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What is the difference between responding with "Alaikum Salaam/علیکم السلام" and responding with "Walaikum Salaam/وعلیکم السلام"? Is it wrong to say "Alaikum Salaam" in reply to "Assalamu Alaikum"?

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Well you can answer:

Alaikum as-salam عليكم السلام or wa alaikum as-salam وعليكم السلام

Both are perfectly fine and good answers!

Also available are the singular forms:

and also to repeat with the same word

  • 'alaika as-salam السلام عليك ... etc. all this five expressions can be referenced from the sunna, even if i only referenced one!

But what you should never do is greet or begin greeting by saying 'alaika ('alaikum) as-salam see here. Note that this has it's origin in Arabic costumes of the time as they used to greet or send a greeting to a dead person this way, as the poet said:

عليك سلام الله قيس بن عاصم * ورحمته ما شاء أن يترحما
فما كان قيس هلكه هلك واحد * ولكنه بنيان قوم تهدما

while the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in his sunna also used the wording with "as-Salaamu alaikum السلام عليكم أهل دار قوم مؤمنين" when visiting the gravyard. So according to a quote of al-Khattabi in tuhfat al ahodi (a commentary on sunan at-Tirmidhi) on this hadith. Muslims don't make a difference between greeting dead and living people.

The only difference between the two possibilities you mentioned is the letter/character "Waw" or "wa", "و" this additional character gives a direct answer to the greeting, as when you say

  • as-salamu 'alaikum = peace be upon you

you express a kind of wish, therefore saying

  • wa 'alaikum as-salam = peace be upon you too or literally translated and peace be upon you

  • ('alaikum as-salam = peace be upon you)

As an answer makes a small but meaningful difference! As you somehow "include" the greeting of the other person in your answer!

And Allah knows best!

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In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful

Briefly speaking, typically, the first person who intends to say hello (as a greeting), he or she says:

  • Assalamu Alaikum/Alaik

But the second one who want to reply to his or her Salam, tells:

  • Alaikum/Alaika Salam (which demonstrates being the second part who is saying back his/her hello

Otherwise seemingly you can use both of these two forms in replying, although "Alaikumo Salam looks to be more accurate/formal in compare with the other form (in reply).

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