Friday, 22 February 2013

Kissing the Hands of Scholars

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah’s answer to the question of kissing the hands of scholarsA lot of students and adepts kiss the hands of their teachers and guides.  Is this permissible?

The ways that people honour those that have rights over them differ with the different cultural norms of a given people.  We see, for example, that in the Arabian Peninsula they kiss their fathers on the nose as a way of honouring them, and they kiss the heads of their scholars.  The original ruling of all of these things is that they are permissible so long as particular forms that Muslims may engage in have not been prohibited.

As for the question of kissing the hands of scholars, it is permissible to do so with a scrupulous scholar, a just ruler, one’s parents, one’s teacher, and anyone who is worthy of being honoured and respected.  According to ibn ‘Umar (r.a.), he was in one of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) raiding parties and in his narration he mentioned a story and said, “So we came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and kissed his hand.”

The schools of jurisprudence have come to a consensus that kissing the hand of a scholar who is righteous towards his religion is not prohibited, saying that it is permitted and well-liked.  The positions of the relied upon schools follow below.

The Hanafis explicitly stated that it is permissible to kiss the hand of a righteous scholar as a means of seeking blessings and honouring him.  Imam al-Haswkafi al-Hanafi (r.a.) said, “There is nothing wrong with kissing the hand of a man who is a scholar, and one who is scrupulous as a means of seeking blessings.  The author narrated from al-Jami’ that there is nothing wrong with kissing the hand of a religious ruler,” meaning a just ruler.

Imam ibn Nujaym (r.a.) said, “There is nothing wrong with kissing the hand of a scholar and a just ruler based on the narration according to Sufyan who said, ‘Kissing the scholar’s and the just ruler’s hand is sunnah.’”

Concerning kissing hands, Imam az-Zayla’i (r.a.) mentioned the following, “When it is out of obedience and honouring, it is permissible.  ash-Shaykh al-Imam Shams al-A’immah al-Sarakhsi and some of the later scholars allowed or gave license (rakhkhaswah) for kissing the hand of a scholar or someone who is pious as a means of seeking blessings. Abu Bakr kissed the Prophet (s.a.w.) between his eyes after they were closed and Sufyan ats-Tsawri said, ‘Kissing the hand of a scholar or a just ruler is sunnah,’ and ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak rose and kissed his head.”

Imam Muhammad al-Babarti al-Hanafi (r.a.) said, “There is nothing wrong with it when it is out of obedience and honouring, if they are wearing a shirt or a cloak.  According to Sufyan, kissing the hand of a scholar is sunnah, but license is not given for kissing someone else’s hand.”  By “wearing a shirt or a cloak,” he was referring to a garment symbolic of scholarship.

Regarding the Malikis, it has been related from Imam Malik (r.a.) that it is disliked, but the later scholars of the Maliki school are in agreement with the majority that it is permissible.  They interpreted the position of it being disliked that was related from Imam Malik (r.a.) as referring to a situation in which it leads to arrogance.  

Imam al-Abhuri (r.a.) said, “The dislike of Malik is if it is out of aggrandisement and arrogance.  Imam an-Nafrawi said, that an example of it is the kissing of the Bedouin who asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) for a sign.”

The Bedouin asked the Prophet (s.a.w.), “Show me a sign.”

So the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Go to that tree and tell it, ‘The Prophet calls you.’”

The tree moved right and left and came towards the Prophet (s.a.w.) saying, “Peace be upon you, Messenger of Allah.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) told the Bedouin, “Tell it to return,” and it returned as it had been.  The Bedouin kissed the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) hands and feet and became a Muslim.  And there are other similar narrations besides.

If Imam Malik’s (r.a.) denial of what is narrated concerning the kissing of hands is from the perspective of narration, Imam Malik (r.a.) is a proof, for he is the imam of hadits, and if it is from the perspective of jurisprudence, then it is due to what preceded.  The actions of people are based on the permissibility of kissing the hand of someone to whom it is permitted to be humble and to obey.  The companions kissed the hand of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the Prophet (s.a.w.) kissed the hand of Fathimah (r.a.), and the companions kissed the hands of each other.  The apparent meaning of his words is that even if it is the hand of a scholar, old person, ruler, father, someone present, or someone returning from travel, and that is the apparent, zhahir al-madzhab, position of the school.

The Shafi’is explicitly stated that kissing the hand of a pious scholar is well-liked, as is every kind of honour given to them or other persons of rank.  Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) said, “The chosen position is that it is well-liked to honour someone entering a room by standing if they have an external rank in knowledge, righteousness, honour, or authority accompanied by care, or if they have a sanctity through sainthood.  This standing is in order to honour them and is not ostentation or aggrandisement.  The actions of the community, both its early and its later members, have been in accordance with this.”  He continued, “It is well-liked to kiss the hand of a righteous man, an ascetic, or a scholar and the like from among the people of the afterlife.  As for kissing someone’s hand because of their wealth, their worldly power, and the rank that they hold with people of the world for the world and the like, it is extremely disliked.  al-Mutawali said it is not permissible, indicating that it is prohibited.  Kissing their head or feet is the same as kissing their hand.”

Similarly, Shaykh al-Islam, Imam Zakariyah al-Answari (r.a.) said, “It is well-liked to kiss the hand of a living person due to their righteousness and similar things from religious matters like asceticism, knowledge, and honour as the companions did with the Prophet (s.a.w.), as is related by Abu Dawud and others with authentic chains of transmission.  It is disliked to kiss someone’s hand because of worldly things, like their power or their rank among people of the world.”

Imam ibn Qasim al-‘Ibadhi (r.a.) said, “It is sunnah to kiss the hand of a scholar, a righteous man, a member of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) line, and an ascetic like the companions did with the Prophet (s.a.w.).  This is disliked when it is for a rich person and the like.  It is also well-liked to stand for people of rank as a way of honouring them, not as a form of ostentation or aggrandizement, prideful.”

The Hanbalis explicitly stated that it is permissible to kiss the hand of a scholar and a ruler.  The Hanbali muhaqiq, Imam ibn Muflih (r.a.) said, “Kissing the hand of a scholar and a generous person because of their support, and a ruler because of his authority is permissible.”

Imam as-Safarini (r.a.) said, “He said in Manaqib Aswhab al-Hadits, ‘The student should have great humility for the scholar and humble himself before him.’  He said, ‘An aspect of humility is kissing his hand.’  Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah and al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyadh, one of them kissed the hand and the other the foot of al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali al-Jufi.  Imam Abu al-Ma’li said in his commentary on the Hidayah, ‘Kissing the hand of a scholar, a generous person because of their support, and a ruler because of their authority is permitted.  As for kissing someone’s hand because of their wealth it is narrated that, ‘Whoever humbles themselves before a rich person because of their wealth has lost a third of their religion.’’”

From what has preceded it is clear that kissing the hands of scholars and those who have rights over us is well-liked and there is no cause to decry it.  Verily there are egos that have grown haughty with pride and rejected that which goes against their pride, and Allah (s.w.t.) is Most High and Knows Best.


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