>> Monday, April 29, 2013

I'm a practicing Muslim, so after I started to cover I decided that I would also not allow men to shake hands with me. The problem is that I haven't always been like this, and it sends confusing signals to the people around me. Mostly my male classmates/advisers/teachers etc. There is just this awkward moment when I'm being introduced (in a professional setting) to a male. And I don't take his hand, which is like a slap, or, flustered, I do take his hand, but then later explain that I shouldn't of. I know I should make up my mind, but I keep changing it, and I can't help it. I just want to know how important, how mandatory is this issue?
I'm pursuing a degree in which I will have to attend a lot of places that have a very professional setting, and when you're meeting so many people and doing so many things, it is natural and brief to shake hands with men. To tell the truth it's not my personalpreference, but I feel like I might make the decision to do it anyway, just to stop the confusion and not hinder any professionalopportunities. As an American Muslim it's our job to show the people around us that we can be approached and how we're just like everyone else, but doesn't this set up barriers? Is it really wise to cause a rift in the air over a mere handshake? It just seems like a simple thing, is it really so much of a big deal? It really puts people off, in my field it's really, really important to make good first impressions, especially when meeting doctors that you could potentially shadow later on. I've noticed that a lot of the men inmedicine are really easily offended, and if they find you rude, you easily lose your internship position, or they just don't recommend you for anything. Please give me your two cents into this issue so I can make a proper, informed decision.
Muslimah who tries

Dearest Muslimah who Tries,

M'ashaAllah, sister, it's wonderful that you have taken steps recently to stop shaking hands..and that you're obviously evaluating you behavior and  relationship with Allah. I'm also really happy you asked your question. You’re definitely not alone.

What you have to remember is that as Muslims, we know that it is Allah, alone, who has the right to determine whether something is a sin or not. And when He decides if something is wrong, then it is wrong. It's not up to us to ask 'how wrong is it', but to 'obey'..

The only statement of the [true] believers when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them is that they say, "We hear and we obey." And those are the successful. (51) And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and is conscious of Him - it is those who are the attainers.(52) {Surah 24}
And that only makes sense...the Creator is the One who knows us best and is more Merciful to us than our mothers. Moreover, the Creator is the One who knows what is best for us as individuals and as a society at large.

That said, we do have a serious hadith about hand shakes...that shows it is something we shouldn't take lightly. 
The hadeeth of Ma’qal ibn Yassaar (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If one of you were to be struck in the head with an iron needle, it would be better for him than if he were to touch a woman he is not allowed to.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5045).

The reality is that Islam sees physical contact and touch as something special, intimate, meant for those we care about and are close to. Islam recognizes how touch can affect us.

Interestingly enough, I did a quick look online and I found this in an article in the New York Times:

The evidence that such messages [touch] can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast. Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class as those who did not, studies have found. A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched. Research by Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that a massage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23mind.html?_r=0)
So touch is a message in itself. It’s reaching out and getting more personal, which when it comes to the opposite gender, is not what Islam encourages. Islam has made it very clear that our relationship with the opposite gender is bound by limits. And we make things easier for ourselves by setting the limits right from the get go--- from that hadnshake. 

Secondly, what about the issue of  'creating barriers to dawah'....

There are a couple of things we ALL have to remember. At the end of the day, when you face Allah, are you going to tell Him that you are "American/ Pakistani/ British?" Or are you going to tell Him that you are "Muslim"? No matter what you're living, you are a Muslim...

Your identity first and foremost is: a Muslim in America....

And the fact of the matter is that Islam doesn't change depending on where you are. We don't change Islam but we let Islam change us. 

Allah subhanoo Wa' Tala tells us:
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.  [Surat Al Maidah, verse 3]

In fact, by not shaking hands, you may actually be more of an instrumental tool to dawah than by shaking hands. Let's imagine you went to a gathering, yourself, and you found that 20 out of 21 people were wearing the same kind of uniform. But ONE person wasn't. Who would you be more interested in? Whose story would you want to know?

We naturally are attracted to those who are different and who stand out...those people who are not part of the herd. By informing them that you can't shake hands, you may catch their attention more than if you did touch their hands.

And that is what Islam teaches us to be.

“Indeed Islaam began as something strange. And it will return as something strange the way it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers”.

Islam teaches us that we are exceptional, extraordinary. We teach others who we are and not become who they are.

Furthermore, the prophet was the person who was given the greatest mission of dawah...and he had to do it in a time where women and men also freely intermingled. Did he shake hands?

 It was narrated from ‘Urwah that ‘Aa’ishah told him about the bay’ah (oath of allegiance) given by the women: “The hand of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) never touched the hand of any woman. When he accepted the oath of allegiance from a woman, he would accept her words and then say, ‘Go, for you have sworn your allegiance.’”(Narrated by Muslim, 1866) 
All you have to do then is just be polite as you explain to them, 'I am terribly sorry. No offence intended, but in Islam we do not shake hands with the opposite sex.'

 What other advice can our readers give?
Little Miss Aunty

6 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Anonymous,  April 29, 2013 at 3:55 PM  

I understand how difficult it is and how easily people are insulted by this! I have encountered it so many times myself. The worst is at job interviews. I started to give you some tips but then I got carried away, so it turned into a whole post :) hope it helps: http://qatheworld.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/lets-not-shake-on-it/

Anonymous,  April 29, 2013 at 6:22 PM  

Assalamu Alaykum sister, I understand how difficult it is. Let me tell you a story of mine. I live in America as well. Alhamduillah, I don't shake hand with men. I remember one time I had an interview with one of the top research person in school of medicine at my university. At the beginning of the interview, I told him I could not shake hand with him. I had the interview with him. Later on, I sent an email explaining why I could not shake hand. Guess What this top research in school of medicine said: He said he had great respect for my culture and even said that he will tell his whole research lab group about it and I will be respected in his lab. I also got the research. Alhamduillah,I have had similar occasions with other professional male figures. I have learned that when you do not shake hand with male, Most of them especially educated ones admire how strong you are and they will respect you and work with you. I also have a friend that did an interenship in university hospital and she worked with one of the top doctors. When she told him about the handshake he respected her and he would even explain to other doctors or interns when they try to shake her hand. So sister genuine doctors will not get offended by such a small thing but rather will respect you for your determination of standing up for what you believe in. They will look at you as someone who is strong in her identity. I hope my stories helped inshaAllah

Apple Blossoms April 30, 2013 at 7:08 PM  

Much needed post! Jazakillah!

Anonymous,  May 1, 2013 at 12:57 PM  

Muslimah who tries:

Jazakallah khair sisters! Thank you to the aunties, and the sisters who offered additional insight!!!!!!! :)
Though I must say add one thing. What about when you are a doctor, are you not allowed to have physical contact with your patients? How would you perform a throat exam, or feel the male patients forehead, take his pulse, etc. And all the little things that you have to do to take care of your patient. You have to do this, and yet it is physical contact with a non-mahram or non-spouse.

Little Auntie May 6, 2013 at 9:38 AM  

Dear Muslimah who tries,
That's an issue that you really should discuss with an Imam/ sheikh, inshaAllah, so that you get the most correct answer, inshaAllah :) May Allah make things easier for you.

Anonymous,  May 7, 2013 at 9:53 AM  

Thank you all for helping me understand this issue!! I really appreciated it! As always, this blog is a great reminder, and I don't think anyone can thank you girls enough for starting it!
Muslimah who tries,

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Asalamu aialkum!
Well, what do you think? You know, you're part of the team, as well. Please help a sister out and share your own advice/experiences/etc. One for all and all for one =)
P.S. I reserve the right to remove any disrespectful comment ;)

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