Author: Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust publication Team
Allah Almighty says in Holy Quran:
It is Allah, except Whom there is no Allah; the King, the Pure, the Giver of Peace, the Bestower of Safety, the Protector, the Most Honourable, the Compeller, the Proud; Purity is to Allah from all what they ascribe as partners (to Him)!
In this ayah, As-Salaam is one of the Asma-ul-Husna or Glorious Names of Allah Almighty. We will try to understand the meaning, significance and will make use of the word Salaam.
Before the light of Islam, the Arab used to greet each other with phrases like Haya Kallah which means may Allah keep you alive. Islam introduced a new greeting, Assalamu Alaikum, which means, “May you be saved from all form of grief, hardship and misery.”
This Islamic greeting is better than the greeting of love which is used by all the other nations. This is due to the following reasons.
1. It is not just an expression of love but the reason and logic for this love is expressed in the form of a supplication or Dua, wishing that you be saved from all forms of grief. This supplication is not only for life, but a life full of goodness.
2. It reminds us that we all depend on Allah Almighty; nobody can harm or benefit us without the will of Allah Almighty. Hence, it is a form of worship of Allah Almighty, which reminds the fellow Muslims of Allah Almighty.
3. Note that when somebody says, I pray that you be at peace, he is declaring and promising that you will be safe from his hand, tongue and he will respect your life, honour and dignity.
So, when a speaker says Assalamu Alaikum, he/she is announcing that you will remain entirely unharmed and safe from me.
Hence, we conclude that Salaam is;
A true Muslim is he/she who does not harm anyone by his hand or tongue. If we understand this basic principle of Islam, it surely is enough to reform the whole Muslim Ummah. That is why; we should spread of Salaam among Muslims and avoid the fight and arguments amongst Muslims.
A Hadith sums this up very beautifully: Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches because of sleeplessness and fever. (Muslim)
There are several saying of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) to bring out the importance of this greeting amongst all Muslims.
It is narrated by Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) that the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: You cannot enter heaven unless you are a believer. Your belief can not be complete unless you love each other. Let me tell you something which if you do, you will cultivate and enhance love between yourselves. Greet each other with Salaam whether the other person is known to you or not.(Muslim)
Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) said that one person asked the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam); “which are the best deeds in Islam.” The Beloved Prophet answered; “Feed people and greet each other with Salaam, whether you know each other or not.” (Saheheen)
Hazrat Abu Umaamah (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) narrated that the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said; “That person is closest to Allah who initiates Salaam.” (Tirmizi, Abu Dawud)
Hazrat Abdullah bin Masood (Radhiy Allahu) narrates that the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said; “Salaam is one of the names of Allah, which Allah has sent to earth. Therefore, we should spread Salaam. When a person greets another with Salaam, his level is raised in the eyes of Allah. If members of a congregation do no answer his Salaam, then creatures better than them (angels) answer the Salaam.” (Tibrani)
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) narrates that the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said; “The real miser is the one who is a mister in spreading Salaam.” (Tibrani)
One of the minor signs of the Day of Judgement is that people will only give Salaam to the people that they know. (Ahmad)
Allah Almighty says in Holy Quran:
And when you are greeted with some words, greet back with words better than it or with the same; indeed Allah will take account of everything.
In this Ayah of the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty says that one should answer with the same or better words. This was demonstrated by the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) as mentioned in Ibn Jareer and Ibn Abi Hathim. One day, when the Beloved Prophet was sitting with Companions, a person came and said Assalamu Alaikum. The Beloved Prophet answered Wa’alaikumu Salaam wa Rahmatullah. A second person arrived and said, Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, the Beloved Prophet answered Wa’alaikumu Salaam wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu. Soon after a third person arrived, he said Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. The Beloved Prophet answered: Wa’alaika
The third person humbly asked; “Ya Rasool’Allah, when they greeted you briefly, you answered back with better wording. I greeted you in the most detailed way. I am surprised you answered me back very briefly saying Wa’alaika”. The Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) answered; “You have not left any room for additions. Therefore, I returned you similar greetings which fulfils the condition laid out in Holy Quran by Allah.”
Therefore, we conclude that to answer Salaam with these three phrases is Sunnah. Wisdom of limiting to these three phrases is that Salaam is meant to be a brief communication and not a long speech.
In the Ayah mentioned above, Allah Almighty uses the objective voice without specifying the subject. Therefore, Holy Quran teaches the etiquettes of answer greetings. It is indirectly ordering us to greet each other. Further more, it should be a normal practise and habit of Muslims to greet each other. No doubt, the person who initiates Salaam is closer to Allah Almighty and gets more reward from Allah Almighty.
The great saint, Hazrat Hasan Basri (Radhiy Allahu Anhu) concluded that, “To say Salaam is voluntary but to answer is Obligatory.”
The Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) further guided that:
1. The riding person should say Salaam to a person on foot.
2. Walking person should say Salaam to a sitting person.
3. Smaller group to a larger group.
4. The one departing should say Salaam to those who are staying.
5. When leaving or entering your home, say Salaam even if nobody is home.
6. If meeting again and again, say Salaam again and again.
However, there are exceptions for answering back the Salaam:
1. While praying. We should not answer while prayer otherwise the prayer will be invalid.
2. Khateeb, a person reciting Quran or a person making call for Salaaat (Adhan & Iqaamah) or teaching Islamic books.
3. While sitting in the wash room.
Let us make an effort to revive this Sunnah for the love of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) with true Islamic spirit in our everyday life and in doing so generate love and unity among us.