Greeting Muslim Women

Growing up in America it is customary when you enter a home to greet all that are present male or female. The type of  greeting differs depending on the region, culture and class of the individuals involved. As an example, when I was growing up a simple hello and a nod of the head or handshake would suffice; but if you move in the Globo circles or some others of either the wealthy or those looking towards Europe, it is customary for people to give one another’s kisses on the cheeks regardless of gender.The etiquette of Muslims is much different as it is discouraged for us to have physical contact with those of the opposite sex we are not married to or are not related to by blood. As Muslim men we are encouraged to be modest in our dealings with women; but this is nothing unique to Islam. Traditional American men, like those I grew-up with, did not go around hugging other people’s wives and girlfriends and definitely did not give them those French pecks on the cheek. You will also find that these types of greetings are not practiced by many devout Christians in American churches or by more observant Jews. It is when you go into the areas of the secularized elite or the classless you will find these types of kissing and overt hugging between the sexes ( but with today’s young people whose minds were formed by the thought-police at MTV and there teachers who graduated form Woodstock this may be common among all groups).

As a Muslim man I always try to show respect to a brothers family when I enter his home; but one of the problems is I do not always know how to do this. There is a good friend of mine who is a white American convert to Islam and is married to a non-Muslim woman who is an attorney. When I first met him I had not visited the home of a non-Muslim not in my family socially in years and I did not know how to act. Because I was in the habit of ignoring women and not speaking to them in the home of Muslim friends of mine, because that is what they expected, I did not speak to his wife. I forgot about this brief encounter, but the brother’s wife was mad at me for years because she felt I had disrespected her. In a similar situation my ex-wife was livid when two Muslim brothers came into my house to watch a sporting event and did not even recognize her when they entered the home. I tried to explain it to her and clean it up but she never got over that and it gave her a bad impression of the opinions of a lot of Muslim men who she felt did not respect men.

I had come from a place in the Muslim community where you not only did not speak to other Muslims wives or look at them, but the majority of the time you did not even know their name, but as I moved into other circles within the Muslim community I discovered that there is a wide range of practice and opinion on male-female greetings.

As an example, many of the more progressive or traditional Muslim types you  will find that if you do not greet the wife by giving her salaam and engage her in conversation the sister and brother will be upset with you and feel disrespected. Unlike other Muslim homes I have been, including those of close friends of mine, the women will join the brothers at the dinner table and be seen and join the conversation (if she does not dominate it).

That was something I had to get used to as a Muslim. I was told when you see a woman look down and don’t talk to her and when you go to a Muslim home there should be complete separation. Now, some of this is good and we are commanded to lower our gaze (but as I tell brothers be careful when lowering your gaze from the back), but some of it is negative in the long term.

I know of Muslim brothers who were born and raised in this country and later converted and grew up mixing with women who now cannot behave in a normal manner in the company of women. This is not unique to Muslims, I have known men who grew up in Catholic boy’s schools behave in this way as well, but I think Muslims have it the worst. A brother I know once ejaculated in his pants in market after an attractive woman spoke to him and another Muslim brother I know said he got dizzy at the smell and voice of an attractive women talking to him. They were devout Muslims and spent most of their time not at work at the masjid or at home reading Islamic books and fantasizing about their future wife. The most minimal contact with a woman could set them off.

That kind of reaction to women is not healthy or normal in a society like ours  where in order to succeed you have to be able to interact with women and by the numbers a lot of those women are going to be attractive. In other words we have to be able to discuss our business with women in the workplace without busting a nut during the middle of the conversation.

With regards to Muslim women the greeting depends on the Muslim and the family. Some women get angry if you do talk to them and others get angry if you do not talk to them and it can be kind of a minefield. Bottom line is I think that we need to be balanced. While there are people who go too far, such as a Saudi man I know who started trembling in rage about to pop a blood vessel because a brother asked him what his wife’s name was, the flip side is you have events at ISNA that look more like a night club than an Islamic gathering.

There is also the issue that with polygamy that any time you greet a Muslim woman or try to be polite you are either the sister thinks you are trying to marry her or your wife thinks you are trying to pick up a deuce.  Do I have any practical advice on this matter? No, not really, I am just throwing this out there for conversation.


42 thoughts on “Greeting Muslim Women

  1. Interesting article; you have highlighted some very true and valid remarks. I concur with MR that it depends on how your upbringing. Furthermore, I think it all depends on the type of scholars/shayukh you find yourself listening to and following, and the adab of interaction between the sexes they teach you.

  2. Yeah, this is a tough situation. A lot of it depends on where the people come from. Usually I let the women set the tone. I will not offer my hand to a woman, but if she wants to shake, that is fine.

    I know women with whom I will talk to, on social occasions, and not worry about it. On the other hand I know brothers who would be offended if you even inquired after the health of their wife so with them I revert to the “how is the family” type questions so you do not single out female members of the family.

    Some of this is deen, some is culture, and some of it is just plain defensiveness on the parts of people. Either way, no reason to offend.

    It can be embarrasing. I remember once going to the house of a friend of mine. His wife wears hijab. We knocked on the door and one of their sons opens the door. He is a young guy and is full of energy, I love the kid.

    But like all kids, he doesnt use his head. So he opens the door and his mother was in the back of the adjacent room with her hijab off. I quickly had him shut the door and I dont think she was aware. I didnt say anything to save her the embarrasment and I told the young guy to be careful how he opens the door when his mother is home.

  3. as salaamu alaykum,

    Good topic. In our circle we entertain seperately (never see men and women at the same table) but we meet together when we are on committees or in organizations. I feel very disrespected if a brother doesn’t salaam me, but I also feel it’s inappropriate to be addressed (by a non mahram man) by my first name instead of my kunya.

    When I do need to interact with men I only look at them directly if I’m trying to balance out the power of an overagressive or domineering man. Otherwise it’s gaze at the ground.

  4. oh and the oversensitive men you discuss are why I think purdah and over segregation of the sexes is really unislamic and dangerous for society. not only do you get cases like that, but you also get rampant homosexual behavior.

    it’s all about the middle path.

  5. Salam alaikum.
    Legally in Islam, it is neither forbidden nor obligatory for men and women to greet each other. It’s optional.
    Practically, body language says everything. A polite greeting to a Muslim of the opposite gender, downcast eyes and an unintrusive tone of voice is sufficient to communicate respect coupled with modesty.
    But isn’t it forbidden to shake hands with a non-mahram of the opposite sex?

  6. I just talk to whoever. This is America, they’re in my house, they don’t have to go with my social custom but they can’t really get mad at me for following it. If they don’t like talking to guys, they can brush me off or, better yet, just say so. I know hijabis and orthodox Jewish women who are sparkling conversationalists and I don’t feel some urge to jump their bones then and there because they’re not blatantly ignoring me. It seems that a lot of the Islamic/Jewish cultural norms regarding gender interaction are not really based in anything, just sort of neurotic expressions of avoidance.

  7. With Muslim men, I wait for them to greet me – if they do, I reply; if they don’t, I don’t care.

    Conversation is different; I try to keep it as short and business-like as possible. In any case, the times I have to talk to them are usually at programs where all of us volunteers are running around like chickens with our heads cut off and we’ve got little enough time to sit around chatting.
    Conversation usually consists of the following, “As-salaamu ‘alaikum, we have an emergency, where are the paper towels?!”

    I guess I tend to be less formal with non-Muslim men, although never crossing the boundaries. I’ll never shake their hands, but if it’s an older man I’ll usually say “hello” first and smile so that they don’t get freaked out by me (which I find funny, because even though I’m all in black, I don’t wear niqaab and I’m too short and young to be considered scary!).
    In all cases, I try to lower my gaze, although sometimes I find myself unconsciously looking them in the eye if they’re speaking to me (part of growing up in the West is that there’s such an importance placed on looking at someone when they’re talking to you).

    As others have said, there’s balance. I prefer to keep contact to a minimal level – get straight to the point, no small talk. I don’t keep myself locked up 24/7, but I’m not out partying either.
    Basically, follow the Sunnah. The Prophet (SAW) and the Sahaaba spoke to and interacted with women, but always made sure to keep within Allah’s Laws – both outwardly and within themselves.

  8. Salaam Alaikum,

    I think there is a balance.

    One thing I do destest is when brothers refuse to offer salaams or even look at me, like I’m some kind of heinous fitna. It’s ludicrous, they ignore their sister in Islam, yet will probably happily chat to women in work/uni. Sadly, this attitude leads to women in masjids and halaqas having to sit in some shabby room listening to everything through a speaker.

    There is a right way of doing things. Alhamduliah, I went to an excellent talk today by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. The sisters sat on one side of the room, the brothers on another but he addressed both sides of the room with adab, rather then just ignoring the sisters as some speakers do.

    P.S We’re not all kissy kissy in Europe, at least not in the U.K anyway.

  9. The problem largely results from ignorance of two matters: the social (or cultural) norm of the people one is dealing with and more significantly, ignorance of Islamic Rulings. Islamic Law permits flexibility on this issue; however, there are some points that should not be violated.

    Touching the woman (non-mahram) skin to skin is forbidden (or hugging and pressing up against her). The Prophet did say:

    “Touching the ‘foreign’ woman is easier for you than getting hit in the head with an iron rod.”

    So in that regard, it’s a “closed deal.” The Brothers i know use several methods in dancing around this issue. If you are going to greet some woman who is “socially important” and it is critical to make a good impression, bring a gift, and when she goes to flash the hand, tell her very politely while offering the gift, “Please take no offense,” [don’t say: ‘I’m sorry,’ for we don’t apologize about being obedient] “But it is part of my Religious custom that the men and women do not shake hands.” I have found that MOST people, particularly down here in the South (of USA), are very understanding and respectful of this.

    About a month ago i went to give a short speech at a church about Islam, and i had to meet the woman in charge. I didn’t have a gift, but i kept something large and bulky in my right hand. That bought me time to politely explain that men and women don’t shake hands, and then i asked her if she could inform the other women present, so that it would not make anyone uncomfortable.

    In regards to Muslims, because of the prevalence of ignorance and difference in cultural traditions, folks tend to be all over the road. Some “cloister” their women and will blow a gasket if you speak to them. Others are overly casual. A person needs to know the limits of the Religion and then deal with people according to their level. The issues a person needs to be concerned about are:

    a) being alone without a third party b) touching skin to skin c) feeling lust for the opposite sex. If he (or she) avoids three matters, then he/she avoids sin–even if he may fall short in doing things in the most appropriate manner.

  10. Salaam
    Interesting post. I have been hearing about this a lot lately. The translation of sh. Abdullah Bin Bayya fatwa stating one could shake hands with the oppossite sex if not doing so would cause discomfort also caused a row.
    Personally, I think it depends on the situation. Before I was practicing I didnt think anything of it but I know for me the line certainly is no kissing, and no hugging, but shaking of the hands really doesnt seem like an issue to me.

  11. What is so strange is that (in my experience) Muslim men greet me all the time. I work/attend a university and Muslim men go out of their way to greet me, discount my food at the food court or train station, and when I put gas in my car they start conversations. Sisters tend to not do this.

    I was at the Whitney Art Museum about a month ago and one of the attendants (you know the typically silent ones) was like “You are Muslim. Assalaamaulaikum. Are you praying five times a day?” When I affirmed he said, “A girl like you will be in paradise!”

    None of these encounters have felt flirtatious or inappropriate. In fact, they really brightened my day since I spend a lot of time commuting and alone because of my job. There is something about being in a very lonely enviroment and having someone greet you that just seems to make you feel connected.

  12. I find placing my right hand on the heart and a slight bow works really well as a polite greeting while also locking up your hand.

    Here in Malaysia, non-muslim women, being familiar with muslims, will typically lead, either by clasping their hands so you know they don’t expect a shake, or by sticking their hands straight at you, so that it would be very rude to refuse and you therefor qualify for the dispensation mtakbar is referring to.

  13. I’m pretty social generally, with women and men (though more social with women). I crack jokes, I smile, all that good stuff (but no touching of course). But, as you mentioned, I don’t like to offend. Usually, with brothers, I try to feel them out first… if they don’t like making cheesy jokes around them (and they wouldn’t be missing much), then I be more formal. However, I do at least expect that a brother affords the respect of saying salams, especially in the West where we are minorities.

  14. Giving Salams to opposite sex

    Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed

    Is it permissible to give salams to a woman or to respond to her salams if I don’t fear any fitna from it? What if I know that not saying salams would cause harm, for example when dealing with a converted lady who isn’t familiar with this type of conduct?

    There is some detail involved in a man giving his salams to a non-mahram lady. If the lady is old, whereby she doesn’t have any desire, it is sunna to give her salams, and a lady must return her salams to her.

    However, if it is a desirable woman and there are many women together, it is permissible to give salams to them all and he must respond as well.

    If it is only one desirable woman, the position of the school is that if a man gives his salams to her first, it is disliked, and responding to her salams is also disliked. But for her, to give her salams to a non-mahram man first is haram, as well as responding to his salams, for fear of fitna, even if the person feels safe from fitna within himself, because this is a situation where fitna usually begins. So the ruling is based on to this, even if people differ.

    This is the ruling of our school and I have not studied about this issue in other schools, so perhaps they have some leniency, so one should refer to them. As for a Muslimah, specifically, who does know about this ruling, one could teach her and explain the ruling to her without undergoing much hardship.

    [Faraz: Living Hanafi scholars mention that it is permitted to give salams to an unrelated person of the opposite sex when there is need or benefit in the interaction, and the interaction takes place within the limits of the Shariah and without fear of going beyond the limits and proprieties of the Sacred Law.]

    – Amjad Rasheed

    (Translated by Shazia Ahmad)

    [Faraz notes: Shaykh Amjad asked me to include this and similar comments.]

  15. Being here in Egypt for a few months has made me realize that Muslims in America often make a much bigger deal about these kinds of things than Muslims in the Muslim World do. It’s not uncommon for religious men and women here to shake hands and make casual conversation, or for them to inquire about each other’s spouses. For instance, my wife and I take Quran lessons together, and our teacher (a very pious gentleman whom I have a lot of respect for), is friendly toward both of us (in a respectable manner, of course). He asks how my wife is doing when I see him and she’s not with me, and he has shown us pictures of his own daughters (hijabed, of course) that he keeps on his cell phone. From what I understand, none of the most respected ‘ulema here have any problems with this (though there is a difference of opinion on the shaking hands issue). In contrast, I have experienced what you described above in America; guys sometimes grow visibly uncomfortable or even angry when the subject of their wives comes up, and I have met Muslim women who won’t even answer the Salaam of a man.

  16. Some of these sisters and brothers take this issue way too far. For example, I was at the masjid and gave a brother’s wife (a niqabi) the ’salaam’ when I passed by.

    Later, the brother comes to me furious for doing that. This kind of extremism leads to the other extreme. I can see why brothers don’t know what to do in these situations.

    Give the sister ‘salaam’ and you are some pervert
    Don’t, and you are being disrespectful

  17. Yeah, it could be a challenge figuring the right thing to do. For some of my friends in the states who practice gender segregation, I don’t even know who is related to whom or who is married to whom. That can be a problem, especially if brothers are trying to get a second wifey or trying to creep. Some brother creep trying to like they’re single. I already have bad facial recognition, so there have been occassions someone’s brother or husband strikes up a conversation like they know me and I’m thinking “who the heck are you?”

    I don’t initiate salaams to well bearded men, regardless of whether I’m wearing hijab or not. I also think it depends on the setting. My friend who was a new Muslim rolled up to some brothers to ask them what time Maghrib came in. She made me go ask some guy. That was opened up a whole can of worms that led to a stalking incident. Brothers too think we’re trying to snag them when giving salaams.

    Maybe more people are chill in Egypt. In Kuwait, some men give salaams if they are talking to a man in your group, sometimes they ignore you. But in general you don’t ask brothers about their wives. We have a Yemeni neighbor and the women don’t interact with men at all. I mean, you can’t even be in the same room. Some parts of our flat are shared. So, we have to close doors when the husband comes through, and we’re already wearing abaya and hijab (all black too). I’ve seen all sorts of exagerrated actions of a niqabbed women turning away as someone’s husband passed. The husband gets all in a panic if he accidently walks into a room and a woman happens to be there. But then its okay that the same couple gives me a ride. I just sit in the back seat (abaya and hijab, but no niqab and gloves like his wife). I always feel weird and don’t know whether to say salaams when I leave or thank them. So, I just kind of mumble when I leave.

    I see this issue is a cultural thing. We can find that the Sahaba talked to women. The Prophet’s wives (s.a.w.) talked behind a curtain. That whole honor thing with women, jealous protection of the women folk has a lot to do with the practice of attacking someone by making insulting poems about someone’s women folk. I used to run across medieval poetry where a skilled poet made fun of women of a particular tribe. Are these men who are getting mad American or Arab? If so, I find it ironic how some Americans will selectively adopt Arab cultural practices assuming that they are a universal standard. I’m not saying that American Muslims should compromise their beliefs, but be balanced and know the difference between cultural mores and religious injunctions.

  18. Fellas, when you speak to me be sure to look into my eyes, I must maintain some degree of eye contact otherwise, I feel you are dishonest.

    I have to look into a person’s face as well as pay close attention to his/her body language including facial expressions during a conversation.

    As far as shaking hands, I still slip from time to time but hate a “weak” handshake, especially from a man.

    I used to know one sister who didn’t want to talk to men over the phone SMH. She used to also run out of the room during commericals – still trying to figure that one out, it wasn’t like she was watching PBS.

  19. Yeah, I guess when I was referring to Muslims in the Muslim World, I impliedly meant Muslims in the Muslim World outside of the Khaleej (a.k.a. bizarro world). I’m sure that this kind of thing exists here in Egypt, but it doesn’t seem to be the norm.

    Another interesting cultural practice I’ve noticed amongst Arabs and Pakistanis is that men seem to have a big aversion to mentioning the name of an unrelated woman (and vice-versa). In Pakistan, even if you inquire about, talk about, or address someone’s wife, you would never ever ever ever refer to her by her name alone; instead, you would call her “bhabi” (the Urdu/Hindi word for brother’s wife) or, at most, her name followed by “bhabi”. Women do the same thing, saying “bhai” (which literally means brother) in the place of “bhabi”. In the Arab World, this was done using kunyas (e.g. Abu Fulan, Umm Fulan). Judging by my experiences here, this concept seems to be present (though somewhat less pronounced) amongst Egyptians. I’ve always wondered where this practice came from, since (to the best of my knowledge) there’s no prohibition in Islam against referring to an unrelated woman or man by her/his name.

  20. My rule is this:
    Non-muslim women who have no idea of Islam; I never initiate the handshake, if they do I respond likewise.

    Muslim women who know islamic rules: I never initiate the handshake. If they do, I don’t shake their hands unless they are old enough to be my mother, then I don’t have a problem with it.

    However, if they are under 50, I probably won’t shake their hands, and they should know this.

    As for conversation and salaams in general, I know that Desi families, in general, are more lax than the Arabs I know. however, some Arabs, especially Lebanese, are very lax and hug and kiss each other.

    So its very weird, has less to do with religion and more to do with culture.

    btw, I am Syrian American.

  21. Na’am, I find this a tough situation as a women as well. I come from a practicing Muslim family that believes strongly in manners. When you enter an occupied room, always acknowlege the ppl n the room by giving some kind of greeting. Many times have I left a room feeling gulity after giving the salaams to a group full of Muslim men. Ive actually had sisters say that I was being ‘too friendly’ (backing up that statement by the fact that only answering the salaams is what is wajib).Ive had brothers catch a ride with our family and not say anything the whole time and YES that is rude. Moderation is best. There are ways to greet Muslim women/men without being rude and disrespectful. You can usually tell what type of person they are, (smilers always get salaams from me), and then go from there.


  22. As a non-Muslim, it’s an enormous challenge for me to even understand the idea of a deen where the norm cautions against open, warm, affectionate relations between those of opposite genders in most circumstances. I understand the importance of purdah, but it has become a challenge for me, because I’m used to shaking hands with women as a greeting and usually offering to give a hug, if she would like one.

    This creates some awkwardness and I have learned not to ask because many women feel uncomfortable turning it down, as though it’s somehow unkind; on occasion I have had Muslimas who were friends of mine tell me “I’m sorry, please don’t do this anymore”, sounding very contrite, and I’ve wondered why they felt so guilty to ask this of me, because there’s no reason they should feel obligated to give affection if they don’t wish to or the sunnah guides them against it.

    Males kissing other males on the cheeks or anywhere else, under any circumstances, is something I’ve never seen, except in a single instance, which I have no problem with. I certainly wouldn’t voluntarily kiss another male and I would expect that a majority of men (including gay men) would not do this in polite company either. I don’t feel there’s anything reprehensible about that, but it’s certainly not the norm anywhere I’ve ever been.

  23. Just say salaams to me and return salaams when I give it and we will pretty much be straight.

    Nothing worst that when men act like you have ebola at the masjid but are more than happy to be respectful to non Muslim women.

    That baffles me…

  24. Thank you Brother Umar for bringing up this issue. I still haven’t quite got my head around it. I work and the handshake thing is a pain. I used to but never liked to, so decided not to. I usually try to make sure my hands are full when meeting someone or say hi and turn away or launch into something new before they/he gets a chance, but sometimes you just get cornered, and a few times I have found myself shaking hands limply and then feeling terribly guilty about it. When I went to visit a Moroccan friend, her father came forward to shake hands and I had to shake my head and indicate at my husband, who didn’t notice, thankfully he got the idea and went around the car and gave my husband big kisses which unnerved him.

    I am very noisy and gregarious with my colleagues (male and female), cousins, in-laws etc (I often wish I was more reserved by nature) and I used to feel a bit guilty about this, but have realised that many times this has opened the door to people to ask about Islam because they then don’t feel threatened by my hijab, including more than one Muslim sister who has approached me at work about supporting her in wearing hijab or advice on starting praying daily. Another colleaugue who dressed like me was reserved by nature and scared the sisters off. (I hope I am not making excuses to myself to be too free with male colleagues).

    Regards to greeting, in my fathers home and now in my home, men and women sit separately, but if they come face to face, i.e. answering the door, they will look away a bit and still pay salaam. If I can see its a guy then I will send one of the men in the house to deal with it. If they dont pay salaam, then no big deal.

    I do find this strange though, the segregation at home and the mixing at work. My way of dealing with it has been to put it down as one of the contradictions of life.

    May Allah keep our hearts pure during all of our interactions.

  25. Asalamualaikum

    It is very essential to keep in mind that this issue is nothing new. Feeling unusually strange in the company of non mehram is sign of good Iman. If non mehram was not a big issue Ayesha (r.a.) would have never been blamed for anything. It is funny when I hear people say “we do not say salaam to a women with her gaze down or fully bearded guys” It’s not only them who needs to be attached to rules and regulation of Islam but it’s for every muslim. Shaking hands, hugging or kissing is all not allowed in Islam unless we follow the new Islamic circus ISNA – where Islam is restructured!

  26. “You Know Me!”,

    There is legitimate ikhtilaf on the issue of shaking hands. Many reputable Muslim scholars (including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, and even Salafi up-and-comer Yasir Qazi) are of the opinion that shaking hands with the opposite gender is halal as long as no temptation is feared. Also, I’m not aware of any scholar or scholarly institution associated with ISNA who claims that hugging or kissing between non-mahrams is halal, so I’m not sure what basis you have for claiming that ISNA is a “circus” where Islam is “restructured”.

  27. I was waiting for at least one person to post the ayat on salaams in the 1st place. A lot of these other “options” seem to be was to complexed for no reason when Allah SWT in his quran at least doesn’t make it that deep.

    Sometimes we make the deen harder than it has to be.

  28. I’m not sure where in the spectrum my opinion may fall- but as a so-called Latino- I find the behavior of many American women atrocious….especially the way they interrupt conversations between men, and try to dominate any social gathering they happen to find themselves in…no sense of limits.

  29. Well, I don’t think this is such a big problem. Talking to a female or shaking their hand doesn’t set people off into a sexual frenzy.

    I think it’s different in the middle east though, where if a man talks to a non related female or shakes hand he might get aroused. Mainly in Saudi.

    But in the West I don’t think it’s such a big issue.

  30. As Salaamu Alaikum (To all y’all)

    AnonyMouse: I hear you. Growing up in the West as non-Muslims the firm handshake and direct eye contact is so much a part of social and work interaction. I used to be a paralegal and would frequently travel with a male attorney and attend meetings with other male attorneys and would be the only woman in the room. If I had not shaken their hands then, they would have thought I had some etiquette or hygiene issues! Along comes my shahadah and it became very difficult to break the habit at first. Once I began understanding more about the interactions between men and women, and then began working at an Islamic school, it was much easier. It’s gotten to the point now where I can recognize a brother by his shoes! I no longer work in that same environment, but the habit is with me now. I’ll give a brother a polite, quick salaam with lowered gaze, but don’t get upset if it’s not returned; the angels have given me a better one. And if a brother greets me first, I do respond. At work now I do have to interact occasionally with men, but it’s polite and short.

    Swarth Moor: (Cool name. I get it. I’m from Philly.)
    I like your way of having a small gift ready or having your hand otherwise occupied. If I am in a business setting with non-Muslim men involved, I will keep a note pad or some papers in my hand and just explain politely”Please don’t be offended, but Muslim women don’t shake hands with men.” Never had anyone be offended so far.

    As far as visiting a sister’s home and her man is there, I’ll greet him if he comes into the room and answer a question if I’m asked, but that’s it. My best friend’s husband performed my nikah, and I couldn’t tell you what his beard looks like, but I know if he has new pair of shoes.

    I like the reservedness (is that a word?) and respectful distance, and because I don’t know how every sister rolls, I keep on the safe side and just ask “How’s your family?” I recently attended a gathering and my ex was there with his wife. I needed to ask him something regarding our daughter, and I asked his wife to ask him the question. (I ain’t trying to start no fitnah!) But if she had not been there, I would have asked him directly, but with lowered gaze. When we divorced and I had to lower my gaze from him, THAT was weird at first and took some getting used to!

  31. It’s a difficult issue for women, also. Very often , you find yourself thinking, “should I or shouldn’t I greet that man?” Generally, I avoid greetings with Muslim men in situations where I don’t think twice abou greeting a non-Muslim man. I worry that a simple greeting might be interpreted as a sign of interest or of immorality.

  32. The way to handle this situation with dealing with the opposite sex is to err on the side of caution–because this insures that one does not transgress the limits of the Religion.

    For example, if i am not friendly with a Muslim i don’t know in our first meeting, the worst that can happen is that she may feel affronted. Now the word “friendly” has a wide latitude of meaning amongst the different Muslim cultures and groups. This has to be considered; however, according the the Religion, i don’t (nor does she) fall into a sin if we do not speak to each other. Like i said, she may feel offended, but the case is that neither one of us is sinful.

    However, if i speak to a Muslim woman i don’t know, this can open a great gate of fitnah… not from the woman herself, but from her family members. Although saying “salaams” to the woman is not sinful (if one doesn’t fear temptation), many Muslims (men) are not familiar with the Rules of Religion, and go FAR BEYOND THE LIMITS, in responding to such a friendly act. So to avoid these kinds of confrontations, it is better to play it safe, and see what is the custom for the people you are dealing with.

    Personally, as a teacher, i deal with quite a few Muslim Sisters. I teach them and their students, and we discuss their children and their progress. For those who are familiar with the Religion, this presents no problems; however, it is the ignorance of the Religion that drives people to one extreme or the other.

  33. great post

    *some* muslim men in america are so schizophrenic
    some of them act so sexually frustrated by being so weird and awkward around women!
    just be normal man!
    im so happy to find a normal muslim man that can hold conversation and still be modest and stuff

  34. To Sabir:

    Can you please give me the link where Sheikh Yasir Qadhi says it is permissible to shake hands with females?

    Umar Lee:

    This is an interesting article and is something I have been thinking about for some time. I find it weird that a brother will be so extreme when it comes to Muslim men and women mixing but then will do other things like go to the cinema and maybe even study with a female. I remember a brother saying that he doesn’t like the al-Maghrib seminars because they are too much fitnah but yet is living and studying in a society where females walk around half naked.
    I agree with Sacrosanct’s comment about just being plain normal. Jus because the sister is Muslim doesnt mean you have to act all weird.
    Some of these brothers think acting extremely modest and humble makes one look good and ‘pious.’ These brothers got the wrong image of ‘piety’ and need to be taught how to act around Muslim women.

  35. shadow15,

    I don’t have a link to a fatwa, but Mona Eltahawy mentions in her CS Monitor article that Yasir Qazi had no qualms about shaking her hand when the two met en route to the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow conference:

    Also, Mujahideen Ryder mentions Yasir Qazi’s opinion on the issue in his post linking to the CS Monitor article (scroll to the bottom of the post):

  36. Asalamualaikum


    I didn’t mean to point out error of specific group. I apologize! Again back to my point if shaking of hands is proper and permitted? If it was proper our Prophet (Sallelahu Alaihi Wassallam) would have initiated it. Even at the time of baith – Prophet (Sallelahu Alaihi Wassallam) NEVER took baith on opposite sex, according to the hadith(s) in Bukhari.

    I am not certain about all the Sheikhs you have mentioned but I have heard about Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and according to him the cinema is lawful (halaal) and is a good thing. (This occurs in his books in general such as “al-Halaal wal-Haraam”, “al-Marji’iyyah al-Ulyaa”, “Fataawaa Mu’aasirah and others. As for his verdict on the cinema, then he mentions this in “al-Halaal wal-Haraam”). Judge for yourself. Where are the limits? InshAllah I will try to find more about other sheikhs.

    Some of us also explain how the world has changed and we have to shake hands, etc with people to socialize. Think first if modification was required as the time passes; Allah wouldn’t make Nabi (Sallelahu Alaihi Wassallam) the last and final prophet. Yes I agree we do this and that to fit in with certain group of people, but can’t change the shariah!

  37. Like most things in life, I think the muslims have it wrong. Love is not something to shelter people from. Nor is the friendly touch of another human being something to fear or be sheltered from. A wonderfully intelligent man that I met through my job enlightened me on how muslims do not shake the hands of the opposite sex. In any religion or organization, it seems like a ridiculous concept that one man and/or one woman can not decide how and when to shake the hand of another person.
    The reason most people who are not muslims can not respect a peoples who claims to honour their parents but can not respect woman, the provider of life, the giver of individual breathe.
    The idea that anyone would want to be a muslim is absurd.
    Muslim beliefs in the religiously realm are sound and respectable, but there etiquette towards their fellow human beings are deplorable and disgraceful.

    1. Being disrespectful to women is to degrade her and treat her like a mere sex object. Muslim men do not shake their hands out of respect- that they have no right to touch her.

      If we dont shake hands with the opposite sex does it mean that we don’t love the person?

      “If a Muslim loves his Muslim brother, he should inform him.” (narrated by Tirmizi)

      “None of you will truly believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself”. (narrated by Bukhari)

      God, our own Maker, has set the limits and boundaries and who are we to break those boundaries?
      We follow the commandments of God. If you believe in a God, a supreme authority, who are we to challenge that authority?

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