Thursday 9 June 2022

Salutation in Islam

Salutation is a gesture or utterance made as a greeting or acknowledgement of another's arrival or departure all over the word. The may entail a handshake followed by a verbal greeting which is normally returned with appropriate words. 

Generally all over the world, salutations like Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good evening are used. In some East Asian countries, two meeting people clasp their hands as a gesture of greetings. In India, the greeter add word Namsate, meaning greeting to you, along with clasping their hands.

It will be seen that in all above said salutations and greeting, there is no prayer or blessing is involved. Mere wishing a good morning or simply saying greetings are good gestures without any meaningful meaning. In fact these words have no spiritual and moral significance, but just a wish that one should find one's mornings and evenings happy. 

In Islam, whenever two Muslims meet, they extend salutation with a wonderful meaning and blessing. Muslims shake hand with a salutation in Arabic: " السلام عليكم (As-Salaam-Alaikum)" meaning "Peace be unto you. The salutation is returned with "وعليكم السلام (Wa-Alaikum-Salaam)" meaning "And unto you peace too."
The word Salaam means peace. As-Salaam is therefore one of the attributes of Allah, meaning "The Source of Peace." 
In the Quran, Allah instructs believers to greet one another with words of peace:
وَاِذَا جَآءَكَ الَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِاٰيٰتِنَا فَقُلۡ سَلٰمٌ عَلَيۡكُمۡ​ كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمۡ عَلٰى نَفۡسِهِ الرَّحۡمَةَ​ ۙ اَنَّهٗ مَنۡ عَمِلَ مِنۡكُمۡ سُوۡٓءًۢا بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِهٖ وَاَصۡلَحَۙ فَاَنَّهٗ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ‏ 
And when those who believe in Our signs come to you, say to them: 'Peace be upon you. Your Lord has made mercy incumbent upon Himself so that if anyone of you does a bad deed out of ignorance and thereafter repents and makes amends, surely you will find Him All-Forgiving, All Compassionate.'  (Surah 6. Al-An'am:54) 

It is mentioned in the 37th verse Surah 39. Az-Zumar that when the fortune ones will enter the Jannah (Paradise), the guard at the gate will also greet them with same salutation:

وَسِيۡقَ الَّذِيۡنَ اتَّقَوۡا رَبَّهُمۡ اِلَى الۡجَـنَّةِ زُمَرًا​ؕ حَتّٰٓى اِذَا جَآءُوۡهَا وَفُتِحَتۡ اَبۡوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمۡ خَزَنَتُهَا سَلٰمٌ عَلَيۡكُمۡ طِبۡتُمۡ فَادۡخُلُوۡهَا خٰلِدِيۡنَ‏ 
And those who eschewed disobeying their Lord shall be driven in companies to Paradise so that when they arrive there its gates will have already been thrown open and its keepers shall say to them: “Peace be upon you; you have done well. So enter. Herein you shall abide.”

Even when in Jannah (Paradise), when two believers would meat, they would greet each other with Salam, , as sated in the 23rd verse of Surah 14. Ibrahim:

وَاُدۡخِلَ الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَعَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ جَنّٰتٍ تَجۡرِىۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِهَا الۡاَنۡهٰرُ خٰلِدِيۡنَ فِيۡهَا بِاِذۡنِ رَبِّهِمۡ​ؕ تَحِيَّتُهُمۡ فِيۡهَا سَلٰمٌ‏ 

(14:23) As for those who had believed and did good in the world, they shall be admitted to the Gardens beneath which rivers flow. There, with the leave of Allah, they shall abide forever, and will be greeted with: "Peace".

Generally a person meeting with someone or entering someone's house or office should extend this salutation. It common courtesy that if the receiver is sitting, he should stand up and return the salutation.

Who should greet first in Islam? Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The rider should first greet the pedestrian, and the pedestrian the one who is seated and a small group should greet a larger group (with as-Salam-u-'Alaikum).
The two words " السلام عليكم " may be called the irreducible minimum which are essential for greeting one another. Muslims are encouraged to add few words to make the prayer wholesome like: " السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته " (As-Salam-u-Alaikum wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh) which means "Peace be unto you and so may the mercy of Allah and his blessings." Thus the wholsome salam " السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته " of "peace... ,mercy" and "blessings of Allah" forms the sum and substance of Islam and the Muslims are asked to shower upon one another these benedictions. so that they may be able to live in this world and the Hereafter in perfect peace and tranquility and blessings and mercy of Allah around him.

Muslims are so accustomed to using this salutation that they even extend this salutation while greeting a non Muslim. And by and by non Muslims of non Arabic origin have also started to understand this salutation and sometimes respond with "وعليكم السلام (Wa-Alaikum-Salaam)"
According to Imam Nawawi, greeting with the words of as-Salam-u-'Alaikum is a Sunnah, and responding to it is Wajib (obligatory), but this essentiality is of the nature of Kifaya, meaning thereby that if a few persons out of the whole assembly or group respond to the greeting it will absolve all of the responsibility of response but if no response comes forth from any quarter all are held responsible for it. (Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book : 26 KITAB AS-SALAM "THE BOOK ON SALUTIONS AND GREETINGS") [1]

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to greet people by saying As-salamu alaikum and encouraged his followers to do so as well. The tradition helps bond Muslims together as one family and establish strong community relationships. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once told his followers that there are five responsibilities each Muslim has toward their brothers and sisters in Islam: greeting each other with salaam, visiting each other when someone is sick, attending funerals, accepting invitations, and asking Allah to have mercy on them when they sneeze. [2]

 Salam at the end of each prayer / Salat:

At the end of each prayer/salat, that is while sitting after the tashahhud, durood, and any du'a, the salat is ended by turning head to the right and saying, As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuhu. The angel who records your good deeds is to this side. Turning your head to the left for the angel sitting on the left shoulder and saying, As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuhu.
Shaking Hands: Muslim men generally shake hands or embrace each other when meeting with the salutations. They would also shake hands even if it comes to Non Muslims. But don't be surprised if a Muslim declines a handshake with a lady, for generally it is not done by Muslims. This is mainly because of religious prohibitions against a woman being touched by a man outside of her family. Likewise do not extend a hand when meeting a Muslim woman for generally she may decline it. However, meeting a Muslim woman, one may slightly bow his head in respect or placing one's right hand on his chest as a matter of courtesy.  A Muslim may do so when meeting a non Muslim woman. It may be added that even Muslim men do not shake hands with Muslim women, for Muslim men do not touch women outside of their family except their wives, daughters, mothers, etc. However, when a non Muslim woman meets a Muslim woman she may extend a hand which is seldom declined.

May Allah helps us understand Islam better by pondering over the verses of the Qur'an and acting upon the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Aameen

Photo | References | 1 | 2 |

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