نحمده ونصلى ونسلم على رسوله الكريم
اعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the news there are reports of incidents of Muslims being denied employment and even citizenship in certain European countries such as Sweden and Switzerland on account of their refusal to shake hands with those of the opposite sex. The apparent rationale for such an obvious example of religious discrimination is that it is necessary in order to protect the interest of “gender equality”, i.e., men and women have to be treated absolutely equally, including in how they are greeted. Before I address the issue of feminist hypocrisy, intolerance and hostility toward Muslims, I would first like to deal with the modernist and so-called “progressive” objection that there is nothing in Islam which prevents unrelated ladies and gentlemen from shaking hands with each other. Let alone allowing physical contact like a hand shake, the Holy Qur’an instructs believing men and women to “lower their gaze” and not even look at each other (Sura 24:30-31).
From the Sunna, we know that while Believers were required to give the bay’a (pledge of allegiance) to the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) by placing their hand on his hand, an exemption was necessarily made for the female believers in this method of giving the bay’a:
أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ، رضى الله عنها أَخْبَرَتْهُ عَنْ بَيْعَةِ، رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم النِّسَاءَ قَالَتْ مَا مَسَّ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَدَ امْرَأَةٍ قَطُّ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَأْخُذَ عَلَيْهَا فَإِذَا أَخَذَ عَلَيْهَا فَأَعْطَتْهُ قَالَ اذْهَبِي فَقَدْ بَايَعْتُكِ
Narrated Aishah: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) never touched the hand of a woman, but he received the oath of allegiance from her. When he received the oath of allegiance from her, she gave it to him, and he said: “Go, I have received your oath of allegiance.”
More explicitly, the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) said:
لأن يطعن في رأس أحدكم بمخيط من حديد خير له من أن يمس امرأة لا تحل له
“For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him.” (Mu’jam al-Kabir lil-Tabarani)
These are among the texts which make it quite clear that for members of the opposite sex to shake hands with each other is absolutely forbidden in our Religion. To pressure the Muslims to adapt this foreign, European and un-Islamic custom is a nothing short of a violation of their fundamental freedom to practice their Religion. While this is the bottom line, I would also like to make a polemical challenge to the so-called progressives and feminists who are in favor of enforcing the European custom of hand shaking between members of the opposite sex in the name of “gender equality” on Muslims and others who are at the very least uncomfortable with adapting such a custom. The fact of the matter is, “gender equality” has nothing to do with it, it is really cultural chauvinism and a smokescreen for intolerance of difference. The ordinary European, who is outwardly secular and liberal, is in reality full of bigotry toward the Muslims in particular. If one goes by the actual principles of liberalism, people have a fundamental right to refuse any kind of physical contact with another person or have their “personal space” invaded. It should not even be necessary to cite one’s religious freedom as an excuse to refuse physical contact such as a hand shake. A hand shake as a form of greeting is nowhere enshrined as a right or a requirement for living in a secular and liberal society. Frankly, from a secular and liberal perspective, the custom of expecting hand shakes as a form of greeting is quite outdated and extremely Eurocentric. Regarding hand shaking between Muslims and non-Muslims of the same sex, it is generally allowed by most of the legal experts of our Religion, but there is a minority view that even that should be avoided, a position that must be respected and taken into account. If today, the dominant European custom of greeting is hand shaking, it could quite conceivably evolve further into hugging and even kissing. The point is that customs of greeting involving physical contact vary based on setting, time, place, culture, etc. The default custom of greeting in a professional setting should ideally not involve any kind of expected physical contact in a liberal and secular society. It is very disingenuous for a feminist to argue that he or she is as offended by being refused physical contact in the form of a hand shake from someone of the opposite sex as a Muslim being pressured to expected to violate an imperative of his or her Religion and accept a hand shake from someone of the opposite sex. One is simply a European, cultural custom and the other is a religious imperative that has been in place and passionately observed for centuries. One thing is for sure, Muslims are not, by and large, going to change their behavior in this regard and compromise on one of their critical religious imperatives because of a constantly and rapidly changing feminist interpretation of what “gender equality” actually means in practice. The practical result is, of course, that Muslims will only continue to be unjustly denied employment and other vital services, leading to greater tension within society, which the liberal and secular feminists claim, at least on the surface, is something they don’t desire.