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Responding To A Kaafir When He Says Salaam To A Muslim: Is It Correct To End A Letter With The Phrase "Wa'l-salaam"?

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When A Non-Muslim Says Salaam U Alaikum (Greets You) How Are We Supposed To Respond?

Praise be to Allaah.

Muslim reported in his Saheeh (14/144) from Anas ibn Maalik that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "When the People of the Book say salaam to you (greet you by saying al-salaamu alaykum), say ‘Wa ‘alaykum' (and unto you).'" According to another report, he was asked, "The People of the Book say salaam to us. How should we respond?" He said, "Say, ‘Wa ‘alaykum.'" According to another report (14/164), he said, "When the Jews greet you, they say ‘al-saam ‘alaykum (death be upon you). So say ‘ ‘alayk (upon you).'" According to another report he said, "So say, ‘wa ‘alayk' (and upon you)." According to another report (14/146) a group of Jews asked for permission to enter upon the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and they said, "Al-saam ‘alaykum (death be upon you)." ‘Aa'ishah said, "Bal ‘alaykum al-saam wa'l-la'nah (No, death be upon you and curses)!" The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "O ‘Aa'ishah, Allaah loves gentleness in all things." She said, "Did you not hear what they said?" He said, "I answered, ‘Wa ‘alaykum (and unto you).'" According to another report, he said, "I answered, ‘ ‘alaykum'" – without the "waw" (i.e., wa meaning "and"). According to the last hadeeth (14/148), he said, "Do not initiate the greeting of salaam with the Jews and Christians, and if you meet one of them on the road, push him to the narrowest part of it."

All of these reports were narrated in the Saheeh of Imaam Muslim.

Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his commentary (14/144-145):

The scholars agree that the greeting of the People of the Book should be returned, if they greet us with salaam, but we should not say to them, "Wa ‘alaykum al-salaam (and upon you be peace)." We should say only " ‘alaykum (upon you)" or "wa ‘alaykum (and upon you)." Ahaadeeth have been narrated by Muslim both with and without the "wa" ("And"), but most of them include it. On this basis, there are two meanings, one of which is the apparent meaning: if they say " ‘Alaykum al-mawt (death be upon you)", then one should say, "Wa ‘alaykum (and also on you)" – meaning that we and you are alike, we are all going to die. The second meaning is that this is a waw that is used to start a new idea or phrase, not to connect it to the previous sentence or to reiterate the same idea. This implies: and upon you be what you deserve of condemnation. The phrase without the wa implies: but rather death should be upon you. Al-Qaadi said: some of the scholars, including Ibn Habeeb al-Maaliki, preferred to use the phrase without the wa, so that it would not have the implication that these people are like the Muslims. Others said that it should be used with the wa as it appears in the majority of reports. Some of them said: he should reply " ‘alaykum al-silaam (and upon you be stones) – but this is da'eef (weak). Al-Khattaabi said: most of the muhadditheen (scholars of hadeeth) reported it with the wa (wa ‘alaykum), but Ibn ‘Uyaynah reported it without the waw. Al-Khattaabi said: this is what is correct, because if the phrase is used without the waw, this means that what they are saying is returned specifically and exclusively to them, but if the waw is used, it implies commonality with them in what they are saying. This is the view of al-Khattaabi. But the correct view is that it is permissible either to use the waw or omit it, as both have been mentioned in saheeh reports, but including the waw is better, as it appears in most of the reports. There is nothing wrong with that, because al-saam means death, which will come to us and to them, so there is no harm in including the waw. The scholars differed as to returning the greeting of salaam when a kaafir initiates it or initiating the greeting. Our opinion is that it is haraam to initiate the greeting, but we have to return their greeting by saying "Wa ‘alaykum" or just " ‘alaykum." Our evidence with regard to initiating the greeting is the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), "Do not initiate the greeting with the Jews and Christians" and his command to reply by saying, "Wa ‘alaykum." What we have mentioned as our madhhab or point of view is also the opinion of most of the scholars and the majority of the salaf… It is permissible to initiate the greeting when addressed to a group composed of both Muslims and kaafirs, or one Muslim and a number of kaafirs, but he should intend the greeting to be directed towards the Muslim(s) among them, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) greeted an assembly that included a mixture of Muslims and mushrikeen.

Is It Correct To End A Letter With The Phrase "Wa'l-salaam"?

Brothers end their letters to me with "wassalaam", instead of say "assalaamualaikum" can you please tell me if this is correct and the references and their authenticity You can also put the question on the web page if you so wish, I need a direct reply since I may not be able to find the answer on the web page. Jazzakallaah.

Praise be to Allaah.

There is nothing wrong with ending a letter with the phrase "wa'l-salaam," and it is not a condition that the phrase should be used in full, because when a written abbreviation is used, what the writer means is the complete expression. So when a person says "wa'l-salaam," what he or she means is "wa'l-salaamu ‘alaykum." But if the person sending the letter writes "wa'l-salaamu ‘alayka" or "wa'l-salaamu ‘alaykum" at the end, this is better. Umar ibn al-Khattaab ended his letter to the qaadi Shurayh with the words "wa'l-salaamu ‘alayka" [Sunan al-Nisaa'i, 5304] and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ended his letter to one of his workers in the same way [Muwatta' Malik, Kitaab al-jihaad].

Ibn Katheer reported in al-Bidaayah wa'l-Nihaayah from Ibn ‘Asaakir that Ziyaad ibn Abi Sufyaan sent Sa'eed ibn al-‘Aas gifts, money and a letter proposing marriage to his daughter. When the gifts, money and letter arrived, [Sa'eed] read the letter, shared out the gifts among the people sitting with him, then wrote a nice, polite letter back to him in which he said: "In the name of Allaah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allaah says: ‘Nay! Verily man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deeds, etc.), because he considers himself self-sufficient.' [al-‘Alaq 96:6-7 – interpretation of the meaning]. Wa'l-salaam."

However, the person sending the letter should greet the addressee with the complete phrase ("Al-salaamu alaykum") at the beginning of the letter, as has been the habit of the Muslims from the time of the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) until the present. And Allaah knows best.


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