I was wondering, what is the Islamic perspective on spouses holding each other’s hands in public?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
There are three scenarios to your question:
1) If the spouses publicly hold hands in a manner that is intimate and expresses affection and sexual intimacy to the point that it draws people’s attention towards them, then this would not be allowed.
Islam is a religion of shame and modesty. It teaches its followers to live a life that is modest and dignified. It also prohibits them from engaging in any action that would lead to an immoral atmosphere.
Allah Most High says:
“Come not near to shameful deeds, whether open or secret.” (Surah al-An’am, V: 151)
Islam considers modesty part of faith, a fact which is stressed in several Hadiths. For example:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) passed by a man of Ansar who was admonishing his brother regarding modesty (haya). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Leave him, for modesty is (part) of Faith.” (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was also a practical example of modesty and bashfulness.
Sayyiduna Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was more modest than the virgin behind the curtain (or in her apartment), and when he disliked anything, we recognised that from his face.” (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)
2) The second situation is where the spouses hold hands due to need and necessity (without expressing any intimacy or affection), such as when crossing a busy road or when in a crowded area (like when performing Hajj), so as not to become separated from each other.
The ruling for publicly holding hands in such situations is that this would be permissible (rather necessary at times), for Islam is a religion of mercy and takes people’s needs into consideration.
3) The third situation is in between the above two, in that there is no real need for the spouses to hold hands neither do they express any intimacy or affection whilst holding hands in public. They merely hold hands in a casual and non-provocative manner.
In my humble opinion, the ruling on publicly holding hands in such a manner would depend on the local customs and norms (urf), and on the area and environment one resides in. A particular act may be considered modest in certain areas, whilst it may not be the case in other conservative societies. And as we know that local customs and traditions also have a role in determining the outcome of a particular ruling.
Allamah ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states in his Majmu’a al-Rasa’il:
“Local customs and habits (urf) is considered in (determining the laws of) Shariah, hence at times rulings will be based on them.” (See: Ibn Abidin, Nashr al-Urf fi bina ba’d al-ahkam ala al-urf, P. 115)
Therefore, if one resides in a society where holding hands in public is considered offensive and immodest, then it would be wrong and blameworthy for the spouses to publicly hold hands. However, in some areas, this is not considered to be offensive, thus holding hands would be permitted in such areas. But this, as mentioned earlier, is in the case where hands are held casually and not in a manner that expresses intimacy or affection.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK