Monday, January 21, 2008

The Meaning of As-Salam Alaikum

The following is from a commentary of Ziyarat e Ashura in translation process by Shaykh Saleem Bhimji:

The commentary is over the part that says
Peace be upon you Ya Aba Abdillah, Peace be upon you O son of the Messenger of Allah, Peace be upon you O son of the Commander of the FAithful and the son of the leader of the inheritors (of the Prophet); Peace be upon you O son of Fatimah, the leader of the women of the entire Universe.

The true meaning of "As-Salam Alaikum" is not a mere "Hi", "Hello", "How are you" as we are accustomed to using today - it has a much deeper meaning than just a standard greeting. In actuality, there are three meanings for this greeting:

1. As-Salam, as we know, is one of the names of Allah. Thus, when we say "As-Salam Alaikum" we are actually saying that may the trait of Allah (as-Salam or peace and tranquility_ be upon you and may He protect you;
2. As-Salam is also in the meaning of submission or surrender. Thus, when we say "As-Salam Alaikum" we are actually saying that we submit to what you would like for us to do (obviously within the limits of the Shariah);
3. As-Salam is also in the meaning of protection or safety. Thus in this meaning, when we greet another believer with "As-Salam Alaikum" we are actually guaanteeing our believing brother or sister protection from any evil from ourselves and that we will not do a single thing to harm them - either physically or even spiritually. Not only would we not harm them with our hands, but we will also not cause them grief with our tongue...

Thus when we address Abi Abdillah and say "As-Salamu Alaika Yaa Aba Abdillah" we are saying that: 'May the peace and tranquility which Allah bestows upon His creations also be showered upon you. Truly, we submit to your mission and commandments and whatever you ask us to do. In addition, we shall not do a single thing to hurt you - either your physical presence or more importantly, your feelings.'

In actuality, we are promising the Imam that we shall not break the laws of Allah (since our Imam grieves when he sees us doing this) nor will we do anything to trample on the sacred goals and objectives which he laid down his life to protect.

7 comments:

Mrs. B. said...

It is amazing how much can be wrapped into seemingly simple greetings, yet still lovely when you truly understand the meaning. It is sad to me to see how many non-Muslims fail to understand that Islam is such a peaceful religion that it is even deeply reflected in basic greetings. As a non-Muslim married to a Muslim, I would love to see that gap bridged through understanding of more things like this. Thank you.

Yves said...

Mrs. B.
It is fitting your remarks and those quoted on a different part of the page, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr... "darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."

In this time of global unrest, it is our actions (all of us, Muslim, Christian, Hebrew, and all others) that will bridge the gap as you so eloquently put it.

We are all called to a life of happiness, servitude, and peace. And we can express those virtues within our respective lifestyles in this progressive world. And it begins with the understanding that all of life is sacred. To many, this is already common knowledge; but, my acknowledgment is an energetic echo for the sands of time.

So, as I (a Muslim) and you ("a non-Muslim" whose husband is a Muslim) continue in this light, as well as the many others of our respective faiths, demonstrate with our life's actions, we will not only bridge the gap, but also become more fulfilled in our humanity. May the Creator continue to bless our journey.

Yves

Annathule said...

It IS a beautiful greeting - Namasti in Hindu is as equally laden w/ meaning - but try being a cashier in a (relatively) small town Wal Mart and try saying that to your customer(s) that you know speak Arabic! I got glared at by haters who thought I was not only (ewwwwww!) "being nice to a terrorist", I was probably harboring them too! I even got reported once!! I didn't know it meant all this, but the part about being at their service fits very well! :) Add to this, speaking what lame Spanish I know to folks using it in front of me, (never assume!) and getting looked at like I approve of ILLEGAL aliens! Legal ones? Even this small minded hole-in-the-wall hated them! How was I supposed to know how legal or illegal they were? Once again, never assume!

Thank you for this beautiful exposition on the greeting. I sure wish I could remember how to say it and its reply right every time! An Egyptian business friend of ours is very patient w/ me! :)

Thank you, Christine
As-Salam Alaikum!

Rosieana said...

I have been saying this for many years now...especially when I was living in the UAE...and now that I am living in Brunei...another Muslim country.
But today I was informed that I (being a non-Muslim ) should not be saying this greeting and that is why the men in the staff room laugh at me and do not respond back.
Is this true - that being non-Muslim I should not be saying this?????

Diana Beatty said...

No, it is not true, anyone can say it, and it is quite nice to, it simply means 'peace be upon you' or even 'hello' in the way it is often used, but they may find it unusual because it is traditionally a way muslims greet each other, so they might find it like if you decided to wear hijab but were non-muslim - because in Muslim countries they may take a lot of these things culturally rather than as intended.

gail desautels said...

So well written and researched, thank you, and Blessings.

mm for the small town comment, I think you must still continue to say it .. there must be a way to keep the door open .. even if only a little bit. For example, say it, then apologize (if you are Canadian .. Canadians love apologies) ... for slipping into your native tongue .. or if not native, as a good friend of mine that I met while travelling might have said ...

Just an idea...

hmm I am going to practise some nice namaste breathing, and think about starting to take up calligraphy with my toes... (hah, and maybe with my nice new makeup in the bathroom sink or somewhere...)

As-Salam Alaikum!

Salam :)l(:

gail desautels said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful and informative posting :)