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Etiquette of Saying Salam

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Greeting is considered to be the main constituent which commences the conveyance of other human communication elements. Different types of greetings are exercised by different communities according to their culture, geographical positions, theological beliefs and weather. Islam, being a way of life, gives us a single greeting and salutation which can be used everywhere and anywhere, upon anyone.

The Islamic greeting is to say “اسلام عليكم ”.  English transliteration : As-salaamu ‘Alaykum  It means: May the peace of Allah be upon you.

Salam contributes to a Muslim’s  faith and his entry to jannah.

Abu Hurairah RAu reported:

Messenger of Allah SAWS said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! You will not enter Jannah until you believe, and you shall not believe until you love one another. May I inform you of something, if you do, you love each other. Promote salam amongst you”. 1

Salam is declared as the root which can sprout love among Muslims. Therefore, as people who are given the privilege of saying salam, it’s our duty to give its due rights and protect its sacredness.  We should know the do’s and don’ts of conveying the Islamic greeting.

Insha’Allah, in this article let’s analyze some of the etiquette to be followed when we give salam.

  1. Greet better or at least with the same greeting.

Allah SWT has commanded us to greet in return with something better than what we are greeted with, or to greet back with the same greeting.

He SWT says in the Qur’an,

“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.” (An Nisa,4:86)

According to the majority of scholars, if someone greets us by saying, “As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum”; we should reply by saying, “Wa ‘Alaykumus-salaam Wa Rahmatullah”.

If we are greeted with “As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah” ; we should reply by saying , “Wa ‘Alaykumus-salaam Wa Rahmatullahi Wabarakatuh”.

If someone says, “As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh” ; we should say , “Wa ‘Alaykumus-salaam Wa Rahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.” with a higher and happy tone.

This is because, Allah SWT has commanded us to greet the one who greeted with something better or at least stick to the same greeting.

The hadeeth below demonstrates how salam reaches its higher levels in terms of merits.

Narrated ‘Imran bin Husain :

“A man came to the Prophet SAWS and said: ‘As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum (Peace be upon you).'” [He said:] “So the Prophet SAWS said: ‘Ten.’ Then another came and he said: ‘As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah (Peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah).’ So the Prophet SAWS said: ‘Twenty.’ Then another came and said: ‘As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh (Peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah, and His Blessings).’ So the Prophet SAWS said: ‘Thirty.'” 2

  1. Pronounce the salam correctly

Since the readership of this article is mainly for non-Arab people, this is considered to be a crucial etiquette. Pronouncing the salam in a way it should be pronounced is very much important.

The salam is written in Arabic as  “اسلام عليكم”

The correct transliteration of it is “Assalaamu ‘Alaykum

Here “ ‘A ” represents the Arabic letter  “ع”.

When we verbally pronounce the salam, we should give extra care to pronounce the “ع” in “ ‘Alaykum”. Many of us mispronounce and even shorten the salam. The correct way of writing the salam has a huge contribution towards its pronunciation as well. For example, the following are some incorrect syllables of salam which have lead many of us to pronounce the salam incorrectly.

  • Aslaamalykum
  • Assalam  o alykum
  • Salam
  • Salam walaykum

We should avoid misinterpreting salam both in written and spoken forms in order to preserve its original dialect.  Register here!

  1. Don’t just say it; mean it

Islamic greeting is uttered in Arabic language by Muslims around the globe, regardless of their mother tongue. Salam is a Du’a. We pray for the one whom we greet, with peace from Allah SWT. But sadly, the cohesion between the utterance and the heartfelt meaning of salam is mostly dropped off because of the fact most of us don’t  take the meaning in. Salam has turned out to be another cultural utterance to the extent that some of us consider it to be a replacement for saying “Hello” or “Hi”.

‘As-salaamu ‘Alaykum’ means May the peace of Allah be upon you.

‘As-salaamu ‘Alaykum Warahmatullah’ means May the peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.

‘As-salaamu ‘Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh’ means May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.

Next time you tell salam, you should take the meaning into your heart and try to mean what you say.

  1. Say salam to both known and unknown people

Salam is not only the best of greetings, rather, it is declared as one of the best things about our deen.

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:

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.”3

We do not have to know the people to greet them with salam; rather we should give salam to know people whom we do not know. There’s nothing to be reluctant about in initiating salam to unknown people.

  1. Shaking hands while giving salam

It was narrated from Bara bin Azib:

The Messenger of Allah SAWS said: “There are no two Muslims who meet and shake hands, but they will be forgiven before they part.” 4

With reference to the above hadeeth, the scholars say that it’s a very good moral and a Sunnah to shake hands with fellow Muslims while giving salam.

  1. General etiquette.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger SAWS said, “The riding one should greet the walking one, and the walking one should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons.”5

Above all, saying salam to our fellow Muslim brothers is a duty whereas getting replied for salaam is every Muslim’s right.

Abu Hurairah RAu reported:

The Messenger of Allah SAWS said, “Every Muslim has five rights over another Muslim (i.e., he has to perform five duties for another Muslim): to return the greetings, to visit the sick, to accompany funeral processions, to accept an invitation, to respond to the sneezer ”  6

All in all, saying salam and replying to the salam is one of the obligations which connects the peers of Islam and strengthens the brotherhood of faith. Let’s reap the maximum benefit of this blessing by adhering to its etiquette.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 🙂

  1.   Muslim : Book 1, Hadith 378
  2.   Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2689
  3.   Bukhari, 6236
  4.   Sunan Ibn Majah, 3703
  5.   Bukhari, 6232
  6.   Riyad As salihin Book 7, Hadith 2

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If you liked the article, do leave a comment down below

51 Responses

      1. Justice101201@hotmail.com'
        IIP

        Alhamdullilah for your efforts. It is difficult for converts because our Salaamu are often ignored and deemed not valid by other Muslims. Jazakhallahu Khairaa for the article.

    1. watermelon999968@gmail.com'
      Martha Foy

      As-Salamu Alaikum,
      My question is what if a non-Muslim says: “As-Salamu Alaikum” to you? (example: a member of the “Nation of Islam,”)

  1. simplenagpal786@gmail.com'
    SimNaz

    As salaamu alaykum.
    Its a very nicely explained article. THANKS
    i have one query. When the younger ones speak or talk to the elder ones, then who should greet first.
    Because its very common that sometimes when we talk over phone or suddenly appear in front of people, the first thing we utter is greetings.
    Who should greet first?

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumusaalaam warahmatullaah Wabarakaatuh

      Alhamdulilllaah 🙂

      Narrated Abu Huraira:
      Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “The younger person should greet the older one, and the walking person should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons.” – Sahih Bukhari Book 79, Hadith 8

  2. abdulbasitshani55@yahoo.com'
    Abdul-Basit Shani

    1.Please what should be my response if a non-Muslim greets me with Asalaamu Alaikum ?
    2.Can I greet a non-Muslim with Asalaamu Alaikum?

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Scholars have got difference of opinion about these issues.
      1. During the life time pf Prophet (PBUH) Kuffaar used to greet him by saying “As-saam alaikum” which means, may death be on you. The prophet (PBUH) used to reply such greetings by saying “Wa ‘alaikum” which means same to you.
      The majority of the scholars are of the view that if we know for “SURE” that the greeting we get from the Non muslim is exactly the salaam (Assalaamu ‘alaikum), then we can very well reply to them with the reply salaam because as it is mentioned in the article, Allah says
      “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.” (An Nisa,4:86).
      If we are not sure of what they say or if they wish death to us, we should follow the Sunnah of saying “Wa ‘alaikum”.

      2. The scholars have two opinions.
      1. Some say that we are not permitted to “Initiate” salaam because the prophet (PBUH) said not to initiate
      Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:
      Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. – Sahih Muslim Book 39, Hadith 16

      2. Some say we can initiate due to the fact Ibraheem (PBUH) wished salaam upon his father.
      Allah knows best – 🙂

  3. ahmedconqueror92@gmail.com'
    Ahmad

    Assalamu Alaikum, please what about greeting a Christian? Can we say the Salama to them or reciprocate in a better tone when they say it to us?

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam warahmatullaahi wabarakaatuh
      Scholars have got difference of opinion about these issues.
      During the life time pf Prophet (PBUH) Kuffaar used to greet him by saying “As-saam alaikum” which means, may death be on you. The prophet (PBUH) used to reply such greetings by saying “Wa ‘alaikum” which means same to you.
      The majority of the scholars are of the view that if we know for “SURE” that the greeting we get from the Non muslim is exactly the salaam (Assalaamu ‘alaikum), then we can very well reply to them with the reply salaam because as it is mentioned in the article, Allah says
      “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.” (An Nisa,4:86).
      If we are not sure of what they say or if they wish death to us, we should follow the Sunnah of saying “Wa ‘alaikum”.

      The scholars have two opinions about initiating salaam to non Muslims
      1. Some say that we are not permitted to “Initiate” salaam because the prophet (PBUH) said not to initiate
      Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:
      Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. – Sahih Muslim Book 39, Hadith 16

      2.Some say we can initiate due to the fact Ibraheem (PBUH) wished salaam upon his father.
      Allah knows best

  4. Shabistawasim@gmail.com'
    Shabista

    As-salamu alaykum Wa rahmatullahi Wa barakahtuh very nice reminder plzz write something on ” juma mubarak” so people can take lesson and improve their knowledge

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam warahmatullaah Wabarakaatuh
      Jazakallaah Khair for the kind words
      Insha Allaah I will consider the suggestion 🙂

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam warahmatullaah wabarakaatuh
      Alhamdulillaah 🙂
      May Allaah accept it from us, Aameen

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam warahmatullaahi wabarakaatuh
      Scholars have got difference of opinion about these issues.
      During the life time pf Prophet (PBUH) Kuffaar used to greet him by saying “As-saam alaikum” which means, may death be on you. The prophet (PBUH) used to reply such greetings by saying “Wa ‘alaikum” which means same to you.
      The majority of the scholars are of the view that if we know for “SURE” that the greeting we get from the Non muslim is exactly the salaam (Assalaamu ‘alaikum), then we can very well reply to them with the reply salaam because as it is mentioned in the article, Allah says
      “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.” (An Nisa,4:86).
      If we are not sure of what they say or if they wish death to us, we should follow the Sunnah of saying “Wa ‘alaikum”.

      The scholars have two opinions about initiating salaam to non Muslims
      1. Some say that we are not permitted to “Initiate” salaam because the prophet (PBUH) said not to initiate
      Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:
      Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. – Sahih Muslim Book 39, Hadith 16

      2.Some say we can initiate due to the fact Ibraheem (PBUH) wished salaam upon his father.
      Allah knows best

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Alhamdulillaah 🙂
      Aameen to your du’a and please do keep on adding us in your du’a
      Baarakallaah feek

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam warahmatullaahi wabarakaatuh
      Scholars have got difference of opinion about these issues.
      During the life time pf Prophet (PBUH) Kuffaar used to greet him by saying “As-saam alaikum” which means, may death be on you. The prophet (PBUH) used to reply such greetings by saying “Wa ‘alaikum” which means same to you.
      The majority of the scholars are of the view that if we know for “SURE” that the greeting we get from the Non muslim is exactly the salaam (Assalaamu ‘alaikum), then we can very well reply to them with the reply salaam because as it is mentioned in the article, Allah says
      “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.” (An Nisa,4:86).
      If we are not sure of what they say or if they wish death to us, we should follow the Sunnah of saying “Wa ‘alaikum”.

      The scholars have two opinions about initiating salaam to non Muslims
      1. Some say that we are not permitted to “Initiate” salaam because the prophet (PBUH) said not to initiate
      Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:
      Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it. – Sahih Muslim Book 39, Hadith 16

      2.Some say we can initiate due to the fact Ibraheem (PBUH) wished salaam upon his father.
      Allah knows best

  5. Dzaircuisine@gmail.com'
    Firuze

    Assalam Alaykoum.
    Subhan Allah, I am extremely surprised and sad to see people asking if they can great a non Muslim. I feel my heart bleeding for our Uma who is asking questions about elementary things in the behavior of a Muslim. The verse and the hadith talk clearly about the importance of greeting people with the best formula and which formula is better than wishing peace to people. Non Peaceful world is for everybody and a peaceful world is for everybody. Allah is As Saalm (one of His names) and He is who created everyone Muslims and non Muslims. Are we here to wish them curse? Subhan Allah where is our goodness, the one we should learn from our prophet (pbuh). Believe me I am writing this post with tears. May Allah guide us.

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam Warahmatullaah 🙂

      As far as I understood their question, they mean to ask whether it is permissible for a Muslim to “initiate” salaam. I feel there’s nothing wrong in asking such a question because we Muslims treasure Salaam a lot and in fact it is one of the Ibaadah. And there’s always a difference between “cursing” and “staying away from initiating salaam”. Those are surely not the same. And after all, despite the doubts of average Muslims, the scholars of Islam themselves have got difference of opinions about this very issue.
      May Allaah our affairs easy for us, Aameen 🙂

  6. Shazea.ishaq@googlemail.com'
    Shazea

    Ma’sha Allah, very nice article. I have been trying to practice saying the salam as has been explained. I think this article is a blessing for us all, may we all use it well.

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Alhamdulillaah 🙂
      May Allah grant us all Tawfeeq to practice His beautiful Deen as it should be practiced, Aameen

  7. hgrey42@gmail.com'
    Heather

    It makes me so sad to see people asking if they can return salaams if a non-Muslim greets you. How can you know what another person’s faith is just by looking at them? So many reverts don’t necessarily look Muslim. I wore hijab for two years after I converted, but then after being threatened with violence (and because I’m a single woman living alone far from family) took it off. Every single time I give salaams to a Muslim sister on the street or in the mall, I get a dirty look. It is so discouraging! Return the salaams, you can’t know what is in other peoples’ hearts!

  8. samreenjanjua193@gmail.com'
    Samreen

    As-Salaamu Alaykum. Dear sister please elaborate on the number of times we can greet people. What to do if the other person is annoyed every time we greet him/her with this beautiful greeting, especially when modern Muslims are uses to saying hi/hello?

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
      The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Every Muslim has five rights over another Muslim (i.e., he has to perform five duties for another Muslim): to return the greetings, to visit the sick, to accompany funeral processions, to accept an invitation, to respond to the sneezer [i.e., to say: ‘Yarhamuk-Allah (may Allah bestow His Mercy on you),’ when the sneezer praises Allah].”

      [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

      With this Hadeeth we come know that it’s a matter of duty and rights to give and return Salam.. A Muslim can not be annoyed just because he / she is receiving salaam. As mentioned in the article Salaam is a Du’a and it’s a medium which increases the love between Muslims. Insha Allaah we have to talk to such Muslims and explain them about the virtues of salaam so that they may understand its weight and start treasuring it 🙂
      May Allaah make our affairs easy for us Aameen

  9. yafreder@mnstate.edu'
    Yahya

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum, please note that your Arabic spelling in your article is incorrect. It should begin with an alef and a lam preceding the word salam:
    السلام
    Arabic speakers know that the lam here is silent.
    May Allah bless you for an otherwise-fine article.

    1. Shifnas Bint Thamiem

      Wa ‘alaikumussalaam Warahmatullaah
      Jazakallaah Khair , there’s a typing error – Insha Allaah it will be fixed as soon as possible 🙂

  10. darwin.alannaki@gmail.com'
    Darwin

    I greeted a Muslima but she did not respond. The next time I met her she told me it was not proper to greet a woman specially when she’s alone.

  11. adeebtaqui@yahoo.com'
    adeeb taqui

    ‘Salam’ is a Greeting for Non-Muslims
    Sheikh Faysal b. Anwar Mawlawî, Retired Judge

    It is perfectly alright for a non Muslim to greet another person with the Islamic greeting of peace: “Al-Salâm `Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakâtuh.”

    However, the non-Muslim will not receive the blessing for the practice that a Muslim does, since the blessing one earns by offering the greeting to someone else comes from emulating the example – the Sunnah – of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and a non-Muslim, by definition, does not believe in following the Prophet’s Sunnah as a matter of faith.

    It is also permissible for a Muslim to greet a non Muslim with this greeting. This was asserted by a number of Companions and Successors, including Ibn `Abbâs, Ibn Mas`ûd, Abû Umâmah, Ibn Muhîrîz, and `Umar b. `Abd al-`Azîz. It was also the opinion of many prominent imams, including Sufyân b. `Uyaynah, al-Sha`bî, al-Awzâ`î, and al-Tabarî. Recently, this opinion has been adopted by al-Sayyid Rashîd Ridâ’ in Tafsîr al-Manâr and al-Shinqîtî in Adwâ’ al-Bayân.

    This view is in harmony with how the Qur’ân represents the Islamic greeting of peace as a universal greeting.

    Allah says: “O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own without first announcing your presence and invoking peace upon the folk thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful.” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 27]

    Allah says: “And when they hear idle talk they turn aside from it and say: We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; peace be on you, we do not desire the ignorant.” [Sûrah al-Qasas: 55]

    He says: “And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’ ” [Sûrah al-Furqân: 63]

    He also says: “Consider his cry: ‘O my Lord! surely they are a people who do not believe’. So turn away from them and say, ‘Peace’, for they shall soon come to know.” [Sûrah al-Zukhruf: 88-89]

    And: “(The father) replied: ‘Do you hate my gods, O Abraham? If you forbear not, I will indeed stone you: Now get away from me for a good long while!’ Abraham said: ‘Peace be on thee: I will pray to my Lord for thy forgiveness: for He is to me Most Gracious’.” [Sûrah Maryam: 47]

    There is also ample hadîth evidence to establish the universality of this greeting.

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Greet with ‘Peace’ those whom you know and those whom you do not know.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî (12) and Sahîh Muslim (39)]

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) also informed us that when Allah created Adam, He commanded him: “Go to that assembly – and they were an assembly of seated angels – and listen to how they greet you. Indeed, it is your greeting and the greeting of your descendants. He said: “Peace be upon you.” They said: “Peace be upon you and Allah’s mercy.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3326 & 6227) and Sahîh Muslim (2841)]

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “Spread the greeting of peace.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (1854) and Sahîh Ibn Hibbân (489)]

    There are many scholars who hold the view that it is either disliked or prohibited for Muslims to initiate the greeting of salâm with non-Muslims. They rely on the following hadîth as evidence: “Do not initiate the salutation of ‘Peace’ with the Jews and Christians.” [Sahîh Muslim (2167)]

    However, this hadîth relates to a state of hostilities which had erupted at that time against the Muslims. It was, in fact, at the time of the campaign against Banû Qurayzah. This is established by another authentic hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “We are going forth in the morning against a group of Jews, so do not initiate the greeting of ‘Peace’ with them. [Musnad Ahmad (26695) and Mu`jam al-Tabarânî al-Kabîr (22/291). See also Musnad Ahmad (16844 & 17584)]

    Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî relates the same from al-Bukhârî’s al-Adab al-Mufrad and from Sunan al-Nasâ’î while discussing this topic in Fath al-Bârî (11/39).

    Therefore, the opinion that the greeting of peace can be used for all people is the strongest one. This view has been held by eminent scholars of all schools of thought. It is certainly the opinion to adopt when living at peace in the company of non-Muslims. Those Muslims who are living in non-Muslim countries should have a concern for outreach. Greeting all people in the best of manner without showing discrimination is an essential etiquette of reaching out to others.

    It is also important to understand that the difference of opinion regarding the greeting of “salâm” with non-Muslims pertains only to initiating the greeting, not to replying to it. When a non-Muslim greets a Muslim with “al-Salâm `alaykum”, then it is obligatory for the Muslim to return the greeting.

    This is because Allah says: “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet back with better than it or return it. Lo! Allah takes count of all things.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 86]

    This verse shows that it is preferable to offer a better, more generous greeting and it is obligatory to do justice and to at least return the same. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah explains in Ahkâm Ahl al-Dhimmah that this ruling certainly applies to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

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