"And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return
with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally."
(Qur'an, An-Nisa 4:86)
is an important facet of any society. In Islam, proper relationships
are stressed at all phases of interaction and the common greeting
holds a special place in Islamic manners. Allah says in the Qur'an:
"O you who believe! enter not houses other than your own,
until you have asked permission and greeted those in them, that
is better for you, in order that you remember." (Qur'an, An-Nur
"....But when you enter houses, greet one another with a greeting
from Allah, blessed and good...."
(Qur'an, An-Nur 24:61)
Too often, we take
greetings for granted and attach minimal importance to them. In
these verses, however, Allah reminds the Muslims that offering greetings
and the manner of the greeting are of upmost importance. Similarly,
in a Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet stressed
the importance of greetings when he defined the rights of a Muslim:
of a Muslim upon another are five: returning greetings, visiting
the sick, following the funeral procession, responding to invitations
and offering 'Tashmeet' for one who sneezes." (Bukhari and
The recommended greeting
of a Muslim is to say:
alaykum" (peace be upon you)
According to a Hadith
related by Bukhari and Muslim, this form of greeting was ordained
by Allah from the time of Prophet Adam (peace be upon him).
THE VIRTUES OF
holds a high position in Islam. Not only is salaam equated with
many other important deeds, but it is one of the defining criteria
of belief. We observe many Hadiths pertaining to the position of
exchanging salaam in Islam.
In one Hadith a man
asked the Prophet about which aspect of Islam was best. The Prophet
hungry, and saying salaam to those you know and those you don't
know." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet also
"You will not
enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until
you love one another: 'spread salaam' (the greeting of peace) among
The Prophet Muhammad
also explained another virtue of salaam in the following Hadith:
"When two Muslims
meet (give salaam), and shake hands, they are forgiven their sins
before they part (with each other)." (Abu Dawud)
on another saying of the Prophet , when he said:
"O people! spread
salaam, feed the hungry, be in touch with your kin, and pray while
people are asleep (at night) you shall enter paradise peacefully."
THE GRADES OF
There are several
forms of exchanging salaam. Each has its grade which corresponds
to the extent of the phrase.
There is a Hadith
where Imran Ibn Hussayn (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated
"A man came
to the Prophet and said, 'assalaamu alaykum!' The Prophet returned
his greeting and when the man sat down, the Prophet said: 'Ten.'
Another man came and said: 'assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.' to
which the Prophet also responded, and when the man sat down, He
said 'Twenty.' Another man came and said: 'assalaamu alaykum wa
rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.' The Prophet returned his greeting, and
after the man sat down, he said: 'Thirty." (Abu Dawud and
The Hadith has been
interpreted to mean that the minimum form of the Islamic greeting
which is acceptable is "assalaamu alaykum" and one is
rewarded ten good deeds for saying it. The second grade, adding
"wa rahmatullah", raises the reward to twenty good
deeds. The best grade of salaam is "assalaamu alaykum wa
rahmatullahi wa barakatahu", and this is worth thirty good
The response to the
greeting is similar in form and rewards. The least one could say
is "Wa alaykum-us-salaam" and the best response
is: "Wa alaykum-us-salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatahu".
In the time of the
Prophet the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet ) would compete with
each other, to see who could give salaams first.
The Prophet said:
"The best of
the two persons is the one who begins with salaam." (Related
by Nawawi in his book Al-Adkar)
was asked: 'O Messenger of Allah ! When two persons meet with each
other, who should take the lead in greeting the other? He answered:
'The one who is closest to Allah." (Tirmithi)
The Prophet said:
closest to Allah is the one who precedes others in greeting."
THE ISLAMIC RULING
is considered 'Sunnah' or optional, returning the salaams after
it is offered is considered 'wagib' or obligatory, based on the
first Qur'anic ayah mentioned. Islam also encourages people to offer
the first greeting as mentioned in the Hadiths mentioned previously.
The Prophet was asked
about the most appropriate way to give salaams as shown in the following
Anas (may Allah be
pleased with him) says that a man asked the Prophet :
of Allah , when any one of us meets a Muslim brother or a friend
then should he bow his head (as a sign of courtesy to him)?' He
said: 'No.' The man said: 'Should he embrace him?' He said: 'No.'
The man then asked: 'Should he clasp his hands?' He said: 'Yes."
in our community Muslims have adopted other methods of giving salutations,
and as we can see in this Hadith, The Prophet was very precise about
how salaams were to be given.
We as Muslims, should
remember that Prophet Muhammad is the best example for us to follow
in all aspects of our life, and we should be careful not to add
anything new to the Deen of Islam, for fear of implying that the
Prophet Muhammad did not complete his mission.
As Allah (Most Exalted
is He) says in the Qur'an:
"You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah, a beautiful pattern
for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day."
(Qur'an, Al-Ahzab 33:21)
The Messenger of
"I have not
left anything which Allah (Most Exalted is He) ordered except that
I have ordered you with it, nor anything that Allah forbade you,
except that I forbade you from it." (Buhaiqi)
WHICH SALAAM IS DISCOURAGED
There are certain
situations under which it is preferable not to offer salaam. These
include; when a person is relieving himself, when one is having
marital relationship, when someone is sleeping or when in the bathroom.
Offering salaam when
someone is reciting the Qur'an is permissible but discouraged. The
same rule applies to someone who is making du'a (supplication) or
one who is praying.
The Prophet said:
"Do not greet
the Jews and the Christians with salaam." However, if they
salaam first, we may reply by saying "wa alaykum" (and
upon you)." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Amr bin Shu'aib -
Tirmithi: The Messenger of Allah said: "He does not belong
to us who imitates people other than us. Do not imitate the Jews
or the Christians, for the Jews salutation is to make a gesture
with the fingers and the Christians salutation is to make a gesture
with the palms of the hands."
Ayesha - Bukhari:
When some Jews came to the Messenger of Allah and said, "Assaamu
'alaikom" (Death be upon you) and he replied, "Wa 'alaikom"
(and upon you), she ('A'isha) said, "Death be upon you and
may Allah curse you and be angry with you." The Messenger of
Allah then said, "Gently, 'A'isha, keep to kindness and avoid
harshness and coarseness." She asked if she had not heard what
they said, and he asked if she had not heard what he said, saying,
"I replied to them, and my prayer regarding them will be answered,
but theirs regarding me will not." In a version of Muslim he
said, "Do not be one who uses bad languages for Allah does
not like bad language or the use of it."
"And when they (Non-Muslims) come to thee, they salute thee,
not as Allah salutes thee (but in crooked ways)." E.g. Assaamu
Abu Hurairah - Muslim:
The Messenger of Allah said, "Do not salute the Jews and Christians
before they salute you, and when you meet one of them on the road
force him to go to the narrowest part."
Ossama bin Zaid -
Bukhari and Muslim: The Messenger of Allah , passed by a company
of Muslims, Mushriks and Jews and he gave them a salutation.
OF THE NON-MUSLIMS
During the Messenger
of Allah's time there were various kinds of contemporary salutations
in vogue, but none of these were chosen by Allah (Most Exalted is
He), for the Muslims. The superiority of the Muslims Salaam has
already been mentioned previously. It was deemed apt that a paper
on salutations should also include an analysis of the modern Non-Muslim
salutations. In this section the etymological meaning of some of
these salutations will be traced back. By doing so it is hoped that
the Muslim will further realise the importance of Salaam and abandon
the use of Non-Muslim salutations. The Concise Oxford Dictionary
has been used so that others can easily refer to it.
The Oxford Dictionary
has the following entries on this word:
- Hello: "Expressing
surprise or informal greeting or beginning telephone conversation
cry 'hello'. (Variety of Hallo.)";
- Hallo, halloa':
"Calling attention or expressing surprise or informal greeting
or beginning telephone conversation...(The) cry 'Hello'. (Variety
of earlier Hollo.)";
- Halloo: "Inciting
dogs to the chase, calling attention, or expressing surprise...The
- Halloo: "Cry
'halloo!' especially to dogs; urge on (dogs etc.) with shouts;
shout to attract attention.";
- Holler: "(Make,
express with) loud cry or noise. (Variety of Hollo.)";
- Hollo, holla:
"Calling attention...cry of 'Hollo'.";
- Hollo, ho'llow
"Shout; call to (hounds)."
This word originates
from Old French (before 1400 A.D.). The reader will appreciate that
this salutation, which is derived from a word meaning shouting at
dogs!, is far from the meaning and derivation of Salaam. It is really
a meaningless salutation.
There is no etymological
entry on this word in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, but it is defined
under the word good as: "(Used in forms of greeting or parting,
as) good...morning, night..." In the Compact Edition of the
Oxford English Dictionary we have the following entries: Good morrow,
good mo'rrow. "A salutation used at meeting in the morning,
equivalent to the later good morning...(God) give you good morrow...(e.g.)
good morrowe to thee!; ...an idle, trivial or empty saying..."
There is no reason
why a Muslim should substitute his Salaam for any other rather meaningless
Non-Muslim salutation. In fact, not all mornings are necessarily
good. Good morning...so what? The salutation of Salaam is not meaningless.
The person saying Salaam is invoking Peace, Mercy and Allah's Blessing
on the one being greeted. The equivalent of good morning in modern
Arabic is "Subh Khair". It should not be used.
This is defined as
"(Saying of) farewell (expressing good wishes on parting, ending
telephone conversations etc., or figurative with reference to thing
got rid of or irrevocably lost.) (Contraction of God be with you!...)
The modern expression
goodbye has no meaning and it cannot be compared with Salaam. Salaam
is not just a mere expression of good wishes; it is du'a. The word
goodbye also implies that the person using it is rather happy to
get rid of the person being saluted. This kind of feeling or expression
has no place in the Islamic concept of Brotherhood. The word goodbye
was originally the expression, "God be with you", and
the fact that it has been changed is further evidence that the Christians
have tampered with their original teachings. Now-a-days, the word
goodbye has been further reduced to just bye. So they first lost
the God and now even the good for their farewell.
In Islam the salutation
of Salaam is used on all occasions, on meeting and for farewell.
There are also other additional farewell dua's which can be used
with Salaam. Examples are: "Fee Iman Allah" (May Allah
keep you safe) and "Astowda Okomallah" (May Allah guard
you). The term "Khuda hafiz" (God keep you safe) is used
in Persian and Urdu. It will be noted that the original meaning
of goodbye is very similar to these dua's.
The word regards
means the "Expression of friendliness in letters etc., compliments".
It is used to convey expressions of friendliness from one person
to another, for example, so and so sends his regards to you. This
word implies the conveyance of mere expressions and it is also related
with friendliness. Muslims are Brothers in Islam and not just friends.
According to a Hadith the Muslims should use Salaam to convey salutations
to fellow Muslims. The term regards is not suitable for use amongst
There are certain
special modes of greeting used by the Non-Muslims. Amongst these
is the practice of lowering oneself or bowing down in front of another
human being when greeting. This is based on their belief of the
inequity of human status, that the one bowing down is inferior to
the one being greeted. It has nothing to do with respect. This method
of greeting is un-Islamic. Firstly, bowing down in front of anybody
except Allah is forbidden in Islam. Secondly, all believing human
beings are equal in Islam and thus there is to be no special greeting
for the so called great men of authority and position. The great
in Islam are those who are nearer to Allah in piety. S. Abdul Hai
(1977) writes " Islam has prescribed a simple mode of salutation
for all, great and small. During the earliest times of Muslim rule,
even a commoner saluted the Caliphs simply by saying, "Assalaamu
'alaykum ya Amir ul Momineen" (Peace be upon you, O Commander
of the Faithful)." We should be proud of our Islamic heritage.
GREETING THE YOUNG
It is considered
a part of the Sunnah for adults to offer salaam to children in order
to teach them the proper greeting manners and to build their self
esteem. In both Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Anas (may Allah be pleased
with him) narrated that the Prophet passed by some youth and he
offered salaam to them. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) also
reported that the Prophet , used to do this quite often.
ETIQUETTE OF SALAAM
There are several
etiquette's to be followed with respect to the exchanging of salaam.
The Prophet (saws), for example said:
who is riding should offer salaam to the one who is walking; and
the one who is walking should greet the one who is sitting; and
the smaller group should greet the larger one." (Bukhari and
Aside from the situations
mentioned in the Hadith, the one who enters a house should initiate
salaam to those already there. Furthermore, if one enters his home,
it is preferable to offer salaam, even if there is no one at home
by saying "Assalaamu alayna wa ala ibadillahi assaliheen"
(i.e. peace be upon us and the righteous servants of Allah). With
respect to salaam between the young and the old, the young is expected
to begin the greeting.
It is also considered
improper for someone to meet a group of Muslims and offer salaam
only to some of them. The greeting must be for all in the group.
If a group of people offer salaam to an individual at the same time,
he may reply only once to all of them.
The head should never
be bent as a sign of greeting. We bend our heads only to Allah.
It must also be emphasized that other body gestures in any form
or shape (for example, raising eyebrows, extending the arms, smiling,
winking, etc.), cannot replace uttering the words of salaam.
Salaam for someone
at a distance can be offered by saying the salaam and waving the
hand. Waving the hand alone, however, is not considered a salaam.
Salaam is not only
confined to the time of meeting only but it extends to when separating
Abu Hurairah (may
Allah be pleased with him), relates that the Prophet said:
"When one of
you joins a gathering, he should greet those present; and when he
leaves them he should salute them, because the first salutation
is not better than the last one." (Abu Dawud and Tirmithi)
SAYINGS OF THE
SAHABAH REGARDING SALAAM
Umar bin Khattab:
"There are three ways of showing sincere brotherly love: give
him the greeting of Salaam when you first meet him, make him comfortable,
and call him by his favourite names."
Sa'id bin al-As:
"I owe my sitting-companion three things: on his approach I
greet him, on his arrival I make him welcome, and when he sits I
make him comfortable."
There are two fundamental
categories of human beings: Muslims and Non-Muslims. Any human being
who chooses to submit to his Creator is called a Muslim and his
way of life is Islam. A Muslim is a precious being in the sight
of Allah. The Muslim gains special privileges, honour and dignity
because of Islam. They are people (Muslims) who have achieved peace
(Salaam) by accepting Peace (Islam). The salutation of Salaam is
a special blessing of Allah for the Muslims. The first conclusion
is that the Muslims should use Salaam to salute fellow Muslims because
it is only befitting for them to do so.
It is below the dignity
of the Muslim to use such expressions below their noble status.
The Muslim should not degrade himself, by using Non-Muslim salutations;
or his fellow Muslims, by saluting them with Non-Muslim salutation;
and nor his Deen al-Islam, by adopting the ways of the Non-Muslims.
The second conclusion is that Muslims should not use Non-Muslim
salutations amongst themselves because these are unfit for them.
The Muslims should not only refrain from using Non-Muslim salutations,
but they should abhor such practices.
The Non-Muslim human
being, a Kafir, is one who chooses to reject the message of Peace
and adopt his own anti-Islamic way of life, Kufr. Such beings are
in utter discord, and their life is in contradiction with any concept
of peace or harmony. These people will never attain the magnanimity
of the Muslims, but the contrary, ignominy.
The salutations of
these people are likewise only worthy of their status, rather meaningless
and unworthy of noble people. They do not deserve the peaceful salutation
of Salaam because they have chosen to reject it. The third conclusion
is that Non-Muslims should not be saluted with the full Salaam as
they are unworthy of it. They are deprived of the blessings of Salaam
as they rejected it. How can a Muslim pray, "Peace be upon
you, and Allah's Mercy and Blessings" for a person who does
not believe in Allah or lead his life in accordance with the teachings
of Islam, for this dua to become effective for him. The salutation
of Salaam cannot be used for them.
Allah says in the
"It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe,
that they should pray for forgiveness for the Mushriks, even though
they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions
of the fire."
(Qur'an, At-Taubah 9:113)
"Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and those who are with
him are hard against the unbelievers, (but) full of Mercy for one
(Qur'an, Al-Fath 48:29)
The general conclusions
are: the salutation of Salaam is for the Muslims and the Non-Muslim
salutations are for the Non-Muslims.
The Muslims should
not use bad language when saluting the Non-Muslims but should be
polite and courteous. The wording of the Salutation for the Non-Muslim
according to the Qur'an and Hadith should be noted. The ayat in
the Qur'an, like all other ayats, is beautiful. The wording is,
"Peace on him who is rightly Guided." Although, this is
used for the Non-Muslims it is in reality, only applicable to those
who are rightly guided, the Muslims. The salutation for the Non-Muslims
in the Hadith is that the Muslims should say, "Wa 'anthom"
or "Wa 'alaykum" when greeted by the Non-Muslims. That
is, they should say, "The same to you" or "Upon you"
concerning whatever that Non-Muslims have said.
- Article, Al
Jumuah Magazine, Salaam by Rafil Dhafir
- Salaam - Salutation
of the Muslims by Ibn Aslam