“Spread the Salam” – A Bond between Believers
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “You will not enter paradise until you believe. And you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I guide you to a matter, if you were to do that, you would love one another? Spread the salām amongst yourselves.” [Muslim]
All civilizations share in this common moral act of greeting one another at the point of contact. It is a way of acknowledging presence and extending courtesy. Islām, in recognition of this norm, legislated the taḥiyah (greeting) in the form of salām: As-Salāmu ‘Alaykum (commonly translated as ‘peace be upon you’).
The salām is not only a greeting, but embedded in it is a mindset and a code of practice which you and I are expected to live by.
As-Salāmu ‘alaykum may be better understood as ‘may salām be upon you’ as opposed to the commonly translated ‘peace be upon you.’
The word salām linguistically comes from a root which means freedom and safety from any number of things. Subsequently, when you meet your brother in faith with this greeting, it is as though you are wishing that he be safe from harm, and far removed from deficiencies and shortcomings in worship and character.
When you greet him with salām and he responds back with salām, in actuality, you are both supplicating for the wellbeing of the other.
Furthermore, if it is understood that this greeting entails a meaning of freedom and safety from harm, then when two believers greet one another with salām they have instigated between them a type of ‘aqd al-amān (a contract of protection). In other words, when you say salām to your brother, it is as though you are saying, “You are safe from me. I will not harm you nor will I betray you. You will not see from me any evil towards you.” This is also reciprocated by the other when he replies back with ‘wa ‘alaykumus-salām’ (and may salām be upon you). The shaking of hands only sweetens the deal.
In conclusion, two points of benefit are emphasized in this article. The first benefit is du‘ā (supplication). You should therefore appreciate your brother because of what he WANTS for you with regards to your wellbeing. The second benefit is ‘aqd al-amān. Thus, you must endeavour to be truthful to this contract. Do not harm or be malicious towards him. Instead, work to facilitate for him his salāmah (his wellbeing and safety). The ‘aqd al-amān continues when you both separate ways because just as we meet with salām, we bid farewell with salām. Consequently, in presence and absence, we are safe from one another. The Messenger of Allāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “The Muslim is the one whom other Muslims are safe from his tongue and hand.” [Bukhārī]
The Prophet of Allāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not only guide you and I to a set of words, but more importantly, he guided us to a mindset and a code of practice of brotherhood, of wanting and working for each other’s wellbeing and safety.
والحمد لله رب العالمين
وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد