The Dreaded Handshake

The Dreaded Handshake

How To Avoid Shaking Hands With The Opposite Gender

Have you ever faced one of those nerve-wrecking moments where you had to reject the handshake?

I did!

dreaded-handshakeI had to face that awkward situation one too many times. Not too long ago, I volunteered at a local charity organization’s office and I was introduced to some of the staff members.

As the volunteer coordinator introduced me to one of the guys working there, I smiled and clenched my hands together. I wished he wouldn’t extend his hand to me. Unfortunately my wish didn’t come true.

“Hi, nice to meet you” he said, his hand extended.

I had to think quickly. I must’ve looked terrified because he tucked his hand back with a confused look on his face.

Almost in a whisper, “I’m sorry” was all I could say.

I must admit, at that moment, it never feels great to reject someone’s hand who was trying to be nice and friendly especially when they look hurt, confused or even worse, when they look offended!

I had to think of Allah in order to stop myself from shaking that man’s hand. In that brief moment, I was tempted to put my hand in his, shake it and be done with it so I didn’t come across as rude or disrespectful to him. Much anxiety in trying not to offend someone would get the best of me often before in such situations, and I would shake a man’s hand and feel awful later.

Not this time though, alhamdulilah! I thought carefully in the very short time he had his hand outstretched in front of me.

I reminded myself that I would be angering Allah if I was to shake that man’s hand.

I also remembered the hadith which stopped me completely:

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.”(Narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer ).

In this hadith, the Prophet, (SAW) is talking to the men, but the ruling of the hadith applies to women as well.

What makes especially difficult to decline a handshake of the opposite gender for many Muslims including myself is that the other person is just showing us a nice gesture. He or she doesn’t understand the rules of Islam simply because they’re not Muslims.

Many of us just don’t want to go through the few seconds of awkwardness, although it may seem like a long time. So we give ourselves excuses—excuses such as he caught me off guard; I didn’t want to be rude; I got nervous and didn’t want to offend him, etc – and we become too afraid to refuse the handshake.

While it’s probably going to be awkward in some way to say no to shake hands with the opposite gender in job interviews or other meetings, there are some things we can do to make the situation a little less confusing for the other person.

  • If you can, tell the person ahead of time in an email or if you’re talking on the phone that you don’t shake hands with a man if you’re woman and vise versa.
  • Explain yourself to the person. Don’t freeze and say “sorry” like I did. A little statement such as, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t shake hands with the opposite gender for religious reasons’ is enough. At least then, the person knows that you were not being rude or disrespectful. That is what I do now, always explain myself!
  • I think I saw this somewhere, but try to keep your hands hidden or folded behind your back. There’s a slight chance that the person will get the hint that you’re trying to avoid shaking hands with them and not offer to shake your hand.

We may feel guilty, bad or awkward for refusing to shake hands with someone of the opposite gender, but that feeling will last a very brief moment. Once that moment passes, you’ll be extremely happy you avoided doing something that was haraam. So, it is definitely worth going through whatever awkwardness or guilt you will go through at that moment to avoid the dreaded handshake!

Short Bio About Um Ibrahim

I’m Um Ibrahim. I’m a student of life, wife and mother of three children.

I enjoy reading, writing and helping others. I especially love to learn about different aspects of Islam and to share it with people.

I have recently launched my own blog, Muslim Mother Source in which I share helpful parenting tips, advice and resources with Muslim mothers.

Muslim Mother Source

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