By Maryam Amirebrahimi
‘As-salamu `alaykum’ (peace be upon you) I began, excited to speak with a new friend over the phone. ‘Wa `alaykum… (and on you) sigh… as-salam (be peace)… apathetic sigh’ was the reply. Subhan Allah (Glory be to God), I thought.
I’m so excited to speak with her, but she seems quite bored or exhausted. Did she have a bad day? Did I do something wrong? Does she not want to speak with me?
After becoming more acquainted with her, I realized that her reply had nothing to do with me or her day; she just naturally is an extremely calm and composed person.
This realization was empowering; it meant that her lack of visible or audible enthusiasm had nothing to do with me; I didn’t have to take it personally. I could keep calling. However, not everyone has this realization, especially when it goes down in the masjid (mosque).
How many of us have entered a masjid, for the first time, or the hundredth time and found not a single friendly face? How many of us have tried to say salam (the greeting of peace) to someone passing by us in the prayer hall, only to be ignored, stared down or receive in reply a hasty, apathetic salam? How many of us have felt that we never wanted to return to that particular masjid because of all the unfriendly faces?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has told us: “O People! Spread salam, feed the hungry, be in touch with your kin, and pray while people are asleep (at night) you shall enter paradise peacefully”. (At- Tirmidhi)
And he was asked about the best actions and he replied: “Feeding the hungry and saying salam to those you know and those you don’t know”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Remember that time when someone you didn’t know was walking towards you with this enormous smile… and then continued to walk right past you as they enthusiastically greeted the person right behind you?
Imagine if you had been greeted in that way… especially if you did not even know the person. And then, upon questioning if you knew the person, he or she replied: ‘You’re my brother/sister in Islam!’ How would that make you feel? Welcomed? Special? Accepted?
Imagine the reward of that person who would make you feel like you belong.
We constantly call for unity in our communities. We call to be united against oppression globally but what are we doing to help create bonds of unity with those in our own localities? What are we doing to help strengthen our relationships so that we’ll in sha’ Allah (God willing) be united in calling for justice?
Read the wisdom of the Prophet: “You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another: “Spread salam (the greeting of peace) among you”. (Muslim)
Loving one another is linked with saying salam! If we really want to feel united in order to help our Ummah (Muslim community) let us begin where the Prophet has instructed us; let us spread the salam!
Additionally, giving the salams and meeting fellow believers can be a means of having our sins forgiven. So, in any occasion, in addition to all that cheek kissing we do, let’s seek to establish a blessed Sunnah (traditions and practices of the Prophet), one through which, our sins will in sha’ Allah be forgiven.
The Prophet has told us: “When two Muslims meet (give salam), and shake hands, they are forgiven their sins before they part (with each other)”. (Abu Dawud)
Observe yourself next time you meet someone and you automatically go for the hugging and cheek kiss thing (1…2…3…4…7 times? Everyone does it differently. Do you ever shake hands? In addition to exuding all that physical love, let’s begin to clasp hands, hoping that with the connection of our hands will be the obliteration of our sins.
Finally, while spreading the salam, it’s important to be aware of an important fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) ruling which accompanies the blessed greeting. Allah tells us:
And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. ( An-Nisaa’ 4:86)
We should, at minimum, return the greeting with its like or give them an even better greeting.
It is wajib (requisite) to respond to someone who has greeted you, and it is a blessed Sunnah to start the greeting. The Prophet has even told us: “The person closest to Allah is the one who precedes others in greeting”. (Abu Dawud)
Who knows who is closest to Allah other than Allah (Exalted is He)? Let’s race to be amongst those closest! Let us try to be the first ones to say salam!
Let us, by Allah’s mercy, be the ones who help people feel like they want to rush back to the masjid because they feel like it is truly their home.
Let us smile, shake hands, and spread sincere and warm salams to all that we see!
May Allah make it a means, by His mercy, of allowing us to enter Jannah (Paradise) with salam (peace).