In the U.S. there is a proverbial saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
This truism comes to mind as I ponder the significance of the Islamic greeting As Salaamu Alaikum and I am inspired anew by the majesty of Allah Ta’aala in advising believers to use this salutation when greeting one another. What better way to make a good and lasting first impression upon someone than to greet them with words wishing them peace? Upon converting to Islam, I learned that when you meet a fellow Muslim that you should always greet him or her with Peace be Upon You or in Arabic, As Salaamu Alaikum, but I have found over the years that not every Muslim seems to follow this prescription.
The Holy Quran reads in Surah 4 Ayah 86: When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with one better than it or return it. Lo! Allah taketh count of all things.
Yet, there have been instances when I have failed to receive a returned greeting after initiating it with another Muslim and the issue appears to be one that is rampant throughout the Islamic community.
Sister Aishah Schwartz, Director of the Muslimah Writers Alliance, an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers and advocates working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith, has also encountered similar situations and has recently received dozens of comments to a post that she initiated on the social networking website Facebook.
Sister Aishah has states in the post, “I have been Muslim now for 11-years. Al-hamdulillah. And it never ceases to amaze me that in all of these years the one thing I have encountered along the way is having other Muslims fail to greet me with Salams the same way they would greet their fellow Muslim friends or Muslim family members. What is a ‘Pure’ Muslim? Someone who is born and raised in a Muslim family? No. REVERTS ARE MUSLIM TOO.”
The full post and comments can be read here and as sad as it is to consider that the greeting of peace may not be returned because of judgments made about a fellow believers’ faith without any knowledge of that individual’s practices, it is a possibility that should not exist according to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
The Islamic greeting of peace in Arabic is As Salaamu Alaikum and is an integral part of the Islamic tradition that is rooted within the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him. There are numerous hadith that document the importance and significance of the greeting and the positive affect that it has upon the creation of brotherhood and sisterhood among believers.
Once such hadith is recorded in Jami al-Tirmidhi and reads:
It was reported that Abu Hurayrah said “When one of you joins a gathering, let him say salaam. When he wants to get up and leave, let him say salaam. The former is not more important than the latter.” (Hasan hadith reported in Jāmi` al-Tirmidhi
Another recording reads in part and in response to when the Prophet Muhammad was asked who should “begin” the salam greeting and he said:
“The one who is riding should greet the one who is walking and the one who is walking should greet the one who is sitting and the smaller group should greet the larger group.” (Sahih – Al-Bukhari, 6234; Muslim, 2160)
And finally, Sahih al-Bukhari records:
A man asked the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), “What Islamic traits are the best?” The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied, “Feed the people, and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”
There are a wealth of direct sayings about the greeting of peace and other hadith that expound upon the excellent manners of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and I find it very hard to believe that our beloved Prophet, may peace be upon him, would ever walk past another Muslim without offering him or her the salutation of peace.
For online links to translations of the Holy Quran and some of the hadith collections of the Sunnah visit: