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The Meaning Behind "As-Salaamu 'Alaykum"

The Islamic greeting "as-salaamu 'alaykum" literally translates to "Peace be upon you", written in Arabic as ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ‎ and pronounced [as-salāmu ʿalaykum]. Muslims use this greeting whenever first meeting with one another, upon entering a home, upon entering the mosque, and when leaving a gathering. The ending of the phrase being "'alaykum" instead of "'alayka/'alayki" indicates that the greeting is directed toward a group.

b2ap3_large_Blog_The-meaning-behind-as-salaamu-alaykum The Meaning Behind As-Salaamu Alaykum

How do we respond to "as-salaamu 'alaykum"? 

In the Quran, we are reminded to reply to someone's greeting with one of equal or greater value:

وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوا بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيبًا

"When you are greeted with a salutation then return it with a better one, or at least the same. Surely Allah takes good count of everything." (Surah An-Nisaa', 4:86)

There are two beautifully extended versions of "as-salaamu 'alaykum" that would fall under the category of a greeting of greater value. The first one is "as-salaamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah" which translates to "may the Peace and Mercy of Allah be with you." The second one is "as-salaamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh" which translates to "may the Peace, Mercy, and Blessings of Allah be with you." The appropriate response to the general greeting is "wa 'alaykum as-salaam" which translates to "and upon you peace", with the option of adding the extensions to the end of this as well, for example "wa 'alaykum as-salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh."


Allah is "As-Salaam"

This greeting has origins in the Quran and is related to the Divine Name of Allah "As-Salaam" and means "The Source of Peace".

Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "As-Salam (peace) is one of the Names of Allah Almighty which Allah has placed in the earth. Therefore give the greeting among yourselves." – Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Book 42, Hadith 989.

In the Quran we also see the instruction from Allah to greet each other with words of peace:

وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا فَقُلْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ 

"And when those who believe in Our signs come to you, say to them: 'Peace be upon you.'" (Surah Al-An'aam, 6:54)

Another example we find in the Quran is:

وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ زُمَرًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوهَا وَفُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ طِبْتُمْ فَادْخُلُوهَا خَالِدِينَ

And those who eschewed disobeying their Lord shall be driven in companies to Paradise so that when they arrive there its gates will have already been thrown open and its keepers shall say to them: "Peace be upon you; you have done well. So enter. Herein you shall abide." (Surah Az-Zumar, 39:73)


Virtues of saying "as-salaamu 'alaykum"

"As-salaamu 'alaykum" is the best greetings people can have for one another. Muslims who use this greeting while already knowing one another and have a bond of friendship, relationship, or affection between them, this wish for peace fully signifies the connection and gives the sentiment of joy, regard, well-wishing and love. If two strangers greet each other with "as-salaamu 'alaykum", this becomes a beautiful introduction and statement of trust and sincerity, and also acknowledges a spiritual tie between them. The teaching of "as-salaamu 'alaykum" and "wa 'alaykum as-salaam" as the greetings between Muslims is a favorable act and an instruction from the Quran and Sunnah.


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