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Greetings in Islam

Table of contents
Introduction .......................................................................................... 2 Importance of Salam ........................................................................... 3 Shaking hands while greeting ............................................................ 4 Some etiquettes regarding salutions .............................................. 4 Order of offering salutations ........................................................... 6 Rules regarding greeting non-Muslims ............................................ 6 Reward of offering Salutations........................................................ 9 Conclusion ............................................................................................... 9

Greeting is the first step of introduction. Whenever a group of people meet, the first thing that they usually do is greet each other. People from different backgrounds have their own distinctive way of greeting each other. When Islam came, a specific method was introduced and all the Muslims are expected to follow it whenever greeting their fellow brothers. They are required to pronounce salam by saying Assalam-o-Alykum. The meaning of salam is of peace, harmlessness, safety and protection from evil and from faults. The name al-Salaam is a name of Allah, may He be exalted, and the meaning of the greeting of salaam becomes, May the blessing of His Name descend upon you. This is the best and most comprehensive of all greetings. Ibn al-Qayyim said in Badaai' al-Fawaaid (144): Allaah, the Sovereign, the Most Holy, the Peace, prescribed that the greeting among the people of Islam should be al-salaamu alaykum, which is better than all the greetings of other nations which include impossible ideas or lies, such as saying, May you live for a thousand years, or things that are not accurate, such as Anim sabaahan (Good morning), or actions that are not right, such as prostrating in greeting. Thus the greeting of salaam is better than all of these, because it has the meaning of safety which is life, without which nothing else can be achieved. So this takes precedence over all other aims or objectives. A person has two main aims in life: to keep himself safe from evil, and to get something good. Keeping safe from evil takes precedence over getting something good The practice of saying Salam was very prominent among the first Islamic community and Holy Prophet (S.A.W) also stressed greatly on offering Salam. Anas b. Malik has reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: When the People of the Book offer you salutations, you should say: The same to you. (Muslim:: Book 26 : Hadith 5380) Imams Bukhari and Muslim has also reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "When Allah created Adam he told him to go and say Assalam-u-Alikum to a group of Angels and listen to their reply. It is your greeting and the greeting of your descendants. Adam went and said: Assalamu Alikum they said Assalamu Alikum Wa Rahmatulah." One aspect of the Islamic greeting that can cause confusion is the fact that we salute a single individual in the the plural saying, as-salaamu alaikum, alaikum implying upon you all. This


plural pronoun is also used in response. Al-Amash, Ibrahim an-Nakhai discussed this item saying, When you salute a single individual, you must say: as-salaamu alaikum *using the pronoun kum+, for the angels are with him.

Importance of Salam
Great stress has been laid on offering Salam in the Holy Quran. In Surah 4 verse 28 Allah says,

Translation: When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Lo! Allah taketh count of all things. This shows that greeting others is a duty of every Muslim and he must return a greeting with a better greeting or at least with a greeting of equal quality. Holy Prophet (S.A.W) has also outline the importance of offering Salam at several places.It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah b. 'Amr that a man asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) which of the merits (is superior) in Islam. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: That you provide food and extend greetings to one whom you know or do not know.(Muslim) Imam Muslim has also reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "I swear by the one whose hand my soul is in that you will not enter paradise until you believe. And you wont be believed until you love one another. May I tell you something, that if you practice it you will love another, spread the (salam) Islamic greeting among you." This makes it clear to us, that spreading salam among Muslims is the first step towards paradise. This is because spreading salam leads to increasing the love between our hearts. And the increase of love between our hearts will increase the Iman, (faith). Therefore we must never hesitate while offering salutations.


Shaking hands while greeting

When meeting another Muslim shaking hands is highly recommended, along with a great smile, because it increases the love and respect among Muslims. Concerning this tradition Holy Prophet (S.A.W) said, When two Muslims shake hands, their sins fall to the ground, as leaves of the tree fall to the ground. Imam At-Termithi reported that Anass (R.A.) said, "When the prophet use to meet a man, he shook hands with him and the HolyProphet (S.A.W.) would not pull away his hand until the man would pull his hand away first." At another place Imams Abu Dawood reported that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "If Muslims meet and shake hands with each other, they will be forgiven before they leave." However presently Muslims, in their ignorance, also perform unnecessary acts together with shaking hands such as bending or standing up to greet someone. Regarding this Imam AtTermithi reported a hadith that a man said: "O messenger of Allah if one of us meets his brother or friend, should he bend down to him? The prophet said, "No." He asked should he hug him and kiss him? The prophet answered, "No." He asked should he take his hand and shake it. The prophet answered, "Yes." This shows that the acts mentioned above, which have become very common in todays society are unnecessary and so we should avoid them.

Some etiquettes regarding salutions

Following is a list of etiquettes which must be kept in mind while offering salutions to others. When entering an empty house, you must offer the salutation of peace. You are saluting yourself on Allahs behalf. You are saluting the believing jinn who occupy the house. Through the blessings of peace, you are seeking safety from the devils and harmful influences present in the house. Custom requires the person who initiates the salutation to be in a state of ritual purity (wudu) as well as the respondent. When two people meet, custom requires them to try and forestall each other in offering the salutation, as a demonstration of humility.


Pronounce the a's in the greeting "assalamu alaikum" not as the a in cart, i.e. "ah." Instead, but as the "a" in "cat." At the same time as making the greeting "assalamu alaikum," it is customary to shake the other person's hand (only male to male or female to female), and to give a big, genuine smile. Muslims do not bow to one another when greeting, no matter what Hollywood has popularized. Nor do they hug each other. In a gathering where a talk or discussion is taking place, the person entering should not draw attention to himself by making salaam. He should not interfere in the talk. He should lower his gaze and silently sit down. When later the opportunity arises, he should make Salaam. When replying to the Salaam of a person, the Salaam should be made verbally, not by a sign of the hand or a nod of the head. It is Wajib (obligatory) to reply to the Salaam which is written in a letter. This reply may be in writing or verbally. In a letter in which a dua is written, the Salaam should be written first since this is the sunnah method. A person who is engrossed in a conversation or in some work should not be greeted. The new-comer should not intrude with his hand-shaking. Such an act is uncultured and causes distress to others. Before entering a house or any place of privacy it is necessary to seek permission. Do not enter without permission. Stand outside and proclaim the Salaam, then ask permission in any language. Use such terms which convey the full meaning. However as far as Salam itself is concerned, only the terms of Shariah should be used. When answering the call of nature neither reply to anyones Salaam nor offer Salaam. On promising to convey a persons Salaam it becomes wajib to do so, otherwise not. When making Salaam to elders adopt a low voice. Do not express yourself in such terms which convey arrogance or disrespect. We must not hesitate instead we should encourage the act of greeting strangers.


Order of offering salutations

In order to avoid any misunderstanding Holy Prophet (S.A.W) has described some people who should try to precede other in offering salutations. Following hadith give examples: Saheeh Bukhari Volume 8, Book 74, Number 250: Narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "The young should greet the old, the passer by should greet the sitting one, and the small group of persons should greet the large group of persons. " Saheeh Bukhari Volume 8, Book 74, Number 252: Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The riding person should greet the walking one, and the walking one should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons." Therefore we can establish the following order of offering salutations in accordance with the teachings of Holy Prophet (S.A.W): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. The one who comes greets the Muslims that are present. The one who is riding greets the one who is walking. The one who is walking greets the one who is sitting. The smaller group greets the bigger group. The young greet the elder.

Rules regarding greeting nonMuslims

As stated above, Allah has ordered us to offer salutations to others by saying When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Lo! Allah taketh count of all things. Here leading Muslim companions such as Ibn Abbas said: Whoever greeted you from the creation of Allah, then return it back even if he was a Magian, for Allah said: When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Muhammad bin Bashar, said that Salim bin Nooh said that Saeed bin Abi Arooba said that Qatada said: That part of Allahs statement When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it is for the Muslims and that part of Allahs statement or return it is for the People of the Book.


According to this commentary Muslims are to reply back a better greeting if greeted by a Muslim and an equal greeting if greeted by a non-Muslim. Hazrat Anas reported that the companions of Allah's Apostle (S.A.W) said to him: The People of the Book offer us salutations (by saying as-Salamu- 'Alaikum). How should we reciprocate them? Thereupon he said: Say: Wa 'Alaikum (and upon you too). So here from the Hadith we see how we should reply back to the People of the Book. But why did this command come about in the first place? The reason could be made clear by reading the following Hadith: Saheeh Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 274: Narrated by 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "When the Jews greet you, they usually say, 'As-Samu 'alaikum (Death be on you),' so you should say (in reply to them), 'Wa'alaikum (And on you)." Saheeh Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 404: Narrated by'Aisha: The Jews used to greet the Prophet by saying, "As-Samu 'Alaika (i.e., death be upon you), so I understood what they said, and I said to them, "As-Samu 'alaikum wal-la'na (i.e. Death and Allah's Curse be upon you)." The Prophet said, "Be gentle and calm, O 'Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs." I said, "O Allah's Prophet! Didn't you hear what they said?" He said, "Didn't you hear me answering them back by saying, 'Alaikum (i.e., the same be upon you)?" If all the texts of this Hadith are collected and analyzed, what comes to light is the fact that the People of the Book used to mischievously twist their tongue in a swift manner and instead of saying the proper words of the salutation would say Assamu alaykum (Death be to you all), which when quickly pronounced sounded very near to the original words of Assalamu alaykum. It was to counter this devilish prank that the Muslims were directed to say: Wa alaykum (To you too). It must be borne in mind that the Muslims were asked to give this particular reply only after the truth had been revealed in its ultimate form by the Prophet (S.A.W) to the People of the Book after many years of propagation, and in spite of that they were not willing to submit to it. Had this ultimate stage not come, one can safely conclude that Muslims would never have been asked to reply with equally harsh words and would have continued to say the words: Assalamu alaykum, the best of prayers and the best of wishes.

It is further stated in Saheeh Bukhari that: Volume 7, Book 69, Number 539: Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib: Allah's Apostle ordered us to do seven things and forbade us from seven. He ordered us to visit the sick, to follow funeral processions, (to say) to a sneezer, (May Allah bestow


His Mercy on you, if he says, Praise be to Allah), to accept invitations, to greet (everybody), to help the oppressed and to help others to fulfill their oaths. He forbade us to wear gold rings, to drink in silver (utensils), to use Mayathir (silken carpets placed on saddles), to wear Al-Qissi (a kind of silken cloth), to wear silk, Dibaj or Istabraq (two kinds of silk). We see in these Hadith that the Prophet ordered us to greet people. He did not specify a limit as to whom we should greet. However, when we look at other Hadith we see that Muslims are not to initiate greetings with the People of the Book. Saheeh Muslim, Book 026, Number 5389: Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. It is possible that the Prophet only meant it for the Jews as we can see in the Hadith above because the Jews were known to have said death be upon you and therefore it was a way for Muslims to show their disapproval of them. The Prophet most likely gave the commands to greet everybody at first and then when the problem of Jews coming along saying death upon you, the Prophet would have had to reverse his judgment. Still Imam Malik was of the opinion that its not that big of a problem if a Muslim did greet a non-Muslim first. Malik Muwatta, Book 53, Number 53.2.3: Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Dinar that Abdullah ibn Umar said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "When a jew greets you, and says 'Death to you' (as-samu alaykum) say, 'And to you.' "Yahya said, "Malik was asked whether a person who greeted a jew or christian, should apologise for it. He said, 'No'." To sum it all up, there are different opinions. Some may think that the Prophet only ordered the rules of greeting the non-Muslims for that particular time because of the tension between them and the majority believes that it is still applied to this day. Shaykh Mahmood Ghaith of Ajman, UAE states that Muslims could greet non-Muslims first but not with the Islamic greeting. He could say eg. Hello, good morning etc. Even if a non-Muslim tells a Muslim the Islamic greeting, the Muslim is still returning the peace of God upon him. So there is nothing offensive in the reply anyway. The Prophet probably stated that Muslims should return the greeting to other Muslims in a better way to increase the love and brotherhood within the Muslim community. This could be a special greeting that only Muslims should do for each other.


Reward of offering Salutations

Regarding the rewards of greeting, we a have beautiful hadith of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W). They have been explained as reported by al-Nisaai in Aml al-yawm wal-laylah (368) and alBukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (586) and by Ibn Hibban (493). They reported from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that a man passed by the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) whilst he was sitting with some others, and said Salaam alaykum (peace be upon you). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, *He will have+ ten hasanaat (rewards). Another man passed by and said Salaam alaykum wa rahmat-Allaah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, *He will have+ twenty hasanaat. Another man passed by and said Salaam alaykum wa rahmat-Allaahi wa barakaatuhu (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah and His blessings). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, *He will have] thirty hasanaat. This shows that greeting others is a very respectable and worthy act in the eyes of AlMighty Allah. It also shows that we can earn huge rewards and hence improve our life hereafter simply by proclaiming few words genuine words of greeting.

From the above discussion it is clear that offering Salam is a vital part of our religion. Indeed the great detail in which the matter of salam has been addressed in the Holy Prophets(S.A.W) hadiths reflects its importance in the daily life of a Muslim. Greetings are the starting point of any conversation and Islam being a religion of peace encourages us to start any conversation with a wish of peace and safety to the other person. Spreading Salam results in spreading peace and love amongst an Islamic society. Saying salam to even, strangers is ordered in Islam to promote this very feeling of brotherhood in a society. By making Salam a regular habit of ones life, any Muslim can gather a large amount of Allahs blessings throughout his life. Therefore every Muslim should develop a habit of greeting everybody he meets with salam- the best of all greetings.