What Is Permissible for One to Touch of Their Kin (Mahram)?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

I heard that we cannot touch what we cannot see of awrah of either gender so does that mean I cannot sit in a car or bike even with a mahram man or woman?

Also why touching women’s hand and face are an exception to “one can touch what can see?”

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

What is Permissible to Touch of One’s Mahram?

It is permissible to touch, without sexual desire or fear of sexual desire, any part of the body of one’s unmarriageable kin (mahram) that is not considered nakedness in the Sacred law. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Touching any part that is considered nakedness, or touching in general with desire is strictly prohibited (haram). The touching here, first and foremost, relates to skin-to-skin contact. [Ibid.]

If there is a barrier preventing skin-to-skin contact and contact occurs without desire on a part of the body that is impermissible to see, this is still strictly prohibited without dire need. This is especially the case if done with desire. [Ibid.]

Note that the accidental bumping of shoulders due to sitting together in the car or on the bus is excused as it is not voluntary and unlikely to be due to or with desire. [Ibid.]

Why Looking Not Touching?

The prohibition of looking with desire is associated with the prohibition of fornication: the former being a precursor to the latter. Allah Most High says, “And do not come near fornication…” [Quran, 17:32]

The prohibition in the above verse does not say ‘do not fornicate,’ but rather is prohibits anything that could possibly lead to fornication. Looking with desire is an obvious example of this, and touching, with or without desire, is an even more explicit example. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar] 

Summary: Dealing With the Human Nature

The Sacred law of Islam is very realistic and proactive in aiding the Human to control their desires so that they can be free to focus on their spiritual states and their relationship with Allah Most High.

Knowing that Humans are naturally inclined to the opposite gender and that that natural desire, if unchecked can drive the Human to live a life not far from that of beastly animals – the Sacred law guides the Human in a few ways to ensure they do not become slaves to their desires.

One way is to limit the fulfillment of their natural desires to avenues that are pure, wholesome, and beneficial for themselves, their families, and society. Secondly, it encourages the Human to make righteous, lofty intentions. By doing so, the fulfillment of desires can become a spiritual act and a righteous act.

The Sacred law, the Divine guidance from Allah Most High, is the most practical and blessed guidance. Realistic in that it does not encourage non-fulfillment of desires, such as by way of celibacy, nor is it so lax that it leaves the Human to be in slavery to the constant, never-ending desires of the base Human nature.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.