“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant” (Holy Quran, Surat An-Nisa, 86)
Greeting (salaam) means that a person wishes the very best to the one he greets. The word “salaam” is mentioned 33 times in the Holy Quran. As-Salaam is one of the names of the Great Allah which means that He is free of human flaws such as frailty and mortality. It is only Allah who can save people from all these misfortunes.
Greeting a person implies establishing some connection with him so that he could trust you. When Muslims meet, they greet each other by words “assalamu aleykum”. These words are also a dua (prayer) for peace and prosperity. When someone greets us, we greet him the same or even better way in response. Allah says in Quran: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]” (Surat An-Nisa, 86).
There are other ayats about this:
“Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured. And excellent is the final home” (Surat Ar-Ra’d, 13:24).
“And they call out to the companions of Paradise, "Peace be upon you." They have not [yet] entered it, but they long intensely” (Surat Al-A'raf, 7:46).
Allah Almighty wants Muslims to greet each other. This is why, Muslims greet each other wishing peace and well-being to each other when they meet. In other words, one of them says to another: “As-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) – “Waalaikum assalam” or “Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu” (Peace be upon you. May Allah bless you), - replies the other.
It is Sunna to greet another person. It is fard (obligatory action) to respond to a greeting. According to Sunna, 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 (Muslim, Greeting Book, 1). When leaving a place or a group of people, it is also advisable to say “salaam” (refer to Abu Daud, “Adab”, 139).
Therefore, Muslims should be careful about greeting other people when they meet them or leave them. When a group of people is greeted by someone, it would be sufficient if one member of the group replies to the greeting. Yet, if no one replies to the greeting, all of them will be in charge if this sin. However, there are situations when it is not that convenient to reply to a greeting.
If you are greeted in a written form (in a letter or a text message), you should reply: “waalaikum assalam”. You should say the same words if somebody says hello to you from someone else.
However, there are cases when it is better not to greet another person. It is not recommended to greet a person when he is eating, reading Quran, performing Salat (praying), making wudu, reading azan or iqamat. Besides this, you should not greet those who are in the bathroom, toilet or similar places. It is not worth greeting a person who is doing something forbidden.
We need to always greet members of our family. We should also greet people when we enter somebody’s place. Allah Almighty says:
“O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants. That is best for you; perhaps you will be reminded” (Surat “An-Nur”, 24:27).
Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Anas (may Allah be pleased with him): “When you enter somebody’s place, greet the members of that family so that all of you are blessed” (Tirmizi, “Istizan”, 20).
As reported by Abu Hureyra (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “You will not enter paradise until you believe. And you won’t believe 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” (Muslim, “Iman”, 93)
According to the authentic hadith reported by Abdullah ibn Salam, the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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” (Tirmizi, “Kiyamat”, 42).
It is quite clear now that spreading the habit of greeting each other is very important as far as building mutual respect in the society. Let’s greet each other and pass the most genuine feeling of love, respect and friendship to your relatives, friends, acquaintances, strangers and all the Muslims.