Bismillah, in the name of Allah, we express our gratitude and praise to As-Salam, who bestows prosperity in this world. Blessings and peace be upon the Messenger, who delivered the message of peace (well-being) throughout the world, the family of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his companions, and those who follow in his footsteps.
The Meaning of As-Salam
As-Salam is one of the 99 beautiful names of Allah. It is mentioned along with other names in Surah Al-Hasyr, verse 23. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to seek forgiveness three times after completing prayer and then recite:
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ السَّلاَمُ وَمِنْكَ السَّلاَمُ تَبَارَكْتَ يَا ذَا الْجَلاَلِ وَالإِكْرَامِ
“I seek the forgiveness of Allah (three times). O Allah, You are Peace and from You comes peace. Blessed are You, O Owner of majesty and honor.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim)
As-Salam signifies that Allah is free from any imperfection, defect, and destruction experienced by creatures. Salam, meaning “peace,” is a significant greeting word (tahiyyat) used by Muslims. It carries the profound message that the person offering the greeting wishes safety and protection from any harm or evil for the recipient. The symbol of Salam holds great significance within the Muslim community as an important aspect of Islam.
When the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ arrived in Madinah, the first words that he spoke were:
يَا أَيُّهَا اَلنَّاسُ أَفْشُوا اَلسَّلَام وَأَطْعِمُوا اَلطَّعَامَ وَصَلُّوا بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّاسُ نِيَامٌ تَدْخُلُوا اَلْجَنَّةَ بِسَلَامٍ
“O people, spread peace, feed others (give charity), pray at night while others are asleep, and you will enter Paradise in peace.” (Narrated by Imam Ibn Majah)
The Prophet’s emphasis on clear guidance was evident from his very first statement upon arriving in Madinah. It is a statement that is ordained by Allah for His servants in Paradise. It is also the greeting of the angels to the people who enter Paradise. In fact, it is the greeting of meeting among the inhabitants of Paradise. Allah says:
وَاُدْخِلَ الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَعَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ جَنّٰتٍ تَجْرِيْ مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْاَنْهٰرُ خٰلِدِيْنَ فِيْهَا بِاِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْۗ تَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيْهَا سَلٰمٌ (٢٣)
“Those who believe and do good will be admitted into Gardens, under which rivers flow—to stay there forever by the Will of their Lord—where they will be greeted with “Peace!” (Ibrahim 14:23)
When encountering someone unfamiliar, it is natural for us to feel a sense of suspicion towards their arrival. One might question the intentions of that individual. However, the moment this individual extends Salam, a sense of comfort and safety washes over us. The power of a simple greeting should not be underestimated. It has the ability to bring people together, foster peace, and create a sense of connection between individuals.
Sheikh Wahbah Zuhaili stated, “Salam is used as a greeting (tahiyyat), which signifies protection from all that is evil and peace from all disturbances. It is a symbol of Islam and serves as evidence of connection and purity of heart. It is also the greeting of Allah and His angels to the inhabitants of Paradise, and it is the greeting exchanged among themselves (the inhabitants of Paradise).”
The Practise of Greeting with “Salam”
The practise of greeting others with “Salam” is highly encouraged among Muslims, regardless of whether they are familiar or unfamiliar with each other. It is consistent with the Prophet’s advice when he was questioned by a companion about “Which Islam is the best?”
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ replied, “You feed others and offer greetings to both those you know and those you do not know.” (Muttafaqun ‘alaih)
When someone greets you, it is preferable to respond with a better greeting or something similar, as it aligns with what Allah has commanded:
وَاِذَا حُيِّيْتُمْ بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوْا بِاَحْسَنَ مِنْهَآ اَوْ رُدُّوْهَا ۗ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ كَانَ عَلٰى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيْبًا ٨٦
“And when you are greeted, respond with a better greeting or at least similarly. Surely Allah is a [vigilant] Reckoner of all things.” (An-Nisa 4:86)
It means that when someone says “Assalamu’alaikum” (peace be upon you), it is better to respond with a better greeting such as “Wa’alaikumussalam warahmatullah wa barakatuh” or a similar greeting like “Wa’alaikumusalam” (and peace be upon you).
Rewards of Greeting with “Salam”
As for these greetings, they are not just mere words, but each utterance carries different rewards based on the specific words we use.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was once sitting when someone came and said to him: “Assalamu’alaikum”.
After responding, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Ten (rewards).” Then, another person came and greeted by saying, “Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullah”. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ responded to the greeting and said, “Twenty (rewards).” Subsequently, another person came and greeted by saying, “Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh“. The Prophet responded to the greeting and said, “Thirty (rewards).” This hadith is recorded in Sunan Abi Daud and At-Tirmidhi.
The slight difference in wording may seem insignificant, but the rewards are immensely valued in the eyes of Allah. In order to foster a sense of unity and harmony within the Muslim community, it is important for individuals to actively promote peace, engage in friendly exchanges of greetings with fellow Muslims, and proudly display the symbols of Islam. This practise not only serves as a reminder to non-Muslims about the peaceful nature of Islam, but it also showcases the Prophet’s tradition of offering the greeting of peace to deceased Muslims when he visited their graves. In the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, it is stated that:
السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ دَارَ قَوْمٍ مُؤْمِنِينَ وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ لاَحِقُونَ
“Peace be upon you, O inhabitants of the graves, among the believers. And, God willing, we will soon join you.” (Narrated by Imam Abu Dawud)
Islam is a religion of peace. The greeting of peace, “Salam,” is a symbol of the Islamic faith. Spread peace to everyone. May we enter Paradise with ‘salam’ (peace).
Written by Ustaz Abdul Rahman Rahuni
Ustaz Abdul Rahman Rahuni is a Malaysian shariah advisor at Muslim Pro. He is a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah studying in the field of Islamic Sharia. Ustaz Abdul Rahman is currently a lecturer at Sekolah Menengah Agama Islamiah, Tawau, Sabah.