Saturday, September 25, 2004

To shake, or not to shake...that is the question?

It’s taken me a long time to come to this decision but I believe it is the right thing to do as a Muslim.

I will no longer shake hands, or have any physical contact with the opposite sex, unless the person is a member of my immediate family. This decision is based on the simple fact that my faith demands that I honor the traditions and core beliefs of Islam.

As a convert to Islam, I had one time thought that it would be better to shake hands with women so as not to offend them. Hence, not only would I shake hands but I would also let close friends hug, or embrace me which is considered (haram) in Islam.

As for men and women shaking hands or touching in any other way, this is expressly forbidden. Hadith (traditional sayings based on what the Prophet said) narrated by Aisha In describing how the Holy Prophet Muhammad took the oath of fealty from women, Aisha said: "By Allah, Rasool Allah never took any vow from women except that which Allah had ordered him to take, and his palm never touched the palm of a woman. When he had taken their vow, he would tell them he had taken their oath orally."

In another Hadith the Prophet strongly warns the Believers about the seriousness of shaking hands with women. It was narrated on Malik bin Yassir that Rasool Allah said that it is better for a Believer to be struck in the head with a hot iron rod than to touch a woman who is not lawful for him.[Tabarani & Baihaqqi]

If we are not going to maintain Islamic etiquette and morals, what then will save us from Allah's Wrath? How then do we avoid failure in this life and in the Hereafter? In keeping with this a famous Arabic couplet states, "A look, then a smile, a nod of the head, then talk, a handshake, a promise, then the warmth of a bed."

Lastly, handshaking between males and females who are not married should be restricted to necessary situations such as between relatives or those whose relationships are established by marriage. It is preferable not to expand the field of permissibility in order to block the means to evil and to be far away from doubt and to take the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as a model when there is no proof that he shook hands with a woman, who wasn’t married. Also, it is preferable for the pious Muslim, male or female, not to stretch out his/her hand to shake the hand of anyone of the opposite sex who is not married.

You may wonder how I’m doing with the handshaking and hugging during my two-week period of awakening? Well, by the Grace of Almighty Allah, I’m doing just fine. It really isn’t a big deal and I probably had more issues than the women who were extending their hands for handshakes.

In fact, many women are intrigued by my not shaking their hands which leads to many of an opportunity to have dialogue on Islam. One woman, who shot her hand out at me like it was a gun, only to pull it back quickly when I refused to shake her extended hand.

She said: “Wow, that’s really cool. I can respect that and I admire you for taking such a position in your life.”

How often it is that we pay so much attention to small things like a handshake and we neglect those things that are more important in our relationships. It is more important for me to be kind and merciful to humanity and work for the good of mankind.

Today, I share with you this simple thought:
“Love For All, Hatred For None.”


1 comment:

mypleasure said...

This is an excellent commentary on shaking hands. The narration of the experience of the Holy Prophet of Islam and how he refrained from shaking unmarried women's hands is still relevant today. Skaking hands with a person of the opposite sex may seem like a small thing to most people. But, in America where shaking hands is second nature, you have to teach people how to approach your space. May you receive many blessings from Allah for your straight-forward approach and for sharing your faith and thoughts in this wonderful Blog.