As-salamu ‘alaykum.

It’s the Islamic greeting. It’s so simple and easy to say these two words, and yet the reward of doing so is immense.  

The Meaning of the Islamic Greeting

The word salam has two meanings:

  1. Al-Salam is one of Allah’s most beautiful names. So greeting someone with the salam means: “May Allah al-Salam be with you.”
  2. Salam also means safety.

“The Muslim greeting formula is a supplication that Allah may safeguard or protect you from all the things that you fear.”(Ayoob)

Amazing Facts About the Islamic Greeting

  • It was ordained as the standard greeting for all of mankind, from the time of Adam (as) till the Day of Judgment.

The Prophet (sa) said, ” When (Allah) created (Adam), He said (to him), “Go and greet that group of angels sitting there, and listen to what they will say in reply to you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your offspring.” Adam (went and) said, ‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied, ‘As-Salamu-‘Alaika wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah’s Mercy be on you)” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6227)

  • It will be the greeting of the people of Paradise

“Their greeting the Day they meet Him will be, ‘Peace.’ And He has prepared for them a noble reward.” (33:44)

“And those who believed and did righteous deeds will be admitted to gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein by permission of their Lord; and their greeting therein will be, ‘Peace!’” (14:23)

  • It increases love between Muslims

The Prophet (sa) said, “You will not enter Paradise unless you believe in Allah Most High, and you will not be true believers unless you love one another. Shall I tell you something that will make you love one another? Give greetings.” (Sahih Muslim 54)

  • It is one of the best Islamic traits you can possess.

A man asked the Prophet, “What Islamic traits are the best?” The Prophet said, “Feed the people, and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6236)

Related Video: Islamic Greetings by Mufti Menk

Initiating Salam

Giving the greetings of salam is one of the most often repeated practices of Prophet Muhammad (sa), his Companions, and the Righteous throughout the ages. It’s the signature of a Muslim.  Whenever two Muslims meet, it’s Sunnah to initiate this greeting, according to most scholars.

The Prophet (sa) said, “When there are two people walking, the better of them is the one who gives the greeting first.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 983, Hukm of marfu’, Albani)  

Who should initiate the salam?

  • The Young should greet the elderly.
  • A Walking person should greet one who is seated
  • A riding person should greet one who is walking.
  • When two groups of Muslims meet, the smaller group should greet the larger one.

Proofs for the above are found in these hadiths:

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said, ‘A rider should greet a pedestrian; a pedestrian should greet one who is sitting; and a small group should greet a large group (of people).” ([Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Jabir said, “Someone riding should greet someone walking, and someone walking should greet someone sitting.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 983, Hukm of marfu’, Albani)

It is Sunnah to repeat salam every time you meet, as the Prophet said, “When one of you meets his brother, he should salute him, then if he meets him again after a tree, wall or stone has come between them, he should also salute him.” (Abi Dawud)

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Replying to Salam

Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant.” (Quran, 4:86)

What is better than “as-salamu ‘alaykum” is to add “wa rahmatullah” and even better than that is to add “wa barakatuhu”.

Majority of scholars says that replying “wa ‘alaykum as-salam” is enough, even if the initial salam was better than that.

All scholars agree that it’s obligatory for a Muslim to respond to the salam of another Muslim, excepting certain situations.

If the salam was addressed to a group of people, then the reply of one of them is enough for the whole group. But if none of them reply then they are all sinful.

One should answer the greeting promptly without any delay, whether the salam was given in person, from behind a curtain, or sent in writing or through a messenger.

When It is Disliked to Exchange Salam

  • A man greeting a lone young woman and vice versa, if there is a risk of temptation.
  • When one is in the toilet or any dirty place.
  • When one is in seclusion with his family.
  • Greeting sleeping or drowsy people.
  • When a person is eating and his mouth is full.

(Note: All the above rules pertain to greeting Muslims. Greetings to non-Muslims take separate rulings.)

Reference: Ayoob, Hasan. Social Manners in Islam. Trans. Dr. Muhammad Hamza Husein. Cairo: Dar Al-Salam, 2006.

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