Being a Muslim in Malaysia

MARCH 9 — I’m sick and tired of people saying that the greetings “assalamualaikum” and “waalaikumsalam” are exclusively for Muslims and haram for anyone else.

Apparently, if a non-Muslim greets you that way, you will be damned to hell if you were to reply. And God forbid, if you were to initiate the greeting!

To those who aren’t familiar, “assalamualaikum” means “peace be upon you”, and “waalaikumsalam” means “and upon you be peace.”

I really wonder where is it said in Islam that the “salam” is exclusively for Muslims? I would be really grateful if someone could point this out for me.

Please save me from my ignorance because as far as my religious knowledge goes, I have only found evidence that proves that it isn’t a sin.

Over the years, I have travelled extensively throughout the Muslim world (especially the Middle East) and people in all of these places greet each other, whether Muslim or not, with these greetings.

And in all of these countries, this has never been an issue at all. And hence I find it very problematic that it is a big issue in my own country Malaysia.

Islam is a religion that promotes societal and communal living. Living in a society or community, it is only natural for people to live harmoniously together.

And in any society or community, there is bound to be people of different creeds, backgrounds and even religious beliefs.

How do you live harmoniously if there is a double standard in treating different people in a society or community?

There are so many verses in the Quran that prove what I’m trying to say.

Surah An Nisa 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).”

There is also a Hadis (verified saying) by Prophet Muhammad that said:

“Greet with peace those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”

And if you think that this isn’t specific enough in referring to non-Muslims, here are a few other verses from the Quran.

Surah Az Zukhruf states:

“Consider his cry: ‘O my Lord! Surely they are a people who do not believe!’ So turn away from them and say ‘Salam’ (peace) for they shall soon come to know.”

Surah Al Qasas states:

“And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, ‘For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.’”

One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, Abu Amamah Al Bahili, used to give the “salam” to anyone he passed by, whether Muslim or not. And he said:

“It is a greeting for the people of our religion, and an assurance of security to our non-Muslim citizens, and a Name among the Names of Allah we spread among ourselves.”

I am ashamed that Muslims in Malaysia have sunk so low as to actually discuss and debate such an insignificant issue like this (a non-issue, really!).

In fact, there are so many non-issues that are being discussed, such as the printing of holy words on wedding invitations (whether in Arabic or Romanised script!).

There are so many more important things that deserve our attention. Maybe it would be best if the media should just ignore these non-issues instead of highlighting them.

But then again, here I am writing about non-issues like these. I guess I’m no different too, huh? I really have to start writing about my daughter again soon.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.


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