Last month, while in transit for a few hours in London, my wife and I decided to sit by the windows of a hallway that connects the sides of the airport terminal. The hallway was a nice, cool area and a big open space for our little daughter to run herself ragged before getting on the airplane. While sitting there talking to my wife who proudly wears her hijab (head covering) and playing with our daughter, I noticed that amongst the waves of people that came and went across this hallway were scores of Muslims. Masha’Allah (God has willed it), sisters wearing their hijabs, abayas or jilbabs (loose garments covering the whole body) walking alongside of brothers with their sunnah (Prophetic tradition) beards. Yet the more the numbers of Muslims walk by us the sadder I get for the state of morale amongst us.
Out of the scores of Muslims walking by, only a handful said “Assalamu `alaykum (peace be upon you).” I did not know how to interpret this. Authu’Billah (God forbid), is it a low level of Iman (faith)? Is it a fear of being recognized as a Muslim, or is it just negligence of the importance and the benefits of saying salam? I am not going to judge based on the brief interaction. I will give all my brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and say that it is probably a lack of appreciation of the benefit of greeting each other with salam. Instead, I will take advantage of this portal to remind myself and others of some of the stated benefits of our greeting of Islam.
In the book of hadith, Riyad Al-Saliheen, there is a chapter on salam. In it you will find this interesting hadith:
Narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said: “You will not enter Jannah until you believe (or have faith) and you will not believe (or have faith) until you love one another.”
This concept of brotherhood/sisterhood in Islam is of utmost importance and it is elaborated on in many different ayat (verses of the Qur’an) and ahadeeth (sayings of the Prophet ﷺ). The above hadith is one such example highlighting the importance of brotherhood/sisterhood that is woven by the fabric of love. The Prophet ﷺ said the couples will enter Jannah (paradise) who base their love for each other on faith. It is a concept that was explicitly stated in another hadith:
Anas Ibn Malik, the servant of the Prophet ﷺ , narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Verily one will not have faith until he loves to his brother what he loves for himself.”
Love is an important component in our relationship as members of the Muslim community; it is the basis for spreading peace and security amongst ourselves. The Prophet ﷺ gives us an easy way by which we can spread that love as he continues in the former hadith:
“Shall I not tell you about something if you do you would love one another? Spread salam amongst yourselves.”
Each language, culture, and region of the world has its way of greeting and saluting one another. Islam transcends these boundaries and no matter who you are or where you are from you should always greet another Muslim the same way. They are just a few words yet they display a profound sense of unity and an immense sense of peace and security. It is a promise of peace and a wish of mercy and blessings upon the other person. By saying salam, the stage is set for a good and peaceful interaction. I never understood the power of saying salam until one day, a few minutes before `Asr prayer, I look to my right after finishing the two raka’ahs of tahiyat al masjid (prayer upon entering the masjid) and I see in the corner someone I have not talked to in over fourteen years. I remembered him clearly and not very positively. We used to play soccer together growing up and he was someone that started a lot of fights and caused a lot of trouble. I pondered for a few seconds; should I go over and say salam or just pretend like I don’t see him, pray, and go home? I thought to myself, would he even remember or acknowledge me? Or would he just shrug me off and scoff at me. Eventually I mustered up the courage and went over.
“Assalamu `alaykum.” I said
“Wa `alaykum assalam…Ahmed?!” he responded.
Subhan‘Allah, he was so pleasant and welcoming, he was a changed person. I felt such joy and was overcome with immense happiness. We reminisced over the old days of playing soccer behind my parents’ place until the muadhin called for prayer. I saw him at the masjid everyday for the three weeks I was there and every time we saw each other we said salam.
Greeting each other with salam is also a simple way of earning hasanat (good deeds).
Imran ibn Hussayn said: A man came to the Prophet ﷺ and said “Assalamu `alaykum.” The Prophet ﷺ replied by saying “Wa `alaykum assalam” and then said “ten.” Then another man came and said “Assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatuallah” and the Prophet ﷺ replied and then said “twenty.” Then another man came and said “Assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” and the Prophet ﷺ replied and then said “thirty.”
As demonstrated by the above hadith, the simple act of uttering the greeting words of Islam is an act that will earn you good deeds. In another hadith it is described by the Prophet ﷺ as one of the best deeds in Islam.
Abdullah ibn Omar said that a man asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Which deed is the best in Islam?” The Prophet ﷺ replied “To feed the hungry and to say salam to whom you know and don’t know.”
But perhaps one of the things we forget the most is that saying salam is speaking in the language of the angels! Allah says in the Qur’an, in Surat an-Nahl:
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.” (16:32)
It is also the language of the people of Jannah. Allah says in Surat al-Waqi`ah:
“They will not hear therein ill speech or commission of sin, only a saying: “Peace, peace.” (56:25-26)
JazakAllahu khair….may Allah reward for this reminder, mashAllah excellent piece…
wasalamu alaykum wa rahmat-Allahi
Thank you for the post. I was also in London last week and noticed the large amount of Muslims in the city as well.
While I agree with you on the benefits of greetings others, you must also realize that living in a Muslim majority nation, that what you are advising will be very impractical.
If you were to be in a Muslim majority nation and tried to give salaam to all of those Muslims that you encounter, then you would not get anything done!
I lived in a Muslim-populated country for some time AlhamdulilLah and highly enjoyed saying Salam to as many as possible and got a ton done, AlhamdulilLah. It’s all in the attitude bro.
i have to agree with Omar!
I think Omar is right here, it is impractical to say salam to everyone when living in a Muslim majority country or locality. But if you are passing by a sole Muslim I think it is a good thing to greet with salam. I was in northern England in a remote part of the country full of non-Muslims and a few Muslim couples walked passed and didn’t even return the salams we gave. Maybe because they didn’t expect to see Muslims or maybe they felt strange sending salams on strangers? It was rather sad to see that happen with every Muslim we passed on that trip.
There is a lot of us in London. It is almost impossible to say salam to everyone you see! But of course, if I started a conversation with you, it would not be with any other words than the heavenly greetings of asalamualikum.
I live in a Muslim country and love saying salaam 🙂 If we enter a shop, a prayer room in a mall, or simply being a waiting room with others.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder.
Salaam alaikm to you all 🙂
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu 🙂
JazakAllah khayr for such a great reminder. I also come across this ignorance which haunts us muslims 🙁
but insha’Allah I’ll try my level best to take the first step from now on…thanks to your reminder wa Alhumdullilah
JazakAllah khayr once again 🙂
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu 🙂 🙂
Ma’sha’allah, I love this! I am in Central Europe at the moment and so of course, not many Muslims that I run into, but of course the small businesses that are run by Muslims, I do try my best. It’s a bit sad though in my case, a brother I see at Jumu’ah, who doesn’t speak English, works in a small money exchange bureau just around the corner from my apartment. Just this past week, I saw him in the little booth several times, but hesitated and didn’t say salaam. I really wish I had each time and I felt bad. Insha’allah, after this reminder (I was always aware of this blessing of exchanging greetings), I will say it the next time I see him.
As for the airport, yes, I also see many brothers and sisters while I am crossing the halls of the terminals – at times, I do want to say salaam and other times, I feel, maybe it will seem strange, but I know that it will feel good, from my side, if I do, regardless if they return them or not.
I think I will share this on my blog – which I’ve named Brotherhood, as I feel this is such a beautiful aspect of our Faith and try to reflect it in my entries; this includes Sisterhood as well of course 🙂 Jazak’Allahu Khairan
as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah,
MashaAllah, excellent post to remind everyone of this issue.
also, this hadith:
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim. It was said to him: Allah’s Messenger, what are these? Thereupon he said: When you meet him, offer him greetings;when he invites you to a feast accept it. when he seeks your council give him, and when he sneezes and says:” All praise is due to Allah,” you say Yarhamuk Allah (may Allah show mercy to you) ; and when he fails ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier.
Sahih Muslim, Book #026 Hadith #5379
I lived in Panama for three years, and the Muslim community in Panama city is almost exclusively of Indian descent. When I would see one of them in the street I would offer salam and not once did anyone answer me. That always left me feeling hurt and frustrated, which completely counters the purpose of offering salam. I think it’s because, being such a homogeneous community they associated being Muslim with being Indian. They did not see outsiders like me as real Muslims.
Only one time, when I was crossing the pedestrian overpass over Via Espana, did a brother pass me and he greeted me with salam. I responded enthusiastically and I felt so good about it, it really cheered me up.
In the 90’s when I was in Pakistan. I used to go a shop and read and would say salam to the guard and go in. The first couple times he found it weird; rich people shop and don’t say salam usually. I think was his stereotype. But eventually he started saying salam back; then I got busy.. life.. u know.. and when I came six months later. I said salam again and He meet me with suck kindness and regard. Asked me how I was and offered tea and what not.. Like I was some long lost relative coming back. I talked to him and he said he missed getting and giving salam from me. He said I was the only one who ever did and he kept in high regard because of that. That is power of salam. Just salam and never a word beside that to him ever before that day. That is miracle of Islam.
mike, that’s a nice story.
I agree. Salams really have an impact on me.
Once, I was walking torwards the corner store with my stepfather and two of his friends. My head was covered- not with a hijab though- and my stepfather was wearing one of his Moroccan kaftans, and a guy, who was rushing towards the train station, said salam. We all responded. It felt really good, that some stranger in a rush would take the time to say salam to us=)
Since then, I always try to put a smile on my face and say salam to Muslims I meet. I find that people are actually surprised- in a good way! People have always returned my salams, but I’m sure it must be frustrating when someone doesn’t answer.
yeah just say it even if aunty types give u a weird look and expression like your accent is funny and you seem weird lol.
Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
We should not worry about whether others will return the Salaam or not. Here is an amazing Hadith that says how Angels reply to our Salaams.
Ibn Sunni relates a narration of Abu Huraira (r.a) that he said, “It is the saying of the Holy Prophet Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him that definitely there is an illumination and light for Islam, like a pathway which is well lit. That a Muslim should worship Allah and must not associate anything with him. He must carry out Fardh Salaah, give Zakaah, perform Hajj of Baitullah, keep the fast of the auspicious month of Ramadhaan and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. To give salaam to your household when you enter upon them, and to give salaam upon those Muslims you pass by. If they reply to your salaam then the angels will return salaam upon them and if they do not answer to your salaam, the angels will reply to your salaam, and curse them or they will stay quiet with them. Whoever has let go of one of the above mentioned then he has let go of a part of Islam and whoever throws them all away has thrown Islam behind his back.”
wa alaykum as salam wa rahmatullahi wa baraktuhu,
Subhan Allah, do you know where this hadith is found?
Jazak Allahu khayran
Thank you Farooq for sharing this beautiful hadith. It helps me to feel better about my experiences, and I’m sure it will help our author as well to dispel the sadness he felt at the airport. It puts things in a new perspective. My salaam is always answered!
When my family and I went on Umrah, I was 13 years old and super excited about going to a country full of Muslims. I said Salaam to everyone I saw the first few days, and although some people found it strange, if you say it with a smile it generally spreads a feeling of good-will and unity.
Living in the USA, I try to say salaam to every single Muslim I meet, even when I started going to school in an area with a lot of Muslims. It’s such a beautiful sunnah!
Oh and assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi ta`ala wa barakatuh! 🙂
If we make eye contact, a quick salaam is nothing big.
A simple “salaamu alaikum” with a warm smile and a nod is essential for me when navigating through the streets of Cairo. But of course, if like me sometimes you are in a world of your own and lost in thought like I am whilst walking through the streets of London, you seldom realise you passed by some Muslims and forgot to say “salaaau alaikum”.
There are numerous ahadeeth that mention giving salaams when passing by Muslims but I always wondered whether this applies to the opposite gender? Particularly in college where I pass by sisters that I don’t necessarily know, what would be the proper etiquette?
Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,
PLEASE say salaams to sisters when you see us on campus.
Sisters can’t always tell if a gentleman is Muslim, so we don’t usually say salaams. But really, random salaams at the best thing in the world, and the power of salaams is just phenomenal. A sister will not think you’re flirting or anything (insha Allah). It’s so uplifting just knowing “I’m not the only Muslim here in this class/campus/workplace.” I take comfort in that, it’s a good feeling, and subhan Allah it can really bring a feeling of peace, happiness and camaraderie to anyone, sister or brother. Just say a quick salaams and move on. (I know there’s a hadith about smiling being sadaqah, but standing there and smiling at a sister might be a little much 🙂 )
Of course this is just my opinion drawn from my own personal experiences, so I include the popular Muslim disclaimer Allah knows best 🙂
sometimes i hesitate saying salam to people out of fear that they will not return the salam and thereby get sin. this is because of experiences with people not returning the salam in the past.
Please forgive me I don’t want to offend you but, when Reading this post it sounded like you were sat there waiting for salams and didn’t initiate. You then went and accused those who didn’t offer Salam of having possibly weak iman. I’m sure you didn’t intend this but to me the article read that way.
Just give salams!! All of this complexities…human mind:)
salam alakum…no reply….well keep it moving ahk