"And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally." (Qur'an, An-Nisa 4:86)
Human interaction is an important facet of any society. In Islam, proper relationships are stressed at all phases of interaction and the common greeting holds a special place in Islamic manners. Allah says in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and greeted those in them, that is better for you, in order that you remember." (Qur'an, An-Nur 24:27)
"....But when you enter houses, greet one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and good...." (Qur'an, An-Nur 24:61)
Too often, we take greetings for granted and attach minimal importance to them. In these verses, however, Allah reminds the Muslims that offering greetings and the manner of the greeting are of upmost importance. Similarly, in a Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet stressed the importance of greetings when he defined the rights of a Muslim: "The rights of a Muslim upon another are five: returning greetings, visiting the sick, following the funeral procession, responding to invitations and offering 'Tashmeet' for one who sneezes." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The recommended greeting of a Muslim is to say: "assalaamu alaykum" (peace be upon you). According to a Hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, this form of greeting was ordained by Allah from the time of Prophet Adam (peace be upon him).
THE VIRTUES OF SALAAM
Exchanging salaam holds a high position in Islam. Not only is salaam equated with many other important deeds, but it is one of the defining criteria of belief. We observe many Hadiths pertaining to the position of exchanging salaam in Islam.
In one Hadith a man asked the Prophet about which aspect of Islam was best. The Prophet replied: "Feeding the hungry, and saying salaam to those you know and those you don't know." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet also said: "You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another: 'spread salaam' (the greeting of peace) among you." (Muslim)
The Prophet Muhammad also explained another virtue of salaam in the following Hadith: "When two Muslims meet (give salaam), and shake hands, they are forgiven their sins before they part (with each other)." (Abu Dawud)
Finally, reflect on another saying of the Prophet , when he said: "O people! spread salaam, feed the hungry, be in touch with your kin, and pray while people are asleep (at night) you shall enter paradise peacefully." (Tirmithi)
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