We are living in times where shaking hands to greet each other has become very common. So, naturally many wonder “Why Muslims do not shake hands with the opposite gender?”. Some get offended when a Muslim refuses to shake hands with them. Let’s understand this issue.
Muslims are forbidden to shake hands with opposite gender
Prophet Muhammad said:
According to Islam, a Muslim man or a woman, is not allowed to shake hands with the opposite gender. The only exceptions to this rule are opposite genders of the Muslim’s family, with whom marriage would be considered impermissible. Example: parents, siblings etc.
Should shaking hands with the opposite gender be a big deal?
Different forms of greeting
Is “shaking hands” the only form of greeting? The answer is No. This article gives details about the different types of greetings in different countries.
In many European countries and in the US, hugging is a standard way of greeting.
Peck on the cheek
In some countries like France, a peck on the cheek is a standard way of greeting. This form of greeting is called “La bise”.
In many parts of India, people like to greet with just their folded hands, without touching the other person.
Choice of greeting and sensibilities
As far as greeting a person is concerned, we must understand that the upbringing and sensibilities of a person will determine their comfort level. The sensibilities are shaped by the local culture, customs, and faith. The sensibilities of Muslims are shaped by their faith. This is why Muslims do not shake hands with the opposite gender.
For example, in India, hugging a woman to greet them is generally not an accepted practice. Greeting by giving a peck on the cheek is even rarer.
While it is not a big deal to hug or to plant a peck on the cheek in many western countries, due to our sensibilities, generally speaking, we do not adopt these greeting methods in India. So, the practices of greeting that are not a big deal for the westerners, is indeed a big deal for us.
When Americans or French visit us in India, should they be offended when we refuse to hug or accept a peck on the cheek? No. On the contrary, we would expect them to understand the local culture and respect it.
Respect people’s choice
In a nutshell, some people will be comfortable greeting with just folded hands, some will be comfortable with shaking hands but not hugging, some will be comfortable with hugging but not anything beyond that. Like we expect a foreigner to respect our sensibilities when they greet us, we too should respect the sensibilities of our fellow Indians.
- Forms of greeting vary from place to place.
- What is considered a standard form of greeting in one place may not be considered acceptable in other places.
- The comfort level towards a form of greeting depends on the upbringing and sensibilities of a person.
- For Muslims, their sensibilities are shaped by their faith. This is why Muslims do not shake hands with the opposite gender.
- Like we expect a foreigner to respect our sensibilities when they greet us, we too should respect the sensibilities of our fellow Indians.