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Is It Haram to Shake Hands With a Non-Mahram?

14 October, 2023
Q As-salamu `alaykum. I refuse shaking hands with men who are non-maharm, but the problem is that most of the time people are not aware of this fact and believe that shaking hands is normal. So, when a man wants to shake hands with me, I refuse and my family says that my refusal makes these men ill at ease, and, therefore, I should not refuse because it is not polite. I disagree with them because what matters is to obey Allah and not human beings. So, what should I do? Most of the time I avoid being in the same place with non-mahram men not to face this problem. Should I shake hands and then explain my reasons or should I not shake hands and then explain?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

  1. The best option when it comes to shaking hands among members of the opposite sex is that one avoids doing so; especially when there are any moral qualms about it.
  2. In case there is no fear of temptation, and at the same time shaking hands is a customary practice in a certain society or community, then one may get over with it. The issue is, by and large, judged by one’s conscience.

Responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

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Shaking hands is one of those issues one should decide based on one’s conscience and the circumstances. It is best for us to avoid shaking hands with members of the opposite sex in case there are any moral qualms about it. It is best that we do what our conscience tells us; we can always explain our position later.

If, however, you are okay with it, and there is nothing to suggest a source of temptation, then you may just get over with it, especially in a society or group where it is a custom.

The latter would be the case if we are dealing with societies where shaking hands with everyone, regardless of male and female differences, is customary.

It is in the last mentioned case that even some of the jurists of the early times considered shaking hands with females as permissible, provided there is no temptation factor involved. Imam Ibrahim An-Nakh`i was of this view, as is reported from him.

So decide for yourself; if it bothers you, then don’t do it. But if you are faced with a society where it is considered strange and unfriendly not to do so, then just do it and get over with it.

Having said this, however, I must rush to add that in Islamic societies nurtured by the sound teachings of Islam, it should not pose a problem for you if you were to refuse to shake hands with men. For in this case, the latter rather than the former, is the norm.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.