Greeting is recognized in all ages as a good virtue of human behavior and a common practice in all societies. However, the form of greeting may vary from society to society, from place to place, from culture to culture. The Islamic form of greeting is briefly called "salam". No greetings (such as "hello", "hi", "good morning" etc.) can be better than or even equal to salam. The word "salam" means peace, or harmlessness, safety and protection from evil and from faults. Salam is also one of the Names of Allah (SWT) Who is 'The Source of Peace'. Allah (SWT), with His name "As-Salam"), has prescribed salam as the greeting for Muslims, the minimum expression of which is "Assalaamu alaykum" which means "peace be upon you", and, as "As-Salam" is also a Name of Allah (SWT), it essentially means "May the blessing of His Name descend upon you".
Muslims are instructed to greet when they visit a house or meet. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! enter not HOUSES other than your own, until you have asked permission and said salam to those in them, that is better for you, in order that you remember." (An-Nur 24:27), and "....But when you enter houses, say salam to one another as a greeting from Allah, blessed and good...."(An-Nur 24:61). Allah (SWT) further says in the Qur'an: "And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally." (An-Nisa 4:86).
As such, Muslims should only use the expression of salam and no other expressions of greetings amongst themselves, and because:
1. Salam has been the greeting of believers right from the day one i.e. when Adam (AS) was created. The following narration is pertinent in this regard: Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Allah created Adam in 'His Image' sixty cubits (about thirty metres) in height. When He created him, He said (to Adam), "Go and greet that group of angels sitting there, and listen what they will say in reply to you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your offspring". Adam (went &) said, "Assalamu Alaikum" (i.e. peace be upon you). They replied, "Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah" (i.e. peace and Allah's mercy be upon you). So they increased 'Wa Rahmatullah'. The Prophet (PBUH) added, "So whoever will enter Paradise, will be of the shape & picture of Adam. Since then the creation of Adam's offsprings (i.e. stature of human beings) is being diminished up to the present time." (Hadith No. 6227, Book of Asking Permission, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8).
2. Salam shall be the greeting of believers on 'The Day of Judgement' & in Paradise. Allah (SWT) has mentioned in the Qur'an that the believers will be greeted by Salam at the time of their meeting with Allah (SWT): "Their greeting on the Day they shall meet Him will be 'Salam'. And He has prepared for them a generous reward." (Ayah No. 44, Surah Al-Ahzab, Chapter No. 33).
3. Initiating Salam is a good virtue and a means of being closer to Allah. It was narrated that Abu Umamah (RA) said: Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said, "The one who is closest of people to Allah, the Most high, is the one who initiates Salam." (Hadith No. 5197, Book of Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5). In another hadith, the Prophet said: "The best of the two persons is the one who begins with salam." (Related by Nawawi in his book Al-Adkar). In another narration, "The Prophet was asked: 'O Messenger of Allah! When two persons meet with each other, who should take the lead in saying salam to the other? He answered: 'The one who is closest to Allah." (Tirmidhi).
4. Spreading salam is a best practice in Islam: The Prophet (PBUH) made SPREADING salam a part of faith. In Al-Bukhari (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 salam to those whom you know and those whom you do not know".
5. Spreading salam is the means for promotion of love and brotherhood which is a prerequisite for iman while iman is a prerequisite for entering jannah. In Muslim (54), Ahmad (2/391), and Al-Tirmidhi (2513), it is narrated that Abu Hurairah (RA) said: Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said, "By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something which, if you do it, you will love one another? SPREAD Salam among yourselves" (Also in Sunan Abu Dawood, Vol. 5 , Hadith No. 5193, Book of Etiquette). The Prophet (PBUH) also explained the importance of exchange of salam in the following hadith: "When two Muslims meet (give salam), and shake hands, they are forgiven their sins before they part (with each other)". (Abu Dawud).
6. Saying salam is one of the few basic duties of a Muslim to another fellow Muslim. It is narrated from Ali (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "In Islam there are six rights of a Muslim upon a Muslim: when he meets him he should give him salam; when he invites him (to a meal) he should accept it; when he sneezes he should bless him; when he falls ill he should visit him; when he dies he should accompany his funeral and he should prefer for him that which he prefers for himself". In Sahih Muslim it is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said that, "There are six rights upon a Muslim". The Prophet was asked, "What are these O' Prophet of Allah?" The Prophet replied, "When you meet him, give him salaam, when he invites you, (to a meal) accept it, when he seeks counselling from you give him counselling and when he sneezes and says Alhamdulillah, bless him, when he falls ill visit him and when he dies accompany his funeral".
7. Responding to salam is an obligation and a collative right of a fellow Muslim brother. The holy Qur'an says: "When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful ACCOUNT Taker of all things." [(Ayah No. 86, Surah An-Nisa', Chapter No. 4]. The Prophet (PBUH) has stressed repeatedly upon returning salam, and made it a right and a duty. In Ahmad (2/540), al-Bukhari (1240), Muslim (2792), and Abu Dawood (5031) it is reported that Abu Hurairah (RA) said that the Prophet (PBUH) 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".
8. The minimum and the best form of salam: Salam has a minimum expression but with additional grades. Imran Ibn Hussain (RA) narrated that: "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 Tirmidhi). According to this hadith the minimum form of the salam 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 salam is "assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu", and this is worth thirty good deeds. The response to the greeting is similar in form and rewards. The least one could say is "Wa alaykumussalam" and the best response is: "Wa alaykumussalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu".
In our ordinary life, we Muslims often do not practice exchange of salam seriously and attach minimal or no importance to it or use other forms of greeting prevalent in non-Muslim societies. However, the above references from the Qur'an and the Sunnah remind us of the upmost significance of exchange and spreading of salam. May Allah (SWT) guide us and enable us to exercise and uphold the practice of exchanging and spreading salam. Best regards. Sincerely, Wohid
Muhammad Wohidul Islam
(LLM, Harvard Law School)
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA)
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