Touching feet of elders allowed in Islam ?

Question:

What are the rules in Islam on giving salam to elders in the family (e.g. Parents, Grandparents)? In terms of salam I mean bowing and touching the feet of that person in a sign of respect. It seems to be part of my culture to do this on special occasions out of respect. I have a problem with doing it as I think it is not part of islamic culture to do this. Could you tell me whether it is permitted in Islam?

Over the years i have found that in the Bangladeshi community we are expected to bow and touch the elders feet as a way of doing salaam to them.
 I clearly do not agree with this form but are unaware of what Islam says about this and the forms of salaam that we can do if any to elders.

Answer:


The advice tendered by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) regarding Salaam is that the younger should greet the elder. Also, the conventional way of meeting is the handshake; the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said ‘Any two Muslims who meet and shake hands before parting, their sins fall as leaves fall from a tree in autumn.’
When a person touches the elder’s feet, then this will naturally resemble a Sajda, namely a prostration. If a person performs prostration to other than Allah with the intention of worship, then this is disbelief. But when a person touches the feet of elders, scholars or teachers, it is not with the intention of worshipping them, but to instead show respect to them. There are instances from our past which suggest this is permissible.
* For example, it is reported that when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) visited the house of his daughter, Sayyiduna Fatima Zahra (may Allah be pleased with her), she would stand up for him in respect, take his hand and kiss it and make him sit in her place. When Sayyiduna Fathima Zahra (may Allah be pleased with her) visited the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), then he would stand up for her, hold her hand and kiss it and allow her to sit in his place. (Sunan Abu Daud)
* Once, two Jews came to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and asked him a question (about a verse from the Holy Quran relating to Musa (peace be upon him)). The Holy Prophet answered them. Thereafter, they kissed the hands and the feet of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and told him that they bear testimony that he is a Nabi. (Sunan Tirmidi; Book of Exegesis, Chapter; Surah Bani Israe; Hadith no. 3069)
* Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) kissed the hands of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), as reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad (Hadith no. 4520).
* Imam al-Bukhari included in his Sahih a chapter called ‘whosoever falls on his knees in front of an Imam or Muhaddith’, thus suggesting the permissibility of such a posture. Under this section, he includes the report in which Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) fell on his knees in the presence of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) (Sahih al-Bukhari; Book of Knowledge, Hadith no. 91)
*Sheikh Jibril Haddad – a great contemporary Hadith scholar – writes that Imam Muslim asked for permission to kiss the foot of Imam al-Bukhari. Haddad adds,
“If a certain culture over-emphasizes a gesture of adab and tends to make it an obligation, new rulings may apply. If the obligation is a social custom with no religious connotation it is a mere innovation. Examples are the expectation of an elderly Turkish woman that a greeting male kiss her hand, even a non-mahram, or the expectation among certain Gulf Arabs that a proper greeting between males involves kissing cheeks/lips and rubbing noses.
If the obligation acquires a religious connotation it is an innovation of misguidance which must be avoided.”

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