One very simple but very important virtue we can all implement in our lives is Greeting, Islam emphasizes it as one of the most essential duties amongst Muslims, it is very beneficial for improving relations, building a stronger bond of love and brotherhood with our fellow Muslims and to cultivate good manners, not to mention the psychological factors involved in greeting someone. Islam is the most civilized way of life.

How many of us have walked past our Muslim brothers by ignoring them as we pass them across the street, pretending to have not seen them? or whenever making conversation, mailing .chatting, or sending SMS we use to convey Hi, Hey, Hello, etc. instead of Islamic Greeting.

May Allah forgive us!
Do I have to greet someone I don’t even know?

Abdullah ibn Amr reported that a man said, “Messenger of Allah, which aspect of Islam is best?” He replied, “Feeding people and greeting those you know and those you do not know.” (Bukhari)
So, yes, greet those you know as well as those you don’t know!

How to return the greeting?
Quran 4:86. “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.”

So, if someone says
As-salaamu Alaykum (peace be upon you)
to return it with that which is better would be to say–
Wa alaykum us salaam Wa rahmatullahi
Wa Alaykum us salaam Wa rahmatullahi Wa barakatuhu ,and Allah knows best.
“Wa Alaykum us salaam”
(and peace be upon you)

“Wa Alaykum us salaam wa rahmatullahi”
(and peace and the mercy of Allah be upon you)
“Wa Alaykum us salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu”
(and peace and mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you)

Who exactly should greet whom first?
“Abdur-Rahman ibn Shibl said that he heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The person riding should greet the person on foot. The person on foot should greet the person who is seated. The smaller group should greet the large. Whoever answers the greeting, is for him. Whoever does not answer it, has nothing.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The young person greets the old person, the person walking greets the person sitting down, and the small group greets the large group.”(Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “When one of you comes to a gathering, he should give the greeting. If he leaves, he should give the greeting. Neither is more of a duty than the other.”(Bukhari)

But, what if we are both walking?
Jabir said, “When two people walking meet, then the one who gives the greeting first is the better of them.” (Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘The one riding greets the one walking, and when one of a group of people gives a greeting, it is enough for all of them’. (Muwatta Hadith 53.1).

The Prophet, ‘Those who are nearest to Allah are they who are first to give a salutation’. (Abu Dawood Hadith 5178).

I am sure you know that people have a very strong sense of ‘I am better than everyone else’ which is not the correct way to think, the correct way to judge is for the pleasure of Allah and gaining blessings, even though you may, or may not realize rewards in this life, be sure that Allah will reward you with good in the hereafter.

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “It is not halal for a Muslim to shun his brother for more than three nights, that is they meet, and this one turns away and that one turns away. The better of the two is the one who says the greeting first”. (Muwatta Hadith 47.13).

Yahya related to me from Malik from Ishaq ibn Abdullah ibn Abi Talha that at-Tufayl ibn Ubayy ibn Kaab told him that he visited Abdullah ibn Umar one morning and went out with him to the market, and when they were out, Abdullah ibn Umar did not pass by anyone selling poor merchandise or selling commodities or a needy person or anyone but that he greeted them.

Tufayl said, “I came to Abdullah ibn Umar one day and he asked me to follow him to the market. I said to him, ‘What will you do in the market if you will not stop to sell nor seeking any goods or barter with them or sit in any of the assemblies or market?’
Abdullah ibn Umar said that we should sit down and talk, and then he explained, Abu Batni, (lit. father of the belly, At Tufayl, had a prominent stomach), we go out in the morning only for the sake of the greeting. We greet whomever we meet.’ (Muwatta Hadith 53.6).

The prophet also said, ‘When one of you meets his brother, he should salute him, then if he meets him again after a tree, wall or stone has come between them, he should also salute him’. (Abu-Dawood Hadith 5181).

The Prophet, peace be upon him, commanded us to respond to the salutation of the imam and to love each other, and to salute each other. (Abu Dawood Hadith 996 Narrated by Samurah ibn Jundub).

And I finish off with an Ayah from the Quran about the inhabitants of Heaven, their greeting will be Salaam! SubhanAllah, the people of paradise will greet each other with the same greeting. So let’s try to implement this simple yet rewarding Sunnah into our lives, even if the person across the road doesn’t say it first!

Quran 14:23. And those who believed and did good works are made to enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein abiding by permission of their Lord, their greeting therein, Peace!