6/17/2013 1 comments

What is the Islamic Ruling on greeting non-Muslims?

The foremost source of our Fiqh is the Holy Qur’ān and according to the doctrine of al-Jamā‘a al-Aḥmadiyya al-Islāmiyya all Aḥādīth are to be rejected, which are opposed to manifest commandments of the Holy Qur’ān. The Fatāwā of some ‘Ulamā’ that say that one should not be the first to greet a non-Muslim or that one should only greet back with „Wa ‘alaykum“ are based on Aḥādīth that blatantly contradict the Holy Qur’ān.

What does the Holy Qur’ān say?

وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍۢ فَحَيُّوا۟ بِأَحۡسَنَ مِنۡهَآ أَوۡ رُدُّوهَآ
“And when you are greeted with a prayer, greet ye with a better prayer or at least return it.” (Sūra an-Nisā’ 4:87)

Accorrding to this Āya one shall return the greeting, if being greeted, preferably with an even more beautiful greeting. Here there is no mention of the fact that this law would apply only to Muslims. Ibn Qaiyim al-Jauziya (d. 751 AH) writes is his work „Aḥkām Ahl adh-Dhimma“, that this commandment extends to both Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمۡشُونَ عَلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ هَوۡنًۭا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ ٱلۡجَٰهِلُونَ قَالُوا۟ سَلَٰمًۭا
“And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Salām!’” (Sūra al-Furqān 25:64)

In accordance with this Āya the true ‘Ibād ar-Raḥmān (servants of the Most Gracious) are those, who, when addressed by the ignorant and foolish disbelievers, say „Salām“ to them, hence as-Salāmu ‘alaykum.

فَٱصۡفَحۡ عَنۡهُمۡ وَقُلۡ سَلَٰمٌۭۚ فَسَوۡفَ يَعۡلَمُونَ
“Therefore, turn aside from them, and say, ‘Peace’; and soon shall they know.” (Sūra az-Zukhruf 43:90)

Corresponding to this Āya, Allāh commands that one should turn away from the disbelievers and say „Salām“.

وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا۟ ٱللَّغۡوَ أَعۡرَضُوا۟ عَنۡهُ وَقَالُوا۟ لَنَآ أَعۡمَٰلُنَا وَلَكُمۡ أَعۡمَٰلُكُمۡ سَلَٰمٌ عَلَيۡكُمۡ

“And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say, ‘Unto us our works and unto you your works. Peace be to you.’” (Sūra al-Qaṣaṣ 28:56)

After this Āya, when one hears vain, empty and meaningless talk of the disbelievers, he should turn away and say “Salām ‘alaykum”.

قَالَ سَلَٰمٌ عَلَيۡكَۖ
“Abraham said, ‘Peace be on thee.’” (Sūra al-Maryam 19:48)
And in this Āya it is written that, when the father of ’Ibrāhīm (as), who was a Mushrik, expelled him from the house, ’Ibrāhīm (as) said “Salām ‘alayk” to him.

The Aḥādīth

Now some ‘Ulamā’ rely on Aḥādīth from Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, according to which the Holy Prophet (saw) said that one should not greet the Jews and the Christians at first. The Holy Prophet (saw) said:

لا تبدءوا اليهود ولا النصارى بالسلام
“Don’t initiate salutations to the Jews or the Christians” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Kitāb as-Salām, Bāb an-Nahyi ‘an ’Ibdtidā’i Ahl al-Kitāb bi-’s-Salām, No. 4037)

However, this Ḥadīth is associated specifically to a state of hostilities against the Muslims, which has prevailed at the time of the campaign against the Banū Qurayza and so it can not be applied universally. This is evident from a second authentic Ḥadīth according to which the Holy Prophet (saw) said:

إنَّا غَادُونَ إِلَى يَهُودَ ، فَلَا تَبْدَءُوهُمْ بِالسَّلَامِ
“At dawn we go against a group of Jews, so do not initiate the greeting of peace with them!“ (Musnad Aḥmad, Min Musnad al-Qabā’il, Ḥadīth Abī Baṣra al-Ghifārī, Nr. 26695; al-Mu‘jam al-Kabīr li ’ṭ-Ṭabarānī, Bāb al-Jīm, Bāb man Ismuh Jābir bin Samura, Nr. 2120; Al-Adab Al-Mufrad li ’l-Bukhārī, Bāb Lā yabda’ Ahl adh-Dhimma bi ’s-Salām, Nr. 1087)

And there is another Ḥadīth which clears up the situation.

أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم [...] مر في مجلس فيه أخلاط من المسلمين والمشركين [...] واليهود [...] فسلم عليهم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
According to this Ḥadīth the Holy Prophet (saw) once passed by a mixed gathering of Muslims, Mushrikūn and Jews and said Assalāmu ‘alaykum to them. (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-’Isti’dhan, Bāb at-Taslīm fī Majlis fīhi Akhlāṭ min al-Muslimīn wa ’l-Mushrikīn, No. 5899)

So this should be evidence enough for the Muslims that even, if they assume somebody to be a Kāfir, they are meant to greet him with as-Salāmu ‘alaykum.

And Allah knows best!