Greeting

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

The word salaam, or “peace,” is a derivative of the verb salama; it is a prayer for a peaceful life far from evil and sin. God says in the Qur’an, “When you are greeted with a greeting (of peace and goodwill), answer with one better, or (at least) with the same. Surely, God keeps account of all things” (Nisa 4:86).

The Qur’an also clarifies the forms of greetings. Accordingly, Muslims should greet another Muslim by saying Salaamun ‘alaykum (or As-salaamu ‘alaykum), meaning “peace be upon you.” In the Qur’an both Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the angels greet believers in this way. [See Qur’an: 6:54, 7:46, 13:24, 16:32, 28:55, 39:73]

When a Muslim greets another Muslim this way, the response is, wa ‘alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi, meaning “and may peace and the mercy of God be upon you.” If the first greeting was salaamun ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah, meaning “peace and mercy on you,” the response should be wa ‘alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, meaning “and may peace, mercy and blessings be on you.” The Messenger taught that this last form of greeting was the one used between Prophet Adam, the first man, and the angels. [Bukhari, Istizan, 1]

To greet each other with this wish for peace is a direct result of friendship and wishing good for others. It is a practice that Muslims take from the life of the Prophet, the Sunna; responding to such a greeting is compulsory (fard). A hadith says, “Without faith you cannot enter Heaven. And without loving each other you cannot have faith. Shall I show you something to do out of love for each other? Spread the peace greeting between yourselves.” [Muslim, Iman, 22; Abu Dawud, Salaam, 1; Tirmidhi, Istizan, 43]

The following are some adab guidelines for greeting one another:

1. When entering a gathering, say salaamun ‘alaykum before beginning to talk.

2. We can greet by giving salaams when we first see someone, and we can also give the same greeting when parting. In fact, God’s Messenger said, “If one of you gives a greeting when entering a place, give it when leaving too.”

3. When entering a place where there are no people, one should say as-salaamu ‘alayna wa ‘ala ibadillahissalihin (to greet the unseen beings there). [Tirmidhi, Istizan, 15]

4. The initiator of greetings should be the younger person (when two people meet, or in general), the smaller party rather than the larger one when at a gathering and those who are walking rather than those who are sitting.

5. When a group is greeted, someone in the group can reply wa ‘alaykum as-salaam on behalf of the whole group; however, if no one replies, everyone in the group is remiss in this duty.

6. It is also good to give salaams when leaving a gathering. When this is done, it is best for the one who receives the greeting to reply by saying wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

7. The salaam should be given to everyone, whether we know them.

8. It is also a tradition of the Prophet to say marhaba to someone who greets us. Marhaba comes from the verb rahaba, meaning “be at peace; be comfortable, you are among friends.”

9. The response to the greeting should be given immediately, and if possible, loud enough for the greeter to hear.

10. When greeting and replying to a greeting, one’s voice should not be too loud or too soft.

11. When giving and receiving a greeting, the tone of voice should convey respect and good will.

There are times when it is inappropriate to give the peace greeting. Below is a list of these:

1. Since “(As-)Salaam” is also one of God’s beautiful Names, meaning “the Supreme Author of peace and salvation,” it should not be pronounced in ritually unclean places.

2. This greeting should not be given to a person while they are engaged in something that is haram or forbidden.

3. Someone engaged in reading the Qur’an, recounting a hadith, or teaching should not be greeted, as to do so would be to interrupt these valuable activities. However, when they have finished, they can be greeted.

4. Someone sounding the adhan (call to prayer), praying, or reciting the iqama (the call at the commencement of the obligatory prayer) should not be greeted.

5. The greeting is to be given between believers. Therefore, someone who rejects Islam should not be greeted with this greeting. But if such a person greets a Muslim, they should reply wa ‘alaykum.

6. Giving the greeting to those who cannot reply in kind is discouraged.

7. Giving the greeting to anyone who is not ashamed to mention the sins they have committed is discouraged.

8. To give and receive the greeting is a sign of friendship and love. But bowing before another person is discouraged, as Muslims should only bow before God. According to some scholars, bowing when greeting others can be considered to be a form of prostrating before them.

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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