Should I Maintain Eye Contact When Greeting Someone?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I have a habit of looking down and slightly leaning towards the person when greeting my Muslim brethren. Is this considered humility? Or am I better off maintaining eye contact while giving the salaams and shaking someone’s hand?

Answer: Assalamu ‘Alaykum,

I pray that you are well.

It is recommended to greet and shake hands upon meeting.

Looking down is not one of the recommended actions upon greeting, even when meeting those of piety and learning.

Slightly leaning towards the person you are greeting is disliked, irrespective of who it is.

This is because of a hadith reported by Anas – may God be pleased with him – that a man asked the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – about the etiquette of greeting another, “Should I lean towards him? He replied, ‘No” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah].

Imam al-Nawawi says, regarding this:

This is a good hadith (Hasan), as we have mentioned, and no opposing piece of evidence is available, so there is no reason to contradict it. Do not be deluded by the large number of those who do it, who are associated with knowledge, piety, or any other trait of excellence, because it is only the example of the Messenger of Allah – peace and blessings of God be upon him – that is followed. Allah the Most High says, Whatever the Messenger brings you, take; whatever he prohibits you from, desist [Qur’an; 59.7]. He, the Most High, also says, Let those who oppose his commands beware of being struck with affliction, or with a painful punishment [Qur’an; 24.63].

God knows best.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Shuaib Ally

Shaykh Shuaib Ally is a scholar who has recently returned to Toronto after completing his studies overseas. He started his studies by completing his MA in Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto in 2008. He went on to study in a number of Islamic disciplines privately with scholars in Saudi Arabia, including Tafsir, Qur’anic Sciences, Shafi’i law, Usul, Hadith, Hadith Methodology, Grammar and Balagha. Shaykh Shuaib currently resides in Toronto.