Assalamu Alaykum - Responding to the Salam given by a Non-Muslim
  • Question:

    Could you please explain whether it is permissible to respond to the greeting of peace Assalamu Alaykum given by a non-Muslim and if so the best way in which one should reply?

    Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

    Thank you for your question.

    This is an area which requires a deep study of the context of various ahadeeth. There are clear ahadeeth which say not to commence the greeting of Assalaamu alaikum with a non Muslim. And then there are narrations which say if they greet you then you should say Wa alaykum (and upon you). However, the context of responding with wa alaykum instead of Wa alaykum asalaam is that there were some people in the time of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) who used to say salamu alaykum (death be upon you) instead of Assalaamu alaykum (peace be upon you). They would utter it very fast so that one would not know what was being said to him.

    Therefore the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) wisely taught the believers to respond with a simple wa alaykum which means “and upon you”, so that whatever they invoked upon you returns to them. With that being said, the majority of scholars said that if it is clear that a non Muslim says to you Assalaamu alaikum, then you may respond with Wa alaykum asalaam. This is based on the ayah: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet (in return) with what is better or (at least) return it (in like manner)….” (Qur’an 4:86). This is the correct view in my opinion.

    And Allah knows best.

    Answered by Shaykh Omar Suleiman
    Hadith of the Day Imam
    Director – Islamic Learning Foundation
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Asalaam Alaykum!

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