Besides the general instructions on dressing, Islam has also specified those parts of the body which the males and females must cover. Such a part, which is obligatory to cover, is termed as Aurah or Satr by the Islamic Law.
For the males, the Aurah is the part of the body between the navel and the knee, and it has been enjoined that one should neither uncover this part before another person, nor should one look at this part of anybody else:
"The male should cover that part of his body which is between the navel and the knee." (Related by Al-Mabsut).
Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) once said, "Do not uncover your thigh before another person, nor look at the thigh of a living or a dead person." (Tafsir al-Kabir)
This is a general command which should be observed in all situations, except obviously in the presence of one's own wife, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Guard your Aurah from all except your wives....." (Related in Al-Ahkam al-Quran, Vol. III, p. 37)
[It should also be noted here the difference between the Aurah and the "Hijab" of men. Hijab is a general term that could be loosely used to describe the act of covering a part of one's body due of Haya (sense of modesty) and shame. So, even though the Aurah (which is the bare minimum) for men includes the portion between knee and navel, it is considered highly immoral and indecent for men go around on streets and in their homes with half their chest and legs exposed--- an issue which is quite clearly defined by the scholars of Islam based on the Life of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but one which is rarely addressed today.
Therefore, it is part of Haya and Hijab of men to cover their whole body as much as possible. It is important to note that there are several reasons/situations due to which or in which Islam has taken a lesser strict position on the covering of man's body. One of these situations, for instance, is Hajj or Umrah (i.e. pilgrimage to Makkah), where men are given the provision and encouraged to leave their arms exposed during the Tawaf, to express a sense of strength, and to make the arduous act of pilgrimage itself easy.
We should remember, just as women are obligated to wear looser and decent clothes, so are men supposed to. Therefore, it is improper and immoral for men to wear tight jeans and tight T-shirts, as is the fashion in our society today. Our dignity, as Muslims, lies in our intellect, our contribution to society, our behavior, and our message, not in what we look like and how well we can "fit in". Why should we blindly follow what everybody else is doing in the society? It is interesting to note today Muslim youth love the latest fashion and fad because they would like to be 'unique' and to create their own 'individuality'. But it is quite ironic at the same time, because if we ALL are supposed to be following the latest vogue that everyone else in the society is adopting, then what makes you and I a 'unique individual'?
That's why those of us who run after the trends of this world their whole life, or at least in their youth, realize after a while, how useless and hollow their lives have become- a life of enslavement to the purposeless society, rather than obedience to God. We realize after a while that it isn't about 'individuality' or uniqueness, in fact it is about globalization and corporations-- the fact that these multi-national and multi-millionaire businesses and governments of the world, want the masses to keep themselves busy in their own little fantasy worlds of passions and fashions, while they themselves are utilizing their time and efforts quite 'productively' in bombing the children of Iraq and starving the Mujahideen of Afghan to death- a reality very few of the youth today realize!]
[Next issue will deal with Islamic rulings on the 'Aurah/Satr of females]
[Compiled from "Al-Hijab and the Status of Woman in Islam", by S. Abul Ala Maududi (Rahimahullah)]