Etiquettes of Meeting with One Another
In all civilized societies, there have always been some particular forms of greeting, as an expression of respect, affection or formal recognition, upon meeting a person. In our own country, the Hindu brethren say Namaste on meeting or arrival, and, also Ram, Ram. Among the Christians, it is customary to salute with words like ‘Good morning’, or ‘Good evening. Among the Arabs, too, before the advent of Islam, similar forms of salutation were in vogue. It is stated in Sunan Abu Dawood, on the authority of the Companion, Imran bin Husain, that “Before Islam we used to say An’amallaahu bika a’in (May God grant coolness to your eyes), and An’im saboah (May your morning be happy) while greeting one another. When from the darkness of Perversion we emerged into the light of Islam, these formulas of salutation were forbidden, and, in their place, we were taught to say, As-Salaamu Alaikum (Peace be with you).”
As a little reflection will show, no better form of salutation is possible as an expression of love, regard and goodwill; It makes an excellent and most comprehensive prayer for the occasion, denoting: May God bestow peace and security on you. For those who are younger to us in age, it is an expression of kindness and affection, and for the elders, of regard and attention. Moreover, Salaam is one of the Excellent Names of God. In the Qur’an, the phrase, As-salaamu Alaik, has been used, on behalf of God, as a mark of favour and esteem for the Divine Apostles. Thus, we read: ‘Peace be unto Noah among the people,’ (XXXVII: 79); ‘Peace be unto Abraham,’ (XXXVII: 109); ‘Peace be unto Moses and Aaron,’ (XXXVII: 120); ‘Peace be unto Elias,’ (XXXVII: 130); ‘Peace be unto those sent (to warn),’ (XXXVII: I8I); and, ‘Peace be on His slaves whom He hath chosen,’ (XXVII: 59).
The Believers, too, are commanded in the Qur’an to make salutation to the holy Prophet in these words: As-Salaamu Alaika Aiyyuhan Nabi (Peace be with thee, O Prophet), and, the prophet is told that when those who believed in the Divine Revelations to him, he should say to them: Peace be unto you! ‘Your Lord has prescribed for Himself mercy.’ (VI: 54). Similarly, in the Hereafter, at the time of entry into Heaven, Believers will be received with these words: ‘Enter then in Peace,’ (XV: 46); and ‘Peace be unto you because ye preserved. Ah, passing sweet will be the sequel of the (heavenly) home.’ (XIII: 24)
Anyway, there can be no better greeting than As-Salaamu Alaikum. If the two Muslims who meet are already acquainted with each other and there exists a bond of friendship, relationship or affection between them, this form of salutation fully signifies the connection, and, on the basis of it, gives an eloquent expression to the sentiments of joy, regard, love and well-wishing. On the other hand, if they are strangers, it becomes a means of introduction and a declaration of trust and sincerity; or, in other words, one assures the other, through it, that he is a well-wisher and there obtains a spiritual tie between them. Be that as it may, the teaching of As-Salamu Alaikum and Wa-Alaikumus Salaam as the forms of greeting among the Muslims is a most propitious instruction of the sacred Prophet and a distinctive practice of Islam.
(1) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas that the Apostle of God said: “Oh people! Worship Allah, the Beneficent, feed His bondmen, and spread Salaam much, and you will reach Heaven in safety.”– Tirmizi
In it, the holy Prophet has taught three things and given the tidings of Paradise to those who observe them. Firstly, paying of divine honours to God, the Beneficent, which is the exclusive claim of the Lord, and the high aim and purpose of creation; secondly, the giving of food to the poor and needy persons, as an ac t of charity, and to friends and relatives and virtuous slaves of God, as a token of love and sincerity, which is an excellent way of uniting the hearts and promoting mutual affection, and, also, a cure for the deadly ailment of stinginess; and, thirdly, to make common the salutation of As-salaam-o-Alaikum and Wa’alaikum-us-Salaam among the Muslims, on the widest scale, which is a distinguishing practice of Islam and a formula of prayer taught by the Almighty Himself. Upon these three things, the Prophet has given the assurance that whoever will observe them will safely attain the goal of Paradise.
(2) Narrates Abdullah bin Omar: Once a person enquired from the Apostle of God what was a better and more superior act in Islam (or a more superior practice among the practices of Islam). “One, you feed the bondmen of the Lord; and, two, you make salutation (Salaam) to those you know as well as to those you do not,” the Prophet replied. – Bukhari and Muslim
In it, the holy Prophet has described the giving of food and spreading of Salaam as more meritorious deeds in Islam. In some other Traditions, reproduced earlier, acts like God-remembrance and Jihad and kindly treatment of and obedience to parents, too, have been mentioned as the “best” and “most superior” of acts. But as we have repeatedly emphasized, there is no inconsistency in them. The variation is due, simply, to the divergence in the needs and circumstances of the questioners, and, in various ways, all these deeds command an exceptional significance in the Islamic design of life.
(3) Imran bin Husain relates that once a person came to the Apostle of God and said: “As-salaam-o-Alaikum!” (i.e., may peace be upon you). The Prophet returned the greeting, and when the man had sat down, he said: “Ten (i.e., ten good deeds) have been written in his name owing to this Salaam.” After it, another person came and said: “As-salaam-o-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.” (i.e., may the peace and mercy of Allah be upon you). The Prophet returned the greeting, and when the man had sat down, he said: ‘Twenty, (i.e., twenty good deeds have been written in his name).” Then, another man came and said: “As-salaam-o-Alaikum-wa-Rahmatullaah-wa-Barakatuh” (i.e., may the peace, mercy and the blessings of Allah be upon you). The Prophet returned his greeting, and when the man had sat down, said: “Thirty, (i.e., thirty good deeds have been written in his name).” – Tirmizi and Abu Dawood
In his Infinite Benevolence, the Almighty has prescribed for the Believers the reward of ten good deeds on every good deed performed by them. It is stated, also, in the Qur’an: Whoso bringeth a good deed will receive tenfold the like thereof. (VII: 161). It was for this reason that the holy Prophet remarked about the person who had said As-salaam-o-Alaikum, alone, that he was going to get the reward of ten good deeds, and about the person who had added the words, Wa Rahmatullah, to it that he was going to get the reward of twenty good deeds, and about the third one who had added Wa Barakatuh to the greeting that he was going to get the reward of thirty good deeds. He who replied to the greeting will be entitled to the reward in the same order.
Imam Maalik has quoted the report from Tufail, son of Ubbi bin K’ab, saying that “I used to visit Abdullah bin Omar (often). His habit was that he took me, with him, to the market and offered Salaam to every shop-keeper, junk-dealer, and poor person he met in the way (and, then, returned home without buying anything). One day, as I went to him, he, as usual, wanted me to accompany him to the market. I said, ‘What will you do there? You neither stop at a shop nor buy anything nor even enquire about its price nor sit with anyone. (What is the use of going to the market)? Let us sit here and talk. It will be more profitable to me’. Abdullah bin Omar replied: ‘I go to the market solely for the purpose of making salutation to whomsoever I see.’”
(4) It related by Abu Umama that the Apostle of God said: “He is more deserving of the mercy and propinquity of Allah among the people who is the first to offer Salaam.” – Musnad-i-Ahmad, Tirmzi and Abu Dawood
(5) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “When anyone of you meets a Muslim brother, he should offer him Salaam, and if, after it, a tree, wall or rock comes between them, (and they cannot see each other for some time), and, then, they come face to face again, he should offer him Salaam once more.” – Abu Dawood
It tells that if two Muslims meet and are separated, after the salutation, even for a brief moment, and, then, they meet again, they should exchange the greeting a second time. One can learn from it how important it is to offer Salaam in the teachings of the Prophet and the Shariah.