Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Let us ask ourselves: For how long have we been rushing around in the English-speaking West blurting out “Peace Be unto You”? As if “peace” and Salaam are exactly the same thing – word for word. All I am doing, therefore, is asking us to try to understand and appreciate some of the meaning, richness, depth and scope of what we are saying and doing on a daily and hourly basis.
As things stand, I am not sure we understand the fuller meaning and implications of Salaam at all. I am not sure we are fully convinced that we have the best greeting product in the marketplace of human social interaction and culture. If we did, where is the pride? Where is the joy and where is the exuberance? And where is the passion and commitment to make it a household word? That is why I want to keep driving home – and keep repeating – my explanation of the meaning of Assalaamu Alaikum till everyone everywhere – Muslim and non-Muslim – gets it.
Till we all become fully aware and convinced that human creativity cannot contrive a better mode or mechanism of greeting one another than this. Till we see with the naked eye that this is one of the most powerful and living miracles and proofs of God Almighty in our hands. This little crumb that fell in the hands of humanity from the table of that Mercy-to-the-Worlds human being, himself the miracle of all miracles – Sayyidinaa Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
And of which God Almighty made us the custodian in this world – with the explicit command and responsibility to share it with the rest of the world. A job, I am afraid, we have not done very well. As a result of which the world repeatedly turns against us.
That is right. I have consistently maintained that a good bit of the trouble in which Muslims find themselves from time to time is due to their not doing what God asked them to do. For example, Muslims not sharing Islam with the rest of the world. And Muslims not taking the Qur’an to every home and heart that needs it – and which one does not? So, I am trying to share with the whole world this little crumb – this business of Salaam – that fell in our hands from that Table of Mercy that Qur’an is and that Table of Mercy that the life of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was and is.
THERE IS MORE WHERE SALAAM CAME FROM
So, once this is accomplished, I mean the job of Afshussalaam – the job of sharing the beauty, benefits and blessing of Salaam with everyone and inviting the whole world to the path and Deen of As-Salaam – we can move on to something else. It is up to you how soon or how slowly you get this job done, because it is the shared responsibility of all of us to do it, you as well as me. And of every other Muslim in the world.
Something equally tantalizing, trust me. I don’t know which is more and which is less. I don’t know which has more beauty, power and impact than which. But they will all open the gates of heaven and earth for you. Just like some cities honour some people by giving them keys to their cities, Allah has honoured you by placing in your hands the keys of heaven and earth: Maqaaleedus Samaawaati wal Ard. Such as Subhanallah! And Alhamdulillah! And Allahu Akbar! And Laa Ilaaha Illallah! And Laa Howla wa Laa Quwwata Illa Billah! And so on and so forth. If you want, you can throw into this mix the following: Inshallah! Mashallah! Bismillah! Innaa Lillahi wa Innaa Ilaihi Raaji’oon!
Each one of these little nuggets is a power-pack of worldly and other-worldly benefits and blessings you can neither imagine nor calculate. Get in the habit of saying or reciting them morning and evening, day or night, whenever you get a free moment.
Driving, riding a bus or train or bicycles, walking, doing whatever else you do, carry these divinely supplied power-packs of life and light with you. Get used to living with them all the time, everywhere. And then see how your life changes. So, there is more where Salaam came from. Much, much, much more! But, frankly, and if you ask me, honestly, how can there be anything more than what Salaam has already given us – all the beauties, joys and blessings of this world and the next world?
But that is the nature of this Deen. Superlatives piled on superlatives. “More” added to “Most.” “Best”getting “Better” all the time. Ar-Rahim added to Ar-Rahmaan! Now go and read the Asmaa’ Husnaa – God Almighty’s beautiful names – and give each one of them some serious thought, and see what you come out with.
And then go figure where each one of them came from: from God Almighty’s infinite mercy and wisdom or from the recesses of a finite human mind.
SALAAM IS A WHOLE WAY OF LIFE
As-Salaam! We say it is a greeting. It is the beginning of interaction, of a conversation with others. It is the gateway to further discourse and visiting and chitchat. A social passport if you will.
Oh, really? Is that all it is? Just a Muslim or Islamic way of saying “Hello”? A mere greeting? The truth is what else is there to say after we have said it all in that one word – Salaam? What more can we possibly say? For, that Salaam is the real meat and the real substance of all conversation and interaction among human beings – that it is the be-all and end-all of everything – and that anything anyone can say thereafter is all by way of condiments and side dishes and small potatoes. It is all by way of being mere fillers and embellishments and garnish. Saalam is not just a greeting. It is a whole way of life: the Salaamist way of life, otherwise known as Islam.
THE BEGINNING AND THE END
So, Salaam is the beginning and the end of life itself. It is the Alpha and the Omega of life on earth and in Paradise – and all that is in between.
For one thing, it is what God Almighty gives you and sends you away with when you go to visit with him, every time you visit him, in daily Salaah, no less than five times a day. And that is just counting the Fard. You count the Sunnat and Nafil and all that and the count keeps going up.
And in case we missed the point, Salaam is not just what he gives away. It is what he himself is: As-Salaam! That is him! It is God Almighty! None other! Our maker, master and keeper: Dhaalikumullahu Rabbukum!
Let us read up what Surah Al-Hashr has to say on this subject of God Almighty and his most glorious attributes – Al-Asmaa-ul-Husnaa. Surah 59, Aayats 22-24:
Huwallaahul-Ladhee Laa Ilaaha Illa Hoo!
‘Aalimul Ghaibi Wash-Shahaadah,
Huwallaahul-Ladhee Laa Ilaaha Illa Hoo!
Al-Malikul Quddoosus-Salaamul Mu’minul
Muhaiminul ‘Azizul Jabbaarul Mutakabbir!
Subhaanallahi ‘Ammaa Yushrikoon!
Huwallaahul Khaaliqul Baari-ul Musawwir,
Lahul Asmaa-ul Husnaa!
Yusabbihu Lahoo Maa Fis-Samaawaati wal-Ard,
Wa Huwal ‘Azeezul Hakeem!
How do you know it is not – Salaam is not – the key to the cosmic cascade of glory that this Aayat unfolds? Just like every other most beautiful name and attribute in this most wondrous divine combination of names, attributes, words and statements?
Is this part of the meaning of Noorun ‘Alaa Noor: Miracle upon miracle? Aayat upon most glorious Aayah, each one of them!
So, how can we even pretend to know what any of this means? Or think that we have done justice to it in the past or can do justice to it in the future?
And how dare we reduce it all to a mindless, thoughtless, careless utterance that we throw around so lightly and cavalierly?
And then, on top of it, run around telling any non-Muslim who would stop to listen: Don’t you know it means “Peace be unto you!”? Reductionism, you never had a better purpose or parentage! So, how many more repetitions would it take before we get some sense of what this business of Salaam really is and what we need to do with it? And don’t you think there should be some voice, somewhere, no matter how small, that should rise to explore and share with the rest of the world the glory of this Culture of Salaam that Islam built and that Islam stands for?
A wholeculture of Salaam – that is what Islam is. A most wonderful and profound culture and way of life that God himself created, of which Assalaamu ‘Alaikum is but the outwardly manifest flag and address – the URL, as it were, for the computer-savvy among us? So, that is what this is: An attempt to let Salaam break out – once again – all over the world, so that a bereaved, battered and bruised humanity can find shelter, peace and joy – once again – under its big, broad and beautiful tent.