March 31 by Sheikh Mohammad Alhayek
In Basel (Switzerland), at the beginning of this month, disciplinary measures were taken against two Muslim male students after they refused to shake hands with their teacher. The case caused a huge stir in the country and was the reason behind postponing the naturalization of the families of the two students.
One of the big challenges for Muslims in general and specifically for those living in non-Muslim communities is [the lack of] reviewing their Islamic jurisprudence information in the light of the purposes of the Islamic faith as well as the consequences, balances, conditions, and customs. If the two Muslim students were aware of that, they would have known that shaking hands is permissible for the following reasons:
First, by taking into consideration the customs in these societies which consider handshaking the teacher a rooted cultural rule and rule of good manners.
Second, the differing views among trustworthy scholars on the ruling of handshaking, as some allowed it if it does not lead to lust or temptation. These two conditions are most likely fulfilled in this situation. Else, the two students are able to fulfill the two conditions [if they are not already achieved by default].
Third, approaching the consequences and results of the action on the image of Islam and Muslims regarding their respect for customs and the prevailing social rules.
Fourth, even if we consider the point of view which forbids handshaking, balancing between the harm that results from handshaking from one side, and between what results from abstaining from the other side (i.e. the view of society towards Islam and Muslims and the delay in the family’s naturalization), we realize that handshaking is permissible in this tight and limited scope in order to bear the least affliction and avoid a greater one.
May Allah guide us and you to jurisprudence and wisdom.