Kissing the hand of the Prophet [peace be upon him]
by Muhammad Allie Khalfe
In the name of Allah, The Most Merciful, All Compassionate,
and salutations on the best of creation, Muhammad [Peace be upon him]
I have divided this topic into questions and answers together with sections as to provide ease of reading and reference.
Question: Is kissing the hand of the Shaykh an innovation or are there grounds for it within the sacred law?
Everything by default is considered permissible [mubah] and can only be rendered disliked [makru] or forbidden [haram] by the Law giver [Subhanahu wa ta’ala]. The correct phrasing in the Shafi`i School is that “The default status of things is indifference until the proof indicates prohibition” (al- aslu fil-ashya’i al-ibahatu hatta yadulla al-dalilu `ala al-tahrimi) reference [al-Suyuti, Ashbah (Cairo 1998 ed. 1:166)]. Man has no right in declaring things permissible [halal] or forbidden [haram] without first verifying what Allah [Subhanahu wa ta’ala] mentions in the Quran and what The Prophet [peace be upon him] mentioned in the Sunnah. If no evidence can be found in the hadith literature then one needs to verify what the companions of the Prophet [peace be upon him] said. The Imams of the schools [madhaib] bravely, tirelessly and effortlessly sifted through the above mentioned primary sources and derived rulings which were firmly rooted in the Quran and Sunnah.
If we take the Quran as the first source of Law then we need to find a text, unambiguous and clear, indicating that kissing the hand of another human being is forbidden. If we cannot find such evidence then we can move to the Sunnah of the Prophet [peace be upon him] and the suggestion would be to start with the works of Imam Bukhari. Imam Bukhari’s collection of ahadith [p. hadith] is considered the most authentic collection today after Imam Muslim’s collection. Some however consider Imam Muslim’s collection to be more authentic.
Section: A look into what the hadith literature says regarding the kissing of the hand.
972. Ibn ‘Umar said, “We were on a raid and the people fled. We said, ‘How can we meet the Prophet [peace be upon him], when we have run away? It has been revealed, “unless he is withdrawing to rejoin the fight” (8:16).” We said, ‘We will not go to Medina and then no one will see us.’ Then we said, ‘Perhaps we should go.’ The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came from the Fajr prayer and we said, ‘We fled.’ He said, ‘You are those re-joining the fight.”‘ We kissed his hand. He said, ‘I am your group.'”
973. ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Razin said, “We passed by al-Zubda and were told, ‘There is Salama ibn al-Akwa’. I went to him and he greeted us. Then he brought out his hands and stated, ‘With these two hands I offered allegiance to the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him]’ He held out his palm which was as huge as a camel’s foot, and we got up and kissed it.”
974. Anas [Allah be pleased with him] was asked, “Did you touch the Prophet [peace be upon him] with your hand?” He replied, “Yes,” so they kissed it.
[Source #1: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari of Imam Bukhari, section 444. Kissing the hand]
143. Chapter: On the recommendation to shake hands when meeting and having a cheerful face, and kissing the hand of a righteous man and kissing one’s child out of compassion, embracing the one who arrives from a journey and the dislike of bowing [from the Ridad al-Salihin of Imam al-Nawawi]
889. Safwan ibn ‘Assal said, “A Jew said to his companion, ‘Let us go to this Prophet.’ So they went to the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] and asked him about nine clear signs,” and he mentioned the hadith to its end. “They kissed his hand and feet and said, ‘We testify that you are a Prophet.'” [at-Tirmidhi]
890. Ibn ‘Umar said, “We approached the Prophet [peace be upon him], and kissed his hand.” [Abu Dawud]
Section: Narrations from the Companions and those who followed
Al-Shu`bi narrates — and also Hammad ibn Salama from `Ammar ibn Abi `Ammar — that Zayd ibn Thabit intended to go on a trip, whereupon the young `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas stood humbly at his side and taking hold of the reins of his mount adopted the attitude of a humble servant in the presence of his master. Zayd said to him: “Don’t, O cousin of the Prophet.” “Thus we were commanded to treat our ulama and elders,” was `Abd Allah’s reply. Zayd said to him in turn: “Let me see your hand.” Abdullah stretched out his hand. Zayd, taking it, kissed it and said: “Thus we were commanded to treat the members of the household of the Prophet.” al-Abhari and Ghazali mention it, and the latter adds that `Umar once helped Zayd Ibn Thabit to mount his camel by holding his foot, and said to the onlookers: “Do the same.” al-Zabidi (Ghazali’s commentator) said: “I.e. with your `ulama’.”
Reference: Narrated by Imam Abul Qasim al-Qushayri in the Risala and al-Khatib in al-Faqih wa al-mutafaqqih (2:99), Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal (p. 137), and Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat (2:360) from Abu Nu`aym with a sound (sahih) chain according to Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba (1:561 “Zayd ibn Thabit”). Also by Tabarani and Ibn al-Muqri’ in his Rukhsa (p. 95 #30), Tabari in his Tarikh (11:57, al-Fath), and Ibn `Asakir in his Tarikh in the biography of Zayd.
Once Abu Sulayman al-Darani saw a man in Mecca who would live on nothing but some water from the Zamzam well. Many days elapsed. One day Sulayman asked him: “If the water of Zamzam were to dry up, what would you drink?” The man jumped to his feet, kissed Sulayman’s head and said: “May God give you a good reward! You have guided me aright, for I have nearly become a worshiper of Zamzam over the past few days!”
Reference: Risala al-Qushayriya [Tawadu’ wal Khushu’]
The number of narrations mentioning the companions kissing the hands and even the feet of the prophet [peace be upon him] are indeed great in number.
Section: Imitating the scholars of the Azhar, including the Grand Mufti, ‘Ali Jumma.
Below is a video clip of the foremost orthodox Sunni scholars from Azhar University in Cairo, including the current Grand Mufti, ‘Ali Juma, kissing the hand of Shaykh Muawwad Iwad Ibrahim’s hand.
Section: The unbroken link of Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan
Sayyid Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan was of the eminent scholars of his time and the Shafi’i mufti of Makkah during the second half of the 13th century. He was born in 1231AH. He lived when the first printing press was established in Makkah, which resulted in a number of his works being printed. He wrote chiefly on fiqh and history. Aside from his writings, his major contribution to the madhhab came in the form of his numerous students, including Sayyid `Alawi ibn Ahmad al-Saqqaf, Sayyid Abu Bakr Shatta, Shaykh `Umar Ba Junayd, and Sayyid Husayn ibn Muhammad al-Hibshi. Below is the Sayyids chain of transmission for [kissing of the hand], which is well known amongst the scholars as the musalsal taqbil al-yad [the chain link of kissing the hand].
Says the Imam al-Sayyid Ahmad Dahlan:
I kissed the hand of Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Damanhuji, who kissed the hand of Abdurahman bin Hasan al-Jabarti, who kissed the hand of al-Sayyid Khalil bin ‘Ali al-Muradi al-Dimashqi, who kissed the hand of Shakir bin Mustafa al-Halabi, who kissed the hand of Sayyid Muhammad bin ‘Abdu Rasul al-Barzanji, who kissed the hand of Safi al-din Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Qashashi in Madina al-Munawwara, who kissed the hand of ‘Ali bin ‘Abdul Quddus al-Shinnawi, who kissed the hand of ‘Abdul Wahhab bin Ahmad al-Sha’rani, , who kissed the hand of Moulana Zakariyya bin Muhammad al-Ansari, , who kissed the hand of Hafidh Ahmad bin ‘Ali bin Hajar al-Asqalani, , who kissed the hand of al-Salah Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin abi ‘Umar al-Maqdisi, , who kissed the hand of al-Shams Muhammad bin Ahmad bin ‘Uthman al-Dhahbi, , who kissed the hand of Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin ‘Abdul Ghani al-Mu’addal, , who kissed the hand of ‘Abdul Latif bin Yusuf, who kissed the hand of ‘Abdul Mubarak bin Muhammad al-Badhrani, , who kissed the hand of Abu Ja’far Ahmad bin al-Husayn al-Sarraj al-Qari al-Baghdadi, who kissed the hand of Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Ahmad ibn Muslimah, who kissed the hand of Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad bin ‘Imran al-Marzabani, who kissed the hand of Sa’d bin Ahmad al-Katib, who kissed the hand of Ahmad bin Khayshuma, who kissed the hand of Abu Sa’id Muhammad bin Ziyad al-‘A’rabi, who kissed the hand of Ahmad bin Musa bin Is-haq al-Sa’di al-Hajjar, who kissed the hand of Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin Ibrahim al-Kurdi, who kissed the hand of Mandal, who kissed the hand of Sa’id ibn Marzaban, who kissed the hand of Miqsam, who kissed the hand of Husayn bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, who kissed the hand of ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, who said, “I heard the Prophet [peace be upon him] say, “The Muslim kissing the hand of his brother is musafaha [shaking the hand]“.
Reference [Nur al-Nibras fi al-ta’rif bi asanid wa murwiyat jad Sayyid ‘Abbas]
Section: The four orthodox Sunni schools of thought on the kissing of the hand.
1. The school of Abu Hanifa [may Allah be pleased with him]
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-Haskafi al-Hanafi [may Allah be pleased with him] 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 (a just ruler).”
Imam ibn Nujaym [may Allah be pleased with him] 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 [may Allah be pleased with him] mentioned the following, “When it is out of obedience and honouring [someone] 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 [may Allah be pleased with him] [kissed the Prophet [peace be upon him] between his eyes after they were closed and Sufyan al-Thawri 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 [may Allah be pleased with him] said, “There is nothing wrong with it when it is out of obedience and honouring [someone] if they are wearing a shirt or a cloak [a garment symbolic of scholarship]. According to Sufyan, kissing the hand of a scholar is sunnah, but license is not given for kissing someone else’s hand.”
2. The school of Imam Malik bin Anas [may Allah be pleased with him]
It has been related from Imam Malik [may Allah be pleased with him] 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 [may Allah be pleased with him] as referring to a situation in which it leads to arrogance.
Imam al-Abhuri [may Allah be pleased with him] said, “The dislike of Malik is if it is out of aggrandizement and arrogance. Imam an-Nafrawi said, that an example of it is the kissing of the Bedouin who asked the Prophet [peace be upon him] for a sign.” The Bedouin asked the Prophet [peace be upon him] “Show me a sign.” So the Prophet [peace be upon him] said, “Go to that tree and tell it, ‘The Prophet calls you.’ The tree moved right and left and came towards the Prophet [peace be upon him] saying, “Peace be upon you, Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet [peace be upon him] told the Bedouin, “Tell it to return,” and it returned as it had been. The Bedouin kissed the Prophet’s [peace be upon him] hands and feet and became a Muslim. And there are other similar narrations besides.
3. The school of Sayyidina al-Shafi’i [may Allah be pleased with him]
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 [may Allah be pleased with him] 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 [a form of] ostentation or aggrandizement. The actions of the community, both its early and its later members, have been in accordance with this… 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 [monetary] wealth, their [command of the] world, their 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.”
Similar to this is what is mentioned by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyah al-Answari [may Allah be pleased with him] who 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 [peace be upon him] as is related by Abu Dawud and others with authentic chains of transmission. [This is disliked] kissing someone’s hand [when it is due to their wealth and the like] of worldly things, like their power or their rank among people of the world.”
Imam ibn Qasim al-‘Ibadi [may Allah be pleased with him] said, “It is sunnah to kiss the hand of a scholar, a righteous man, a member of the Prophet’s [peace be upon him] line, and an ascetic like the companions did with the Prophet [peace be upon him]. 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.”
4. The school of Imam Ahmad [may Allah be pleased with him]
The Hanbalis explicitly stated that it is permissible to kiss the hand of a scholar and a ruler. The Hanbali muhaqiq, Imam ibn Muflih [may Allah be pleased with him] 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 [may Allah be pleased with him] said, “He said in Manaqib Aswhab al-Hadith, ‘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-Fudayl 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.’”
These are the opinions of the Umma. The difference of opinion is a slight one with the majority of orthodox sunni schools declaring the permissibility of kissing the hand.
We kiss the hand of hand of the hand, of the hand, of the hand,… which touched the hand of the best of creation [afdal al-makhluqat] [peace be upon him].
And Allah knows best