Islamic law is based on very specific incidents that occured in Muhammad’s life. Instead of teaching universal goodwill and fair manners and treatment of all, it specifies different standards for Muslims and Non-Muslims. Not initiating greetings and not responding to greetings are two examples of how Islam doesn’t teach good manners towards non-Muslims.
Why is it in Islam that non-Muslims are given unfair treatment in greetings? Doesn’t Islam come with a superior moral system for all of humanity?
It’s because Islam is not from God, it is the invention of Muhammad who made up laws to deal with situations as they arose in his life.
The Islamic greeting is “As-salamu alaikum” (Peace be upon you).
The response is “Wa alaikum assalam” (And to you peace)
One of the rulings is Sunni Islamic Fiqh teaches Muslims to not respond this way to non-Muslims. It also teaches not to initiate greetings.
Initiating greetings (salams) to the non-Muslim
Abu Hurairah (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Do not initiate the saluting of Jews and Christians (when you meet them), and if you meet any of them on the road, force him to go to the narrowest part of the road (i.e. do not give way for them to pass, but keep going). (Muslim)
Classical scholars said:
Ahmad Bin Hanbal commented on the above Hadith: “Going by this Hadith is better than any other contrary opinion”. Ibn Hajar is of similar opinion, while commenting on the above Hadith, he said: “The most credible of all these (views) is what is evident in the above Hadith, although it is specific to the People of the Book. Ibn Katheer also, while commenting on the verse on greeting (Qur’an 4:86) said: “But as to non-Muslim citizens (Alum Dimmit) one should not initiate to them the greetings of salaam” Abu Haneefah and Malik Bin Anas detested initiating salaam with non-Muslims.[ref]Rules of Greeting non-Muslims in Islam (Saying Salaam/Replying Salaam)[/ref]
THe modern Salafi scholar Ibn Uthaymeen said:
He believed initiating greetings of any sort with non-Muslims is a sort of honor given to them which they don’t deserve. He categorically spelt out that it is prohibited (Haraam) to greet them with salaam. He further said: “Because it is a humiliation for a Muslim when he starts to honor a non-Muslim”[ref]Rules of Greeting non-Muslims in Islam (Saying Salaam/Replying Salaam)[/ref]
Responding to the salams of a Non-Muslim
Even though the Quran demands that a person should respond in equal or greater to a greeting, this was overruled in Islamic fiqh by the statements of Prophet Muhammad in regard to non-Muslims.
The Quran states:
And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant. (4:86)
But Muslims often don’t respond to Non-Muslims greetings in full despite this verse because of several sayings attributed to Muhammad:
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.’”
Imam Nawawi said in his commentary:
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).”
From among the contemporary scholars, Ibn Uthaimeen said it is okay if you are SURE they said “As-SALAM alaikum” (Peace be upon you):
“If a non-Muslim greets a Muslim by saying “al-saamu ‘alaykum” (Death be upon you), then we should respond by saying ‘wa ‘alaykum (and also upon you). The fact that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “wa alaykum” (And upon you also) indicates that if they were saying “as-salaamu ‘alaykum” (Peace be upon you), then peace will also be upon them, that is, whatever they say to us, we say to them. Hence some of the scholars said that if a Jew, Christian or other non-Muslim clearly says “al-Salaamu ‘alaykum”, it is permissible for us to say “Alaykum al-Salaam” (upon you peace be)[ref]Rules of Greeting non-Muslims in Islam (Saying Salaam/Replying Salaam)[/ref]
The history behind this is because according to the hadith some Jew said “As-samu Alaikum” (death be upon you) to Prophet Muhammad, and this is what happened:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When the Jews greet anyone of you they say: ‘Sam’Alaika (death be upon you); so you should say; ‘Wa ‘Alaika (and upon you).'” (Bukhari and others)
So forever now Muslims can never say “Wa alaikum assalam” (And to you peace), but can only say “Wa alaikum” to non-Muslims. Forever, yup. Because of some Jews back then that thought it would be funny. Check out what else they tried to do:
The Jews used to sneeze in the presence of the Prophet (ﷺ) hoping that he would say: ‘May Allah have mercy upon you”. So he said: “May Allah guide you and rectify your affairs” (Tirmidhi, Abu Daud and others)
Thats right. The perfection of character, mercy to the world Prophet Muhammad taught us that we cannot ask for God’s mercy on disbelievers when they sneeze.
Response: May God have mercy on you
Response: God guide you!
Now why on earth does Islam require a different response to a sneeze based on what faith you are? Doesn’t this reflet a too much of us-vs-them thinking?
Praying for non-Muslims after they die
This is also forbidden:
As for after their death, it is impermissible (haram) to make dua for forgiveness and the like for a non-Muslim, for Allah Most High said, “It is not for the Prophet and those who believe to pray for the forgiveness of unbelievers even though they may be near of kin after it has become clear that they are people of hell-fire.” (9:113)[ref]Can We Pray for Non-Muslims Who Passed Away?[/ref]
In conclusion, Islamic law is based on very specific incidents that occured in Muhammad’s life. Instead of teaching universal goodwill and fair manners and treatment of all, it specifies different standards for Muslims and Non-Muslims. Not initiating greetings and not responding to greetings are two examples of how Islam doesn’t teach good manners towards non-Muslims. Islam is not from God, it is the invention of Muhammad who made up laws to deal with situations as they arose in his life.