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['Aalim Network QR] Shaking hands on the day of 'Ashura


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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
|  Greeting of Allah be upon Muhammad and the pure members of his House |\
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Assalamu 'Alaykum
The following in-depth answer was kindly provided by Shaykh Muhammad
Sulayman Panah.

Salaams
Ummulbanin Merali - Acting Moderator - 'Aalim Network
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Question:
Some sh'ii, on the day of Ashura, particularly from India/Pakistan, refuse
to shake hands or say salam to each other.  Now my question is is there
really any Islamic basis to this or is it an innovative cultural
"phenemenon" of the subcontinent? 

Answer:
With regard to the issue of shaking hand on the day of 'Ashura or any other
day for that matter I have not seen any ruling prohibiting it.

However, I have noticed some insignificant resistance on part of some,
specially elderly Shi'ites, to shake hands after Jamaa' prayers. They argue
that there is no recommendation, either as wajib or mustahab, for shaking
hands after prayers, and this has almost become like a sunnah to do so.
Their resistance to shake hands I am told has a corrective nature, not that
they feel it is haraam but rather they want to stop it becoming a sunnah. 

But as I said this has nothing to do with Ashura and in general no one has
ruled it to be haraam to the best of my knowledge.

Having said this let me make a socio-cultural observation. For many
different reasons which we may not know different communities develop some
cultural traits which may not make sense when put in a cross-cultural
context, even sometimes in the context of the same cultural at two different
points of time. 

I do not know why  and how Indo-Pakistani Shiettes have formed this cultural
trait with regard to shaking hands. But it is important for us to be
reflexive about it. We can open a dialogue about it, Maybe it serves some
meaningful function in the context of that cultural. 

Islam may tolerate some cultural practices as long as they do not involve
recognized Haraam practices and as long as they do not have a claim to be
"Islamically" Wajib or Mustahab and so on.  This is one point, but there is
another point to be careful of. 

When we engage in a cross-cultural practices among ourselves we must be very 
sensitive to the possibility that some other culture may not recognize our
cultural wisdom as valid because they have no Islamic roots. 

In those cases I believe it is very irresponsible of anyone, a Zakir, A
Mullana, a scholar, or a Marrja', to offend and humiliate someone for
something which only a matter of cultural preferences. 

Even in cases of minor violation of established rules of Islam proper codes
of Islamic practice of Amr-e bi-Ma 'aruf wa Nahi-e 'an Munkar  obliged us to
respect dignity of other people and be modest in our opinion. 

Let me give an example. Before Islamic revolution in Iran most of government
employees used to dress up in western style. These people usually were
westernized intellectual who did not have much religious affiliation but on
'Ashura they usually participated in Aza-e Imam Husain (AS). I was told that
one 
'Ashura in Mashhad a someone in a western clothing style went to one Ullama
(perhaps Marja') and after the program he goes to pay respect to this Marja'
and kiss his hand. The marja seeing him in western clothes with shaved beard
got angry and  yelled at him that " Sir, who do you follow as your marja?"
then holding the tie of that person in his hand he continued that " if you
follow me, this is haraam according to my ruling, this is haraam!" I do not
want to be in the place of that poor guy, but if I were, probably I would
never go visit another marja' and perhaps would kiss religion good bye. 

I know it is not rational to judge Islam according to the conduct of some
individuals but we are not merely a rational animal. We have human feelings
too. Regardless of whether tie is haraam or not there better ways of guiding
to Islam if one wants to do so. 

On the other hand we have Imam Khomeini (RA) according to whom shaving beard
is haraam but we see many of the people around him in the early years of
revolution used to shave and wear ties but he did not reject them on the
contrary some of them were given very high position in the government as the
president, ministers and advisers. Those who were more religiously inclined
gradually stopped shaving without being told or rejected by Imam Khomeini (RA). 

All of this for saying that in many cases we may tolerate even minor
violations of  Islamic rules for the purposes of not humiliating other
Muslims, let alone such cultural practices which has no Islamic bases. 

I have sensed some degree of arrogance some time on the part of the so
called more religious people in any cultural to confirm their own self
respect through harsh criticism of the others. Perhaps the refusal of
shaking hands by the mentioned person with someone of different background
is of that nature. 

We must seek refuge in God from the deception of our Nafs.

With regards
Mohammad 





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