Eid Greetings: Hugathon or Kissathon?
By Shaykh Yaser Birjas
During the Eid day, we get hugged and kissed more in an hour than others would in an entire lifetime.
Eid day becomes a hug-athon day, and in some cultures, it’s even a kiss-athon. You get hugs and kisses (on the cheek of course) from people whom you know and do not know. You get it from every Tom, Dick and Harry, or let me say from every Ahmad, Abdullah and FathaAllah.
Hugs and kisses, depending on the culture, come in different forms and formats. In some cultures, you hug three times by holding the person’s upper arms while your chin almost relaxing on one of the shoulders and then swing your shoulders right, left and then right again each time faces come across as you switch from one side to the other. Sometimes this hug comes with a kiss on the shoulder. Some cultures add a nice innocent squeeze while folding the arms around the other persons’ back. Sometimes the squeeze can be breathtaking, literally. In other cultures, one hug on one side is enough followed by a nice warm double hand shaking.
The Sudanese hug is fun - to save some time they just pat you on the opposite shoulder and then shake hands with you. With this kind of hug comes a long standing of “how are you, how’s the family, are you ok, are you fine?” and on and on of the same line of greetings until someone gives up first. I love the way they do it. Many African hugs look similar to that one except that they pat and give a quick and light embrace, or a front shoulder to shoulder push.
Unlike men, women hug each other passionately. They even do the kissing part more than men do. They are more social, and for them it is a reflection of joy and happiness more than just a formal greeting. The kissing part for many of people, especially young ones, who grew up in the west, to only be polite I say, does not make any sense.
Unfortunately, the cultural pressure nowadays made it even look awkward to watch men kissing each other on the cheek, let alone to kiss someone who is young, including a close family member. With high rates of inappropriate conduct around the world, including in Muslim societies, we do not blame people if they shrug their shoulders when they see it, or are approached with something like that. Here is a hint, if the person is not from the culture of kissing, then don’t try it.
Some other cultures, such as in the southern belt of the Arabian Peninsula, they have a very different way of greeting. A nose bumping and sometimes nose kissing substitutes for the cheek kissing thing. You don’t like it? You don’t have to do it, you can just kiss the shoulder, it will do the job. Kissing the forehead or the hand is very common with the elders as a sign of respect; you should try it especially with your parents and grandparents. They will love it. In the Gulf culture, with the shaking of hands comes the custom of sticking cheek to cheek and the kissing will be in the air. Sometimes you stick the right cheeks first for once and then you move to the left cheek with three to four quick bumps, each comes with a kiss in the air but with a longer intermission before the last bump and then hands released.
Sticking cheeks together with a nice squeeze is common amongst women. They like to hold the forearms as they kiss, or they embrace with one shoulder by placing their arm over one shoulder from above. Much of the air kissing happens there with women as well, probably to avoid ruining their makeup art, or to avoid smearing others with their multi-colored lipsticks. Some aunties love the multiple super fast kisses on one cheek. Ask the younger ones, they hate it. For whatever reason it is done, they just express their emotions and feelings.
The stronger the squeeze, the stronger the relation. Just don’t depend on that to gauge your meter of sensitivity with people. I’m sure after half an hour of cheek sticking and squeezing and after long time of constant smiling you get cheek muscle fatigue. You won’t be able to keep up with smiling nor squeezing.
There are so many different forms of hugging and kissing during the Eid. If you attend the Eid day, you will observe tens of different patterns. I know they start genuine and passionate but after half an hour or so of hugging and kissing, they become mechanical, and you can tell people are running out or energy.
For someone who wears glasses, like me, hugging and kissing is a nightmare. They keep bumping into other people’s noses, faces, head covers, hijabs and sometimes catch some of their hair. And talk about hugging or kissing someone else who is wearing glasses too, now that is a scene. Therefore, before the hug-athon starts I take my glasses off and keep them in my pocket, otherwise I will have to spend the rest of the day fixing it and cleaning it. And spending your Eid day doing just that, trust me, it’s not fun.
Nevertheless, it is so beautiful to see the Muslims happy and joyful on the Eid day. It is so nice to watch everybody on the Musalla after Eid prayer exchanging hugs, kisses and handshaking with beautiful words of greetings and du’a. But what is it with hugging and kissing on Eid day anyways? Is this is the way to greet and congratulate one another for the Eid? Is there any standard way to do it? Do we know any specific Sunnah for greeting from the beloved Messenger of Allah,salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to follow on Eid day?
Greeting in general is a beautiful Sunnah that Islam requires it’s followers to observe.
Spreading salam or peace in Islam is a duty upon every single Muslim. And responding to the greeting is even obligatory. We know that from so many direct and indirect aspects of our religion.
As-Salam is the beautiful name of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and one of His Almighty attributes.
When Adam was created, he was taught the greetings of salam by the angels. Since then it had become his way of greeting and the way of his offspring.
We send salam and blessings on our beloved Messenger whenever he is mentioned.
The greeting with salam, by the angels and other messengers of Allah, was mentioned in the Qur’an many times.
Laylatul Qar, the Night of Power, was praised with salam and peace.
Spreading salam to everyone is a great virtue, as mentioned in hadith Abdullah ibn Salam may Allah be pleased with him who narrated, the Messenger of Allah said: “O people! spread salam, and feed the needy and pray at night while people are asleep, you will enter Paradise in peace.” (Tirmidhi). And in hadith Abu Hurayrah may Allah be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allah said: “You shall not enter Paradise until you (truly) believe, and you will not (truly) believe until you love one an another. Shall I guide you to something if you do would make you so? Spread salam amongst yourselves.” (Muslim).
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: “When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.” (an-Nisaa’ 4:86).
So what are the etiquettes we should follow for Eid greeting?
Start with salam (as-salamu alaykum) before anything else, if within a group, one salam is enough to everybody. If you were entering a room full of people then it’s better to direct salam to three directions; right, left and front.
Try to be the first who starts with salam. Abu Umamah narrates the Messenger of Allah was once asked: “When two men meet, who should start with the salam greeting first?” Rasulullah replied: “The one whose more worthy with Allah.” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)
Hand shaking is the standard greeting. Al-Baraa’ may Allah be pleased with him narrated, the Messenger of Allah said: “There is no occasion when two Muslims meet and shake hands, except that Allah forgives their sins before they part away.” (Ibn Majah).
On regular basis, hugging and bowing down is not required, as matter of fact bowing down is not permissible to anyone but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Anas may Allah be pleased with him narrated; a man asked the Messenger of Allah, “If one of us meets his brother or his friend, should he bow down for him? He said “No”. “Should he embrace him and kiss him?” the man asked. “No” The Messenger replied. The man then asked, “Should he then hold his arm and shake his hand?” He said, “Yes”. (Tirmidhi)
When greeting people, we should do it with a cheerful face. Meeting people with cheerful face does not hurt your face muscles or your ego. Abu Dhar may Allah be pleased with him narrated, the Messenger of Allah said: “Do not disparage (underestimate) any good deed (no matter how small it is), even if that deed was to meet your brother with a cheerful face.” (Muslim)
Hugging and kissing, in the way described earlier, on special occasions is acceptable. It is a cultural matter that shari’ah does not object to. It was reported that when Zaid ibn Haritha came back to Madeenah (from a journey), the Messenger of Allah stood up to greet him, he kissed him and embraced him. (Tirmidhi) And when Ja’far ibn Abi Talib the cousin of the Messenger of Allah came back for Abyssinia, after his long absence, the Messenger of Allah embraced him. (Abu Ya’la)
Verbal greeting with any permissible phrase, such as “Taqabal Allahu minna wa minkum” may Allah accept (the good deeds) from you and from us, is recommended. This was reported as the practice of the Sahaba, may Allah be pleased with them. Other phrases are also acceptable as long as prayers and invocations mentioned are halal, without phrases of shirk involved.
It is important here to mention that the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam never shook hands with foreign women, women who are not mahram to him, let alone to hug them or kiss them. Foreign women are those who are not related to the person by blood relation or not of his unmarriageable kin. And the best example is the example of Muhammad salla Allahu alyhi wa sallam.
In conclusion, the Eid day is a day of celebration and praising the Lord subhanahu wa ta’ala. It is also a day of worship, and therefore we should not turn it into a day of disobedience. The festivity of the Eid does not mean the violation of the good deeds. The greetings on Eid day, are the manifestation of joy and happiness. Regardless of your cultural choice, when the Eid comes, get ready to join the hug-athon and kiss-athon. May Allah accept from us the best of our deeds, say Ameen.