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assalamu alaikum or salaam alaikum

What does assalamu alaikum mean?

Assalamu alaikum literally means “peace be upon you.” It is used as a greeting within Muslim communities.

Where does assalamu alaikum come from?

Assalamu alaikum comes from the Arabic word salaam, which means “peace.” Salaam is derived from the same root that the word Islam comes from. The word alaikum is the word ala, which means “on,” combined with a suffix that changes the meaning into “upon you.”

It is also closely related to the Hebrew phrase shalom aleichem. Shalom aleichem also means “peace be upon you.” The words salaam and shalom are both descended from the same Semitic root also meaning “peace.”

The use of the phrase has its roots in the Quran and the Hadith, holy books in Islam. Muslims are instructed to return greetings courteously in Surah an-Nisa: 86 of the Quran. In the Hadith book Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 246, Adam, newly created, greets the angels of Allah with assalamu alaikum.

A few things to note…

Muslims of all ethnicities use this word as a way of marking and affirming their faith. The polite response to the phrase is wa alaikum assalam, which means “and upon you be peace.”

A related phrase is alayhi assalam (masculine) or alayha assalam (feminine). This is literally “upon him or her be peace,” but is more commonly translated “peace be upon him or her.” It’s used when referring to prophets in Islam, and when translated into English, is frequently abbreviated aspbuh. But though they’re composed of the same words, alayhi assalam is not used as a greeting, unlike assalamu alaikum, and it’s reserved for prophets.

The question of whether a non-Muslim should greet someone who is Muslim with the salaam, and whether someone who is Muslim should greet a non-Muslim with it, is controversial.

For example…

“‘Assalamu alaikum, Nibal’ Hajar said politely to the sleek, spotted animal.”

Pamela K.Taylor, “Hajar’s Long Walk,” Many Voice, One Faith Islamic Writers Alliance (January 30, 2017)

“Alhamdulilah, as salaam alaikum, We pray that you -Have a great day — feeling super”

Saabir Abdullah @McShakyBe Twitter (March 22, 2017)

“Assalaam Alaikum. Good Morning. Every new day is a new beginning with new hopes.
May you all have a wonderful day... my beautiful friends.”

Samiya Moosa Facebook (March 21, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of assalamu alaikum like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of assalamu alaikum that will help you expand your word mastery.