Being a Muslim woman and having to work in an environment which is largely male dominated, I find myself being challenged on various issues on a daily basis. While I view most of the challenges as a stepping stone, there is one that often leaves me red faced when I try to explain myself to the other person. It’s the famous “why don’t Muslim women shake hands?” question.

And when I try to explain my reasons for not shaking hands with men, I only end up sounding totally pompous or ‘better than thou’…. 

So, before I confuse you anymore, l have included an article by one of my guest writers, Zohra Dhooma, who explains it quite simply and to the point.

This is just a brief explanation, a more detailed article will soon appear in her “soon to be” blog…u just have to watch this space…….



As per Islamic Law a Muslim woman is forbidden from having any interaction with any strange men. This is the Order and Decree of God Almighty himself.

The only men she is allowed to interact with are her Maharam’s: this is a man whom she cannot marry e.g.: her father, brother, paternal uncles, maternal uncles, nephews and husband.

This being said it is important to note that interaction for work purposes is allowed but there should be no “touching” or speaking in soft provocative tones. Interaction with men should be kept to an absolute minimum.

This means no hand-shakes no buddy punches and of course no hugs. (No matter how sad the circumstances might be)

As harsh as this might sound there is of course a lot of logic and method in this ruling:

1)      Above all the reasoning it is forbidden by Allah (SWA) God Almighty.

2)      It is to guard the chastity of the woman.

3)      This serves to protect the women. She might be have the cleanest of intentions but she will never know what the man on the other end of the hand-shake is thinking or feeling.

4)      Woman are beautiful no doubt about that and there is always the possibility that a single hand shake is never far from disaster.


There is a narration that goes to this effect that a lady once came to the Prophet (SWA) and wanted to pledge allegiance. She sat on the one side of the curtain and the Prophet (SWA) sat on the other.  When she was about to pledge her allegiance she extended her hand through the curtain (her hands were not adorned with mendi (henna) and the Prophet (SWA) did not take her hand but advised her to colour her hands in order that she may be recognised as a woman.

Two lessons:

1)      A man as great and pure as the Prophet (SWA) did not take a woman’s hand into his own serves to show us the seriousness of this simple action

2)      A woman should adorn her hands with Mendi/Henna so that she might be recognised as a woman. (It’s a Sunnah)


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