Question: What are the rules and practices around a woman giving salaams to a non-mahram man? I have been told conflicting information: one side says to give salams to all Muslims and the other says that, as a woman, I’m only to greet women and unmarriageable (mahram) men.
Thank you for your question.
It says in the Reliance of the Traveller,
“r33.1 (Nahlawi:) It is offensive (def: r32.0) to greet with “as-Salamu ‘alaykum” anyone who is: (…) (8) a young lady who is not a member of one’s unmarriageable kin (dis: r32.6); [pp. 768-769].
Ustadh Abdullah Misra mentions, “A young un-related woman and a man do not have to reply to the other’s salams out loud (many scholars say they actually shouldn’t salam in the first place if they are only addressing each other without necessity, as a way to prevent unnecessary interaction).
According to the above, we can see that a man or woman should not be greeting the opposite gender if they are not related to them. However, if one feels that a relationship with, say, a cousin, or a brother-in-law, will be strained, or worse, that this will push them away from Islam, one may use tact and wisdom to determine whether one should greet them or return their greeting aloud. Generally speaking, politeness, affability, and kindness was the approach of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace. May we all follow his great example and take him as our ultimate role model.
Please see this excellent article about all the etiquettes, rulings, and habits concerning the salam:
May Allah give you the best in this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.