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Rules of Greeting Non Muslims In Islam
As all Muslims should know, the Islamic greeting is Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullaahi wa barakato (peace and mercy and blessings of God be upon you). For short, most Muslims say Assalamu Alaykum (peace be upon you), then the Muslim replies back and says wa alaykum assalam (and peace be upon you also). However, how does a Muslim reply back to a non-Muslim who greets him? How does a Muslim greet a non-Muslim? Who greets whom first? This article will try to shed some light on all these matters.
Here is a Quranic verse that talks about greeting
When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Lo! Allah taketh count of all things.
Commentary of Ibn Kathir states:
Ibn Abbas said: Whoever greeted you from the creation of Allah then return it back even if he was a Magian, for Allah said: When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Muhammad bin Bashar, said that Salim bin Nooh said that Saeed bin Abi Arooba said that Qatada said: That part of Allahs statement When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it is for the Muslims and that part of Allahs statement or return it is for the People of the Book. Bashr Ibn Muath said that Yazid said that Saeed said that Qatada said: That part of Allahs statement When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it is for the Muslims and that part of Allahs statement or return it is for the People of the Book. Bashr Ibn Muath said that Yazid said that Saeed said that Qatada said: That part of Allahs statement When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it you should greet better than you were greeted and this is only for the Muslims and that part of Allahs statement or return it is for the People of the Book. Yunus told me that Ibn Wahab told him that Ibn Zayd said: That part of Allahs statement When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it my father said: It is a duty on every Muslim who is greeted (by a Muslim) to greet him back with a better greeting, and if he is greeted by other than a Muslim then he should greet back just like what was said to him.
According to the commentary Muslims are to reply back a better greeting if greeted by a Muslim and an equal greeting if greeted by a non-Muslim.
Some Hadith in which the Prophet states how to reply back to the greetings of Christians and Jews
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 275:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet said, "If the people of the Scripture greet you, then you should say (in reply), 'Wa'alaikum (And on you).' "
Book 026, Number 5380:
Anas b. Malik reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: When the People of the Book offer you salutations, you should say: The same to you.
Book 026, Number 5381:
Anas reported that the Companions of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to him: The People of the Book offer us salutations (by saying as-Salamu- 'Alaikum). How should we reciprocate them? Thereupon he said: Say: Wa 'Alaikum (and upon you too).
So here from the Hadith we see how we should reply back to the People of the Book. But why did this command come about in the first place?
The reason could be made clear by reading the following Hadith
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 274:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle said, "When the Jews greet you, they usually say, 'As-Samu 'alaikum (Death be on you),' so you should say (in reply to them), 'Wa'alaikum (And on you)."
Volume 8, Book 75, Number 404:
The Jews used to greet the Prophet by saying, "As-Samu 'Alaika (i.e., death be upon you), so I understood what they said, and I said to them, "As-Samu 'alaikum wal-la'na (i.e. Death and Allah's Curse be upon you)." The Prophet said, "Be gentle and calm, O 'Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs." I said, "O Allah's Prophet! Didn't you hear what they said?" He said, "Didn't you hear me answering them back by saying, 'Alaikum (i.e., the same be upon you)?"
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 62:
Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle said, "When the Jews greet anyone of you they say: 'Sam'Alaika (death be upon you); so you should say; 'Wa 'Alaika (and upon you).'"
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 60:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
A Jew passed by Allah's Apostle and said, "As-Samu 'Alaika." Allah's Apostle said in reply, "We 'Alaika." Allah's Apostle then said to his companions, "Do you know what he (the Jew) has said? He said, 'As-Samu 'Alaika.'" They said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we kill him?" The Prophet, said, "No. When the people of the Book greet you, say: 'Wa 'Alaikum.'"
Book 026, Number 5382:
Ibn 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: When the Jews offer you salutations, tome of them say as-Sam-u-'Alaikum (death be upon you). You should say (in response to it): Let it be upon you.
Book 026, Number 5384:
'A'isha reported that a group of Jews came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and sought his audience and said: As-Sam-u-'Alaikum. A'isha said in response: As-Sim-u-'Alaikum (death be upon you) and curse also, whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: 'A'isha, verily Allah loes kindness in every matter. She said: Did you bear what they said? Thereupon he said: Did you not hear that I said (to them): Wa 'Alaikum.
Book 026, Number 5386:
'A'isha reported that some Jews came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and they said: Abu'l-Qasim (the Kunya of the Holy Prophet), as-Sam-u-'Alaikum, whereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Wa 'Alaikum. A'isha reported: In response to these words of theirs, I said: But let there be death upon you and disgrace also, whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: 'A'isha, do not use harsh words. She said: Did you hear what they said? Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Did I not respond to them when they said that; I said to them: Wa'Alaikum (let it be upon you).
Book 026, Number 5388:
Jabir b. Abdullah reported that some people from amongst the Jews said to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) Abu'l-Qasim. as-Sam-u-'Alaikum, whereupon he said: Wa 'Alaikum, A'isha was enraged and asked him (Allah's Apostle) whether he had not heard what they had said. He said, I did hear and I retorted to them (and the curse that I invoked upon them would receive response from Allah), but (the curse that they invoked upon us) would not be responded.
Book 41, Number 5187:
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of the Jews greets you saying: Death may come upon you, reply: The same to you.
Taken from http://www.renaissance.com.pk/aprq994.html
If all the texts of this Hadith are collected and analyzed, what comes to light is the fact that the People of the Book used to mischievously twist their tongue in a swift manner and instead of saying the proper words of the salutation would say Assamu alaykum (Death be to you all), which when quickly pronounced sounded very near to the original words of Assalamu alaykum. It was to counter this devilish prank that the Muslims were directed to say: Wa alaykum (To you too). It must be borne in mind that the Muslims were asked to give this particular reply only after the truth had been revealed in its ultimate form by the Prophet (sws) to the People of the Book after many years of propagation, and in spite of that they were not willing to submit to it. Had this ultimate stage not come, one can safely conclude that Muslims would never have been asked to reply with equally harsh words and would have continued to say the words: Assalamu alaykum, the best of prayers and the best of wishes.
It also comes in Hadith that Muslims should greet every body they see
Volume 7, Book 62, Number 104:
Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib:
The Prophet ordered us to do seven (things) and forbade us from seven. He ordered us to visit the patients, to follow the funeral procession, to reply to the sneezer (i.e., say to him, 'Yarhamuka-l-lah (May Allah bestow His Mercy upon you), if he says 'Al-hamdulillah' (Praise be to Allah), to help others to fulfill their oaths, to help the oppressed, to greet (whomever one should meet), and to accept the invitation (to a wedding banquet). He forbade us to wear golden rings, to use silver utensils, to use Mayathir (cushions of silk stuffed with cotton and placed under the rider on the saddle), the Qasiyya (linen clothes containing silk brought from an Egyptian town), the Istibraq (thick silk) and the Dibaj (another kind of silk). (See Hadith No. 539 and 753).
Volume 7, Book 69, Number 539:
Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib:
Allah's Apostle ordered us to do seven things and forbade us from seven. He ordered us to visit the sick, to follow funeral processions, (to say) to a sneezer, (May Allah bestow His Mercy on you, if he says, Praise be to Allah), to accept invitations, to greet (everybody), to help the oppressed and to help others to fulfill their oaths. He forbade us to wear gold rings, to drink in silver (utensils), to use Mayathir (silken carpets placed on saddles), to wear Al-Qissi (a kind of silken cloth), to wear silk, Dibaj or Istabraq (two kinds of silk).
Volume 7, Book 70, Number 553:
Narrated Al-Bara bin Azib:
Allah's Apostle ordered us to do seven things and forbade us to do seven other things. He forbade us to wear gold rings, silk, Dibaj, Istabriq, Qissy, and Maithara; and ordered us to accompany funeral processions, visit the sick and greet everybody. (See Hadith No. 104)
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 253k:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
A man asked the Prophet, "What Islamic traits are the best?" The Prophet said, "Feed the people, and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know."
We see in these Hadith that the Prophet ordered us to greet people. He did not specify a limit as to whom we should greet. However, when we look at other Hadith we see that Muslims are not to initiate greetings with the People of the Book
Book 026, Number 5389:
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it.
Book 026, Number 5390:
This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Suhail with the same chain of transmitters but with a slight variation of wording. The hadith transmitted on the authority of Waki', the words are 'When you meet the Jews." And in the hadith transmitted on the authority of Shu'ba, the words are: 'When you meet the People of the Book." And in the hadith transmitted on the authority of Jarir the words are:" When you meet them," but none amongst the polytheists has been mentioned explicitly by name.
Book 41, Number 5186:
ibn AbuSalih said: I went out with my father to
It is possible that the Prophet only meant it for the Jews as we can see in the Hadith above because the Jews were known to have said death be upon you and therefore it was a way for Muslims to show their disapproval of them.
The Prophet most likely gave the commands to greet everybody at first and then when the problem of Jews coming along saying death upon you, the Prophet would have had to reverse his judgment.
It is unknown why the Prophet issued the order as to why Muslims shouldnt greet nonbelievers first. The Prophet also gave other orders as to whom who should greet who first
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 250:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "The young should greet the old, the passer by should greet the sitting one, and the small group of persons should greet the large group of persons. "
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 252:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "The riding person should greet the walking one, and the walking one should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons."
Volume 8, Book 74, Number 252e:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "The younger person should greet the older one, and the walking person should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons."
Book 026, Number 5374:
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The rider should first greet the pedestrian, and the pedestrian the one who is seated and a small group should greet a larger group (with as-Salam-u-'Alaikum).
As there is some wisdom to the why the Prophet had ordered why certain individuals greet others first there must be some wisdom as well behind why non-Muslims should greet Muslims first.
Imam Malik was of the opinion that its not that big of a problem if a Muslim did greet a non-Muslim first .
Book 53, Number 53.2.3:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Dinar that Abdullah ibn Umar said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "When a jew greets you, and says 'Death to you' (as-samu alaykum) say, 'And to you.' "
Yahya said, "Malik was asked whether a person who greeted a jew or christian, should apologise for it. He said, 'No'."
Lets take a look at the opinions of scholars about all the issues discussed
Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani has in his commentary
A group of the Salaf (early generation of Muslims) said that you should reply back saying Alaykum Assalam just like how you would reply back to a Muslim, and others using Gods statement stating that you should greet and Al Maroudi said that the opinion of some of the Shafis is that you should not say Rahamatullah (and mercy of Allah be upon you), and should be done at all times, and on the authority of Ibn Abbas and Alqama that it should be done only at a time of necessity, and on Awzaaee: If you greet then the righteous have greeted, and if you left then they left and a group of scholars said: Their greetings should not even be replied back to, and some of them said it is a differentiation between the Dhimmis and enemies of war.
The scholars have agreed that a response should be given if the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) give greetings, but it should not be said to them: Wa Alaykum Assalam, and only say: Wa Alaykum
Another group said that we are obliged to begin greetings with them.
And some of our companions said: It is disliked to greet them first, but not forbidden, and this is weak as well because the Prophet had forbidden it. So it is forbidden to greet them first, and Al Qadi said that you should only greet them first if there is a need or reason to, and this is the opinion of Alqama and Nakhaee.
And some of our companions said: You should reply back saying Wa Alaykum Assalam, but not Wa Rahamatullah, says Maaroodi and this is weak because it contradicts the Hadith and God knows best.
Our companions said: The Dhimmi is not left to walk in the middle of the pathway, he should be forced to walk on its sides if the Muslims are walking through, if the pathway is not crowded then it is okay (for them to walk in the middle of the pathway), and the forcing them to the sides should not be done as to let him be in a congested and uncomfortable position, and that he should not hit a wall, and God knows best.
And it is narrated on Al Shabi that he said to a Jew: Wa Alaykum Assalam Wa Rahmatullah so it was said to him: You told a Jew Wa Rahamatulla (and mercy of Allah be upon you)? So he replied back saying: Isnt he living under the mercy of Allah? And some other people said that you should say Wa Alaykh Assalam (and on you be peace) by saying Siilam
And Ibn Maalik said: meaning dont leave them walking the main pathway if it is in a situation of crowdedness but if the pathway was empty and not crowded then it is okay.
To sum it all up, there are different
opinions. Some may think that the Prophet only ordered the rules of greeting the
non-Muslims for that particular time because of the tension between them and the majority
believes that it is still applied to this day. Shaykh Mahmood Ghaith
Even if a non-Muslim tells a Muslim the Islamic greeting, the Muslim is still returning the peace of God upon him. So there is nothing offensive in the reply anyway. The Prophet probably stated that Muslims should return the greeting to other Muslims in a better way to increase the love and brotherhood within the Muslim community. This could be a special greeting that only Muslims should do for each other just like how both Paul and Peter urged first-century Christians to greet each other with holy kisses (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14) and God knows best.
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