I had a non-Muslim friend in college who visited the masjid one day to see a khutbah and jumu’ah salah. After salah was over, I walked out with him and talked a bit as everyone filtered out of the musallah. As most Muslims would normally do, I said salaam to the people I knew as they passed in front of me. I didn’t think anything unusual was going on until my friend turned to me and asked, “What is up with all these handshakes?”
Small thing you never notice if you grow up Muslim but it’s true, shaking hands is engrained in our tradition and cultures. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that by the time a Muslim kid hits puberty, he’s shaken more hands than most non-Muslims have in their entire career. Add in all those jumu’ahs and Eids (handshake + hugs!) and you’ve probably got quite a bit of handshakes under your belt already.
However, did you know that shaking hands is an established tradition of the Prophet (saws) and his sahabah?
Abu Khattab Qatadah reported: I asked Anas:“Did the Companions of Messenger of Allah (saws) use to shake hands?” He said: “Yes.” (Al Bukhari)
Handshaking has a very long history, tracing its roots all the way back in ancient times to the land of Yemen. When a delegation from that region came to visit the Prophet (saws), he told the sahabah that the delegation was coming from the very land which had begun the idea of shaking hands.
But it gets better!
Al-Bara’ reported: The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, “Two Muslims will not meet and shake hands without having their sins forgiven before they depart.
So shaking hands is not just a social custom. If you do it with the intention of following the Sunnah and building bonds of brotherhood, it’s actually considered a good deed that you will be rewarded for insha’Allah!
Make it a point when you meet a Muslim brother to shake their hands. Imam Al-Nawawi said: Shaking hands when meeting is a Sunnah on which there is consensus (Fath al-Baari).
Before you go out and start shaking every guy’s hands though, here are some guidelines.
Make eye contact
You don’t want to be the awkward guy with his hand extended while everyone snickers at you being left hanging dry.
This is a Sunnah too! The Prophet (saws) said “Do not belittle any good deed, even your meeting with your brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face.” Get a two for the price of one deal here by smiling while you shake your brother’s hand.
Extend your right hand while initiating the salaam
Keep your four fingers together and your thumb pointed up at a 90 degree angle.
See that web of skin between your thumb and your index finger? You want that to hit the same portion of the other person’s hand. Keep your hand open until they touch, then wrap your fingers around their hand and squeeze.
Give a firm handshake.
There are few things which leave as negative a first impression as giving a limp handshake. Give a firm squeeze but don’t make it painful. Shake until you finish saying the entire greeting of As Salaamu ‘Alaikum + optional wa rahamatullah + optional wa barakatuh.
Relax your hand after finishing your salaam and release.
- Do not, do not, do NOT, tickle the person’s wrist with your index finger. I’ve only had this done once to me and I swear, I briefly contemplated punching the brother with my other hand. It feels disgusting and you will forever be remembered as the creepy handshake guy. Don’t be a creep.
- Don’t twist the person’s hand counterclockwise so that yours is on top. It makes you look like a tool who read some pseudo-scientific blog post about asserting dominance. Don’t be a tool.
- Wet hands: If you have sweaty hands, discreetly wipe them on your pant pockets before you shake someone’s hands. You don’t want to get sweat all over them.
- Greasy hands: If this is post-Masjid-dinner and you have grease and spices on your right hand, don’t get that grease on the other person. If they extend their hand to you for a handshake though, don’t rebuff them. Instead, flex your wrist inwards and the person will shake the end of your forearm.
- Don’t give out random handshakes after salah to the people on your right and left. This was not the Sunnah of the Prophet (saws).
- Don’t do the two hand shake where you put your left hand on the back of their hand (and sometimes they’ll do the same thing and you’ve got four hands shaking at once). If you do it once in a while because you haven’t seen the person in a long time, that’s fine, but don’t make it your go-to handshake.
Now go out and drop those sins with your handshakes!
Riyad us Saliheen, Chapter 143 “Excellence of Hand shaking at the time of Meeting”