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Handshaking

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My wife is muslim i m converted to muslim
I want to know if its true that that it is haram to shake hands with jewish people for muslim
people that is whay my wife said to me she s from morocco. I m a belgian citizen.
For me its seems not to be haram but thats why i ask this question? And if it is haram
I would like to know why.
Thanks

asked January 10, 2015

2 Answers

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Praise be to Allah,

There are a number of hadith that support what you have been taught such as:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it”

- Sahih Muslim

But we must not forget that in the time when these hadith were recorded the Jews of that region (Medina) had betrayed the Muslims and according to our history it was not uncommon for them to wish death upon Muslims:

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying: When the Jews greet you, one of them says ‘al-saam ‘alaykum (death be upon you).’ So say: ‘wa ‘alayk (and also upon you).

- Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

We must first stipulate that the greeting the hadith are talking about is Salaam Alaykum (Peace be upon you), as this was the word that certain Jews of this period could twist, any other greeting is completely acceptable for a Muslim to initiate – such as Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome), Marhaban (hello) and so on.

It is also clear that when a non-Muslim offers a genuine greeting to a Muslim then there is no question the Muslim should offer one back:

And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant.

- Quran 4:86

Regarding whether or not one can shake hands, the ruling you are referencing is based on the following hadith:

Ibn ‘Umar reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying:
When the Jews greet you, they say, ‘as-saam ‘alaykum (death be upon you),’ so say, ‘And also upon you.’ If he holds his hand out to you, then reach out and shake his hand, otherwise do not initiate it.

- Sahih al-Bukhari

This is clearly in the context of when a Jew wishes death upon the Muslim. Today if the relations are good between the Jew and Muslim there would be no issue initiating a handshake and offering a standard greeting like “hello”.

Allah knows best.

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I would like to add that regardless of the other person’s religious affiliation, it is not customary for Muslim men to shake the hands of women who they could potentially marry, or let me say, women who they are not forbidden from marrying. Same is true for Muslim women. They would not shake the hand of a man who was not from their immediate family, or someone who they could potentially marry. Physical contact between people who are permissible to someone as a spouse is considered forbidden by some.

That said, I have seen a Muslim scholar here in North America shake the hand of a woman (stranger) who greeted him in a public setting. He did so because the woman didn’t know that Muslim men do not typically shake hands with women. The scholar told me he did so, because he did not wish to offend her and he knew that when she put out her hand it was not offered in a provocative or sexual way. Simply a typical gesture of greeting in her custom/culture. He felt it was a bigger sin to embarrass or offend her, than to shake her hand.

Not everything is “cut and dried” when it is not specifically deemed FORBIDDEN in Quran.

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