My country, Malaysia

Tradition. It is something that we have gotten used to for years and might be centuries. As Malaysians, our culture is rich in traditions and it did help moulding us into decent members of the society. As I am Malay, I would be ranting on what seems to be quite a problem in our daily lives as muslims because keeping the traditions alive while still abiding the outline that has been ruled out by syariah is no easy job.That goes the same with any other races, I bet. One of the obvious problem and the common one is how to say NO to handshakes (as this simple gesture is something that we usually do and other skin contacts with non mahram.)

I believe the underlying problem relating to this is either not having the slightest knowledge of who can they offer  handshakes in the family tree itself,( for example, the husband of her husband’s aunt is a non mahram for the ladies, so Islam forbids ladies to shake hands with him) Or it just because it has becomes something that is embedded within our society and it is certainly HARD to change it in the blink of the eyes. It is common to all of us to simply offer handshakes to families, friends and of course strangers but it is clearly forbidden in Islam except under certain situations as such in medical practices where doctors have to make skin contacts with the patients in doing treatment.

Therefore, we need to start taking actions to change common things in our tradition that are very close to our hearts yet not complying to the syariah. Resorting to syariah doesn’t mean that we are going to forget the traditions that are long held by our ancestors. The purpose of handshaking as I supposed it is, to show our courtesy to others as an act of gratitudes, politeness and kindness. We can always try the other way around to express that in other means. It is not necessarily to be handshakes.

Another problem is how to make people aware; be it non muslims or muslims themselves. Maybe, we can start by simply ‘skipping’ the handshakes ‘traditions’. Like after signing up contracts or anything as in business, you can both just hold onto the mock contract while the cameras are flashing and clicking away the moment. If you are BOLD enough, simply state the reason to your counterpart. Surely, one could understand. And to manage the already- extended-hand-even-before-you-get-the-chance- to-say-no- to, you might comply but better not. Another trick is that if you are wearing headscarf, cover part of your hand with the fabric.

Handshakes are certainly something inevitable in family gatherings in Malay tradition. You need to salam this uncle and that older cousin of yours and this fond uncle of Bapa and the list goes on and on and on. Got caught in this similar situation? I certainly did and guess what did I do? Act Houdini. Dissapear for awhile and show up sometimes later.

I used to this before. If I’m not the one who offer my salam to my uncles first, then they would be hunting me down asking questions why why why and start labeling me as a snobby child. It has become a tradition you see,  tradition that ought to be CORRECTED. This is my resolution to correct what is wrong . May Allah ease our effort.

Emmet Sarkowsky (pen name)
Year 3

Faculty of Medicine
Ain Shams University

Karya Unit
Publications and Information Bureau
PERUBATAN Ain Shams Chapter

This author is one of the new successors of Karyawan PCS columnists. Let’s continue to provide supports for her writings .

This article is the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of PERUBATAN Online.