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As-salamu alaykum (السلام عليكم) is an Arabic greeting often used by Muslims around the world and is widely used in the Muslim world even by non-Muslims. It nearly translates to "peace be upon you", but is often considered the equivalent to "hello", "hi" or "good day" in English. The standard response to the greeting is Wa alaykumu s-salam.
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Assalamu Alaykum is generally accompanied with another gesture. In some parts people put a hand on their heart as they shake hands and greet. In less formal situations, some will use the shorter greeting of 'Salam' instead of the full phrase.
- In Afghanistan and Iran, Salām is a simple greeting. This means Peace and Health, and is used similarly to "Peace be upon you" in English-speaking cultures.
- In Amharic, the term "Selam" is used in place of "Tadias" which is the equivalent of "What's up". The word "Selam" has the same meaning in Amharic as in Arabic which is "peace".
- In Arabia, it is associated with shaking right hands and then possibly two or three light cheek to cheek kisses, alternating sides.
- In Turkey and Azerbaijan, many religious people use this statement and shake hands and it is the same for saying "goodbye"; more secular and non-religious people say "Selam" as an equivalent to "Hello" or "Hi". However, many Turks pronounce it differently as "Selamın aleyküm". The change is primarily due to the way Turkish pronounces borrowed words from Arabic.
- In Pakistan, the greeting is also associated with shaking right hands and is also often accompanied with a hug when meeting infrequently (only between the same gender). In some parts people put a hand on their heart as they shake your hand and greet. Also, it is considered impolite or uneducated to use the shorter greeting of 'Salam' vs the full greeting of 'As-salam-o-alaikum'.
- In India the greeting is accompanied by raising the right hand to the chest (arz hai "regards"; adaab "respect").
- In Bangladesh Salām is a simple greeting. This means Peace and Health, and is used similarly to "Peace be upon you" in English-speaking cultures.
- In Indonesia, the greeting is usually accompanied with a kind of two-handed "handshake", whereby the shaker's palms remain closed, and the fingers alone open to admit the other's proffered hand- which briefly touches the proffered's fingers or fingertips alone. In this way more adherent males and females may greet though touching- but remain true to the Islamic or cultural teachings forbidding physical contact between the genders. Occasionally, the right-hand will touch the left-breast or heart area after this
- In Indonesia's Javanese / Sasak culture, a remnant of feudalism is retained, where an elder's proffered right hand is taken and pressed briefly against the forehead. Some may instead briefly kiss the hand or the main ring. This is very common for young children to greet older relatives (of their parents' age, though, on occasion, if very polite children, younger).
- In Kazakhstan, many secular and non-religious people say "Selam" as an equivalent to "Hello" or "Hi". This use has extended to the Internet with the abbreviated "slm" being commonly used amongst Kazakhs on social networking websites.
The term as-salāmu ʿalaykum varies slightly in pronunciation from country to country, but always remains universally intelligible. The classical pronunciation of the greeting in Literary Arabic is /assaˈlaːmu ʕaˈlajkum/. Many people today omit the initial 'As' and pronounce the word as "Salaamu `Alaykum". In many parts of the world, indeed in most of the non-Arabic speaking countries the greeting is pronounced [asalaːmʊ aleɪkʊm] or in a similar variation. This is especially common in Africa, the South Asia, South East Asia and in Eastern Europe—not to mention North America. In some other cases, it omits the "u" at the end of "as-salaam" to make it shorter and less formal.
For an example of different pronunciations, Pakistanis tend to emphasise the 'ssalam aLAYkum', whereas Indonesian pronunciation is monotonous until the last syllable ('assalamuAlaiKUM').
Amongst various Arabic speaking countries there is also a varied pronunciation. In Morocco the greeting is usually pronounced [səleːmu leikum]. In Egypt: [sæˈlæmu ʕæˈleːku], the final /u/'s alternate with [o] and the expected reply similar to a reply on "hi", is [we ʕæˈlekom essæˈlæːm].
Number of people being addressed
|Literal meaning||Peace be upon you|
The term in Arabic uses the second person plural, even when used to address one person, similar to the use of vous in French. However, the term may also be modified to address a person in the masculine and feminine singular form, the dual form, or the feminine plural form. The conjugations are as follow (note: according to classical Arabic, the last short vowel in each word is not pronounced unless it is followed by another word):
As-salāmu `alayk(a) —Peace be upon you (m. sing.)
As-salāmu `alayk(i) —Peace be upon you (f. sing)
As-salāmu `alaykumā —Peace be upon you (to two people of any gender)
As-salāmu `alaykun(na) —Peace be upon you (f. plural - to three or more females only)
As-salāmu `alaykum —Peace be upon you (To a group of three or more people, where at least one is a male - or to a member of state such as a prime minister, president, king)
Correct classical response
The correct response depends on who is addressing the person. The same rules from above for singularity, duality and plurality apply:
Wa `alayk(...) s-salām.
A more formal reply, "wa `alaykumu s-salāmu wa rahmatu l-lāhi wa barakātuh," meaning "may peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you," may be used to be more courteous, as the Qur'an commands, in Sura 4, verse 86:
"When a greeting is offered, you answer it with an even better greeting, or (at least) with its like. Allah keeps account of all things."
The better greeting and reply are illustrated in the following Hadith concerning the companions of Muhammad, Umar, and Abu Bakr, riding together on one mount. When they passed by people, Abu Bakr greeted them saying: "Assalamu alaikum" and they replied: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah." Or he may greet them saying: "Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu Allah," for which their reply was: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh." Abu Bakr commented: "Today, people have gained much more than us." Sahih al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad
Each time Abu Bakr offered a greeting, its reply was the same with an addition. The first one was the short form of the greeting of peace. The reply stated: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah," meaning "And to you be peace together with Allah's mercy." Thus, the reply adds a prayer that the person who offered the greeting should be blessed with Allah's mercy, both in this life, and in the life to come.
When the person who starts the greeting includes in it this same prayer for mercy to the one being accosted, the latter replies with yet another addition, "wa barakatuh," which adds a wish for Allah's blessing to the one who took advantage and offered us a friendly greeting. Abu Bakr's comment at the end of the Hadith shows that he was pleased with the fact that people always replied to his greeting with a better one.
- And angels shall enter unto them from every gate (saying) Salāmun ‘Alaykum (peace be upon you) for that you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!’— (Ar-Ra'ad 13:23-24)
The form salāmun `Alaykum is especially used in Turkey, where it is spelled Selamün Aleyküm.
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It is also preferred to use the greeting when arriving and also when leaving. It was reported that Abu Hurayrah said “When one of you joins a gathering, let him say salaam. When he wants to get up and leave, let him say salaam. The former is not more important than the latter.” (Hasan hadith reported in Jāmi` al-Tirmidhi)
- "The one who is riding should greet the one who is walking and the one who is walking should greet the one who is sitting and the smaller group should greet the larger group." (Saheeh - Al-Bukhaari, 6234; Muslim, 2160)
- It is also stated that one should give the Salam greeting upon entering a house. This is based upon the verse of the Qur'an:
- "But when you enter the houses, greet one another with a greeting from Allah (i.e. say: Assalaamu ‘Aleykum — peace be on you), blessed and good." (Al-Noor 24:61)
- Shortening the greeting to acronyms, such as A.S., As'kum (in Malaysia), or AsA is becoming common amongst Internet users in chat rooms and by people using SMS. This trend is similar to writing (S) or 'SAWS' in place of 'Sallallaahu `Aleyhi wa Sallam'.
- Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid. "Is it mustahabb for one who gets up to leave a gathering to say salaam to those who are still sitting?". Islamqa.info.
- Audio clip for Salam
- A brief illustrated guide to understanding Islam
- LivingHalal.com Islamic audio project
- Islam Q&A - Fataawa related to the manners of greeting with Salaam
- Islamic glossary