Q & A.
Q. Is touching the feet of parents or elders permitted?
Those who consider it permissible to touch the feet of parents or elders or bring amongst many others the following proof-texts for justification:
Imam al-Nawawi reports in Riyad al-Salihin:
وعن صفوان بن عسال [المرادي] (رضي الله عنه) قال: قال يهودي لصاحبه: اذهب بنا إلى هذا النبي. فأتيا رسول الله (صلى الله عليه و سلم) فسألاه عن تسع آيات بينات فذكر الحديث إلى قوله فقبلا يده ورجله و قالا: نشهد أنك نبي .
On the authority of Safwan b. `Assal (RA) who said: A Jew said to his companion: Let’s go to this Prophet. So they both went to the Prophet (SAW) and asked him about nine clear signs and he mentioned the hadith to its end. They both kissed his hand and feet and proclaimed: We testify that you are a Prophet.
Imam al-Bukhari relates in his book Adab al-Mufrad:
حدثنا موسى بن إسماعيل قال حدثنا مطر بن عبد الرحمن الأعنق قال حدثتني امرأة من صباح عبد القيس يقال لها أم أبان ابنة الوازع عن جدها أن جدها الوازع بن عامر قال : قدمنا فقيل ذاك رسول الله فأخذنا بيديه ورجليه نقبلها .
Musa b. Isma`il said: Matar b. `Abd al-Rahman al-A`naq said: a woman related to me from the member of the deputation of `Abd al-Qays being told by Umm Aban, daughter of al-Wazi` from her grandfather that her grandfather al-Wazi` b. `Amir said: We came and were told: That is the Messenger of Allah. We took his hands and feet and kissed them.
Imam al-Bukhari relates in his book Adab al-Mufrad:
حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن المبارك قال حدثنا سفيان بن حبيب قال حدثنا شعبة قال حدثنا عمرو عن ذكوان عن صهيب قال : رأيت عليا يقبل يد العباس ورجليه :
`Abd al-Rahman b. al-Mubarak related to us and said: Sufyan b. Habib related to us and said: Shu`bah said to us that: `Amru related to us from Dhakwan on the authority of Suhayb who said: I saw `Ali kiss the hand and feet of al-`Abbas.
Often, touching the feet of parents or elders is seen as an obligatory ritual act (especially in introductory sessions before marriage is concluded where a girl is made to touch the feet of her future father and mother in-law). If this is deemed to be a part of the marriage process (or indeed a required feature of general greetings and exchanges) and thus an act of reward, then this would be incorrect and thus best avoided.
However, many are quick to pounce on the practice as being of Hindu-pagan origin and condemn it as an act of polytheism (shirk) although at first this is not altogether clear. If the daughter (or indeed the son) is made to touch the feet of parents/elders within a general situation (e.g. `Id gatherings, etc.) in a manner that is a prostration position (i.e. sajadah position) then is clearly unlawful (haram) and is considered to be one of the major sins (min al-kaba’ir) and must be avoided.
Otherwise it is seen by scholars in the sub-continent (particularly from Bangladesh) as merely permissible but neither recommended (mustahabb/mandub) nor obligatory (wajib). Therefore, one may not impose the practice upon anyone nor be the cause of fitnah for it.
And Allah alone knows best.
 See al-Nawawi, Riyad al-Salihin, hadith no.891, p.474.
 See al-Tirmidhi, vol.3, pp.399-400 and vol.4, p.139; Ibn Majah, hadith no.3705 and Ahmad in his Musnad, 4/240.
 Regarding Umm Aban, al-Dhahabi says she is amongst those transmitters who are unknown and unidentifiable (min al-majhulat). See Mizan al-I`tidal, vol.4, p.611 and hence for that reason al-Albani declared the narration weak (da`if) in his Da`if Adab al-Mufrad, p.89, hadith no.184 although in al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar’s Taqrib al-Tahdhib, he grades her as truthful (saduqah). Moreover, al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id, vol.9, p.390 declared all the transmitters as trustworthy commenting on Abu Dawud’s silence over Umm Aban. This silence is in no way an indication of the untrustworthy or unidentifiable nature (tajhil) of a particular transmitter but rather an indication of the hadith specialist’s acceptance of the transmitter. It is also of note that Umm Aban is not found to be any of the books of Du`afa’ (i.e. those collections containing the weak and very weak transmitters). And Allah knows best.
 See al-Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad, hadith no.975, pp.447-448. See also Abu Dawud’s Sunan, hadith no.5225; al-Tabarani, Mu`jam al-Kabir, hadith no.5313; Bukhari, Tarikh al-Kabir, vol.3, p.447; al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal, vol.9, p.266; Ibn al-Muqri’, Kitab al-Rukhsah, p.80, hadith no.20; al-Bazzar in his Musnad, vol.3, p.278; al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan, vol.7, p.102 and Abu Nu`aym, Ma`rifat al-Sahabah, no.3092 through Matr b. `Abd al-Rahman.
 See Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad, hadith no.976, p.448.
 Ibn Hibban cites him as an upright and trustworthy transmitter in al-Thiqat, vol.4, p.381 being the only one to do. Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani declares him as truthful (saduq) in Taqrib al-Taqrib,
 In hadith terminology, this is a mawquf hadith, i.e. where the chain of transmission (isnad) reaches a Companion only (wa huwa ma intaha ila al-sahabi) and not the Prophet (SAW). In this narration, the Companion is Imam `Ali (RA). See Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Nuzhat al-Nazar, p.61.
 A man may not touch the feet of his future mother in-law nor a woman touch the feet of her future father in-law because prior to marriage the latter two will be considered strangers (ajnabi).