Etiquette of Giving Salaam

What are the etiquettes for saying salaam to each other?

The Prophet (ﷺ)  told us to spread peace among us and to make it a common occurrence. We will always give people salaam whenever we go.  Actually it was noted that if the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ)  were walking, and a tree came between them, they had to go on either side of the tree as they were walking, when they came back to each other, they gave salaam to each other again.  So much, actually non-Muslims living among Muslims, to some degree find that annoying; people coming into the office and giving the greetings all the time. I mean, in other society you give greetings in the morning, that is it.  One time, no matter how many times you go out or come in, whatever, that is it.  So this thing of Muslims coming in all the time and say the greeting and greet again and again, they find it annoying to some degree. They do not really understand that this greeting is in fact spreading a good feeling because of course the greeting should be made with a smile. The Prophet (ﷺ)   has said:

 “...Smiling to your brother is sadaqah...” [1]

It is charity. It should not be Assalaamu Alaykum with a frown, etc. It should be a pleasant :) Assalaamu Alaykum. People feel good; they feel the peace that is emanated from you. So it is a good thing. We advise those non-Muslims living among Muslims to practice it also. Practice it sincerely, so they will share that feeling. In general, from the Muslim society, it means spreading love among the members of the society.

In order to prevent people from turning it into a ritual, which is prescribed when you are dealing with the powerful and the rich, you have to give them the greetings, the Prophet (ﷺ) specified saying that,

"The young should greet the elders with peace. The passersby should greet the one sitting, and the smaller group should greet the larger group. The one riding should greet the one walking." [2] 

So he gave levels at which the greeting of peace should be given. So nobody has an excuse to try to not give the greetings because they feel that somebody is inferior to them. We are going to be the one or the other. We are going to be in a group, or we are as an individual, or we are sitting, or we are walking, passing by, or we are younger than somebody else. Somebody comes into the room. They are older than us, so we give the greetings to them. And that is the right. The Prophet (ﷺ)  made it the right of a Muslim on another Muslim that when he greets, it is obligatory on the other Muslim to return the greeting. So the idea that somebody gives you salaam, and you feel you are too high, too powerful and too important giving back the salaam is something despicable, something displeasing to God.

Giving salaam is not obligatory, it is recommended, as the Prophet (ﷺ) recommended it. If we want to develop love among each other, then as the Prophet (ﷺ) said, we should do it. And if we want to enter paradise, then we have to believe. But without loving each other, we cannot really achieve belief, true belief; the belief that will take us to paradise. The Prophet (ﷺ)  has said that,

“…one does not believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [3]

So to attain paradise, the Prophet (ﷺ) said that only believers will enter paradise, and to attain that state, one has to love his brother or sister in Islam. And the thing that we have to do is to greet each other. So the Prophet (ﷺ) recommended it. Furthermore, he also recommended that it is superior to greet one who one knows and one who does not know.  Easy thing is to greet the person who you know.  Most people tend to greet those who they know and not to those they do not know. But this is not the way. In praising those who give salaams, the Prophet (ﷺ) said that the one who gives greetings to those who he or she does not know [4]; the true spirit of spreading the greeting of peace in the society is there, where one does not neglect giving it to those he or she does not know.

It should also be noted that this greeting of peace, being one of the symbol of Islam, exists actually even in the Jewish and Christian texts, indicating that it was in practice from the earliest of times. When Allah revealed the true religion, Islam, to Adam and Eve, it was there from the beginning. So we can find, for example, in the Christian text that Jesus is reported to have greeted his followers saying peace be upon you. This is found in the Gospel of John. How true the Gospel of John is, Allah knows best. But in chapter 20 verse 19, it is mentioned there that Jesus gave the greeting of peace to his followers. It states, Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so I sent you.” So it was their greeting, peace be upon you.

Also in the Old Testament, you can find that Prophet David instructs his embassy whom he sent out to Nabal, “That you shall salute him ‘Peace be to you’, and ‘Peace be to your house and peace be to all that you have, peace be to you.’”  [5] So, it was used in the time of David, and no doubt in the times before.

So, we are encouraged to give salaams and spread it among us, to those who we know, and to those who we do not know. The Prophet (ﷺ)  gave us an order;

"Younger people should give it to older people..." [6]

We are also encouraged to give the salaams not only to those close to us, but also to those who are not related to us at all. If we receive a greeting even from a non-Muslim, we should return the greeting. But of course, there is a consideration in terms of returning the greeting. The way of returning the greeting is “Wa alaykum”, “And on you also”.

References:

[1] [At-Tarmidhi (1956) Sheikh Albani said saheeh in Saheeh a’Tar’rib (2685)]

[2]  [Al Bukhari (5878)]

[3] [Al Bukhari (14)]

[4] [Al Bukhari (12)]

[5] [First Book of Samuel, 25, verse 6]

[6] [Al Bukhari (5878)]

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