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It happens that I am told not to greet disbelievers with Salaam, or peace.

However in the Quran Surah Maryam, Ibrahim clearly said peace to his father who at the time was a disbeliever, a polytheist.

I wonder why is this?

I'd appreciate references to Quran and Sunnah.

  • The Fatwa you posted says you can't initiate salam, but you have to respond with the same/better greeting. Is your question about initiating the salam? The way it is now makes it look both ways. – user12537 Jul 21 '15 at 15:05
  • @AmericanMuslim this is about imitating the salaam – Adam Jul 21 '15 at 16:06
  • See also: "“As-Salāmu `Alaykum” for non-Muslims?". A thing to note is, in your hadith, there is nothing mentioned about polytheists, while Ibrahim's (pbuh) dad was one. – servant-of-Wiser Jul 22 '15 at 3:11
  • FWIW, many words in Arabic are homonym. اب can have another meaning here as here which while Ismael is the uncle of Jacob he referred to using اب and also that it doesn't support the idea that the Prophet was born from all-theist parents. – Honey Jan 27 '17 at 11:11
  • @Honey What is an all-theist? – G. Bach Feb 1 '17 at 12:51
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وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ

And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace will be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.

I do not think the Fatwa (in the link you provided) is helpful. It does not account for the situation nowadays and I think it does not take into account the circumstances in which Muhammad said those words.

Please refer to this discussion in which the circumstances are described. It makes sense. Think about it. Islam is peace and love, not otherwise. If a Muslim does not greet someone, then because he/she has a strong reason to do so. Merely being of another faith is not a strong reason.

Let me summarize:

  • The Hadith must be read and understood in its context. It was in a time of hostilities.
  • The mentioning of Christians could be due to fuzzy translation. The word Ahl-Al-Kitab is actually being used in Arabic; this can mean Jews and Christians, Christians or simply Jews.
  • Some Jews were greeting with Death upon you which sounds similar to Peace upon you in Arabic. It is reasonable to believe that Muhammad simply did not want to stimulate this badness. So simply do not greet that person.

My sincere advice to you:

  • Initiate the greeting to anyone in his/her language according the his/her cultural customs. In Arabic we greet in the usual form in Arabic; in English we do likewise in English, etc.
  • The greeting in Arabic meaning I wish you peace is indeed a noble greeting; not many languages, nations, cultures have this privilege. Use it when you can, but don't exaggerate. Speak the local greeting.
  • Don't stimulate bad behaviour. In this case refrain from greeting, but stay polite, keep your heart away from anger.

Abraham's (Ibrahim in Arabic) father was a polytheist.

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The referred hadith belongs to a particular stage in the ministry of the Messenger i.e. after itmam al hujjah. Tahawi (853-933) writes while explaining a different hadith:

وَكَانَ فِي الْوَقْتِ الَّذِي أَمَرَهُ اللهُ بِالْعَفْوِ عَنْهُمْ ، وَالصَّفْحِ ، وَتَرْكِ مُجَادَلَتِهِمْ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ، ثُمَّ نَسَخَ اللهُ ذَلِكَ وَأَمَرَهُ بِقِتَالِهِمْ فَنُسِخَ مَعَ ذَلِكَ ، السَّلَامُ عَلَيْهِمْ

There was a time when God ordained the prophet to pardon them, and bear with them (e.g. 5:13) and reason with them in a way that is best (16:125). Then God annulled this injunction and ordained him to fight them. Therefore, peace upon them was revoked alongside.

i.e. after itmam al hujjah, the previous injunction was annulled and the fight was carried out as a worldly Divine punishment (9:14). Greeting people with peace who were subject to Divine punishment would have been absurd. Therefore, the prophet forbade people to do so. Hence, it is not a general directive.

The verse you quoted (19:47) guides us towards a general attitude that a da`e should follow.

A relevant link: Greeting Non-Muslims

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