Islam is the religion of peace and love. The word Islam has originated from the word ‘Salm’ which means peace. No other religion promotes peace as Islam does and a simple straight forward justification is Salaam; the Islamic way of greeting. Indeed greetings bring hearts together. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “You cannot enter paradise until you believe, and you cannot believe until you love each other. Shall I not inform you of the thing which if you do, will love each other? Spread Salam (the greeting) among you” [Muslim]. The wordings of Muslim greeting are “Assalamu alaikum” (may peace be upon you) and to it should be replied “Wa alaikumus salaam” (and upon you be peace too). This is the shortest form of greeting.
Abu Hurairah RA narrated that a man passed by the Prophet PBUH greeting “Assalamu alaikum”, while the Prophet PBUH was in a gathering. The Prophet PBUH said “Ten rewards”. Then another man passed by saying “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah”. The Prophet responded “Twenty rewards”. Later when another man wished, “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh”. The Prophet mentioned, “Thirty rewards”.
It is Sunnah to greet everyone we meet. Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr RA: A person asked ALLAH’s Apostle PBUH, “What sort of deeds or what qualities of Islam are good?” He replied, “To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you don’t know.” [Bukhari] It is a sign of Qiyamah to greet only those whom we know. Ibn Mas’ud RA narrated that the Prophet PBUH said, “Among the signs of Qiyamah is (when you see) that the greetings are (being paid) only to the known ones,” [Musnad Ahmad; Saheeh].
Islam promotes brotherhood and discourages enmity and hatred. Islamic greetings vanish animosity from one’s heart and help reconcile. Narrated by Abu Aiyub RA that ALLAH’s Apostle PBUH said: “It is prohibited for a man to desert his brother Muslim for more than three nights. It is prohibited when they meet, one of them turns his face away from the other, and the other turns his face from the former, and the better of the two will be the one who greets the other first,” [Bukhari].
Enlisted are major etiquettes of Islamic greeting:
1. It is Sunnah to greet whereas it is Fardh (obligatory) to reply the greeting.
2. It is disliked to convey or retort the greeting if someone is in the toilet. Ibn Umar RA narrates that a person passed by and paid greetings to the Prophet while he (the Prophet) was in the toilet, so he did not reply. [Muslim]
3. Salaam should be said while entering house even if there are none around. ALLAH says, “But when you enter houses, give greetings of peace upon each other – a greeting from ALLAH, blessed and good.” [Al Noor 24:61]
4. It is from the Sunnah that a Raakib should greet the Maashi (the on board should greet the one on-foot); a person passing by should greet the one sitting; the small group of people should greet the larger group; and the younger should greet the elder.
5. It is not permitted to wish Islamic greeting to non-muslim. The Prophet PBUH said: “If an Ahle Kitaab (The people of the book: Jews and Christians) greets you (with salaam), then you say: Wa alaikum,” [Bukhari and Muslim].
6. If a person conveys salaam, then he should reply to the conveyor, “Wa alaika wa alaihis salaam” (peace be upon you and on him). A person came to the Prophet PBUH and said, “My father pays you greeting.” So the Prophet PBUH said, “On you and on your father be peace too,” [Abu Dawood]. It is also allowed to say only “peace be upon him” as narrated by A’ishah RA that the Prophet PBUH said her that the Angel Gabriel is saying you salaam. She said, “And on him be peace and ALLAH’s blessings,” [Bukhari].
7. It is allowed to say Salaam when you enter a mosque except when the imam is on the pulpit delivering the Friday speech. The Friday speech has got an exceptional rule as the Prophet PBUH said, “If you (even) say to your fellow: Be quiet – while the imam is delivering speech – then you have made your Friday void,” [Bukhari].
8. It is Sunnah to shake hands while greeting. The Prophet PBUH and the companions used to shake hands. Qatadah said that I asked Anas RA: Was (the concept of) shaking hands present among the companions of the Prophet PBUH?. He said Yes. [Bukhari].