Shaking Hands

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

The word musafaha means to squeeze a person’s hand and to shake it. In Islam, when two people meet, the most common way of initiating the greeting is to grasp both hands before saying the verbal peace greeting. Musafaha can also include kissing the hand (of an elder), kissing a person on both cheeks, or hugging on the right side (so that their hearts are near to one another).

When God’s Messenger greeted others (especially before the Friday congregational prayers or Eid prayers), he performed musafaha. Islamic scholars unanimously agree that musafaha is Sunna. [Bukhari, Istizan, 27] The Prophet said something very encouraging about this practice: “When two Muslims meet each other, if they perform musafaha and intercede for one another, God Almighty will forgive their sins before they leave that place.” According to this hadith, it is essential to do musafaha and pray to God that the other person will be forgiven. [Abu Dawud, Adab, 153]

Qatada, who was of the second generation after the Prophet asked Anas ibn Malik, one of the Blessed Companions, “Was there musafaha between the Companions?” Anas replied “Yes!” [Bukhari, Istizan, 27; Tirmidhi, Istizan, 31/2730] Ibn Mas’ud related in a hadith, “(For a Muslim to perform musafaha to a fellow Muslim) they should take them by the hand and exchange the peace greeting.” [Tirmidhi, Istizan, 31/2731] This leads us to conclude that greeting each other in this way also dissipates any anger there may be between two hearts. [Muwatta, Husn al-Khulq, 16/2, 908]

There are various hadith and traditions regarding the musafaha of the Prophet. It is said that he performed musafaha every time he met someone and that he did so with both hands, [Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5/163, 168] never removing his hand before the other person withdrew theirs. [Bukhari, Istizan, 28] It is also said that musafaha is the completion of the peace greeting. [Ibn Maja, Adab, 21] In yet another hadith, “If two Muslims greet each other with musafaha when they meet, their sins will be forgiven.” And another added, “Their sins will fall down from their joined hands and be taken away.” [Tirmidhi, Istizan, 31; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5/260; see also the Qur’an 4:86] In another related hadith, God’s Messenger said, “Shake hands and rancour will disappear. Give presents to each other and love each other and enmity will disappear.” [Malik, Muwatta, 47, 476]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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