One of the major questions asked by most of the Muslims residing in West is that, shaking hands with a non-mehram woman is permissible or not?
The ‘woman’ in the question includes both Muslim and Non-Muslim women. Though the Eastern countries provide far less places and chances, where non-mehram men and woman can shake hands with each other, on contrary survival is not possible without doing so in the western world. Moreover, shaking hands with a non-mehram woman is regarded as a sin in Islam.
As the Hadeeth of Prophet (PBUH) says:
“For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him”
This Hadeeth shows the extreme disliking of the act of shaking hands or touching a non-mahram woman. Touching a non-mahram woman is a grievous sin, and receiving a fatal stroke of iron pin on head is better than committing this sin.
The Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is in direct compliance with the message of Holy Quran. Therefore, there is not a single chance that Prophet (PBUH) would do what is against the Quran. Umaymah the daughter of Raqeeqah narrates that:
‘The Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “I do not shake hands with women”
This is the clear message of Holy Prophet (PBUH) in case you seek answer to your question of shaking hands with non-mehram women. No reply could be as clear as the reply in the above hadeeth.
Now if Prophet (PBUH) did not shake hands with any women, then the next question that arises in mind is, how did he take the bay’ah (pledge) of all the women?
The custom with men was that, Prophet (PBUH) would take the hand of the other person in his hand and then take his pledge of Tauheed and pronounce him a Muslim. However, in case of women, Prophet (PBUH) adopted a different strategy, which did not require physical touch of any sort. As narrated by Aa’isha (May Allah be Pleased with Her):
“He used to accept the women’s oath of allegiance by words only”
Meaning that he did not apply the same custom of taking pledge of men on the women, there was no handshake and no physical contact.
You will find different tafseers of Mufassareen, where they would mention that during the pledge, the Prophet (PBUH) would ask for a vessel of water, and would dip his hands in to it, and then the women would do the same to complete the pledge. Some of the mufassareeen say that, the Prophet (PBUH) shake hands with woman, with a Qatari Cloak in his hand, and some say that Umar (May Allah be Pleased with Him), would do the hand shake with women on his behalf.
All of these tafaseer are untrue and unauthentic, especially the last one. If you learn Quran, you will know that Prophet (PBUH) was Masoom (infallible), and if the Infallible Prophet (PBUH) could not shake hand with women, then how could Umar (Allah be pleased with him) do so.
Islam is a religion of understanding, so in case of necessity where a woman does not have any other woman to help her, like in medical treatment, removing of tooth, or any eye procedure, then a non-mahram can touch a woman and it would not be considered a sin. Because the act was performed in dire necessity, and there was no other option.
In a nutshell, shaking hands or touching a non-mahram is extremely prohibited in Islam, with no leverage whatsoever. You can only have physical contact with a non-mahram, if he or she is in a medical treatment, and don’t have the option of being taken care by the same gender.