The neglected value of greetings
Dr. Qazi Shaikh Abbas
In this age of technology and
science, moral values and religious teachings taught in order to promote a
refined society largely are neglected by all nations, and most unfortunately,
Muslims are one of them.
These moral downfalls are leading the Ummah toward the ditch of destruction;
thus, it’s time we examine our attitude and improve it. Each community has words
of greeting that are used when members of a community meet. Such greetings are
to express courtesy and promote positive feelings.
The greetings granted to Muslims by the Qur’an hold the highest spiritual as
well as moral values among the greetings of other nations.
Prior to Islam, it was common among the dwellers of the Arabian Peninsula to
say, “Hayak Allah” (May Allah grant you life) and “Sabah ilkhayr” (Good
A person once came into the presence of Hussein ibn Ali and said, “Kayfa anta?
Aafak Allah.” (How are you? May Allah keep you safe). Ibn Ali immediately
corrected him in the best manner, nicely giving him the basic teaching of Islam
and responding with the following words, “Assalaamu qabal ilkalaamu, aafak
Allah” (Say Salaam prior to talking, may Allah protect you). He then taught, “La
tazanul ahad hatta bisalaamin” (Don’t give permission to anyone until he says
At another place, Ibn Ali described the reward of Salaam very precisely in these
words: “There are 70 good deeds in Salaam: 69 for the one who says it and only
one for the person who responds. One who doesn’t reply to Salaam is a miser” (“Bihaar
Al-Anwaar”, Vol. 17, Qum).
Surat Al-Nisa, Ayat No. 86 directs us to respond Salaam in a more courteous
manner. “Waalaykum afzalul salaam” is one of the best responses to “Assalaamu
alaykum.” Proud and arrogant people never initiate saying Salaam, considering it
below their dignity to reply. They only slightly move their head and smile
instead of saying “Waalaykum assalaam.” They are misers of the worst class, as
per Nabawi traditions.
Ibn Ali said, “Abkhal al-bakhil yabkhalo fi Salaam” (The greater miser is the
one who displays misery in reciting Salaam). Not only this, but the Prophet
Mohammed (pbuh) declared in crystal clear terms, “Whoever does not reply
‘Salaam’ is not from us,” while one hadith notes, “The principal of humility
begins with Salaam.”
Greeting in Islam not only increases friendship, harmony and respect, it
simultaneously signifies fulfilling the rights of doa (supplicatory prayer) for
Muslims. Additionally, Salaam is one of the asma al-husuna (names of Allah).
Salaam is highly recommended when visiting the ruzat al-nabi . At the graves of
the chosen people of Allah, whom the Qur’an addresses as “Ibadeh’il
lazi’nastafa,” reciting Salaam is highly recommended.
It’s also one of the Sunnat to recite the following doa when entering a
graveyard, “Assalaamu alaykum, ya ahl al-qubur, min al-mu’mineen. Antum
assabiqun wa ana inshallahu bikum lahiqun” (“Salaam upon you, O people of the
graves, from the believers. you preceded us and we shall meet you, inshallah).
One hadith recommends reciting Salaam in a manner that each one can hear
clearly. The one who initiates the Salaam first is closest to Allah. Hadith
literature provides us glorious teachings in this regards.
When someone questioned who should initiate Salaam, the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)
answered, “The one who (wish to) is closer to Allah. A rider should greet a
pedestrian, a pedestrian should greet one who is sitting and a small group
should greet a large number.”
Salaam should be offered to all Muslims, irrespective of whether they are
acquaintances or strangers. Saying Salaam aloud to everyone in a gathering is
sufficient, as it’s unnecessary to greet each person individually. However, it’s
incorrect to greet only a particular person in a gathering. Additionally, always
convey Salaam cheerfully.
In this regard, the following conversation is worth mentioning and available in
the sacred scriptures. When Yahya (pbuh) met Issa (pbuh), he began by saying,
“Salaam,” and was answered with, “Salaam.” Whenever Yahya (pbuh) met Issa
(pbuh), Yahya (pbuh) always was happy and smiling, but Issa (pbuh) was
sorrowful, as if he resembled a crying person.
Issa (pbuh) asked Yahya (pbuh), “You smile like a happy person, as if you’re
secure and protected,” to which Yahya (pbuh) replied, “You display such sorrow,
as if you’ve given up all hope.” Then the commandment appeared, “The one who
smiles the most is the dearest to Me.”
If a person is at a distance where Salaam may not be heard, then Salaam can be
offered with a hand signal. Tirmizi provides a tradition, according to which the
Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) passed a group sitting in the masjid (mosque). He
signaled greeting with his hand, coupled with saying, “Salaam,” and Abdulhamid
signified a reply with his hand. When entering an empty place, a house, a shop,
an office, etc., then too, Salaam should be said, but as follows, “Assalaamu
alayna wa ala ibadillahil salayheen.” However, it’s undesirable to recite Salaam
when a person is engaged in the following activities:
• While performing salaat (prayers)
• While one is engaged in tasbih or zikar; gathering for remembering and
• During khutbah, majlis or daras; sitting together to study or listen to
• While one is busy in tilawaat; reciting the Holy Quran
• During azaan or iqamaat ; is to repeat the wordings of Azaan at the beginning
of each prayer. It is a call to pray together in the Mosque.
• While doing doa (supplicatory prayer)
• While occupied in discussion or research of religious sciences
• While a judge is delivering a verdict
• While eating or drinking
• While reciting talbiyah at the Kaaba; Talbiyah is repeatedly invoked during
the Hajj, or pilgrimage.
If one says, “Convey my Salaam to your parents,” don’t reply on behalf of your
parents, as you aren’t authorized and have no right to do that. An amazing
practice prevalent on written invitations is, “Salaam from our late parents.”
Does anyone have the power to visit, meet and hear Salaam from the deceased and
then forward it to others? All credit goes to the silly writer who designed such
a text and which others blindly follow.
Another unpleasant practice very common today is using “Hi” instead of Salaam in
email and SMS prior to beginning a conversation.
The Sunnat regarding the neglected Musaafaha also is linked with Salaam and
should be done after offering Salaam by placing your right palm fully against
the right palm of the one you’re greeting and then clasping it with both hands
and shaking them. Whoever initiated shouldn’t withdraw his hand until the other
Musaafaha is a sign of affection and the most perfect form of greeting and,
according to one hadith, it increases affection, develops relationship,
eliminates hatred and decreases sins.
However, it’s incorrect to grasp or touch each other’s right fingers as
Musaafaha because this is the practice of Hindu Brahmins, the so-called royal
superior race, who consider it below their dignity even to touch the lower
castes. Among a few Indian Muslim communities in Gujarat and other places, such
feelings continue, as mass conversion didn’t allowed them the opportunity to
remove the Hindu spirit fully.
Sirat literature provides the added traditions of kissing the hand and feet as a
mark of Salaam. As per tradition in Abu Dauod, Wazza bin Aamir said, “We reached
Medina and were taken into the presence of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). We
embraced and kissed his hands and feet in reverence.”
Tirmizi, Ibn Majah and Nasaee provided another example wherein a group of Jews
appeared in the prophet’s presence and kissed both his hands and feet. Such
examples show that out of reverence, one can offer respect to the dearest people
of Allah in this manner.
Muaniqah is another permissible Sunnat linked with Salaam done by embracing a
person and drawing him close to you upon meeting him after returning from a
journey or after a long absence. Using both arms, hug the person around the neck
and shoulders and draw him toward your chest. Men may practice this Sunnat with
men and women can do it with women.
Always say Salaam when visiting or telephoning others and care should be taken
not to visit or phone anyone during times of rest or salaat.
Additionally, never enter a home – no matter whose it is – without permission.
To ask permission to enter, ring the bell and when the person of the house
enquires as to who’s there, say Salaam aloud and give your name, instead of
saying, “Me,” as the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) instructed.
If you realize the one inside has heard your ring or voice and is purposely
ignoring it, then repeat the ring three times. If there’s no permission or
answer, then as per the Hadith, you must return.
Dr. Qazi Shaikh Abbas Borhany is an attorney, a religious scholar and a member
of Pakistan’s Ulama Council. He received a doctorate in the United States at NDI
and a Shahadat Al-Aalamiyah in Najaf, Iraq.