Our religion Islam teaches us to greet our Muslim brothers with Salam. The command of replying to the Salam has even been given in the Holy Quran. Giving Salam is also a great Sunnah of the Holy Prophet صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَ. Today, we will discuss a few important rulings regarding Salam such as, when it is compulsory to reply to a Salam and when is it not, How to reply to Salam in a letter, Where to say Salam and where not to, etc.
- Returning the Salam of the Absent
When someone conveys another person’s Salam to you, reply with “علیک وعلیہ السلام” which means “Peace be upon you and him!”. Sayyiduna Ghalib رَضِیَ اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَنْہُ states that we were sitting by the door of Sayyiduna Hasan Basri رَضِیَ اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَنْہُ. A man told us that my father sent me to the Holy Prophet صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَand asked me to convey his Salam in his blessed court. He further added, “I went to the court of the Noble Messenger صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَand humbly said, “O Master (صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَ)! My father sends his Salam to you. The Holy Prophet صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَsaid, “علیک وعلی ابیک السلام” i.e. “Peace be upon you and your father!”
(Sunan Abi Dawood)
- How should a Group Reply to Salam?
If some people are gathered somewhere and a new person comes and says “السَّلَامُ عَلَیْکُم”, the reply of one of them will suffice for the rest and if no one replies, then all will be considered sinful. If the person saying Salam addresses a specific person with his Salam or takes his name while saying Salam, then he will have to reply. It won’t be enough if someone else replies instead of him. Sayyiduna Ali کَرَّمَ اللہُ تَعَالٰی وَجْہَہُ الْکَرِیْم reports: When a passing person says Salam and one of the sitting people replies, it is enough on behalf of all of them.
- Saying Salam to a Sleeping Person
Salam should not be given to the people who are sleeping. Instead, it should only be given to the people who are awake. Sayyiduna Miqdad رَضِیَ اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَنْہُ reports that when the Holy Prophetصَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَwould come at nighttime, he would say Salam. He صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَwould not wake the sleeping ones and would only say Salam to those were awake. Hence, one day, he صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَcame and said Salam in the manner that he used to.
- Saluting with Fingers or Palm
Salam should only be said through the tongue and not by gesturing with fingers or the palm. It is reported that the Noble Messenger صَلَّی اللہُ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَsaid:
لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِغَيْرِنَا لاَ تَشَبَّهُوا بِالْيَهُودِ وَلاَ بِالنَّصَارَى فَإِنَّ تَسْلِيمَ الْيَهُودِ الإِشَارَةُ بِالأَصَابِعِ وَتَسْلِيمَ النَّصَارَى الإِشَارَةُ بِالأَكُفِّ
“He is not one of us who resembles other than us. Do not resemble the Jews nor the Christians, for indeed greeting of the Jews is pointing the finger, and the greeting of the Christians is with the hand.”
If someone replies to the Salam with his tongue and then gestures with his fingers or his hand, then there is no issue.
- Give Salam Loudly
Salam should be given in a loud voice so that the greeted person may hear it.
- Reply Instantly
It is compulsory to reply to the Salam instantly. If the reply is delayed without a valid reason, then it is a sin and it will not be forgiven only by replying, instead, repentance will also have to be made.
- Reply Loudly
Reply should also be given in such a loud voice that the person saying Salam is able to hear it.
- Giving Salam to a non-Muslim
Do not give Salam to a non-Muslim. If he says Salam to you, then it is not compulsory for you to reply to him. Just reply with “وعلیکم”.
- Bowing for Salam
It is Haram (forbidden) to bow down to the extent of Ruku (Bowing down so much that one can touch his knees with his hands) while giving Salam. It is disliked (Makruh) if he bows less than that. Unfortunately, people nowadays usually bow down while giving Salam. However, there is no issue in kissing the hands of a pious person, in fact, it is reward-giving and it is not possible without bowing down. Here, it is necessary, whereas there is no need while giving Salam.
- Returning the Salam of a Woman
Reply to old women may be given loudly, but if a young woman gives Salam, it should be replied in such a low voice that she does not hear it. However, it must be audible to the person replying.
- Replying to a Written Salam
Sometimes, Salam is given in a letter, replying to it is also compulsory. It can be done in two ways: Firstly, he should reply with his tongue and secondly, write it back in the letter. However, since it is necessary to reply to Salam instantly and replying to a letter requires a little bit of time, so he should instantly reply with his tongue. When Sayyidi A’la Hazrat رَحْمَۃُ اللہِ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ would read a letter and السلام علیکم was written in it, he would first reply to the Salam with his tongue and then, would continue reading the letter.
- Conveying Someone Else’s Salam
If someone asks you to convey his Salam to someone else, you should not reply to it right there as this reply holds no meaning. Instead, the person who has been given the Salam, you should say to him that so and so has given Salam to you.
- Do Not Give Salam to These
When you enter a Masjid and the Islamic brothers are busy in reciting the Holy Quran, doing Zikr, reciting Durood (Salawaat) or sitting in wait for Salah, then do not give Salam to them. This is not the time of giving Salam and nor is it compulsory for them to reply. Also, do not give Salam to people who are studying, having an academic discussion or revising their lessons. In addition, do not give Salam to someone who is (1) in the toilet, (2) taking a shower without clothes on, (3) singing a song, (4) flying pigeons or (5) eating. Do not give Salam to any of these people. Even if someone says Salam to these people, replying to it is not compulsory for them.
May Allah enable us to remember and act upon these rulings of Shariah regarding Salam and grant us the benefits of Salam in this world and the hereafter!