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Can men and women shake hands?

Can men and women shake hands?


Salaam, I’m the same anon who asked about shaking hands with the opposite-gender. Just to be more specific, I’m referring to non-mahrams. I’m a sister and since Eid is coming up, I’m going to be seeing lots of family friends (non-mahrams). I usually shake hands with men as it’s cultural for me to do so, but I’ve found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable doing it. I just want to know if it is haram or not. Jazak’Allah kheir.

Wa alykum as-salaam,

Out of my curiosity, I Googled it. There were two answers, with two very divergent answers.

The first one was Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s answer, which I didn’t realize was his until after, since it is found on Sheikh Suhaib Webb’s website. His ruling is that if there is desire or fear of desire, then one should not touch someone of the opposite gender.

The second answer was from Islam Q&A, which used half the sources of Sheikh Qaradawi. The ruling was that touching a woman, in any way, was impermissible.

How do we get such divergent rulings?

It is because of what we assume to be correct. We incline ourselves to believing certain positions are Islamic, because that is what agrees with our perception of The Prophet, of Islam, and the early Muslims. We have some perception of them and generally find the sources to agree with that perception.

I would like to highlight one specific Hadith, one that was discussed by Sheikh Qaradawi, which is famously thrown out like candy:

Narrated by Al-Tabari and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of Ma’qil ibn Yassar that the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “It would be better for one of you to have himself stabbed on the head with an iron needle than to touch a woman that is illegal for him.”

Seems pretty open and shut case, right?

The authenticity of this Hadith has not been verified by the consensus of the scholars of Hadith. Albanee is one person, and his opinion does not define consensus, so his affirmation, alone, is meaningless. There are also various other points, but Sheikh Qaradawi raises a much more important issue: what is meant by “touching” in this instance? Are we simply speaking about just that, physical contact?

The Arabic word used is المس or “al-mass,” and as used in The Qur’an and Sunnah it has two contexts: (1) sexual intercourse and (2) actions that precede sexual intercourse.

This fact is ignored in the Islam Q&A Article, and this is a basic conceptual framework of Shariah. Therefore, I cannot recommend or agree with the opinion of Islam Q&A in this instance, because it relies upon questionable Hadith and also seems to be quite selective in the material presented.

Therefore, I suggest you read the Article presented by Sheikh Qaradawi as it is much stronger, accounts for the entire corpus of Hadith related to this question, and will provide you a thorough walk-through of the steps taken by high-level scholarship on issues like this. You can read his article here, insha Allah.

I truly hope that you read his article, because there truly is a massive difference in quality and scope between Sheikh Qaradawi and others.

Finally, I would say that if you feel uncomfortable out of your own inclination, then Sheikh Qaradawi’s opinion does not remove that choice from you. If you feel uncomfortable shaking their hands, it is up to you.

I hope this answered your question, insha Allah.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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