Social Etiquettes

Can I shake hands with the opposite gender if I have a pure, work-related intention?

Question:

Sheikh, I need your advice on the following issue. Please tell me whether I am deluded, or is this mode of thinking justified:

I live in Australia, and I have recently begun full-time work and I have unfortunately (and willingly) succumbed to shaking hands with female staff – solely restricting it to a ‘professional’ gesture. Between Allah (swt) and myself, my intention has never waivered to lust and neither is this handshake an act of defiance towards Allah (swt). I feel horrible after doing so (simply because of what I know of the ruling) but then I console myself by believing that Allah (swt) will never hold me accountable for such a thing (particularly because of the un-waivered intention).

I also very humbly believe that not shaking hands with someone can be offensive and insulting, even if it is done the correct way, and is by no means an action that attracts one towards Islam.

Sheikh, please share your thoughts and I have made a promise to follow whatever the outcome is.

Answer:

Thank you for your very honest and heartfelt question. I really feel for you.

Please, consider the following points:

1. A man came to Imam Baqir (a.s) and said that a small mouse was dropped dead in his big pot of food.

The Imam said that all the food has become Najis (ritually impure) and the food must be disposed.

The man said: it was only a small mouse, and I don’t think it is a big deal for God, rather, wasting that much of food seems to be a bigger sin (Satanic justification!).

The Imam replied: “When sinning, don’t look at the small action, look at the Great God whom you disobey, by this small mouse, you belittle the law of your Great God!” (Wasaelu-Shi’a vol.1 p. 206)

2. What is more sinful than a mere sin is justification of the sin. Once our system is used to it, it will expand it to other sins with no limits! It’s always very important not to open any window or gap for our evil self-interest.

3. Comparing a necessary hand touch for medical purposes to hand shaking is yet another analogy of Shaytan. Remember, that’s why Imam Sadiq (a.s) insisted that ‘analogy’ (قیاس) is the act of Shaytan and is denounced in our Fiqh.

4. We should not compromise on a divine law because one ignorant person may be offended by it, rather, we should use our talent to justify it to her. Al-Hamdolellah, it is not difficult to explain the wisdom behind the prohibition of shaking hands with the opposite sex. This is especially the case given that it is only a gesture of greetings. It is very natural that different cultures greet one another differently. As a matter of fact, you should be offended that in multicultural Australia a particular culture is imposed on you. In some Asian cultures greeting is expressed by bowing to each other. Shaking hands is a big offence to them!

5. To counter attack this Satanic justification you can ask yourself: what if my wife were working in a corporate environment that she had to shake hands with her clients, would I accept that, no matter how much she told me she was being professional and did not mean anything?!

6. Surely, in general, shaking hands is one of the challenges of living in a western society, but then again ‘no pain no gain’, and the more you practice it the easier it becomes.

7. And finally, never think of spreading Islam by compromising and sacrificing its rules!

May God protect us all,

Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

Are Sayyeds better than non-Sayyeds?

Question:

I am a revert. My question is: why do Shia scholars have to show if they are Sayyeds (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) or not by wearing a black turban on their heads? I mean, aren’t the best people in the eyes of Allah (swt) those who are most pious?

Answer:

You are correct. The only criteria which distinguishes people is their piety or taqwa. Some scholars wear a black turban because they are honoured to be related to the Prophet (s) and want to show this feeling. There is also a historical background to it. The enemies of the Prophet (s) were blaming him that he won’t have any offspring as he had no living son. In order to disprove this, the offspring of the Prophet (s) have always been recommended to wear something special to show their relation to the Holy Prophet (s). From that time on it has been a green shawl, or black turban etc. They are not suggesting that they are better than other people. In Shia Islam, there is nothing to indicate that a person who is a descendant of the Prophet (s) is any better than a person who is not.

Answered by: Dr Ali Alsamail
Certified by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

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Is it Gheeba (backbiting) to talk badly about someone’s professional ability/public roles?

Question:

Is it Gheeba (backbiting) to talk badly of someone’s professional ability or about his/her public roles? For example, is it Gheeba to say that a doctor isn’t very good at what they do, or a scholar isn’t very good at fiqh, or a speaker isn’t a very good speaker? Is it Gheeba if the scenario is different and one would say, I don’t like this person because he does not pray or fast, or he does not support an ideology I hold dear?

Answer:

Backbiting is impermissible. It is when one ‘says something about his brother which Allah has concealed about him’. It occurs when a believer is spoken about in his absence, by mentioning a deficiency in that person which is concealed, in front of a third party. This is considered backbiting, even if the person being spoken about does not object to this, and even if the purpose is not to belittle the person. However, when it comes to deficiencies which are apparent in that person, relating them to a third party is not considered backbiting.

As for criticising a person’s ability to perform their professional role, this should be limited to situations where its benefits are more than its harms and one should be sure that they are mentioning facts and not exaggerating in order to hurt that absent person’s reputation without good evidence.

As for criticising a person for sinning, this is not backbiting as long as a person is doing this openly. If they are sinning secretly (e.g. they pray in public, but do not in private) then it is backbiting to relate this private issue to a third party and this is haram.

When it comes to ideology, as long as a person is a believer, we should not criticise them. Yes, we may argue academically against their ideology, but we should not make it a personal issue. Instead, we should try to build unity amongst believers by finding common ground and reasons for liking each other rather than disliking each other.

In the authentic narration of Abdul Rahman ibn Siyaba it is related: “I heard Abu Abdullah (Imam Sadiq as) saying: ‘backbiting is to say about your brother that which Allah (swt) has concealed about him. As for mentioning apparent things about that person, such as being a stern person or a hasty person, this is not backbiting'”.

Is it impermissible for men to wear t-shirts that show a bit of the chest?

Question:

Is it impermissible to wear t-shirts that show a bit of your chest (not to an extreme, simply t-shirts that have a slightly big collar)? Or when wearing a button t-shirt, leave one button open? It is not done with the intention to attract anyone. Even though this might seem awkward but heres an example:  http://www.tuccistore.co.uk/mens-1/t-shirts-polo-13/tees-vests-16/g-star-raw-mens-249947-104955_zoom.jpg

Answer:  

Jurisprudentially, it is not haram for men to wear a t-shirt that shows some of the chest, as long as it is not worn to arouse or attract the attention of members of the opposite gender. It might however be considered not befitting the etiquette of a practising religious Muslim man. But it is not haram.

Isn’t the personality and character of a woman more important than what she wears?

Question:

Isn’t the way a woman carries herself along with her personality, more important than what she wears?

Answer:

Exactly, but the reality is that clothing is much of a social phenomenon. In Islam, the function of clothing must be both protection and beautification, but not seduction. Thus, to make sure a female’s personality and profession is acknowledged, her body (as the first point of contact) must be covered in a decent way, or else, her personality will be concealed by her body.

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

Does wearing a hijab on one’s head make that much of a difference?

Question:

Does wearing something on one’s head make that much of a difference?

Answer:

Hijab is not just a piece of scarf on the head. It starts from the heart by thinking modestly, and then talking modestly, then walking modestly, and finally dressing modestly, part of which ofcourse is covering the hair. If it is observed as prescribed and if it is understood as expected, ofcourse it will make a big difference in maintaining a safer society.

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

Why do women have to wear hijab and not men?

Question:

Why do women have to wear hijab and not men?

Answer:

We need to answer this question from two angles:

  1. To understand the anatomical, as well psychological differences between men and women. In a nutshell, the women’s body is hairless and more attractive to men. Of all her organs there are certain parts that psychologists call ‘female body hot spots’, such as hair, chest, legs and bottoms[1]. Displaying and adorning these parts have a grave influence in provoking men’s sexual desire. For example, if a woman smells the perfume of a gentleman, she may only enjoy its smell, whereas for a man her perfume is sexually provocative.
  2. To understand the function of clothing:

There are two famous theories in psychology about the function of clothing; protection theory and seduction theory.

According to the first theory the primary motivation of clothing has been to protect the body against physical and psychological (moral) dangers.

Physical danger:

  • weather : cold, hot,
  • accidents : in dangerous occupations such as sports and some other crafts,
  • human or animal enemies,

Psychological (Moral) danger against:

  • indecency and immodesty
  • sexual assault

Women’s covering the body as well as the body shape in front of a non-Mahram not only protects her against sexual harassment, it also protects families from falling apart.


[1] [1] Malcolm Barnard, ‘Fashion as Communication’

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

Doesn’t hijab prevent one from being able to integrate into society in non-Muslim countries?

Question:

Doesn’t hijab prevent one from being able to integrate into society in non-Muslim countries?

Answer:

Not at all. The proof for something is its existence. There are many Muslim women in the West – such as in Australia which I’m more familiar with – who observe Hijab much more seriously than some ladies in Iran or similar Middle East countries. They work in corporate companies, some are CEOs of their companies, and even police officers (as in Sydney, Australia for example) e.t.c.

Hijab is not to segregate men and women, it is to respect women in society so that they adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety, and not with plaited hair, gold, pearls, or costly attire. Hijab wants to give a chance to a woman to socially profess her godliness with her good and professional works, and not her seductive body.

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei

 

 

Why do women have to cover in prayer, even if they are at home and no male is present?

Question:

Why do women have to cover when they pray, even if they are at home and no male is present?

Answer:

Hiajb is a symbol of a woman’s servitude to God (not to her husband as portrayed in the West). Thus, it is seen as her best dress code when she is standing before her Creator. We are recommended to wear our adornments when praying. ‘Adornment’ here is not to seduce but to be more humble and decent before God.

Men are also recommended to wear ‘Aba and turbans (which were outdoor dresses) in the old days, even if they pray in their bedroom. And God knows best.

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei