Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 5 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

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I live in Germany where it is normal for men to shake hands with women. Is this a sin?

I live in Germany where it is normal for men to shake hands with women. Is this a sin?

Answer

This is one of the controversial issues in Islamic jurisprudence. The majority of scholars have maintained that this is unlawful except for the Hanafis and Hanbalis who permit shaking hands with elderly women who do not arouse desire.
The premise on which the majority of scholars based their opinion include:
- Aisha (may God be pleased with her) said: "The Prophet's hands never touched those of a woman" [recorded by Muslim and Bukhari].
- Mu'qal Ibn Yasar (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "It is better that you be struck on your head with an iron needle than to touch a woman you are not allowed to" [recorded by Al-Ruyani in his Musnad and by Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu'jam Al-Kabeer].
- They maintained that the prohibition of shaking hands with a non-mahram [person to whom marriage is permissible] woman is even greater than looking at her. Since the prohibition of looking at a non-mahram woman is known, the prohibition of shaking hands with her takes precedence over the former.
Other scholars contend the opposite and base their opinion on:
- The incidence of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab shaking hands with women when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused to do so when they came to pledge their allegiance to him.
- The incidence of Abu Bakr shaking hands with an old woman during his caliphate.
- The hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari which says that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to allow Um Haram to comb his hair.
- Al-Bukhari reported that a woman from among the Ash'arites combed Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari's hair while he was in a state of ihram [state of pilgrim sanctity].

The ruling
This is an issue over which there is a scholarly debate. It is established in Islamic law that objection is not for issues where there is a difference of opinion but is reserved for omitting what is agreed upon to be a requirement. It is permissible for a Muslim to follow the opinion of those who permit shaking hands with women who do not arouse desire. This is specially preferred in non-Muslim countries to clarify the true image of Islam and avoid embarrassing others. The scholars of the four schools of jurisprudence have permitted Muslims to follow the opinion of those who allow this in cases of necessity and they do not deem it to contradict the rulings followed by a certain school of Jurisprudence.
And God the Almighty knows best.
 

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