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Salam (Arabic:سلام) is an Islamic greeting and salutation. It literally means health, safety or peace. The Qur'an and hadiths have emphasized on saying Salam and counted it as one of the highly recommended acts (mustahab) in Islam. Responding Salam is an immediate obligation (al-Wajib al-Fawri) even for one who is praying; however, if a person from a group responds to Salam, it is no longer an obligation to the others to respond. Saying Salam has special etiquette and rulings, and it has several functions in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition.
- 1 Meaning and Phrase
- 2 Importance
- 3 Etiquette
- 4 Rulings
- 5 Salam in Qur'an
- 6 Salam of Salat
- 7 References
Meaning and Phrase
Lexically, Salam means health, safety or peace. The word "Salam" was chosen for greeting; as it means praying for being away from physical and religious defects. Moreover, Salam is considered as a covenant among Muslim to protect each other's lives, property and honor. The Qur'an says Salam is a blessed and pure greeting from God to the faithful: فَسَلِّمُوا عَلىٰ أَنْفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِنْ عِنْدِ اللّٰهِ مُبٰارَكَةً طَيِّبَةً (translation: "greet yourselves with a salutation from Allah, blessed and good.")
According to majority of Faqihs there are four phrases for saying Salam: "Salam 'Alayk," "al-Salam 'Alayk," "Salam 'Alaykum" and "al-Salam 'Alaykum." Some said that these four phrases are the only phrases for saying Salam. On the contrary, some maintain that every phrase that is recognized as greeting and salutation is counted as a phrase of Salam; whether it is "Salam 'Alaykum," "'Alaykum al-Salam" or even "Salam" per se.
Salam a Divine Attribute
Salam is one of Allah's attributes, that can have three meanings.
- First, as a Negative Attribute that indicates the almighty God is pure from all shortcomings which relate to His creatures. Supporting and explaining this meaning al-Shaykh al-Saduq says, interpreting this verse of the Qur'an "For them will be Dar al-Salam (house of peace) near their Lord,": Salam is God and Dar is Paradise. Paradise is called Dar al-Salam because it is away from this world's shortcomings.
- Second, is an Attribute of Action, which means the health giver.
- Third, is a Positive Attribute that means the Saluter.
The Qur'an has counted Salam as the greeting of dwellers of Paradise, and has ordered Muslims to say Salam. In hadiths, it is counted as one of the Prophet's traditions and as one of the highly recommended acts (Mustahab). It is narrated from the Prophet (s): "Do not respond to one who has started speaking without Salam."
Imam al-Baqir (a) says, "Indeed God likes Salam to be audible." Explaining this hadith al-Fayd al-Kashani writes: "it means whenever you met someone, say Salam, regardless to what kind of person he is."
Observing the Status
Imam al-Sadiq (a): "The young should greet the old, the one who is passing should greet the one who is sitting, a small group should greet the larger group."
First to Say Salam
Imam al-Sadiq (a): "The one who starts saying Salam, is closer to God and His apostle."
Imam al-Sadiq (a): "Whoever says 'al-Salam 'Alaykum' there are 10 good [deeds' reward] for him and whoever says 'al-Salam 'Alaykum wa Rahmat Allah' there are 20 good for him, and whoever says 'al-Salam 'Alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh' there are 30 good for him." Based on Islamic traditions, it is better to respond Salam or a greeting by a more complete or at least the same phrase. The Qur'an reads: "When you are greeted with a salute, greet with a better one than it, or return it; indeed, Allah takes account of all things."
Moreover, shaking hands, while saying Salam, with the one who is not going to travel and hugging the one who wants to travel is Mustahab (recommended).
To say Salam first is highly recommended (Mustahab) and abandoning it is disliked (Makruh), however the one who is in the middle of Salat must not say Salam first. It is also recommended to say Salam to yourself when entering an empty house, using this phrase: "al-Salam 'Alayna min 'ind Rabbina" (A Salam from our Lord be upon us). Likewise, saying Salam for good-bye when leaving a place is Mustahab, however there is disagreement whether its response is Wajib (obligatory) or Mustahab (recommended).
Men are allowed to say Salam to non-Mahram women, and vice versa, unless there is fear of committing a sin. However, some have asserted that it is Makruh (disliked) for a man to say Salam to a young non-Mahram woman.
Response of Salam
Saying Salam is Mustahab; but responding it is Wajib (obligatory) even for the one who is in the middle of a prayer. Responding Salam is al-Wajib al-Fawri (immediate obligation), i.e. it must be replied immediately.
Moreover, responding a Salam is also al-Wajib al-Kifa'i (collective compulsion) i.e. if a person from a group respond the Salam, it is no longer Wajib for others to respond it. According to majority of Faqihs the response must be loud enough to be heard by the one who said Salam first; nevertheless, some have doubted its obligation and some said that during prayer a quiet response will suffice as well.
Responding a Salam delivered by another person is not Wajib, although it is Mustahab to respond it by: "'Alayk wa 'Alayh al-Salam" (be upon you and upon him the peace). Likewise, responding to a written Salam - as in letters - is not Wajib, but Mustahab.
Saying Salam in Salat
To be the first one to say Salam while praying is not permissible; however, responding to Salam is Wajib in this state. According to majority of Faqihs, the response of Salam while praying must be the same as Salam, i.e. if someone said "Salam 'Alaykum" the one who is praying must respond "Salam 'Alaykum"; while other responses such as "'Alaykum al-Salam" are not allowed.
Salam in Qur'an
Salam and its derivatives have been used 140 times in the Qur'an. In his book "al-Salam fi al-Qur'an wa al-Hadith," Garawi maintains that Salam has been used in various meanings in the Qur'an, and by studying these usages it can be concluded that Salam has four main meanings in the Qur'an:
- An attribute of God: "He is Allah - there is no god except Him - the Sovereign, the All-holy, the Impeccable …"
- Peace and leaving war: "do not say to someone who offers you peace, 'You are not a believer,' …"
- Universal primary peace: "O you who have faith! Enter into peace (and reconciliation), all together …"
- Greeting and salutation: the author believes that Salam has been used in this meaning in many case in the Qur'an. He mentions that in 10 verses of the Qur'an Salam is explicitly used in this meaning.
Finally, he concludes that the last meaning is a comprehensive meaning that includes all the other meanings of this word.
Salam of Salat
The final part of a Salat is Salam or Taslim, which is performed after the last Tashahhud in Salat. Salam of Salat is one of its compulsory acts, although it is not a Rukn (necessary element). It is a part of every Salat except for Salat al-Mayyit.
Salam of Salat consists of three Salams: "Al-Salam 'Alayk Ayyuh al-Nabi wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh" (peace be upon you, O Prophet, and God's mercy and blessings) "Al-Salam 'Alayna wa 'ala 'Ibad Allah al-Salihin" (peace be upon us and God's righteous servants) "Al-Salam 'Alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh" (peace be upon you and God's mercy and blessings)
- The material for this article is mainly taken from سلام in Farsi WikiShia.