Shaking hands with the sister-in-law

Q 2: It is well-known that it is not permissible for men and women who are non-Mahrams (not spouses or unmarriageable relatives) to shake hands or be alone with one another. However, is it permissible for a man to shake hands with his sister-in-law or his wife’s paternal and maternal aunts claiming that they are temporary Mahrams (unmarriageable relatives) to him? Also, is it permissible to be alone with them? This is the first part of the question. The second part is: Is the temporary Mahram status between a man and his sister-in-law and his wife’s aunts the same as that between a man and the wife of another unrelated man? Please give us your Fatwa (legal opinion issued by a qualified Muslim scholar) and may Allah reward you!

A: First: (Part No. 17; Page No. 36) It is not permissible for a man to shake hands with his sister-in-law or his wife’s paternal and maternal aunts. He is also not permitted to be alone with any of them, because they are not among his Mahrams (unmarriageable relatives), he is only temporarily forbidden to marry any of them and this is not sufficient to make them subject to the same ruling of Mahrams in regard to Khulwah (being alone with a member of the opposite sex) and shaking hands. Second: If someone is confirmed to be a Mahram due to a blood relationship or a relationship through breastfeeding or marriage, the resulting Mahram status is permanent. There is no such thing as a temporary Mahram status; there is only a temporary prohibition of marriage. A sister-in-law and a wife’s paternal and maternal aunts are not among a man’s Mahrams, he is just forbidden from marrying any of them at the same time he is married to his wife. Allah (Exalted be He) says: Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers until His saying: ...and two sisters in wedlock at the same time The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade marrying a woman and her paternal or maternal aunt at the same time. As for the wife of a man unrelated by kinship to him, she is temporarily forbidden to marry any other man while she is still married to her husband. If they separate due to the husband’s death, Talaq (divorce pronounced by a husband), or an annulment of the marriage contract, it becomes lawful for another man to marry her after she has finished her ‘Iddah (woman’s prescribed waiting period after divorce or widowhood), even if the new husband has already a wife, as long as she is not this wife’s sister, paternal or maternal aunt. (Part No. 17; Page No. 37) May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family, and Companions.