Is it permitted to shake hands with women?

Details of the Question
Is there any wrong if a girl shake hands with a boy who is her close friend?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Firstly, I want to highlight an essential point. I will then continue with the details of the matter. The point is as follows:

One may not be able to practice a truth. One may perform something wrong. Here, the most important thing is, not to defend the mistake that one makes, but to admit the truth.

Thus, one saves the situation from worsening. In this way, one possesses the virtue to acknowledge the truth instead of defending the wrong. One saves one's faith.

If somebody says “I am living something wrong; therefore I should defend the wrong that I live, and I should deny the truth.” in this case the situation becomes very bad. Practicing something wrong emerges from being sinful; believing in the truth emerges from being a believer; and one who defends the wrong may be face to face with the attribute of denier who opposes the truth. From that exactly the danger comes. So one should not defend the wrong one lives and should not deny the truth one cannot practice. On the contrary, one should admit and accept the truth saying “I will, too, practice that truth one day.” so that at least s/he stays as a sinful believer, and does not fall into the state of a denier inclined to unbelief.

Indeed, in our time, the number of those who practice all the truths in their selves is not high. We all have flaws and shortcomings and in admittance to that we ask Allah for forgiveness and we retain our intention and perseverance to compensate for our shortcomings one day. In this understanding, we should not see it permitted to shake hands with women. However, if we are encountered with such a sin, we should know our mistake and should repent.

For a man to shake hands with a woman whom he can religiously marry, and for a woman to shake hands with men other than her mahrams such as father, brother, and uncles whom she cannot marry is not seen permitted. The Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, is a very good example and an infallible measure for us in this matter, too. The Prophet addressed the women companions who came to him for biat (pledging to follow him) this way:

I don't shake hands with women. The word I say to a hundred women is like the word I say to one woman.” 1

Our Mother Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates what she observed in Allah's Messenger:

The blessed hand of Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, did not touch the hand of any stranger woman by any means.” 2

The measure in hadiths (sayings of The Prophet) is expressed thus. For this reason, whether in working life or in family relations and in certain ceremonies, it is not permitted for a man to shake hands with a stranger woman and for a woman with a stranger man. Moreover, that's not a necessity.

In other words, one cannot choose to violate that prohibition of one's own accord by saying “This is a necessary situation.” 'Necessity' is applied only when one is in an imperative situation and if the thing that is forbidden is not done, one's life, property and integrity will be harmed and this is foreseen with a high probability.

Otherwise, doing something forbidden and practicing it by saying “This is a necessity.” in any troubling situation and in any encountered urgent and immediate situation leads to misuse. In this case, anybody brings a pretext of their own for 'necessity' at their own will and thus everything inappropriate becomes 'permitted'.

However, that's not the case. Necessity can be in question only in situations when it is impossible to stay in the circle of the permitted. A Muslim can stay and live in the circle of the permitted without harming his/her social relations. Therefore, it is not that easy to find a just reason for practicing with the pretext of necessity and for men's shaking hands with women who are permitted for them to marry and women's shaking hands with men who are permitted for them to marry.

This is because there is no necessity involved. If not done, no harm or shortcoming would befall one's life, property or integrity. It is not probable that there are rightful reasons for thinking that the vicinity will see it different, that if one does not shake hands with the other sex, civilized relations will be harmed, that one will be viewed as “reactionary, bigot” by attracting attention...

In addition, this wrong habit and etiquette from the West has found widespread acceptance. How to act in the face of such a situation? How to behave in such a way that we will both not renounce our beliefs and thus fail our responsibilities and not break our addressee's heart who does not really know that this is something not appropriate in religion?

First of all, if you know and believe that this is something forbidden, which is the case, then you will take pains not to fall into an objectionable situation and try to avoid doing it and to act according to the situation.

Second, you find an opportunity to tell your addressee that it is forbidden according to Islam. Indeed, it is a requisite of his/her civility that s/he shows tolerance and understanding toward you and respects your belief and view. If you show your behavior about that, you will see that in the next encounters the matter will be solved or the flow of the matter will be in a very different way.

In addition, if the person sees oneself as obliged, and does shaking hands by knowing it as a sin, as s/he will have accepted the responsibility from the start, s/he performs a forbidden action. But if s/he thinks “There is no harm in that.”, as s/he sees prohibition as permission, s/he will bear a grave responsibility.

Meanwhile, let us remind this: If the woman is so old that she does not have lustful desires any more, there is no harm in shaking hands with her and kissing her hand. For then there is no drawback related to feelings any more. Nevertheless, however old a man is, whether he is eighty-ninety years old, prohibition continues.

It does not annul ritual ablution to shake hands with women in the Hanafi Sect.

1 Nasai, Biy’a: 18; Ibn Maja, Jihad: 43.
2 Bukhari, Ahkam, 49; Ibn Maja, Jihad: 43.

Mehmed Paksu Aileye Özel Fetvalar

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