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In websites, books and TV programs, I frequently hear that people use this phrase.

Example:

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in 571.

What is the meaning and purpose of this?

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Islam is very respectful. In general, the phrase is usually a du'a (prayer) for the person mentioned. The common groups you will see are:

  • Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
  • Other prophets (Adam, Noah, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and others)
  • Companions of the Prophet Muhammad
  • Scholars of Islam

Specifically for the prophet Muhammad, the Qur'an commands us to send peace and blessings on him specifically:

Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [ Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [ Allah to grant him] peace. [Qur'an: Surah Ahzab, verse 56]

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The phrase "peace be upon him" is a prayer. Praying for others is encouraged in Islam. This particular prayer is one of the most common prayers in Quran. In using this prayer we follow the tradition set by God (e.g. verse 33:56, 19:15), his angles (verse 33:56), and his prophets (e.g. 19:33).

The phrase is translation of

عليه السلام

It is usually translated as "peace be upon him" but it does not completely preserve the meaning (as with any translation). The word "سلام" is often translated as "peace" but it is only one of the meanings. It is also one of God's names (verse 59:23).

Note that the Arabic root of "سلام" is "َسَلَم" which is also the root of Islam which can be translated to "submission [to God]" (c.f. verse 2:131).

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Actually this is not mandatory or sunnah. In nabi Muhammad's time, his fellows called his name barely, or just called him "rasulullah" which means "messenger of Allah".

Peace be upon him means aleyhisselam in Arabic. Also, there is a longer version, this p.b.u.h is a short of that longer version. The longer version is sallallahu aleyhi vessellem. It means peace and salat of Allah be upon him. Yes, the salat here is the same salat which is used in English as prayer.

Some people claim that, when nabi Muhammad's name is heard, it is fard (order of Allah) to say sallallahu aleyhi wessellem. Their this claim relies on this ayat:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
(It is for sure that) Allah and his malaks (angels) do salat upon the nabi (the prophet). You, who believes, do salat upon him and greet ("sellimu"; be peaceful against) him with obedience.
Ahzab 56 (33/56)

The misunderstanding comes from the meaning of salat. It has a very wide meaning, and used in a lot of places in Quran, and translated with various different words in English translations. The median of meaning of salat is support, or support the way via education as a term. When we do prayer we support "something" by reading Quran; this is a totally different and big discussion topic.

Since the meaning of this word is so wide, and Muslims felt themselves too lazy to support the prophet with actual affords. They found it easier to claim that this ayat only ordered us to repeat the phrase sallallahu aleyhi wessellem (salat and salam of Allah be upon him) whenever the nabi's name is mentioned. I know it is sad but, this is the real reason why we are repeating it so much.

Only salat-ing by month is nothing but implying "You and Allah go and do all the works for us. Don't request any support from us!`. We are some lazy bums who love this dunya life very much.".

قَالُواْ يَا مُوسَى إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُواْ فِيهَا فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَبُّكَ فَقَاتِلا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ
They said, "O Moses, indeed we will not enter it, ever, as long as they are within it; so go, you and your Lord, and fight. Indeed, we are remaining right here."
Maide 24 (5/24)

  • "Muslims felt themselves too lazy to support the prophet with actual affords." – sevenkul Jul 2 '12 at 14:33
  • Isn't that a matter of fact? Muslims are really lazy. They don't work in the path of Allah. That's way we are being tyrannized by other nations. - Do you think that you do your supporting job when you say "O Muhammad, Allah will support you."? – hkBattousai Jul 2 '12 at 14:34
  • Whether they are or not, but you have accusing language against muslims, especially ulema, whether you are right or wrong at the end. I think we must warn each other but "suizan" is not good. – sevenkul Jul 2 '12 at 14:43
  • What do ulema have to do with my words? I didn't direct my criticization to any group of people. I don't think you are considering my answer objectively. It was a self-criticism, but you took at as offence. – hkBattousai Jul 2 '12 at 14:49

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