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‘Hello', what is this?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 03 - 2017

ON my way to the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah for Friday prayer, I took the way up the escalator from the parking area to the yards outside the Prophet's Mosque, and there I saw a unique sight of an old man just ahead of me greeting every single person coming down the escalator from the opposite direction. This simple hello was looked askance by the multitudes, who were too busy to acknowledge the old man or his courtesy, as they streamed past him, some with looks of wonder, to whatever was so urgent after Jumaa.
Spreading Salam, or peace, to brothers is a Sunnah, a teaching of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. But the act of this old man, who was just following Sunnah, was so strange to many people that they kept staring at him as if he had taken leave of his senses. All he was saying was "assalamu alaikum", peace be upon you, to every single person that he faced. Though the majority walked past stone faced, I did notice smiles of joy on some faces giving me hope that there are still people who live by the Sunnah and there are those who are reviving a teaching of the Prophet that has almost become extinct. The man continued to spread this simple joy as he walked in the yards outside the Prophet's Mosque, spreading his greeting, blissfully unaware of the non-reaction of many.
It is becoming increasingly noticeable that very few people are taking the time out to greet people on the street with this simple "assalamu alaikum", or spreading cheer with a smile along with it to others. Those who use this greeting or smile tend to offer it only to people they know but not to strangers. And if someone did greet another person, whom he did not know, then the person's tendency would be to ignore it and never reply back, or in some cases even take issue for this simple greeting. I am really bewildered by this response from the multitude. I ask, how difficult it is to reply back to a person's greetings?
The incident at the Prophet's Mosque of this old man, while attempting to greet one and all, being ignored by many, triggered in my memory many such situations that I had encountered in the past and other such incidents that happened in front of me. I also recollected some of the stories that my friends told me of the expressionless faces of those being greeted and some of their strange reactions.
This encouraged me to write about it this week, especially now that the world is becoming more materialistic. Not long time back, I said "assalamu alaikum" to a stranger in the street. The man immediately stopped and looked me over for five seconds before saying, "What! Do I know you?" Taken aback by this response, I simply told him that I am just greeting him and wishing him cheer for the day. He again answered, "Did you mistake me for someone else you might know?" I said, "No, it is in the Prophet's teaching to spread greetings." He simply gave me a look as if I was crazy and walked away. I have to say here that these are rare occasions where people react in such aggressive manner, but the common thing that happens is not to say "assalamu alaikum" and if someone attempts to greet the other they never reply back.
I do not know about the rest of the world, but I believe that we are suffering from a serious problem of isolating ourselves and not greeting or smiling at other people in a small bid to spread joy. Most of us simply ignore the greeting, but there are others who sometimes pretend to be busy with their phones or pretending to be busy with something else just to avoid replying to the greetings.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "When you smile to your brother›s face, it is charity." Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, said, "By Him in Whose Hand is my life! You will not enter Jannah, paradise, until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I inform you of something which, if you do, you will love one another? Promote greetings amongst yourselves."
Why are we not greeting people anymore? Why do we not at least smile at each other when we meet? How many of the readers meet an official or an employee providing services with this greeting and a smile on their faces? I bet few. It is becoming increasingly rare to see someone smiling and greeting others, unless that person is a manager in the company that the person is employed in. Then we will see a "size 50" smile on the person's face, every time he sees the manager.
The smile and greetings should be natural seeking no earthly objective except the reward from Allah. What good is our Islam if we greet and smile at the people we know or those who are in important positions and ignore others? Some people walk by cleaning workers on the streets and ignore them as if they were less of a people. In a Prophet's saying related by Abu Dharr that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just greeting your brother with a cheerful countenance."
A simple greeting, and a cheerful smile radiates joy — of acknowledgement and recognition. It also spreads the cheer of universal brotherhood, a plank that Islam stands on. Instead of reacting by saying, hello! What's this? I do not know you or need your greetings, all one has to do is reply in kind. Just practice it and see the difference.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng

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