Friday 1 February 2013

Ramblings from Saudi: This Greeting Called "As Salamu 'Alaikum"

As salamu 'alaikum. May peace be upon you. That's usually the greetings/ wish (in Arabic) that Muslims use when they meet each other. Well, not just when meeting people, but also when they enter a house or a masjid (mosque).

Coming from Malaysia, we tend to use this only among friends. Okay, let me correct that. Not so much among friends but maybe when you enter a room/ place full of people, or when you meet your boss, etc. I think, among friends these days, we tend to use the rather "uncivilised" "Oi", or "Hoi", (or "buzz buzz" while chatting online, heh!), etc., apart from the conventional "Hi" and "Heyya". Or is it just me? Heh, never mind, I digress. ;-)

In Saudi Arabia, the greeting is used more widely. You can walk into a shop, and the shopkeeper or the sales personnel will greet you with as salamu 'alaikum. You can walk past a total stranger on the street, and in all likelihood he might just greet you with as salamu 'alaikum as well and then carry on walking past you.

It's weird. In the sense that, you don't just say "Hello" to total strangers on the street when you walk past them, do you? I mean, don't all moms remind their children not to talk to strangers?

It's annoying, especially when the same person says "Hi" every time he walks past your room at the office, and he actually walks past your room like every 5 minutes during office hours. 

That's what I thought when I first arrived here. 

But then again I have now realised that as salamu 'alaikum is no simple "Hi" nor "Hello". 

And even though I have always known what the greeting literally means ever since I was a kid, I have never really understood its real meaning. 

It's a prayer

Well, yeah, it's not exactly news, or rocket science, I know. 

So those total strangers who greet me on the street with as salamu 'alaikum actually are praying for me to have peace. The same thing with the guy at the office. So it had struck me that why I should complain about that? 

Why should I feel weird or annoyed when a person prays for me like 20 times a day? I should just be thankful and just wish them the same, shouldn't I? 

And so, to all those strangers on the street, to the guys at the office and at the shops, I wish you, "wa 'alaikum salam" (and may peace be upon you too). 

And to all my friends here, "as salamu 'alaikum". :-)

This is the first blog entry under 'Ramblings from Saudi' series.

'Ramblings from Saudi' is a series of blog entries originally written when I was living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for one year from 2007 to 2008. While the entries under this series are not exactly travel entries, (I hope that) they tell stories about life in Saudi Arabia in general as I personally experienced them.

For other 'Ramblings from Saudi' entries, click here.


Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. kalau tak salah
    salah satu tanda akhir zaman ialah mengucapkan salam kepada yang dikenali sahaja..(heard kat ceramah rasanya)

    but, it is a nice entry as a reminder :-)

    1. Thanks, dzuchan. Tak pernah dengar pula ini salah satu tanda akhir zaman. Tapi kalau difikirkan memang dah banyak tanda akhir zaman kan?

  2. Waalaikumusalam,
    That's really true.

    I like it when a Muslim greets me with Assalamualaikum. This greeting is only for Muslims and I'm glad that I am a Muslim. However, there have been so many times where I have greeted a Muslim (in China) and received no greeting at all! Maybe they do know that Allah will reward them for this. Allah says in the Qur’an:
    “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet with better than it or return it. Allah takes count of all things”. (004:086)

    1. Thanks, Naramas. That's very surprising because I *think* giving the greeting is harder than replying to it, don't you think so?

    2. R.a.W,
      I also think that giving salam is harder than replying it as it is an ibadah, it a an Islamic duty. I reckon we need to practise it all the times and gradually it will becomes natural.

  3. As salamu 'alaikum...

    U've been living in so many countries... It's a blessed as u will meet dif types of people, culture n heritage...;) Anyway, just wondering, where's the location of the above photo?

    1. Wa 'alaikum salam, Farikica :-) No, not so many countries, just a few so far ;-) and yes, I feel blessed for that :-) I took the above photo at a camel farm just outside Jeddah. It was where I had my first taste of camel milk, fresh from the camel, "milked" to order :-D

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