The salam deficit
Narrated Abdullah bin Amr (RA): A man asked the Prophet (SAW), “Whose Islam is good, or what sort of deeds of Islam are good?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “To feed others and to greet those who you know and those who you do not know.” (Bukhari, Book of Beliefs)
On that account, why is it that whenever we go anywhere, we only greet the people we know, without saying a thing to the other Muslims that walk by us? Or if you're in a masjid and people are ‘salaaming’ each other, they only go to the people they know, and even if you pass on the salams to them with a ‘how are you?’, they give you an odd look, ignore you and walk away, or say 'are you talking to me?'
“Yes, I’m saying Assalamu alaikum. How are you?” They look at me like they don’t understand Arabic or like they don’t know how to say ‘salam’ or ‘how are you?’ Then they just give me this really odd look and walk away.
I think to myself, “why bother? I did my part.” Then I wonder, “was it my clothes? Were they wrinkly? Did they have a good scent or a bad scent? Was my hair showing or not showing for her not to respond? Perhaps she doesn’t like speaking to people that wear hijabs, or maybe it was because of my Bell’s Palsy. Perhaps she didn't know about my situation or maybe she didn't want to talk to a nice person like me because she thought I was a freak or something…”
Yeah, it hurts. But that's a part of life.
That happened to me for a reason. Allah's testing me to see how committed I am to Him and if I'm still remembering Him and believing in Him. Yet, yes still, I am. Others are being tested too by Allah to see how they handle this, and how they treat me, as to how I treat others with this test and to see how patient I am in dealing with it. It happens, and it's only for a little bit of a struggle.
But still, I would like people within my community, especially the aunties and uncles, to make me feel welcomed when I come to the masjid. Instead of me sending out a great greeting of salams, I would like a great greeting in return, instead of a silent nothing where they just mumble a ‘oh hello’ or say something like ‘Khuda Hafiz’… ‘OK, bye bye, go now...’
Whenever this happens, I remember this hadith (quoted above), and how we should greet people we know, as well as greet the ones we don't know. Because after all, the people you do know, you didn't know them before, and by you talking to them, you now know them. By greeting the ones you don't know, you make them feel welcomed, as well as follow the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) in being kind towards your Muslim brothers and sisters.
Insha'Allah we can all remember this and benefit from this. The next time someone sends you a salams in a mall, on the street, at a halal restaurant, at a masjid or anywhere else, return their salams, whether you know them or not, as a smile is 100 times more pleasing than a sour face.
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