Contact with the Opposite Gender in Costa Rica

6 Mar

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Bismillah hirRahman nirRaheem

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

As Salamu ’Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you. I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic for a while now but needed a bit more of validity to my opinion before I courageously posted it up.

Here in my lovely, tropical country the weather hasn’t been so pretty. Which I don’t mind, since I happen to love the cold weather. People from all across the nation greet each other with kisses, hand shakes and even occasional hugging. Hand shaking isn’t so common here but instead ticos tend to greet the opposite gender with a kiss on the cheek.

From what I’ve read there is a lot of comments and Hadeeths mentioning hand shaking with the opposite gender as being haram (illegal) or highly not recommended. This is primarily due to the Prophet’s (salalahu alayhi wa’ salam) example towards his treatment to non-mahram women (relatives).

The word used both in the Qur’an and Hadeeths to define touching is lams. Strictly speaking, this is in reference to actions that precede sexual intercourse. In other words, any act with a lust intention or fitnah (temptation) behind it.

I assume that back in the day, if you were to kiss a woman you would have the intention on marrying her. Now, in this chaotic world we are living in, even the act of sexual intercourse is not associated with marriage. I believe that even in Muslims this has slightly been corrupted in our generation.

Despite this, many scholars such as Imam Al-Shafi`i and Imam Abu Hanifah have strong arguments as to how the slightest touching of the hands can end up invalidating your wudhu or state of purity. This is further explained in the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Do not approach Salah after… lāmastum (touching) women, but if you do not find water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth, rubbing your faces and hands. Truly, Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving. (4:43)

Although in the Qur’an the word touching does not state specifically what kind of touching or with what intention it’s done with, scholars have found two meanings for the act of touching the opposite gender: touching with lustful intention, and touching without this desire behind it.

I strongly believe that we as Muslims should not shake hands, let alone kiss when greeting the opposite sex no matter what your intention may be (you never know what the other person is thinking or what their intentions are). Not only is there no authentic Hadeethic proof that the Prophet (saws) was seen shaking hands with a non-mahram woman, but it’s also mentioned in the Qur’an as I quoted before.

Of course physical contact with your spouse and close family members is not considered haram, since they are mahram to you. Also, a Hadith narrated by A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) as recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad states that:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to kiss `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) and then go to pray at the masjid without renewing his ablution.

It’s those not related with us that we must be careful with.

In Costa Rica, if you are already a local here you will know just how hard it is to avoid this contact with the opposite gender throughout the day. If you’re not a local, then I’ll quickly describe it for you.

In Hispanic culture, if you’re a woman you greet both male and female with a kiss. There doesn’t exist hand shaking in our culture as we find his “cold” and not friendly-like. This is usually only performed during interviews or in the work field. When greeting friends and family members you usually greet them with a kiss on the cheek. If you’re really close with them or haven’t seen them in a while you might also see people hugging.

This whole kissing thing isn’t considered strange or taboo in our culture. Boys and girls won’t giggle or feel embarrassed when greeting each other like this, unlike in other western cultures where even a hand shake is awkward.

So therefore, it’s always been a “normal” thing for me to greet people with a kiss. Whether it be an uncle or cousin, or friends from my university, I found nothing wrong or haram in it.

In fact, I once had a friend that backed away when I was going to greet her with a kiss, which I then considered her to be really weird after that happened. Now, I find it normal for her to have done that.

So what can you do if you live in a society where kissing or even hand shaking is normal between the opposite gender?

First, we must find the logic behind not greeting someone with a kiss or hand shake.

We live in a society where all these haram things are now halal to us, and this has been done through Shaytaan’s meticulous planning to make us fall astray from the path. Think to yourself. How can approaching a male and planting a kiss on his cheek not be strange for you? Would you like your husband or wife to do this with other males or females?

Not only is it disrespectful to your spouse (or future spouse), but it’s also disrespectful to you. You are giving permission to this person to touch you in this manner, so what wrong would it be if he happened to touch you on another place if you’re already allowing him to kiss you?

Once you’ve realized the wrongness in it, and how disrespectful it is for you as a woman or man, you will find it easier to want to respect your body. It’s much more peaceful to know that you are the one who decides who kisses you or touches you, then to know that any man or woman can come up to you and plant a kiss on your face.

If you don’t respect your space, then who will?

Finally, keep in consideration the word of God, the Qur’an and what it tells us:

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent (35:31)

If you dress in a modest and very “Islamic” way as I like to put it, when you tell someone that you do not greet with a kiss or with a hand shake, or with any other physical contact, they will find it easier to accept. As where if you dress like everyone else is dressing, with shorts or clothing that clings on much to tightly to your body, then they will want to laugh into your face, since you will be dressing in a manner that will obviously attract the opposite sex.

Think further into it. If you see a woman on the street with very modest clothing (like a nun in Catholicism) then you will automatically respect that woman. The way you dress makes a statement of it’s own that you won’t have to put into words each time someone will greet you.

I’m not a Hijaabi (one that wears Hijab) yet, but inshallah when I decide to use the hijab, I think that men would automatically feel drawn back from me, and they will respect my decision on whether or not I greet them the way everyone else does.

In the end, it’s all about respecting yourself.

Keep in mind that in a Hispanic culture, there will be men (or women if you’re a guy reading this) that will want to greet you with a kiss. And sometimes it’s not even in a lust manner; it’s just the way they’ve been raised up. But keep in mind that if you allow yourself to be exposed like this, you are also permitting him or her to have permission to do other things or say things to you disrespectfully. It might not happen, but you are allowing yourself to be in that situation.

If there is fear of fitnah or desire in it, then it is most surely haram.

I feel that women in my country have lost this shyness altogether. Even the men have lost their shyness towards women. When you avoid any contact with the opposite gender, you feel not only good with your effort in doing so, especially in a country where everyone greets this way, but you would also have more affection and love for those that truly care for you, such as your spouse.

Inshallah this will make you meditate (metaphorically speaking) about greeting and touching the opposite gender in your country. May Allah (swt) give you health and blessings each and every day!

Chao.

References:

al-Qaradhawi, S. Y. (4 de Junio de 2008). Shaking hands with a non Mahram. Recuperado el 5 de Marzo de 2013, de Suhaib Webb: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/faqs-and-fatwas/shaking-hands-with-a-non-mahram-dr-yusuf-al-qaradawi/

Holy Qur’an. (s.f.). Recuperado el 25 de Febrero de 2013, de http://quran.com/2/170

Khalfe, M. A. (s.f.). Does touching the opposite sex break ones Wudhu? Recuperado el 5 de Marzo de 2013, de http://islamictext.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/does-touching-the-opposite-sex-break-ones-wudhu1.pdf

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