‘Awrah, aurat: of women in Arabic in Urdu

October 24, 2006 at 5:36 pm (Amusement, Arabic, Blogs, India, Islam, Languages, Pakistan, Religion, South Asia)

In Arabic, the word (عورة, ‛awrah) refers to, among other things, one’s private area. This is defined according to Islamic law as the area between the navel and knees for men and the entire body, except the face and hands, of women. Not only does this word refer to the private area, per se, but also to what “private area” is used euphemistically for, namely genitalia.

This is explained in a somewhat cheeky comment on a page called “neqabi”. (A (نقاب, niqāb) refers to a veil that covers the face but (usually) exposes the eyes. (نقابي, niqābī) would be an adjective form, meaning “of or pertaining to wearing a niqāb.“) I found this page via Isaac Schrödinger‘s post “100% Vagina” (which, coincidently, is a useful phrase for the paragraph below).

What also intrigues me is that when the Arabic word (عورة, ‛awrah) is rendered, according to the normal rules, into Urdu, it becomes (عورت, aurat) which, in Urdu, means “woman.” What does it mean when Urdu uses a word that in Arabic means “private area” (and, I should add, “weakness, weak spot, defectiveness, faultiness, deficiency, imperfection” and refers to female genitalia) to refer to women individually and categorically?

5 Comments

  1. Abu Sahajj said,

    “What also intrigues me is that when the Arabic word (عورة, ‛awrah) is rendered, according to the normal rules, into Urdu, it becomes (عورت, aurat) which, in Urdu, means “woman.””

    That looks like a bias specific to those who developed the Urdu language. However, in Arabic an ‘awrah is not indicative of gender infact it is used to describe an area for both Males and Females.

  2. Santi Indra Astuti said,

    Well, i live in Indonesia, and since we are a multicultural nation, it seemed that the controversies concerning the limit of aurat became something very cultural. i mean, it seemed that every culture has their own definition about what’s allowed to be exposed, and what’s not …

  3. Hari said,

    Well, In urdu and Hindi Admi comes from Adam and means man.
    Aurat comes from Ouwa a variation of eve.

  4. Muslihoon said,

    I’m sorry, I don’t see how ‘awrah/awrat can semantically from “Ouwa” or even Hawwa (“Eve” in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, et.).

  5. nisa said,

    Well, ‘awrah’ does not refer t cover parts of our body only but it also mean that we are taking care of our dignity. Something that is so precious is not for display but it is for us to keep. As long as our ‘awrah’ is safe in our care, it make our dignity stays high and gain respect from others…

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