A Bundle of Peace, Mercy, and Blessings


http://www.flickr.com/photos/robwallace/2871616541/in/photostream/By Ubah

Islam: a blessing loaded with blessings.

From among these blessings is one thing in particular that distinguishes Islam from all other faiths. Something that transcends linguistic, cultural, ethnic and geographical barriers. Something that is understood from the most urbanized areas in the West, to the remotest locations of the East. Something that embodies the concept of the Ummah (Muslim community): unity, brother/sister-hood, homogeneity. Something that eliminates the barriers of unfamiliarity and instills within foreign hearts a bond of recognition and a stir of love.

This compelling and powerful thing is a phrase. A blessed combination of words with roots extending from the heart to the lips and branches that bypass the mind due to the instantaneous adoration it entails for its recipient. This phrase is a greeting—a greeting of peace:

السلامعليكمورحمةاللهوبركاته

(As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmat allah wa barakatuhu)

Peace be upon you [along with] the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings*

* roughly translated

This greeting of peace, or salaam, is one that is frequently exchanged between Muslims all over the world—regardless of whether they know one another or even speak the same language. This is because the salaam represents a verbal bond which, like the declaration of the shahadah (the phrase: “I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah”), ties and strengthens the relationship of the global Muslim community.

However, despite its unique ability to bring people together, many people have forgotten/neglected the benefits of giving and returning the salaam. Indeed, as opposed to relishing the utter beauty that is reflected by the salaam, many have chosen to disregard it completely or be stingy with whom they give it. For example, some people withhold giving the salaam to others who are of a different nationality or ethnicity. Or, some may reluctantly return a salaam to a person who may follow a different madhab (school of thought) or learn under a different scholar than they do. These types of behaviors completely contradict the very essence of what the salaam entails and act as a divide that separates people instead of a glue that unifies them. Unfortunately, many Muslims fail to realize—or purposefully neglect—the hadith (narration) narrated by Abu Hurayrah (radi allahu `anhu, may Allah be pleased with him) wherein he states:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say, ‘The rights a Muslim has over another Muslim are six.’ He was asked, ‘What are they?’ He replied, ‘When he meets him, he should greet him, when he gives him an invitation he should accept, when he asks him for advice he should give him good counsel, when he sneezes and praises Allah he should wish him mercy, when he is ill he should visit him, [and] when he dies, he should accompany him,’” (Muslim).

Subhan’Allah (Glory to God). According to the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him), withholding the salaam when meeting another Muslim is synonymous to withholding their rights. This in turn reflects a form of oppression—one that I, myself, have experienced; I once noticed a sister that was walking in clear-view towards me and thus, prepared to give her the salaam. After she was within a reasonable distance from myself, I audibly said, “Assalamu ‘alaykum,” and waited for her response. Needless to say, a dirty look was not what I had anticipated. I was left slightly shocked as a series of thoughts rushed through my mind: did I give her the salaam in an inappropriate manner? Did she have something against my skin color? Was it because I was dressed differently than her? And the questions and doubts continued. I tried to dampen them by remembering to make excuses for her: maybe she didn’t hear me. Maybe she didn’t see me. Maybe… But as I made these excuses, I realized that they were not viable; she did hear and see me. So what was up? During a reflection on this moment, I remembered another hadith:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) turned to face the people and said, ‘Straighten your rows,’ three times, ‘for by Allah either you straighten your rows or Allah will create division among your hearts,’” (Abu Dawood).

The act of straightening the rows in salah (prayer) promotes unity in formation and, as we learn from the hadith, unity of the hearts. Similarly, giving the salaam promotes unity through aligning the hearts while withholding it does the opposite. After having my salaam “rejected”, so to speak, I immediately felt distant from my sister in Islam as if an invisible tie or bond between us had been broken—and thus, misaligned—as a result of having my right withheld from me.

This is something that no Muslim should have to feel as a result of their brother/sister in Islam. Instead, we should strive to not only to give the salaam, but to be the first to do so when encountering others:

It was narrated that Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The one who is closest of people to Allah, the Most High, is the one who initiates the greeting of Salam,” (Abu Dawood).

Furthermore, the Prophet ﷺ taught us to not be stingy with giving the salaam:

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reported that a man said, “Messenger of Allah, which aspect of Islam is best?” He replied, “Feeding people and greeting those you know and those you do not know,” (Bukhari).

In commenting on this hadith, scholar Ibn Rajab (ra) said in al-Fath (1/43):

“The hadeeth makes the connection between feeding others and spreading salaam because this combines good actions in both word and deed, which is perfect good treatment (ihsaan). Indeed, this is the best thing that you can do in Islam after the obligatory duties.”

Regarding this hadith, Al-Qaadi (ra) eloquently states in his book Ikmaal al-Mu’allim (1:276):

“Here the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was urging the believers to soften their hearts. The best Islamic attitude is to love one another and greet one another, and this is achieved by words and deeds. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) urged the Muslims to foster love between one another by exchanging gifts and food, and by spreading salaam, and he forbade the opposite, namely forsaking one another, turning away from one another, spying on one another, seeking out information about one another, stirring up trouble and being two faced [...] Love is one of the duties of Islam and one of the pillars of the Islamic system. One should give salaams to those whom one knows and those whom one does not know, out of sincerity towards Allah; one should not try to impress other people by giving salaams only to those whom one knows and no-one else. This also entails an attitude of humility and spreading the symbols of this ummah through the word of salaam.”

When greeted with the salaam (e.g. “As-salamu alaykum”), there are three (usual) ways to reply:

  1. Wa `alaykum as-salaam” (and peace be upon you)
  2. Wa `alaykum as-salaam wa rahmat allah” (and peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah)
  3. Wa `alaykum as-salaam wa rahmat allah wa barakatuhu” (and peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings)

From the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions and practices of the Prophet ﷺ), we learn that the third response is the most complete form of the salaam, which garners the most reward:

 

 

 

“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.” (Qur’an 4:86)

Abu Hurayrah (ra) reported that a man passed by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ whilst he was sitting with some others, and said “As-salaamu `alaykum (peace be upon you).” The Prophet ﷺ said, “[He will have] ten hasanaat (rewards).” Another man passed by and said “As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah).” The Prophet ﷺ said, “[He will have] twenty hasanaat.” Another man passed by and said “As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings).” The Prophet ﷺ said, “[He will have] thirty hasanaat.”

This goes for both giving and receiving the salaam. How beautiful is that? Furthermore, the salaam is not something that is limited to our current realm but something that transcends into the realm of the unseen. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified is He) says about the people of Jannah, or Paradise:

 

 

 

 

“They will not hear therein ill speech or commission of sin - Only a saying: ‘Peace, peace.’” (Qur’an 56:25-26)

Furthermore, the salaam is even used by the angels:

 

 

 

 

“The ones whom the angels take in death, [being] good and pure; [the angels] will say, ‘Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do.’” (Qur’an 16:32)

Thus, after learning about the salaam and its’ virtues from the Qur’an and Sunnah, we learn just how much of a gift it is—to both the giver and the receiver. Far greater than a mundane bundle of roses or chocolates, this bundle, in its most complete form, contains peace, mercy, and blessings. The salaam is a du`a’` (supplication), a prayer that is made from the heart and uttered by the tongue to the one whom it is directed. It is also an enemy of pride and an extinguisher of the ego—something that should be embraced, extended, and as the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to do, spread greatly among all Muslims.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for this very beautiful post!

  2. anonymous brother says:

    Beautiful post for sure. Jazakum Allahu Khayra for the reminder.

    I do, however, think it necessary to bring up something that I have been instructed over, and that is that a Muslim women is not obligated to respond to the salaam of a Muslim man.

    I have never really given much thought about this point, nor searched for a scholarly reasoning regarding this topic.

    Would it be possible to have Sheikh Suhaib Webb, or someone knowledgeable comment on this view?

    • M says:

      I have learned that it is an obligation to respond to the salam, regardless of if it’s coming from a male or female, unless there is a REAL [not made up, awkward thoughts of how it *might* be perceived] chance of fitna. [READ: NOT MADE-UP, FREAKING OUT MOMENTS OF 'HE/SHE'LL THINK I'M FLIRTING WITH THEM IF I SAY SALAM].

      Say salam, return salam, spread salam, but do it politely and respectfully.

      wa Allahu `alam

  3. Mike says:

    I know why she gave you a dirty look. She thought you were flirting or something. I never give women salam. They never respond one; it causes them to be afraid; two and three; we can’t always tell who is Muslim or who is simply wearing scarf? I was say salam to the men but sometimes just unsure…

    • ubah says:

      I’m a sister, so no flirting.

      ~ ubah

    • Kirana says:

      i think so too. oftentimes between locals in Malaysia, young-ish guys give salam to girls but in this insinuative tone, clearly flirting. i suppose, they capitalise on the fact that the muslimah *has* to return the salam. in fact, sometimes when she ignores them and walks past, they even call out “it’s a sin not to reply”. over time, the young woman develops like a pavlovian response to salaams from young-looking men, the first thing in her mind is ‘oh great. another dirtbag stranger trying to flirt with me’. when you get married and grow older, it subsides, mainly because you don’t get such botheration anymore, and a married woman/mother with some age feels more socially confident – she has more social power than a young, single girl.

      so, it could be the automatic response she has. it’s a shame, i agree. but i see it as a sign of the wisdom of Allah that he put more onus and responsibility on men, now that we can see the effects when that responsibility is so frequently shirked or corrupted. it is not because men are more worthy or special. it is because when the quality of men is high, then the entire society will be harmonious, women and children are safe and may participate in social relationships without fear. when the quality of men is low, no matter how good the women are, they will not have the same security and it becomes harder for them to retain good qualities as well. women are like the backup plan for humanity, the last shield for the family and the children. men are like the outer shield. the inner shield can withstand a lot of strain, but it is better that it does not have to and is saved for emergencies, like wartime or famine.

  4. RKhan says:

    JazakAllah for this good post.
    But, like the anonymous brother, I too would really like to know,is it necessary to returm the salam of a muslim brother?
    Awaiting for an answer from any knowledgeable person from your site….

  5. UmmTaha says:

    Salams to all. Jazaki Allahu khayran for this lovely reminder, Sr. Fyora Luul. In response to the commenters’ questions, I found the following article which insha’ Allah will be helpful: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/rules-of-greeting-non-muslims-in-islam-saying-salaamreplying-salaam-bynurideen-lemu-an-nigeri/
    Also, I was taught that it is ALWAYS required to return salams, although one does not have to say it out loud if there is a REAL chance of fitna. Wa Allahu aalam

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