On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Islam began as something strange and will return as something strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers” (Muslim in Shahih Muslim, #208).
I feel like a strange, most of the time, during my stay here in Europe. As the strangers, we, Muslim have lot of challenges that we have to face in a Muslim-minority-society. The list of challenge could be long, starts from the food, the ibadah (five-time prayers), even to the interaction with the other people.
One thing which I found hard to practice is about not touching or shaking hand with the non-mahram. Mahram refers to all those males whom a woman cannot marry at anytime in her life whatsoever; in other word, a male who is forbidden permanently, forever; for example are father and brothers (definition from islamicinformation.net). So, non-mahram, in the opposite, means all those males whom I can marry to. In Islam, based on the majority of the Islam scholars’ knowledge, touching or shaking hand with the non-mahram is not allowed. Rasullulah (peace be upon him) said: “It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is not permissible to you” (At-Tabarani in Al Kabir, #486) I keep remembered this hadist: the iron needle! That must be very hurting! 😥
Okay, I am not going further to talk about the law on the matter of hand shaking, as I am not eligible to. However, I do feel that not to shake hand with the non-mahram, especially in a Muslim-minority-society, is very challenging. How could you not shake hand with the non-mahram when hugging and kissing is just a normal way of greeting?! Yes, it is absolutely hard. Sometimes, I feel that I am not really steadfast, rather loose, in practicing this law. For example, when I meet older man, I feel it will be just okay to shake his hand; but in other occasion, when I meet younger man, I avoid shaking hand (uuuh… feel bad).
I have a very unique experience about this, actually. In Holland, besides shaking hand, cheek kissing (normally three times) is a common way of greeting people, especially to whom you know very well. In formal occasions, shaking hand is sufficient.
One day, I got a terrible problem with the plumbing in our new apartment, the water, either from the kitchen sink, the shower or the laundry machine, were not flowing properly, looked like that something plugged the flow. After getting a help from our neighbor downstairs, we were able to contact the technician and got him to come to check the problem. The next day, in an early morning, an older male with two of his assistance came. In short, he was checking the piping under the sink and explained what the problem could be, and he promised to send a plumbing specialist to fix the problem. When he was about to leave, he offered his hand for shaking. Actually, I did not really mind to shake his hand as he was an older male. You know, I am quite loosy in this matter. However, surprisingly, he took his hand away and asked me, “Are you a Muslim?”. Although it was very clear that I am a Muslim because I wore a hijab, I still answered “Yes!”. Then he said, “I’m sorry, Muslim women are not shaking hand right?”. Oh, I was surprised! At the same time, I put my respect on him 🙂 He told me that he knows about the law from TV, just that. Could you believe that? 😀 I still feel surprised about this. In a Muslim-minority-environment likes in Holland, I could find someone, the Dutch-not a Muslim, who knows the law and could respect me.
Isn’t it nice that other people understand and respect you, as a Muslim, for whatever the practice you do? Without looking down, without stereotyping, without judging. What a peaceful world could be 😀 Well, okay, in fact, that kind of people is very-very rare in this world, I guess, it will not be often that I can met someone who understand that ‘simple’ matter. So what I have to do?! 😦 I guess the answer is given in the same hadist, hold steadfastly the iman! And, perhaps using a kind of strategy to avoid hand shaking in a respectful way.
*This writing, specially, is a reminder for ourselves.
May Allah make it easy for all of us to practice Islam in kaffah (completely and perfectly..) Aameen… 🙂