Peace be upon him
The Arabic phrase ʿalayhi s-salām (عليه السلام), which translates as "peace be upon him" is a conventionally complimentary phrase or durood attached to the names of the prophets in Islam. The English phrase is also given the abbreviation PBUH in English-language writing. An extended variant of the phrase reads ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wa-ʿala āli-hi wa-sallam (Arabic: صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) [lit.] "blessings of God be upon him and his family and peace", and it is often abbreviated SAW or SAWS in writing, even in English. The Arabic phrase is given the name ṣalawāt. The phrase is encoded as a ligature at Unicode code point U+FDFA ﷺ ARABIC LIGATURE SALLALLAHOU ALAYHE WASALLAM
Some Islamic scholars have voiced disagreement with the practice of abbreviating these phrases, arguing that it demonstrates laziness and a lack of respect.
Variants of the phrase in Arabic
- "Peace be upon him": (عليه السلام ʿalayhi l-salām – AS): This expression follows after naming prophets and messengers in Islam, Imams in Shia Islam, or one of the archangels (e.g. Jibreel (AS), Michael, etc.).
- "May God honour him and grant him peace.": (صلى الله عليه وسلم ṣallā llāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam – SAW, SAAW, or SAAS): This expression follows specifically after uttering the name of Muhammad, although "peace be upon him" may be used instead
- "May God grant peace and honour on him and his family.": (صلى الله عليه وآله ṣallá llāhu ʻalayhi waʼālih(i) – SAWW): This expression follows specifically after saying the name of Muhammad
- "Peace be upon her": (سلام الله علیها salāmu llāh ʿalayhā – SAA): This expression follows specifically after the name of historical Islamic women, e.g. Fatimah, Asiya and Mary, mother of Jesus.
When mentioning the Companions of the Prophet, raḍiya llāhu ʻanhu (for males) and raḍiya 'llāhu ʻanha (for women) are used by Sunnis; they mean, "May God be pleased with him/her," respectively. These have often been abbreviated RA. The phrase is sometimes also used after mentioning other names, including those of Jesus and Moses, but the term عليه سلام ʻalayhi salām, "On him be peace," is more common in such cases.
In the Qurʻān
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Giving these blessings is often taken from a verse of surah al-Aḥzāb, 56: "إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا Surely God and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe! call for (Divine) blessings on him and salute him with a (becoming) salutation."[Quran 33:56 (Translated by Shakir)]
The scholar ibn Kathir, titled the section in his Tafsir ibn Kathir regarding this verse, "The Command to say [ṣalawāt] upon the Prophet (Muhammad)". This point is further founded in the saying by Muhammad, "The miser is the one in whose presence I am mentioned, then he does not send the Salam upon me." This was recorded in Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
The evidence for sending ṣalawāt on Muhammad is not limited to the Qurʻān. It is also found in hadiths about Muhammad.
Al-Tirmidhi recorded that Abu Hurairah said, "The Messenger of Allah said, 'May he be humiliated, the man in whose presence I am mentioned and he does not send Salah upon me; may he be humiliated, the man who sees the month of Ramadan come and go, and he is not forgiven; may he be humiliated, the man whose parents live to old age and they do not cause him to be granted admittance to Paradise.'" Al-Tirmidhi said that this hadith was ḥasan gharib "Good but only reported once".
In Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood, Jami` at-Tirmidhi, and al-Sunan al-Sughra, four of the Six major Hadith collections, recorded that Abu Hurairah said, "The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever sends one Salah upon me, Allah will send ten upon him.'"
Ahmad ibn Hanbal reported in his Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal that the Companion of Muhammad, Abu Talha ibn Thabit, said:
One morning the Messenger of Allah was in a cheerful mood and looked happy. They said, "O Messenger of Allah, this morning you are in a cheerful mood and look happy." He said, "Of course, just now someone [an angel] came to me from my Lord [Allah] and said, 'Whoever among your Ummah sends Salah upon you, Allah will record for him ten good deeds and will erase for him ten evil deeds, and will raise his status by ten degrees, and will return his greeting with something similar to it.'"
Al-Bayhaqi reports that Abu Hurairah said that Muhammad said, "Send the Salat on Allah's messengers and prophets for Allah sent them as He sent me."
Ruling on abbreviating the phrase
Scholars of the Wahhabi branch of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia have instructed their followers not to abbreviate the salat to Muhammad. For example, Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said:[year needed]
As it is prescribed to send prayers upon the Prophet (peace and prayers of Allah be upon him) in prayer when saying the tashahhud, and it is prescribed when giving khutbahs, saying Du’a and praying for forgiveness, and after the Adhan, and when entering and exiting the mosque, and when mentioning him in other circumstances, so it is more important to do so when writing his name in a book, letter, article and so on. So it is prescribed to write the prayers in full so as to fulfil the command that Allah has given to Muslims, and so that the reader will remember to say the prayers when he reads it. So one should not write the prayers on the Prophet (peace and prayers of Allah be upon him) in short form such as writing (S) or (SAWS) etc, or other forms that some writers use, because that is going against the command of Allah in His Book, where He says (interpretation of the meaning):
"Send your Salaah on (ask Allah to bless) him (Muhammad), and (you should) greet (salute) him with the Islamic way of greeting (salutation, i.e. As‑Salaamu ‘Alaykum)" [Qurʾān 33:56]
And that (writing it in abbreviated form) does not serve that purpose and is devoid of the virtue of writing "salla Allaahu ‘alayhi wa salaam (May Allah send prayers and peace upon him)" in full. Moreover the reader may not take notice of it and may not understand what is meant by it. It should also be noted that the symbol used for it is regarded as disapproved by the scholars, who warned against it.
- ."Arabic Presentation Forms-A" (PDF). The Unicode Standard, Version 5.2. Mountain View, Ca.: Unicode, Inc. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
- Al-Fayrooza-abaadee; As-Salaatu wal-Bushr; (quoted in Mu'jam Al-Manaahee Al-Laf-thiyyah); p.351. "The Musnad"; Imaam Ahmad; (#5088); 9/105). From a handwritten answer provided by the shaykh, Wasee Allaah 'Abbaas, file no. AAWA004, dated 1423/6/24