission.”

Almighty Allah, pointing out the males in whose presence a believing woman can show her attractions, states, (or children who know naught of women’s nakedness) (An-Nur 24: 31). In interpreting this Qur’anic verse, the eminent Muslim scholar Al-Jassas narrated from Mujahid who stated that: “The verse refers to the children who are too young to realize what women’s `awrah is,” and Qatadah views that the verse refers to (those of you who have not come to puberty) (An-Nur 24: 58). Abu Bakr Al-Jassas maintains that the opinion of Mujahid is the preponderant one, for the children who do not know “women’s nakedness” are unable to distinguish between women’s and men’s `awrah due to their young age and unawareness. However, Allah commands the discriminating child to ask permission before coming into the presence of his or her elders at certain three times; Allah addresses the believers saying, (Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence)) (An-Nur 24: 58). This verse refers to the children who can distinguish women’s physical attractions. The children who do not have to ask permission are younger than that. To illustrate, it is stated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Order your children to perform Prayer when they reach the age of seven and beat them for (not performing) it when they reach the age of ten, and separate between them in beds.” The Prophet did not command the Muslim to separate between their children in beds before they reached the age of ten, because at the age of ten the children mostly know what the private parts are, but before that they are often unaware of them.