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al afkar 79


Assalamualaikum SS Datuk Mufti. I’m sorry for asking this question because I still haven’t got a solid answer to this issue. My question is what is the ruling of bowing as a sign of respect to others such as what has been practised in Japan and Korea where they would bow to the judge in court, the chairman in parliament as well as bowing and kissing the hands of a teacher or the elderly? Hope for an explanation from SS Mufti. Thank you.


Waalaikumussalam wrt wbt,

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

Allah SWT states in the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ارْكَعُوا وَاسْجُدُوا وَاعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good - that you may succeed.”

Surah al-Hajj (77)

The same is stated in a hadith of the Prophet PBUH:

يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ الرَّجُلُ مِنَّا يَلْقَى أَخَاهُ أَوْ صَدِيقَهُ أَيَنْحَنِي لَهُ ؟ قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَفَيَلْتَزِمُهُ وَيُقَبِّلُهُ ؟ قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَفَيَأْخُذُ بِيَدِهِ وَيُصَافِحُهُ ؟ قَالَ ‏"‏ نَعَمْ ‏"

“A man said: "O Messenger of Allah! When a man among us meets his brother or his friend should he bow to him?" He said: "No." The man continued: "Should he embrace him and kiss him?" He said: "No." He said: "Should he take his hand and shake it?" He said: "Yes."

Sunan al-Tirmizi (2728)

This hadith is evaluated as hasan.

Allah SWT clearly states in the Quran that rukuk (bowing) and sujud (prostration) are actions in prayer and are specific worships only to Allah SWT the One and Only, thus, it is haram for other than Allah SWT. Furthermore, this is strengthened by the words of the Prophet PBUH who prohibit a person who meets his brother from bowing in respect to his brother.

According to the question asked, what is the ruling of bowing as a sign of respect practised by the Japanese and Koreans or bowing in respect to a judge in a courtroom, a chairman in parliament and a teacher or elderly where one would also kiss their hands?

We will answer this question according to the theme of the question so that it will give a clear and accurate answer to the questioner.

First, what is the ruling of bowing as a sign of respect or honour towards another person?

The truth is this issue has been discussed by previous scholars. The following are the statement of Syafi’iyyah scholars in explaining the ruling of this issue:

Imam Bujairimi stated in his writing:

أن الانحناء لمخلوق كما يفعل عند ملاقاة العظماء : حرام عند الإطلاق ، أو قصد تعظيمهم لا كتعظيم الله ، وكفرٌ إن قصد تعظيمهم كتعظيم الله تعالى" .

“Indeed, bowing towards another creation is done when a person meets honoured or great people: It is an absolute haram with the intention of honouring them even when it is not the same as honouring Allah. He is considered as a disbeliever if it is done with the intention of honouring them the same as honouring Allah SWT.” (See Tuhfatul al-Habib syarah al-khatib, 110/5)

Imam Bujairimi states it is haram to bow towards people of status or the aristocrats even if the intention is to honour them not the same as honouring Allah SWT. Moreover, if it is with the intention of honouring them the same as honouring Allah SWT, then he is considered as a person who has renounced Islam and a disbeliever.

However, it is different from the opinion of Imam al-Nawawi who states:

وقال النووي في المجموع : يكره حني الظهر في كل حال لكل أحد لحديث أنس ولا معارض له، ولا تغتر بكثرة من يفعله ممن ينسب إلى علم أو صلاح ونحوهما

“It is makruh (undesirable) to bow for every matter and every matter is matters as stated by Anas… There is no contradiction on this matter and don’t be deceived by the actions of most people who do this who are from among the people who are associated with knowledge and charity and others similar to them.” (Refer Al-Majmu’ syarh Muhadzab, pg. 21)

Whereas Imam al-Nawawi states that the act of bowing is makruh if the intention is just as a sign of respect.

In the book al-Mausu`ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah:

قال العلماء: ما جرت به العادة من خفض الرأس والانحناء إلى حد لا يصل به إلى أقل الركوع - عند اللقاء - لا كفر به ولا حرمة كذلك , لكن ينبغي كراهته

“Scholars state that the custom of bowing not a bow as low as rukuk (bowing in prayer) when someone meets another person is not considered as an act of disbelief nor is it haram but it is makruh (undesirable).” (Refer al-Mausu`ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol. 23 pg. 135)

According to the book al-Mausu`ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, it is makruh to bow towards another person as long as the bow is not as low as rukuk (bowing in prayer).

The same is stated in the opinion of madhhab Hanbali, where Imam Ibn Muflih al-Maqdisi said in his statement:

قال: التحية بانحناء الظهر جائزة ...ولما قدم ابن عمر الشام حياه أهل الذمة كذلك فلم ينههم ، وقال: هذا تعظيم للمسلمين

“Bowing as a sign of respect and honor is permissible… this is stated by Ibnu Umar who arrives in Syria and observed the custom of the Zimmah who bow towards the Muslims as a sign of respect.” (Refer Al-Adab As-Syar'iyah, vol. 2, pg. 250)

In our opinion, the conclusion for the first question is that it is permissible to bow as a sign of honor and respect towards another person on the condition that the respect and honour are not the same or exceed the greatness and honour of Allah SWT. Likewise, the bow must not exceed the limit or has the same characteristic of the rukuk (bowing in prayer).

Second, what is the ruling of bowing to kiss the hands of another person while shaking hands?

As stated in the first question, bowing as a sign of respect or honor is permissible. Kissing the hands of a teacher or an elderly is sunnah. This is as stated in a hadith narrated by Zari’, where he said:

لَمَّا قَدِمْنَا الْمَدِينَةَ فَجَعَلْنَا نَتَبَادَرُ مِنْ رَوَاحِلِنَا فَنُقَبِّلُ يَدَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَرِجْلَهُ

“When we came to Medina, we raced to be first to dismount and kiss the hand and foot of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).”

Sunan Abi Daud (5225)

Syeikh Abu Dawud Sulaiman al-Ujaili al-Jamal said:

وتقبيل نحو الرأس أو يد أو رجل كذلك ويندب ذلك لنحو علم أو صلاح أو شرف أو ولادة أو نسب

“Kissing the head or hands or foot is sunnah because of the knowledge, piety or honour of a person due to his birth right or lineage.” (Refer Hasyiah Jamal, vol.5, pg. 184)

The same is stated in the opinion of Imam al-Nawawi where he said:

يستحب تقبيل يد الرجل الصالح والزاهد والعالم ونحوهم من أهل الآخرة. وأما تقبيل يده لغناه وشوكته ووجاهته عند أهل الدنيا بالدنيا ونحو ذلك فمكروه شديد الكراهة

“It is sunnah to kiss the hands of the pious, righteous, zuhud, knowledgeable and others from among the scholars of the hereafter. As for kissing the hands of another person because of his wealth or status or worldly matters then it is greatly discouraged,” (Refer Majmu’ Syarah Al-Muhazzab, vol. 6, pg. 21)

Furthermore, it is in line with the opinion of Syeikh Sayyid Abdurrahman bin Muhammad Ba’alawi who said:

وقال الحافظ العراقي: وتقبيل الأماكن الشريفة على قصد التبرك وأيدي الصالحين وأرجلهم حسن محمود باعتبار القصد والنية

“Imam al-Hafiz al-iraqi said: Kissing the hands and foot of honoured people with the intention of tabarruk (get the blessing) is a good deed and commendable according to the purpose and intention.” (Refer Bughyatul Mustarsyidin, pg. 638)

The conclusion for this issue is it is permissible to bow to another person with the intention of respecting or honouring him. However, it must not be the same or exceed the honour and respect towards the All-Mighty Allah SWT. The same goes for the bow, where it should not be the same or exceed the bow in prayer (rukuk). Moreover, kissing the hands of others for tabarruk is sunnah. However, it must follow the limitations between a man and woman in terms of mahram.