The Legislated Social Interactions for Muslims with non-Muslims

The Mannerisms for Exchanging Greetings with Non-Muslims

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Living in a western society or among the non-Muslims place certain rulings that Muslim are to act by. The dislike of their belief and separation from their traditions of shirk must be adhered to. Sometimes we find Muslims giving the non-Muslims greetings similar to way we should with Muslims.

There is a prohibition in Islam for greeting the non-Muslims first.  The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you.[1]

The incorrect practice of greeting the Jews and the Christians first results in;

  • Falling into a prohibition
  • Showing honor to a non-Muslim
  • The removal of jealousy from their hearts. The Jews are jealous when we share the Salams, so when we give it to them first it removes the envy they have towards this action from their hearts, thus they get happiness

The majority of the scholars hold the view it’s not allowed in Islam to greet the people of the book with the Salams first. There are some scholars who use the verse where Allah said: So turn away from them (O Muhammad ), and say: Salam (peace)! But they will come to know.[43:89] as a proof it is permissible to give the salams to the people of the book first. Also, they use the verse,” Ibrahim (Abraham) said: “Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious/”[19:47].

There isn’t proof in these two verses whatsoever that support it’s permissible to greet the non-Muslims first with the salam. The verse So turn away from them (O Muhammad ), and say: Salam (peace)! But they will come to know.[43:89] was abrogated by the verse of the sword. Allah said: then kill the Mushrikun wherever you find them.[9:5]. As for those who don’t consider the verse abrogated then the meaning for Salam in this verse refers to abandoning them and distancing yourself from them.

The majority of the scholars hold the opinion the second verse for Ibrahim refers to leaving and isn’t a greeting.

The narrations mentioned from the some of the Salaf allowing the greeting of the People of the book first without any conditions have been reported from Abu Umamah and Ibn ‘Uyanah and others such as Ibn Masu’d and An-Nakha’ee allowed if there was a need for it.

Some people use the hadith where the Prophet passed by a gathering and there were Muslims and non-Muslims there, so he gave Salams,as a proof to give Salams to a Kafir. In fact, this isn’t an evidence either. The context of this case must be taken into consideration so that there isn’t any contradiction to hadith which prohibits Muslims from giving the non-Muslims salams first. The gathering He[] passed by had Muslims and non-Muslims present so in this situation it is allowed to greet those present first.

Imam Ahmed was asked about people working with Jews and Christians and visiting their homes. At their homes and workplace we find Muslims as well, so can we give them Salams?

Imam Ahmed replied: Yes, but make your intention for the Muslims.

Nevertheless, if the Muslim needs something from any non-Muslim, then there is no harm to say:

Salam, to those who follow guidance, or Good Morning; how are you, or Good evening; how are you.

How should the Muslim return the greetings from the Non-Muslims?

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When the Jews greet you, they usually say, ‘As-Samu ‘alaikum (Death be on you),’ so you should say (in reply to them), ‘Wa’alaikum (And on you).[2]

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If the people of the Scripture greet you, then you should say (in reply), ‘Wa’alaikum (And on you).’ “[3]

‘A’isha reported that a group of Jews came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and sought his audience and said:

As-Sam-u-‘Alaikum. A’isha said in response: As-Sam-u-‘Alaikum (death be upon you) and curse also, whereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: ‘A’isha, verily Allah loves kindness in every matter. She said: Did you hear what they said? Thereupon he said: Did you not hear that I said (to them): Wa ‘Alaikum.[4]


Imam An-Nawawi said: There is a consensus among the scholars that when the People of the book give you Salams, the response is Wa’alaykum and not ,Wa’ alaykum As-Salam.”


And Allah knows best

Taken from “ الاعلام ببعض أحكام السلام / Shaykh Abdus Salam ibn Burjis


Translated by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle

Doha, Qatar 1439©

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[1] Muslim 2167

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari 6257

[3] Sahih al-Bukhari 6258

[4] Sahih Muslim 2165


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