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

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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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