Islamic greetings (Assalam-o-Alaikum)

Everyone has a custom of greeting one another, and every group has its own distinguishing greeting that differentiates them from other people.

The Arabs used to meet one another with the words “An’im sabaahan” or “An’imu sabaahan” [same as “Good morning” – Translator].

When Islam came, Allah prescribed that the method of greeting among Muslims should be “Assalam-o-Alaikum,” and that this special greeting should only be used among Muslims and not for other nations. The meaning of Salam (literally, peace) is safety and protection from evil and from faults. The name al-Salam is one of the Names of Allah, so the meaning of the greeting of Salam which is mandatory among Muslims is,

May the blessing of Allah descend upon you.”

The usage of the preposition ‘ala in ‘alaikum (upon you) specifies that the greeting is inclusive.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made spreading Salam a part of faith. Al-Bukhaari (12, 28 and 6236), Muslim (39), Ahmad (2/169), Abu Dawood (5494), al-Nisaa’i, (8/107) and Ibn Hibbaan (505) narrated from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar that a man asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

 “What is the best thing in Islam?” He said, “Feeding others and giving the greeting of Salam to those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”

Peace is one of the duties of Islam and one of the basic pillars of the Islamic system.

One should give Salam to those whom one knows and to those whom one does not know, out of genuineness and sincerity towards Allah; one should not try to impress other people by saying Salam only to those whom one knows and has a benefit from them and to no-one else. This also involves an attitude of humbleness.

Thus the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained that this Salam spreads love and brotherhood. Muslim (54), Ahmad (2/391), and al-Tirmidhi (2513) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you about something which, if you do it, you will love one another? Spread Salam amongst yourselves.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also explained the reward got by the one who says Salam, as was reported by al-Nisaa’i in ‘Aml al-yawm wa’l-laylah (368) and al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (586) and by Ibn Hibban (493).

They reported from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that a man passed by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) whilst he was sitting with some others, and said “Salam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “[He will have] ten hasanaat (rewards).” Another man passed by and said “Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat-Allah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “[He will have] twenty hasanaat.” Another man passed by and said “Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakaatuhu (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “[He will have] thirty hasanaat.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered us to return Salams, and made it a right and a duty. Ahmad (2/540), al-Bukhaari (1240), Muslim (2792), al-Nisaa’i in al-Yawm wa’l-Laylah (221) and Abu Dawood (5031) all reported that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

 “The Muslim has five rights over his fellow-Muslim: he should return his Salams, visit him when he is sick, attend his funeral, accept his invitation, and pray for mercy for him [say “Yarhamuk Allah”] when he sneezes.”

It is clear that it is compulsory to say Salam and return Salam too. It is as if he is saying to you, “I am giving you safety and refuge,” so you have to give him the same, so that he does not get doubtful or think that the one to whom he has given Salam is betraying him or disregarding him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us that if Muslims are ignoring or abandoning one another, this will be put to an end when one of them says Salam.

Al-Bukhaari (6233) reported that Abu Ayyoob (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘It is not permissible for a Muslim to forsake his brother for more than three days, each of them turning away from the other if they meet. The better of them is the first one to say Salam.’”

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