What’s in a salaam?
Are you the kind of person who smiles at strangers passing by? Always give a howdy to?
I consider myself a friendly enough person for the most part, even towards passers-by, trying to come off as approachable as possible to onlookers. This demeanour, however, is reserved for certain people.
Usually, I tend to read the character of the person and if I deem them (under my judgment) to be not up to par or of a certain mindset I’m not comfortable with, I adopt a different persona an”don’t-approach-me, pretend-like-you-don’t-see-me “kind. It isn’t something I control but more of an adaptive mechanism. My mind and body work on their own and the times I have tried acting the opposite way and giving people the benefit of a doubt didn’t work in my favour.
I found myself just today, as I write this in an environment where my guard was down— I was relaxed, at ease, waiting to do what I love best…eat. Seated in a crowded cafeteria all my thoughts were on the warm bowl of dumplings that was to come. So, it is to be guaranteed my facial expression was one of zen. A girl of around my age walks into my view with a smile that could melt the devil’s heart, and says to me “Asalaam Alaykum”. I didn’t know this girl nor did she. She had no reason to be concerned with me but she did. Identifying the hijab on me as a Muslim, she made me a concern of hers, going out of her way to offer me her Salaam.
I don’t know what makes your days Dear Readers but for me this small action did it! I responded with a “Waalaykum salaam” accompanied with the goofiest smile. We thereafter swiftly exchanged contacts and that was it.
Although quick and short, this encounter had a lasting effect on me for a good remainder of the day. I felt acknowledged, valued even, by someone whom I knew little to nothing of. All that we had in common was our faith.
This act made me question my personal attitude towards fellow Muslims. How often do I offer them my recognition? Smile their way? Better yet, offer my Salaam? The universal greeting amongst Muslims, first offered by the first man Adam (as) to the angels. When I think of all the times I have been blessed with a Salaam and how good I felt thereafter and yet I do not reciprocate as often as I should. I don’t mean to say I completely ignore them, maybe I’ll offer them a friendly smile or even a “hey” but why not a Salaam. One might argue a greeting is a greeting, which is true. However, you cannot compare the Salaam to a simple Hello and all its variations. With a Salaam, you’re wishing peace upon your fellow Muslim and receiving the same in kind, and I believe we all pray for a little more peace in our lives.
We go about each day too absorbed in our busy lives to bother with others, forgetting what something as small as a greeting can do for another. The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) was once asked; “What in Islam is the best?” He replied, “To feed the people and to say salaam to everyone whether you know them or not”. The key sentence here is whether you know them or not, also noting the “everyone” regardless of their religion.
As the Jews wish each other peace with Shalom aleikhem, we Muslims have our Salaam as well of similar meanings and symbolism. This goes to show that a greeting isn’t just a formality. It is a well wish and prayer to the person you’re sending it to. A hope that their life is filled with internal peace through strengthening their relationship with Allah. Is that not a beautiful thing to be wishing each other?
So the next time you come across a fellow Muslim, friend or stranger my Dear Readers “Asalaam Alaykum” should be the first words you exchange and be responsible for making their day. Believe that a greeting would make a whole lot of a difference and it surely does not hurt that you get some well wishes sprinkled your way.