I know PBUH and SAW have different meanings, but I am particularly interested in when Muslims apply each phrase. To whom do we add the suffix SAW? partially addresses my question, and Whence came PBUH? askes primarily about the translation of the PBUH phrase, and Why do Muslims add PBUH? only addresses the generic purpose of the phrase. My question is: are there specific guidelines for when to use which phrase for which prophets, where are those guidelines if there are any, and what is the documented history of these guidelines?

I am interested in if any hadiths (or Quran) mention these phrases specifically, when were the first Muslims to use either of these phrases, and where is it documented? It seems Muslims "randomly" (as in different Muslims choose a different phrase to apply to various prophets) choose a phrase, such as PBUH, SAW, SAWW, SAWS and use one of them and stick with it. One of the aforementioned answers suggests that SAW or SAWW is exclusive to Muhammad and that PBUH should be used for the other prophets. What is the basis for this? I don't see this strictly in practice. It seems once a month (exaggeration) I learn a "new version" of this or a different phrase applied to one of the prophets. Did Muslims do this in the day of Muhammad? What is the first recorded mention of either PBUH or SAW being applied to the prophets?


1 Answer 1


We say صلى الله عليه وسلم after the name of Muhammad. Some people had invented abbreviations (like ص) for ease in writing and so when English literature on Islam was first produced they also adopted abbreviations in english. SAW was derived from the transliteration of the original salutation: Salla Allaahu ‘alayhi Wa Salaam, while the PBUH was derived from its translation: "Allah's Blessings and Peace be upon him". There isn't any difference in their usage, except that PBUH is also usable for other Prophets as explained below.

We say عليه السلام after the other Prophets. It transliterates to "Alayhi al-Salaam" from which the abbreviation AS is derived. It translates to "Peace be upon him" from which the abbreviation PBUH is derived.

The Quran enjoins the first one in 33:56 and the second one is applied to many Prophets, for example 37:79, 37:109, 37:120 , 37:130 , 37:181 , 19:15 , 19:33 etc.

The phrases are also common in hadith. The companions use صلى الله عليه وسلم when referring to the Prophet and the Prophet himself used عليه السلام when referring to the other Prophets. Below is a example where a companion used the first salutation while referring to the Prophet, and the Prophet used the second salutation when referring to David (here):

عن عبد الله بن عمرو، - رضى الله عنهما - قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ إن أحب الصيام إلى الله صيام داود وأحب الصلاة إلى الله صلاة داود عليه السلام

Abdullah b. 'Amr reported that Allah's Messenger said:

"With Allah the best fasting is that of David and the best prayer is that of David peace be upon him ... "

This is what is the convention among Muslim, but there isn't any hard rule that the first one can not be used for other Prophets, there is a hadith where Prophet Muhammad himself used it for Jesus and there are others as well.

والذي نفسي بيده ليوشكن أن ينزل فيكم ابن مريم صلى الله عليه وسلم حكما مقسطا

By Him in Whose hand is my life, the son of Mary (ﷺ) will soon descend among you as a just judge.

This answer is also relevant.

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