Is it obligatory (wajib) to reply to salam?

Is it obligatory (wajib) to reply to salam?

Salam means “Peace”, Assalamualaikum means “Peace be upon you.” And Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh means “Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings.”

One of the first speeches given by the Prophet (peace be on him) when he arrived in Madinah urged people to say salam – it is the gateway to all interactions and thereby relationships.

‘Abdullah bin Salam (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“When the Prophet (peace be on him) came to Madinah, the people rushed to meet him, and it was said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has come! The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has come! The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has come!’ Three times. I came with the people to see him, and when I saw his face clearly, I knew that his face was not the face of a liar. The first thing I heard him say was when he said: ‘O people! Spread (the greeting of) Salam, feed others, uphold the ties of kinship, and pray during the night when people are sleeping, and you will enter Paradise with Salam.” (Ibn Majah)

There are many narrations on the etiquettes of the salam, such as greeting each other with a smile and how to greet a group, or a passerby, how it should be done between youngsters and elders, and who should say it first and how they should say it.

Initiate the salam to elders

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

“The younger person should greet the older one, and the walking person should greet the sitting one, and the small number of persons should greet the large number of persons.” (Bukhari)

Superiority of the one who initiates the salam

Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with him( narrated:

“They said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! When two men meet, which of them initiates the Salam?’ He said: ‘The nearest of them to Allah.” (Tirmidhi)

The six rights of a Muslim

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“There are six things due from the believer to another believer: Visiting him when he is ill, attending (his funeral) to him when he dies, accepting his invitation when he invites, giving him salam when he meets him, replying to him when he sneezes, and wishing him well when he is absent and when he is present.” (Tirmidhi)

Tone of your greeting

The tone of your voice is important. The salam should be said cheerfully. However be mindful where you are when you say salam. You should not, for instance, raise your voice when you arrive if people are asleep there, so they are not disturbed. You cannot say salam to someone who is in the toilet. Therefore say salam with the right etiquettes. Otherwise you might apply the rule without the etiquette and create more harm than good.

When we used to attend the circle of our shaykh, it was very annoying when we were all focused on his lesson, and someone arrived late but instead of sitting down quietly, he said it so loudly, he disturbed everyone’s concentration and disrupted the flow of the shaykh. This is not the correct understanding of initiating the salam.  

Replying to the salam

It is the right of every Muslim to be greeted and if when you are greeted it is incumbent to reply. To say salam is sunnah, to reply is wajib.

It is incumbent on you to reply to the salam. However if you cannot say the full reply, you can reply with ‘walaikum salam’ as a minimum.

The full response is better as the Quran says:

﴾وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٖ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحۡسَنَ مِنۡهَآ أَوۡ رُدُّوهَآۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيۡءٍ حَسِيبًا ﴿

“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)

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something which, if you do it, you will love one another? Spread (the greeting of) peace among yourselves. (Ibn Majah)

Shaykh Haytham Tamim

Ghazali’s 20 rules for dealing with people. Rules 14-15 Hurry to help others and initiate the salam. – Utrujj


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.