Greeting Non-Muslims
Islamic Customs and Etiquette
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Can we greet non-Muslims by saying Assalāmu ‘alaykum?


Greeting a non-Muslim is no different from greeting a Muslim. The Prophet (sws) himself said Assalāmu ‘alaykum to the non-Muslims of his own times. Uthāmah Ibn Zayd reports:

The Prophet (sws) once passed by a mixed gathering of the Muslims, the Idolaters and the Jews and said Assalāmu ‘alaykum to them. (Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Jihād)

However, some people on the basis of the following Hadīth are of the opinion that non-Muslims should not be greeted with Assalāmu ‘alaykum:

When the People of the Book greet you, reply them by saying wa alaykum. (Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Isti’dhān)

If all the texts of this Hadith are collected and analyzed, what comes to light is the fact that the People of the Book used to mischievously twist their tongue in a swift manner and instead of saying the proper words of the salutation would say Assāmu ‘alaykum (Death be to you all), which when quickly pronounced sounded very near to the original words of Assalāmu ‘alaykum. It was to counter this devilish prank that the Muslims were directed to say: Wa ‘alaykum (To you too). It must be borne in mind that the Muslims were asked to give this particular reply only after the truth had been revealed in its ultimate form by the Prophet (sws)to the People of the Book after many years of propagation, and in spite of that they were not willing to submit to it. Had this ultimate stage not come, one can safely conclude that Muslims would never have been asked to reply with equally harsh words and would have continued to say the words: Assalāmu ‘alaykum, the best of prayers and the best of wishes.

Today no Muslim preacher can speak with the same authority as the Prophet (sws), and neither can he speak on behalf of the Almighty as the Prophet (sws). Therefore, he can never be in a position to say that the truth has been unveiled in its ultimate form. He must continue his efforts of propagation all his life, and remain a well-wisher of all the non-Muslims of the world1, and continue to greet them with Assalāmu ‘alaykum.


1. Consequently, the following Hadīth (which contains a similar directive) also relates specifically to the People of the Book of the Prophet’s times on whom the truth had been unveiled by the Almighty through His last Prophet (sws). It has no bearing with the People of the Book of our times:

Don’t initiate the of saying salutations to the Jews or the Christians, and force them to the narrowest of paths when one of them meets you on your way. (Muslim, Kitāb al-Salām)


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