Have you ever visited a Muslim country and got confused when no one answered your greetings of hello? If you have not experienced this, you will experience this whenever you find yourself in a Muslim majority area. It does not mean that your utterance of hello or Hy is wrong. But it is different. Muslim communities have different words for greetings. It is Salam rather than hello or Hy. These are English context greetings.
In this blog, I'll explain to you how to master your interaction in a Muslim community? What is the meaning of Salam? What is the spiritual and moral importance of Salam? Whom you can do a handshake and who doesn’t? What are the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah about greetings? Let's begin. I hope this blog will make a valuable addition to your knowledge.
How to greet in an Islamic society?
Every society sets a few words and uses them for greeting other members of the group. Similarly, people in Islamic societies say "As-Salamu Alaikum". It is the greeting you'll find in almost all Islamic countries with minor changes according to accent and language difference. As-Salamu Alaykum is an Arabic term which means "Peace be upon you”. The process of greeting is also sometimes called Salam. The person who is initiating the conversation will do Salam first. Then, the second person will reply with "Va Alikum Mussalam" which means "Peace be upon you, too".
How should you greet according to Quran and Sunnah?
The ultimate source you should consult for practices of Islam is Quran and Sunnah. Both sources of guidance talk about the importance of greeting in a Muslim society. In Surah Nisa, Allah says:
"When (whether traveling or at home, or in war or at peace) you are greeted with a greeting (of peace and goodwill), answer with one better, or (at least) with the same. Surely God keeps account of all things".
Similarly, if you open the Seerah of Holy Prophet (PBUH), you'll come to know that he promoted the habit of doing Salam and encouraged his companions to initiate Salam.
"Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessing be upon him) observed: You shall not enter Paradise so long as you do not affirm belief (in all those things which are the articles of faith) and you will not believe as long as you do not love one another. Should I not direct you to a thing which, if you do, will foster love amongst you: (i. e.) give currency to (the practice of paying salutation to one another by saying) as-Salamu Alaikum".
How to say As-salamu alaikum? Few do and Don'ts
Islam talks about saying As-Salamu Alaikum and initiating the action of doing Salam. Islam guides about who should say Salam to whom and which conditions bound you to say Salam to others. Let's discuss them in detail.
1. You can say As-Salamu Alaikum to any Muslim and he is bounded to reply to you with the words "Wa-Alaikumussalam"
2. Sometimes, Muslims utter long form of Salam: "wa-Alaikumussalam wa-Rahmatullah". Short and long both forms of Salam are accepted.
3. You can do a handshake with the male Muslims even if you're a non-Muslim.
4. Religion does not allow Muslim women to have a handshake with males other than father, brother, or husband.
5. In the same way, Muslim males cannot handshake with women other than mothers, sisters, wives, etc.
You may contradict with last two points that no Muslim women and men do handshake with the opposite gender. I agree that it is a usual practice among Muslims working in corporates etc. but here the discussion is about the teachings of Islam.
Islam also teaches Muslims about some situations where you should say, Salam. Some of them are as below:
1. Say "As-salamu alaykum wa-Rahmatullah" if you join the company of Muslims.
2. The rider should greet those who are walking.
3. The one who is walking should greet those sitting.
4. The younger one should say Salam to the elder one.
5. The smaller group of Muslims should greet the larger group.
6. You should say Salam while joining and leaving a Muslim gathering.
These are some conditions when it is necessary to initiate the Islamic greeting.
The spiritual and moral importance of Islamic greetings:
It is clear from the points explained above that initiating the greeting and replying to it is a Holy action. It is not only performed to catch the attention of the 2nd person or to initiate a conversation with unknown people. It has spiritual meanings. For instance, to reply to your fellow with the words that May Allah have peace upon you is something that connects you to Allah. Hence, you should start your daily conversations with As-Salamu Alaykum.