Asalaamu Alaikum (السلام عليكم)
So I thought this would be a great place to start as it is the common greeting as prescribed by the Quran and hadith, referenced a few times, some of which will be mentioned.
السلام عليكم can be translated in English as “peace be upon you” or “God’s peace be upon you” and then the reply ofوَعَلَيْكُمُ السَّلَامُ (wa alaikum [a]salaam) is “and upon you [the] Peace”.
It’s important to look at the actual words themselves and focus on the meaning of the greeting. It’s not simply a “hello” or “hi”, although it has been stripped of it’s meaning in the sense that a lot of Muslims regularly use the phrase, yet do not recognise the beauty of the term.
Essentially you’re making a promise to someone upon meeting them and giving them a du’ah simultaneously. How? Well you are wishing peace upon the person you have greeted; you are hoping that they are at peace-can find peace; and you are making a promise to them that you will not corrupt that peace that you have offered or wished upon them also. This latter part is the aspect of Salaam that I believe a lot of Muslims have forgotten. We often see brothers and sisters amongst ourselves offering salaam, a vow, and then five minutes later they have left the room and we are back-biting about them, or we get into a disagreement and we are shouting at one another, or we are together spreading gossip and slandering someone else. What are we doing? We are breaking that vow. The salaam has been broken. You have wished peace upon me and then slapped me across the face. So the value of salaam loses its meaning in that scenario and you discredit your own words. You go back on your vow.
As an individual who grew up surrounded by this beautiful religion, saying salaam to one another upon greeting them was really drummed into us as kids. Not just saying it but, greeting people properly, going up-to them, facing them when saying salaam not looking at the ceiling or at your other little cousins. We really had to address the elders, look them in the eye say our salaam, be humble in our salaam, smile in our salaam and mean it. But overtime, when something becomes a habit, one tends to forget why they started it in the first place, or especially if you learnt it when you are young you don’t necessarily know the purpose behind an action. You were just taught it, you learnt it and now it’s stuck. So whilst I knew the etiquette of saying salaam to fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, I never even thought to ponder on it or question it in anyway. Furthermore, in my family we would only extend salaam to elders and amongst us youngsters it was a “hello, you alright”, “what you saying”, “Easy bruv” etc etc etc.
I learnt the value of Islam through none other than Muhammad Ali himself-revert to Islam and I would say a modern day ambassador for the religion.
I had always been interested in people in history who had stood up for their rights, sought justice with conviction and dignity. Naturally, my interest in these role models led me to Muhammad Ali-a household name, a legend, a record-breaker, a truth-speaker, a man not afraid to stand up for his beliefs. There is an interview on Youtube, where he says “you can go to any country and you will be greeted with وَعَلَيْكُمُ السَّلَامُ —السلام عليكم ,”. That was it. One sentence amongst so many other truths that he spoke, but this really resonated with me. Because it was true. I can go to any country, all across the world and I have brothers and sisters in Islam who I can greet with peace. I have been lucky enough to visit a few predominantly Muslim countries-Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt- and salaam has been at the tip of my tongue every time. But, the beauty lies in when in my home-town in Kent, in my workplace where it was predominantly white people, if I came across a Muslim I could offer my salaam. I have been in Asda before on the day of Eid and had a random stranger, connected in our religion, pass me and say salaam and eid mubarak. She had no obligation to do so, but that is the beauty of Islam.
I then thought that saying salaam was actually only hadith and not mentioned in the Quran, due to my own ignorance to not even find out properly. After a bit of research I have found it mentioned in a few places:
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ بُيُوتِكُمْ حَتَّى تَسْتَأْنِسُوا وَتُسَلِّمُوا عَلَى أَهْلِهَا ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants. That is best for you; perhaps you will be reminded.
(Surah An-Noor: Verse 27)
فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُم بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ مُبَارَكَةً طَيِّبَةً
“…But when you enter houses, give greetings of peace upon each other – a greeting from Allah , blessed and good”
(Surah An-Noor: verse 61)
وَإِذَا حُيِّيْتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا
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].
(Surah An-Nisa: verse 86)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allah created Adam in His picture, sixty cubits (about 30 meters) in height. When He created him, He said (to him), “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 and) said, ‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied, ‘AsSalamu-‘Alaika wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah’s Mercy be on you) So they increased ‘Wa Rahmatullah’ The Prophet (ﷺ) added ‘So whoever will enter Paradise, will be of the shape and picture of Adam Since then the creation of Adam’s (offspring) (i.e. stature of human beings is being diminished continuously) to the present time.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 6227
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
that he passed by a group of boys and greeted them and said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) used to do so.”
[Bukhari No. 6247]
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) 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].
The narration in Al-Bukhari adds: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The young should greet the elderly.’’
Sahih al-Bukhari 6233
I have listed a few of the occasions in hadith where the giving of salaam and it’s rewards have been mentioned, but there are countless other places that the topic can be found. From the above, it is clear that the opening of conversation has so much importance and we should strive to perfect this sunnah and the fardh (obligation) to return the greeting when it is offered to us.
May Allah swt give us the confidence to offer salaam to every Muslim we greet even if they are a stranger; may Allah allow us to perfect the sunnah of saying salaam by increasing the reward for ourselves; may we all learn the value of this brother and sisterhood that we have been given. Ameen.
*I would just like to reiterate that I am not a scholar or an alim or anything like that, I am a student of the deen who enjoys spreading the small beauties of Islam that have such high rewards. I am learning, and all I wish to do is to create a platform whereby positive reminders can exist. If I have made any mistakes in this peace I seek forgiveness from Allah. As usual feedback is encouraged and الحمد لله for taking the time out to read this piece*