Answered by Sidi Omar Mahmood
Regarding non-mahram skin contact
Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim
As salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,
As indicated by brother Murtaza, may Allah reward him, the 43rd verse of sura 4 (al-nisaa) is typically used as the major evidence for why touching a non – mahram member of the opposite gender is one of the acts that breaks wudu.
The central issue to this Question is Imam as-Shafi`i’s understanding of the word “lams” mentioned in the verse. According to as-Shafi`ii, this word means simply making skin-to-skin contact. As brother Hussein pointed out, other Imam’s differed in their interpretation of the meaning of “lams”.. A few things should be pointed out, to help clarify why the Shafi`ii position is considered a very strong and well-respected opinion. First off, we must consider the linguistic expertise that Allah blessed Imam Shafi`ii to possess.. as-Shafi`ii is the only imam of the 4 Imams who is a member of the Quraish tribe, also, he is the only of the 4 Imams to be raised in Makkah, and therefore grew up learning and speaking the Makkan dialect (as-Shafi`ii was born in Gaza I believe, but moved to Makkah at a very young age being in Makkah for the formative years of his linguistic capacities). This quality of being Quraish and growing up in Makkah, set him apart from the other Imams in having a unique advantage in understanding the language of the Quran, which was revealed in the Quraishi-Makkan dialect to the pagans of Arabia. A confirmation of as-Shafi`ii’s linguistic proficiency is his Diwan of poetry, which is considered to be a great work of Arabic literature in its own right, and an indication of Imam as-Shafi`ii’s great command of the subtleties of the Arabic language.
Next, taking a look at the verse itself Allah mentions a number of things that would cause one to lose ritual purity. Allah first mentions the state of major ritual impurity resulting from sexual climax or intercourse “junuban” as a cause for having to make ghusl, then He mentions a second level of acts that cause one to fall into a state of ritual impurity that can be raised by making tayammum (going to the bathroom and touching a woman).. many scholars maintain that “lams” cannot mean sexual relations with women because the term “junuban”, which is already mentioned in the verse, covers this meaning thus, they suggest, “lams” must refer to a lesser act that is not on the level of sexual relations as this would be redundant.
In my experience, when teaching fiqh, everyone is straight when it comes to the Shafi`ii madhab, cruising along fine until they come to this issue, …and then people start getting a bit uncomfortable despite the fact that this is a well – supported position that many great scholars have endorsed and many Muslims around the world continue to practice to this day. This is still the mu`tamid (most relied upon opinion) in our madhab and I am unaware of any fatawa stating otherwise I know that my teachers in Yemen, as well as the Shafi`ii ulama of Indonesia and the east coast of Africa all still maintain that touching the skin of a non-mahram member of the opposite gender will break one’s wudu.
The big issue here for many people is simply the “inconvenience” of having to make multiple wudus during the day because of inadvertent contact with non – mahram skin. The way I like to think about it is: if my wife touches my hand accidentally, although it may at times be “inconvenient” from a dunya – perspective, it is another chance for me to make wudu, and an opportunity to perform an act of worship to my Lord.
**On a related note: your wudu is only broken by touching the skin of a non – mahram member of the opposite gender (i.e., hair, nails, teeth, and the inside of the eyes are not counted) when you have YAQIN (certainty) that you actually made contact. For example, if the woman/man at the cash register hands you back your change in your hand, and you do not have true certainty (you are unsure) that the person’s skin touched your skin as opposed to their fingernails, then you cannot assume that your wudu is broken. The `ulama pose the example of a man in a room and a bunch of women including his sister are in an adjacent room and in the darkness of night, the man reaches in to the adjacent room to pick up something and in the process he brushes the hand of a woman in the adjacent room because of the possibility that the hand could have been his sister’s, the man’s wudu has not been broken due to the lack of certainty in contact with a non-mahram woman. It is important that we worship Allah with as much certainty in our ibadah as is possible.. For dunya matters, its okay to operate on the basis of hunches and assumption, however, when it comes to seeking the pleasure of Allah, only true certainty will do.
Wa Allahu a`lam