By Jawad Muhaddithi
As it is well known, continual adaptations are necessary for a healthy social life and public interactions need constant strengthening. Merely talking generally about the uses of strengthening the social bounds is not the answer. It is only through displaying the practical examples that the boundaries of emotional relations are fortified and stabilized. The salutation “salam” accompanied with a warm handshake is one of these methods. Salam is like the green light to intimacy. The first sign of sincerity, friendship and fellowship at the instance when two persons encounter each other face to face is the articulation of the greeting salam, followed by a hearty handshake. What in your opinion is more appropriate for two friends to say to each other when first they meet? Do you know any word more suitable than “salam”?
The connotations of salam
Salam is a kind of assurance granted to your companion that “I wish you a healthy and able body, and that you need not be concerned about my health and well being”. It implies that I am your friend and not your foe. And as it is well known throughout the world, it is also a form of greeting between two Muslims.
A warm handshake too, is a sign of friendship and familiarity. It brings the friends’ hearts closer, while increasing their love and affection towards one another. The touch of the hands is a green light to amity only if it is not done hypocritically and with deceitful intentions.
Salam is one of God’s names, and consequently, is considered a divine or a holy salutation. It is the advice of the Prophet (SAW) and the Imams (AS) that: “if someone started speaking to you without saying salam first, do not answer him.” 1 Imam Sadiq (AS) also quotes the Divine Creator that: “the person who abstains from saying salam to others, is a tightfisted and a mean creature.”2
Not only does saying salam have no negative impact on your social status, your popularity, or your wealth, it is also a source of enlightenment and empathy. It pleases God and it is the approach and the attitude of the Prophet (SAW) and the Imams (AS). It is also an indication of modesty and humility. No one suffers any damage to his public stance; on the contrary, he will become all the more admired and accepted for his modesty. Imam Sadiq (AS) has it that: “saying salam is considered a sign of modesty in Islam.” 3
Our Holy Prophet too suggests that: “when you first meet, greet and salute each other by saying salam and shaking hands”.4
Manners of saying salam:
Our Holy Prophet (SAW) was always quick and witty in initiating a greeting by saying salam, even if the other party was a little child. He, especially in the case of children, says that: “five attributes I shall never abandon as long as I am alive, one of which is saying hello to children, so that it becomes a sunnah (a Way) after my death”. 5
This all arises from the clear and modest conscience of the Prophet. All of these are correct, but it is more prudent of the children to first offer greetings to their elderly. It is mentioned in one saying that:
“It is more appropriate if the youngsters say hello to the elderly
A single person to two people
One person to a congregation
The person on the horse to the one on foot
The passer by to the person who is standing still
And the person on foot to the seated one.”
And of course if it were done in any other way than this, it would not have implied modesty of character.
Salam must be articulated loudly and clearly. A great number of holy sayings circle around this matter that the salam must not be said in a low, whispering tone, or in an incomplete manner. The answer to the greeting is also to be said loudly and clearly, so that your partner hears it. Imam Sadiq (AS) warns that: “if any one of you says salam, he must say it loudly and clearly. Never complain that they did not answer my salutation. It may be that they have not heard you saying it. And when anyone of you answers a greeting, answer it in a loud and audible tone, or else others will complain that you have not answered their greeting”. 6
If saying salam is well recommended and highly praised in Islam, answering it is obligatory. Of course most of the holy rewards are for the people who first started to salute. The answer to salam must be pronounced even more warmly because salam is a kind of gift or an attribute a believer renders to his friend, and the answer must be given in a better fashion to imply gratitude. The holy Qur’an commands that: “answer other people’s greeting in a better, or the same manner.”7
Humility and humbleness
One of the best ways to remain popular and attractive in social gatherings is abstaining from being pompous or boastful. If modesty is your way in life, you can attract others around you the way a candle attracts fireflies. This is the manner, which our Holy Prophet (SAW) and the Imams (AS) advocated and adapted in their own lives. Arrogance leaves a person isolated and alone because the arrogant repels his companions while the humble attracts them. Imam Ali (AS) declares that: “three qualities are bound to produce love and affection in other people: morality, modesty, and generosity.” 8
The proud and the pompous are unable to perform group activities, since their partners would never support them in times of need. The conceited may occupy a critical position and thus be considered important for some time, but eventually he will be left alone. Why? Just look around you, at your friends and at those with vital professions. You judge for yourself if it is the haughty who is more popular and cherished or is it the humble.
1. Safinatol-Bihar, Muhaddes Qomi, vol. 1, p. 649.
2. Mizan al Hekmat, Reyshahri, vol. 4, p. 535.
3. Khesal o seddugh, p. 11.
4. Safinatul Bihar, vol. 1, p. 465.
5. Biharul anwar, vol. 73, p.10
6. Usul e Kafi (Arabic) Koleyni, vol. 2, p. 645.
7. Nisa’, verse 86
8. Ghorar-ul Hikam- Amadi, Vol. 1, p. 360.