Yo, peeps!!! ... Okay, that wasn't (and doesn't feel) right. Let me start over. Assalamu'alaikum (peace be upon you) my brothers and sisters. Sounds better? Alhamdulillah.
Truth be told, before this (when I was your everyday I'd-rather-be-cool-than-follow-what-I'm-supposed-to-do girl), I often say "Yo!" when I see my friends ... Hmm, come to think of it, that must have not make me look cool at all...
Ahem, anyway, how many of us actually say "Assalamu'alaikum" instead of a "Yo", "Hi" or even (gasp!) "Wass'up" whenever we see a fellow Muslim? (Yes, I gasped because I did it too.) How many of us actually say "Assalamu'alaikum" instead of a "Hello" when we pick up the phone?
Okay, maybe there are many of us who do give salaam when they see other Muslims. But there are still a few of us (including yours truly) who are so used to uttering the other phrases (be it the ones mentioned above or any other greeting expressions) that it has become a habit to, say, exclaim "Hi!" when we greet a fellow Muslim.
Worst still, sometimes we don't even greet a fellow Muslim – not even by giving a smile. (Again, I'm guilty as charged.) To understand why we need to give salaam instead of using other greeting phrases, we need to first understand the need to greet fellow Muslims in the first place.
Allah mentions the importance of greeting others through these two verses 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, Sura 24 (An-Nur), verse 27]
"....But when you enter houses, greet one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and good...." - [Qur'an, Sura 24 (An-Nur), verse 61]
The need to give salaam is then emphasised by Rasulullah (saw), who was quoted as saying, "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." (Reported by Muslim)
When a man asked the Prophet about the best actions, the Prophet replied, "Feeding the hungry, and saying salaam to those you know and those you don't know." (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
Greeting and making a du'a
Why do we have to use the phrase "Assalamu'alaikum" and not other phrases? Surely the effect is the same – we will still be "greeting" people even when we do not use that specific phrase ... right? Well, I hate to break it to you (and myself) but that is wrong.
When we say "Assalamu'alaikum" to other Muslims, we are not merely "greeting" them, but we are also making a du'a for them to have peace. (Get it? "Assalamu'alaikum" means "may peace be upon you". Hence, whenever we say it to others, we pray to Allah for them to have peace.) As our brother, famous vlogger Aiman Azlan once mentioned in a Youtube video titled 'Monthly Motives (Ep.2) - Spread The Love!', "... we all want peace and we all need peace. So how about we spread this du'a of peace around?"
And come to think of it, as mentioned previously, Rasulullah (saw) specifically told us to "give salaam" (a greeting of peace) and not just simply greet others. So, logically, saying "Assalamu'alaikum" is the best way to do it.
Manners when giving salaam
How do we give salaam to others? Do we do it while bowing our head to them or do we embrace them? Anas (ra) reported that when a man asked the Prophet, "O Messenger of Allah, when any one of us meets a Muslim brother or a friend then should he bow his head (as a sign of courtesy to him)?' He said: 'No.' The man said: 'Should he embrace him?' He said: 'No.' The man then asked: 'Should he clasp his hands?' He said: 'Yes." (Reported by Tirmithi)
So, no embracing, no bowing, just a handshake. Hmm, come to think of it, it is logical that we should not bow to other people because, well, they are just people. People are all equal. It does not matter what family one comes from or what title he holds, a person is a person. They are not a God (which to Whom only we should bow to).
And do not forget to smile while giving salaam. Rasulullah is said to always have a smile on his face even when he was facing great difficulties in his life. A smile will not only brighten someone else's day, it will also brighten your own day --- :)
Can we "spread the du'a of peace" to non-Muslims?
Why not, right? Again, I hate to break it you (and my own self) but we can't give salaam to non-Muslims. (Okay, well, probably most of you are already aware of that.)
According to a verse in the Qur'an, we are prohibited from making a du'a to ask for forgiveness for the non-Muslims:
"It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for the Mushriks, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them that they are companions of the fire." - [Qur'an, Sura 9 (At-Taubah), verse 113]
This is understandable because the non-Muslims do not bow to Allah and hence they do not deserve to be asked for forgiveness for. BUT we can still make a du'a for them to be given "hidayah" (guidance) from Allah, just like Rasulullah did for the mum of Abu Hurayrah (ra). (Reported by Muslim)
It should also be noted that giving salaam is one of the six rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim (and not the non-Muslims).
As narrated by Abu Hurayrah (ra), Rasulullah (saw) said, "The rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim are six." It was said, "And what are they Oh Messenger of Allah? He replied, "When you meet him, give him the greeting of peace, when he invites you, respond to his invitation, when he seeks your advice, advise him, when he sneezes and praises Allah, supplicate for mercy upon him, when he becomes ill, visit him, and when he dies follow him (i.e. to his funeral)." (Reported by Muslim)
Now that we have understood why we need to give salaam, insya-Allah it will be easier for us to change our habits and apply it in our everyday lives. Seriously, there is no harm in giving salaam. In fact, giving salaam actually gives us benefits. We will not only get the benefit of the du'a but also the warm, fuzzy feeling in our tummies when someone greets us or returns our salaam and smiles to us.