As-salamu alaikum is a common greeting among Muslims, meaning “Peace be with you.” It is an Arabic phrase, but Muslims around the world use this greeting regardless of their language background.
The appropriate response to this greeting is Wa alaikum assalaam, which means “And upon you be peace.”
As-salamu alaikum is pronounced as-salam-u-alay-koom. The greeting is sometimes spelled salaam alaykum or as-salaam alaykum.
The expression As-salamu alaikum is often used when arriving at or leaving a gathering, just as “hello” and “goodbye” are used in English-speaking contexts. The Quran reminds believers to reply to a greeting with one of equal or greater value: “When a courteous greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or at least of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things” (4:86). Such extended greetings include:
As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah (“May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you”)
As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh (“May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you”)
This universal Islamic greeting has its roots in the Quran. As-Salaam is one of the Names of Allah, meaning “The Source of Peace.” In the Quran, Allah instructs believers to greet one another with words of peace:
“But if you enter houses, salute each other—a greeting of blessing and purity from Allah. Thus does Allah make clear the signs to you, that you may understand.” (24:61)
“When those come to you who believe in Our signs, say: ‘Peace be upon you.’ Your Lord has inscribed for Himself the rule of mercy.” (6:54)
Furthermore, the Quran states that “peace” is the greeting that angels will extend to believers in Paradise:
“Their greeting therein will be, ‘Salaam!’” (14:23)
“And those who kept their duty to their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups. When they reach it, the gates will be opened and the keepers will say, ‘Salaam Alaikum, you have done well, so enter here to abide therein.’” (39:73)
The Prophet Muhammad used to greet people by saying As-salamu alaikum and encouraged his followers to do so as well. The tradition helps bond Muslims together as one family and establish strong community relationships. Muhammad once told his followers that there are five responsibilities each Muslim has toward their brothers and sisters in Islam: greeting each other with salaam, visiting each other when someone is sick, attending funerals, accepting invitations, and asking Allah to have mercy on them when they sneeze.
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It was the practice of early Muslims for the person who enters a gathering to be the first to greet the others. It is also recommended that a person who is walking should greet a person who is sitting, and that a younger person should be the first to greet an older person. When two Muslims argue and cut off ties, the one who reestablishes contact with a greeting of salaam receives the greatest blessings from Allah.
The Prophet Muhammad once said: “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will make you love one another? Greet each other with salaam.”
Use in Prayer
At the end of formal Islamic prayers, while sitting on the floor, Muslims turn their heads to the right and then to the left, greeting those gathered on each side with As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.