Assalam Alaikum – The Islamic Greeting

Islam covers every aspect of life, it is not a religion that can be bought out and polished on a Sunday or for specific celebrations.  Islam, through the words of God in the Quran, and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, offers advice and guidance from dawn til dusk, from birth until death.  Islam even teaches the believers the best way to greet each other; it is a complete way of life.

What exactly does the word Islam mean?  It is an Arabic word that comes from the root, sa – la – ma, meaning peace.  However, it is a descriptive word that entails more than tranquillity and calmness, it also encompasses the concepts of safety, security and submission.  In fact, Islam could be said to mean submission to the One God through who comes, safety, security, peace and harmony.  The word Muslim also derives from the same root, so too does the Islamic greeting – Assalam.

In previous articles we have discussed the fact that all believers are linked together by various means.  Most importantly is the belief that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is his messenger.  This is what distinguishes believers from non believers.  However, believers are also reminded of the bonds between them whenever they greet one another.  The Islamic greeting of peace –  Assalam,  encourages  believers to be a worldwide community unencumbered by tribal or nationalistic loyalties and bound together by peace and unity.

Prophet Muhammad suggested we greet those we do not know as well as our friends and acquaintances.[1] Thus believers try to establish peace and friendly relations by greeting and meeting one another.  When Muslims of any nationality, ethnicity or colour meet they will greet each other as family.  Believers also have rights over one another.

The Muslim has five rights over his fellow-Muslim: he should return his salaams, visit him when he is sick, attend his funeral, accept his invitation, and pray for mercy for him when he sneezes.[2]

The Islamic greeting is  Assalam Alaikum (May God’s peace be upon you).  The response to this is wa Alaikum Assalam (and may His peace also be upon you).  It is more than a greeting, it is also a prayer or supplication.  These brief Arabic words let Muslims know that they are among friends, not strangers.  A few words of greeting reveal so much.

“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, God is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.” (Quran 4:86)

Better Islamic greetings include, Assalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, which means, May the peace and mercy of God be upon you, and Assalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh, which means, May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you.  Greeting in return with something better would be, for example, after hearing the words Assalam Alaikum you would respond, wa Alaikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah.

Making that small effort to greet others with peace and blessings at every opportunity increases rewards.  Each time a believer  says the words Assalam Alaikum  or responds to this greeting, his bank of good deeds is increased.

One day a man passed by the Prophet Muhammad  while he was sitting with some men, and said “Salam Alaikum”.  The Prophet said “He will have 10 rewards”. Another man passed by and said “Salam alaikum wa rahmatullah”.  The Prophet said he will have 20 rewards”.  Another man passed and said “  Assalam alaikum wa rahmat ullaah wa barakaatuh”.  The Prophet said, and  he will have 30 rewards.[3]

In addition, throughout the Quran, God repeatedly points out that this is the Islamic greeting. God assures us that struggling to please Him will result in peace and security in Paradise, and when the believer enters paradise he will be greeted by the words Assalam Alaikum.

“And those who believed (in the Oneness of God and His Messengers and whatever they brought) and did righteous deeds, will be made to enter Gardens under which rivers flow, – to dwell therein for ever (i.e. in Paradise), with the Permission of their Lord.  Their greeting therein will be, salam (peace!).” (Quran 14:23)

“Salam Alaikum for you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!” (Quran 13:24)

“When those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) come to you, say, “Assalam Alaikum” (peace be on you); your Lord has written (prescribed) Mercy for Himself, so that if any of you does evil in ignorance, and thereafter repents and does righteous good deeds (by obeying God), then surely, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran6:54)

“Those whose lives the angels take while they are in a pious state (i.e. pure from all evil, and worshipping none but God Alone) saying (to them), Assalam Alaikum (peace be on you) enter you Paradise, because of that (the good) which you used to do (in the world).” (Quran 16:52)

“But when you enter the houses, greet one another with a greeting from God,  As-salamu Alaikum – peace be on you, blessed and good.” (Quran 24:61)

“And those who kept their duty to their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups and  when they reach it the  its gates will be opened and the keepers will say, Salam Alaikum, you have done well, so enter here to abide therein.” (Quran 39:73)

Prophet Muhammad reiterated God’s message when he said, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.  Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will make you love one another?  Spread salams amongst yourselves”.[4]


[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari

[3] Saheeh Al-Bukhari

[4] Saheeh Muslim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *