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Salaam and the Handshake

By: Haafiza Rayhana Omar-Muhammad
Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah, as Muslims we need to daily introspect – our lifestyles, our habits and our character – building (or breaking) etiquettes that form the essence of every human being…

“Hath the story of Ebrahim’s honoured guests reached thee (O Muhammed)! When they came in unto him and said: Peace, he answered, Peace.” (Surah 51 Verse 24, 25).

Recently I attended a family function and noticed a very peculiar thing, of course things have been like this ever since I was a young girl, but this time round, it seemed as though, in all disparity, that things would never change – that no matter how often one is reminded of this right, this gift, this etiquette, another element has more importance than that of the majesty of the sayings of Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Whose character and lifestyle could be better than his, who was the very embodiment of all that was enjoined in the Qur’an, for Allah Almighty says, “Certainly, there is for you in the messenger of Allah an excellent example.” (Surah 33 Verse 21).

Family functions, nikaahs, mayyits, eid or aqeeqah ceremonies are all perfect opportunities for the Ummah to unite and spread peace. How much more simpler than by the greeting of “Assalaam mu Alaykum” or “Peace be upon you.” Very seldom will one find women greeting the full salaam or shaking hands whilst greeting each other, a greeting which Allah Ta’ala, in Surah 24, Verse 61 says, “it is a greeting from Allah blessed and sweet.”

Why is it only at “Islamic” functions that we are comfortable with a Muslim’s lingo? Is it embarrassing for women to shake each other’s hands? Does it not conform to the dictates of society? Are we all not in dire need of Allah’s maghfirah, dear reader? Then Allah’s Rasool, Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam, has provided us with a perfect solution, when he said, “When two Muslims meet and shake hands, they are forgiven their sins before they part (with each other).”

As is the nature of human beings, we interact and socialize with others on a daily basis; this then is our perfect opportunity to gain Allah’s forgiveness. How much more pleasant, friendly and enjoyable would life be, if we used the greeting of peace as it should be used and as our primary phase of character building? Would it not be a source of blessing for us, our families and our communities? For harnessing positive thoughts and energies amongst the Ummah.

The importance of greeting with the words of peace cannot be over emphasized, so much so, that the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said, “When one of you happens to meet a brother, he should salute him, then if they are separated by a tree or wall or a rock, he should salute him again when they meet.”

We meet acquaintances or colleagues twice or thrice a day and we tend to think something along these line: “Oh, but we’ve already greeted this morning, that’ll do…” Also we meet sisters whom we’d like to befriend but don’t know how to go about it, well, the greeting of peace is most definitely your stepping stone to a great friendship ahead. And sometimes we’ve faced with the dilemma of rekindling a floundering relationship; the words of peace and goodwill can, Insha’Allah help us to patch things up.

We are all aware that helping the oppressed, honouring vows, and visiting the sick are some of the rights of one’s fellow Muslims – “spreading the salaam,” as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari has also been enjoined upon us. Remember, it’s as easy as sending an email, fax or sms with the words of salaam; being the one to initiate the salaam is being cognizant of the fact that you can and are living the Sunnah! The greeting of salaam is unique and not like the greeting of any other culture or religion. It is a greeting in which one wishes peace and goodwill for the next Muslim.

The Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam was asked: “O Messenger of Allah! When two persons meet with each other who should take the lead to greeting the other?” He, Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam, answered: “The one who is closer to Allah.” And so the next time that Allah Ta’ala avail you of this meritorious opportunity, do a quick rain check: Are you the one who is closer to Allah? Insha’Allah!


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