Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Muharram / SAFAR 1424 H
April 2003
Volume 16-04 No : 196
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Hadith


Men and Women Should Greet Each Other


Men and Women Should Greet Each Other

One thing that troubles people in certain societies is exchanging greetings with members of the opposite sex. Yet there is no problem in this, as long as the values of propriety are observed. Umm Hani', the Prophet's cousin says that when once she went to visit the Prophet she found him taking a bath. "I greeted him, and he asked: 'Who is the lady?' I said: 'Umm Hani'.' He said: 'Welcome.' (Related in all six anthologies of Hadith under several headings). In another report, Al-Hasan is quoted as saying: "Women used to greet men." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

Commentary by Adil Salahi

When scholars of Hadith prepared their anthologies, they arranged Hadiths in a particularly useful way. They divided an anthology into books, which today might be called chapters. For each book or chapter they added sub-headings, and under each of these they included whatever Hadith they considered to be relevant and satisfying the criteria of authenticity they established for their work. In this way, they provided a comprehensive view of how the Prophet (peace be upon him) provided guidance on the subject in question, covering its more important aspects. The Prophet has provided a few hints that apply to greeting in certain situations.

One thing that troubles people in certain societies is exchanging greetings with members of the opposite sex. Yet there is no problem in this, as long as the values of propriety are observed. Umm Hani’, the Prophet’s cousin says that when once she went to visit the Prophet she found him taking a bath. “I greeted him, and he asked: ‘Who is the lady?’ I said: ‘Umm Hani’.’ He said: ‘Welcome.’” (Related in all six anthologies of Hadith under several headings). In another report, Al-Hasan is quoted as saying: “Women used to greet men.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).

The first Hadith is highly authentic, as it is mentioned in all six major Hadith books. It tells us that the fact that the Prophet was taking a bath did not stop his cousin from greeting him. Of course, they did not see each other as they exchanged the greeting. This is made even clearer by the fact that on hearing the greeting, the Prophet asked who was the woman greeting him. We also note that the Prophet did not use the normal form of greeting, which mentions the word Salam. This is due to the fact that this word, which means peace, is also one of God’s names. Hence, it should not be mentioned in the bathroom. Therefore, the Prophet replied to his cousin’s greeting by telling her that she was welcome in his home.

The second report is simply a statement making clear that for women to greet men when they met them was a normal practice. This is only to be expected in a Muslim society.

However, a greeting could be offered verbally or by gesture. A report by Asmaa bint Yazeed, a woman from the Ansar, mentions that the Prophet passed by her as she was with a group of women, and he greeted us. Then he said: ‘Be careful not to deny favours by other people.’” I was among the most forward in putting questions to him. I said: ‘Messenger of God! What is meant by denying favors? He said: ‘A woman of you may stay long unmarried in her parents’ home. God then favors her with a husband and she gives him a child. She may be angry one day and she denies (his kindness) and says to him: I have never seen anything good from you.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah)

This Hadith is mentioned under this heading in Hadith anthologies because of the part concerning the Prophet’s greeting to women. As it is well known, what the Prophet did serves as an indication of the permissibility of such action. Hence, for a man to offer a greeting as he passes by a group of women is perfectly permissible. However, we need to say a word about the rest of the Hadith, which warns against allowing a woman’s anger to make her deny her husband’s past kindness. This is a terrible situation which leads to destroying a family in addition to its being a lie. Thus, it gives the woman concerned a very poor return both in this life and in the life to come. The proper attitude is to control one’s anger and not to allow it to get the better of oneself. When a woman brings her anger under control, she is much less likely to deny the kindness shown to her by her husband.

The last Hadith we would like to mention in connection with greeting speaks about a person who passes a group of people and offers a greeting mentioning some of them by name. This is objectionable because it ignores the presence of other people who are also entitled to be greeted. Tariq ibn Shihab, a reporter from the tabieen generation, says: “We were sitting at Abdullah ibn Masoud’s place when his servant came and said: ‘The prayer is called.’ He rose and we rose with him until we arrived at the mosque. He noticed that those in the congregation in the front of the mosque were bowing down, so he started praying and bowed as well. We walked and did like he did. A man walking fast passed by us and said: ‘Peace be to you, Abu Abd Al-Rahman.’ He commented: ‘God certainly tells the truth and His messenger has delivered His message.’ When we finished our prayers, he returned and entered his home. We remained outside waiting for him to come out again. Some of us were saying: ‘Who will ask him?’ Tariq said: ‘I will.’ He asked him to explain his words. Abdullah quoted the Prophet as saying: ‘As the Last Hour draws near, people will offer greetings to others they specify, business will flourish to the extent that a woman would help her husband in business. Ties of kinship will be severed, knowledge will be widely available, and perjury will emerge while honest testimony for the truth will be suppressed.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Ahmad and others)

There is much to be discussed in this Hadith. However, we will only refer to a couple of points. The first is that when a companion of the Prophet sees something to which the Prophet had referred, he immediately confirms that what is happening endorses the Prophet’s statement. Here Abdullah ibn Masoud, one of the great scholars among the Prophet’s companions, immediately refers to the Hadith when he hears a man offering his greeting to a particular one among the group. This is objectionable, because a Muslim should offer his greeting to the group as a whole. The point of objection is very clear. When a greeting is offered to a particular person among a group, it signifies that the one offering the greeting does not care about the others.

Perhaps it should be clarified that when the man passed by and offered the greeting, the group had finished their prayers. It is unlikely that he would offer a greeting to people engaged in prayer, even though the one he was addressing might have finished his own prayer.

We also note that Abdullah’s friends were eager to ask him about his comment, but they waited for him to give them the information. When they felt that it may not be forthcoming, they selected one of them to put the question to him. This is part of the good manners which people at the time felt they must observe with scholars and with the Prophet’s companions. When the question was put to him, Abdullah gave them the full statement by the Prophet, which mentions some of the indications of the closeness of the Day of Judgement. Some of the others relate to people’s social life, while some relate to the weakness of faith among them to the extent that perjury, a very grave sin, and suppression of the truth are practiced in society.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments Capital View Taliking Peace Community Development Muslim Perspectives Men, Mission and Machines Book Review Chennai Diary Trends and Traditions Children's Corner Quran Speaks to You Hadith Our Dialogue Reflection Religion The Month Of Safar Opinion Living Islam Person Of The Month Young Muslim Islamic History Journey To Islam Matrimonial Jobs Archives Feedback Subscription Links Calendar Contact Us

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