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)