وَإِذَا حُيِّيْتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيبًا
4:86 But when you are greeted with a greeting [of peace], answer with an even better greeting, or [at least] with the like thereof. Verily, God keeps count indeed of all things.
Khushi and I left from office on her bike. She mentioned to me of a friend she wanted to meet briefly in a mall nearby. Somehow, that day we had too many bags to carry – my huge handbag (popularly known as ‘half ticket’ for the amount of space it occupies whilst in the bus or elevator- as much as half an average human), Khushi’s bagpack and a mini suitcase which my roommate wanted me to carry home since she would be returning late from office. The bike hence, was pretty loaded.
On reaching, Khushi and I waited for her friend for quite some time. Out of nowhere, my eyes get stuck on someone- Gracious, beautiful and modest. Masha’Allah, my heart whispered. Another hijabi sister! Suddenly like a motion film everyone else became unimportant. I kept looking at her, waiting for a direct eye contact so that I may greet her. She shyly walked out from the mall, holding a couple of packages, to the bus stop a little ahead and stealthily glanced at me. I know she was looking at me too.
On one side of me Khushi was speaking to her friend on phone to coordinate and meet whereas on the other side an entirely different tale was being played here. As she went past me, I keep staring without a blink, awaiting a salam. Now and then she glanced at me.. and just when I was about to greet, she shied away, looked down as if she didn’t know me!
“Hey, I am your sister in Ummah.. do you not remember?”
Narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar( RadiAllahu anhum) that a man asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “What is the best thing in Islam?” He said, “Feeding others and giving the greeting of salaam to those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”
[ Al-Bukhaari (12, 28 and 6236), Muslim (39)]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made spreading salaam a part of faith.
Ibn Rajab ( RadiAllahu anhum) said in al-Fath (1/43):
“The hadeeth makes the connection between feeding others and spreading salaam because this combines good actions in both word and deed, which is perfect good treatment (ihsaan). Indeed, this is the best thing that you can do in Islam after the obligatory duties.”
The Salam is a greeting in Islam which sows the seeds of love and friendships. Any weakness of heart is dispelled and joys of brotherhood is experienced. Masha’Allah, what a beautiful deen.
Why then, was there a hesitation within me in greeting her? Khushi went into the mall, asking me to wait, to guard the bike and luggage. As I stood there, my gaze followed the sister, standing there and waiting for the bus. 1minute passed… 2…5..then 10. My heart became very impatient.
“There are so many things on the bike, I cannot leave them unattended. Moreover, the bike isn’t locked too.”, was the excuse I gave myself.
“It is just a bad idea. Doesn’t happen anymore.”, second excuse and with it I started surfing the internet. I think out of obvious reflexes, I typed ‘greeting strangers in Islam’ and clicked search. Lo! Came the words before me
A Muslim has a right against his fellow Muslim in six ways.’ Asked what were these, the Prophet said:
‘(1)When you meet him, greet him;
(2) if he invites you, accept his invitation;
(3) if he seeks your advice, give him an honest and sincere advice;
(4) if he sneezes and praises God, bless him;
(5) if he falls ill, visit him; and
(6) if he dies, attend his funeral.’
[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]
It’s her right! Why should I not do it? Why was I waiting for her to do it first? My eyes scanned the Bus-Stop hoping for her to be there and Alhamdulillah, she was.
Without a second thought, I locked the bike, carried all the luggage and walked as fast as I could towards her. From behind, I kept my hand on her shoulder and when she turned I said, “As Salamu ‘Alai Kum” , with a broad smile on my face.
A soft, hesistant, confused Wa ‘alai kumus salam was the reply that came. SubhanAllah! I could read the worry on her face. She perhaps didn’t understand what just happened. Obviously! How else would you react when a random stranger with three BIG bags, unable to balance herself suddenly comes from behind and says Salam!?
Perhaps, she was wondering whether I was an old friend whom she is unable to recognize! Alhamdulillah, I got a chance to explain it to her.
“I am Mahdiya, and a revert muslimah. I barely know a few muslims here in the city and when I saw you, I just wanted to say Salam.”
The perplexity vanished in an instant and was replaced by an equally warm smile. There came a louder “Wa ‘alai kumus salam”. Just as she said this, her bus arrived. Alhamdulillah, as if it was for this very moment that the bus had not come all the while!
“My bus…”, she said hesitantly. Both of us were disappointed that it came. She rushed to board it and I bade her goodbye with a smile. Just as she was about to board it, she turned back to see me standing there.
“As salamu ‘alai kum” , she said as the bus started moving.
“Wa ‘alai kumus salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh “…..
It was such a brief encounter. Little did she know all that I was thinking standing right behind her, 10 meters away. Little did I know that a small step would fill my heart with the joy and warmth that I was experiencing. SubhanAllah! It was indeed a gift from my Creator. Have each one of us not felt an inner peace when we greet our beloved ones? How then, would we not feel better when we greet someone we do not know, only for the pleasure of Allah.
I walked back to the bike and was basking in the joy of sister hood. A serene bliss on my face. In a while, Khushi also came back. The keys were missing.
“Hey, where are the keys? why are you carrying both the bags and why is the suitcase down?”
I grinned. “I just spun another short tale in my life..” SubhanAllah.