Adab (gesture)

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Adab (Hindustani: آداب (Nastaleeq), आदाब (Devanagari); Bengali: আদাব), meaning respect and politeness, is a pluralistic hand gesture used by South Asian Muslims, as well as many Hindus, while greeting one another.[1][2] It is associated with Indo-Persian culture. The word is derived from Urdu, through the Arabic word Aadaab, meaning etiquette.

Since the normal greeting of Muslims i.e. "As-salamu alaykum" was meant for Muslims only, and Muslims in India lived in a multi-faith and a multi-lingual society, this alternative form of greeting was coined. The use of Adab is especially popular in the Indian city of Hyderabad, where religious pluralism has been historically emphasized; the Nizam of the region stated: "Hindus and Muslims are like my two eyes ... How can I favor one eye over the other?"[3] Fundamentalist elements in the society oppose the use of "Adab" in an all-Muslim society.

The gesture involves raising the right hand towards the face with palm inwards such that it is in front of the eyes and the finger tips are almost touching the forehead, as the upper torso is bent forward. In the past the gesture was much more different. The head of the house was willing to share his house while the guest was willing to share his family. However nowadays It is typical for the person to say "adab arz hai"[4] (Nastaleeq: آداب عرض ہے, Devanagari: आदाब अर्ज़ है), meaning "I offer my respects to you", or simply just "adab".[3] It is often answered with the same or the word "Tasleem" is said as an answer or sometimes it is answered with a facial gesture of acceptance.

In popular culture today, the adab is often associated with the courtly culture of the Muslim Nawabs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sinha, Durganand (1981). Socialization of the Indian Child. Concept. p. 6. A majority of Hyderabad Hindus greeted each other as adab arz hai and almost all backward Hindus actively participated in the Muharram festival.
  2. ^ Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: ideological development of Hindu revivalism. Rupa & Co. p. 574. ISBN 9788171675197.
  3. ^ a b Basit, Abdul (2012). The Global Muslim Community at a Crossroads: Understanding Religious Beliefs, Practices, and Infighting to End the Conflict. ABC-CLIO. p. 61. ISBN 9780313396977.
  4. ^ Gambhir, Vijay (1996). The Teaching and Acquisition of South Asian Languages. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-8122-3328-X.