The Islamic Greeting and it’s Etiquette
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic
Center of Raleigh, NC on February 22, 1988.)
Islam has professed the use of the Islamic greeting when encountering
another Muslim or leaving the company of another Muslim because
it unifies the hearts and strengthens bonds between Muslims.
Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "I swear
by the one whose hand my soul is in that you will not enter paradise
until you believe. And you won’t be believed until you love
one another. May I tell you something, that if you practice it you
will love another, spread the (salam) Islamic greeting among you."
This makes it clear to us, that spreading salam among Muslims is
the first step towards paradise. This is because spreading salam
leads to increasing the love between our hearts. And the increase
of love between our hearts will increase the Iman, (faith).
An authentic hadith reported by Imams At-Termithi and Ibn Majah
that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Oh you people, spread salam
among you, serve the food, behave kindly with your blood relations,
and offer prayer at night when others are asleep, and you will enter
paradise safely." And Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that
a man asked the prophet (S.A.W.), "what in Islam is the best?"
He (S.A.W.) answered, "To feed people and to say salam to everyone
whether you know them or not."
What is the history of the Islamic greeting, when did it start,
and who was the one who chose it?
Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said,
"When Allah created Adam he told him to go and say Assalamu
Alikum to a group of Angels and listen to their reply. It is your
greeting and the greeting of your descendants. Adam went and said:
Assalamu Alikum they said Assalamu Alikum Wa Rahmatulah."
The complete form for the Islamic greeting is Assalamu Alilkum
Wa Rahmatulah Wa Barakatuh meaning peace, mercy, and blessings be
upon from Allah (S.W.T.). This is because Imams Abu-Dawood and At-Termithi
reported in a good hadith that a man came to the prophet (S.A.W.)
and said, "Assalamu Alikum." The prophet responded and
the man sat down. The prophet said, "Ten rewards." Another
man came and said, "Assalamu Alikum Wa Rahmatullh." The
prophet responded and the man sat down. The prophet said, "twenty
Then another man came and said: Assalamu Alakum Wa Rahmatulah Wa
Barakatuh. The prophet responded and the man sat down. The prophet
said, "thirty rewards."
The Scholars have agreed that starting with salam is highly recommended.
And responding is obligatory because Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat
An-Nesa’, (verse 86), what can be translated as, "When
a courteous greeting is offered to you, meet it with a greeting
still more courteous, or at least of equal courtesy."
It is enough for one to say the Islamic greeting to a group and
it is enough for one of the group to return it. This is the meaning
of the two ahadith that were reported by Imams Abu Dawood and Malik.
From the Etiquette of Salam:
The one who comes greets the Muslims that are present.
The one who is riding greets the one who is walking.
The one who is walking greets the one who is sitting.
The smaller group greets the bigger group.
The young greet the elder.
Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)
said, "A rider should greet a pedestrian, a pedestrian should
greet one who is sitting, and a small party should greet a large
party, a younger should greet an elder one."
Salams are recommended when leaving as well as when you meet. Imams
Abu-Dawoud, and At-Tirmith reported in a good hadith that the prophet
Muhammed (S.A.W.) said, "When one of you joins a gathering
he should greet those present; and when he leave them he should
greet them because the first salutation is not better than the last
What does Islam say about saying salams to the people of the book?
The majority of scholars reported that starting with Assalamu Alikum
is not permitted. They refer to the hadith of the prophet that was
reported by Imam Muslim in which the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Don’t
start with the (salam) Islamic greeting when encountering Jews or
Some scholars see no problem in starting with the Islamic greeting.
Some of the Shafies agree with this. This is the opinion of Ibn-Abbas
one of the companions of the prophet. He said that this hadith was
special for the Jewish of Quraizah, not for all of the people of
What if the people of the book start with the salams with the Muslims.
Some of the scholars, like Ahnaf say that it is allowed to return
salam and others say it’s obligatory.
Ibn Abbass said, "Whoever says Assalamu Alakum to you, you
have to return his greeting even if he was a Majos (fire-worshipper).
He was referring to a verse from surat An-Nesa’ (verse 86),
what can be translated as, "When a courteous greeting is offered
to you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or at least
of equal courtesy."
The scholar had agreed upon starting the greeting with the non-Muslims
is allowed with any word but Assalamu Alikum, like good morning,
how are you? etc..
When meeting another Muslim shaking hands is highly recommended,
along with a great smile, because it increases the love and respect
It was reported by Imam Bukhari that Qatadah asked Anass (R.A.)
if shaking hands was practiced by the companion at the time of the
prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). He said, "Yes."
Shaking hands with another Muslim will result in forgiveness from
Allah (S.W.T.).Imams Abu Dawood and At-Termithi reported that the
prophet (S.A.W.) said, "If Muslims meet and shake hands with
each other, they will be forgiven before they leave."
Imam At-Termithi reported a good hadith that a man said: "O
messenger of Allah if one of us meets his brother or friend, should
he bend down to him? The prophet said, " No." He asked
should he hug him and kiss him? The prophet answered, "No."
He asked should he take his hand and shake it. The prophet answered,
Imam At-Termithi reported that Anass (R.A.) said, "When the
prophet use to meet a man, he shook hands with him and the prophet
(S.A.W.) would not pull away his hand until the man would pull his
hand away first."