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Is it Rude?

02/20/2013
blessings-of-peace-mordecai-colodner

Many years ago before my Sister-In-Law first came for a visit, when we were still in the preparation stages, I started really paying attention to the visibility of hijabis in our city.  At that time, my overseas family had this preconceived notion that hijabis were very rare in the United States and she would stick out like a celebrity.  (Much like I do when we visit the small town outside of Cairo where Khaled’s family lives.)  So, in the days leading up to her arrival, I would count the number of ladies I saw at the grocery store, driving cars around town, at the mall…and report it back to Khaled so he could share it with Naena.  I wanted to reassure her that SIL would be safe, and welcomed.

Then I adopted this habit of saying “Assalamu Alaikum” to each and every hijabi that met my eyes.  I felt like if I said Salaams (the act of saying Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatu lahi wa Barakatu) to them, they would know that they are not invisible, and I am reaching out to them, making them feel welcome…like I would want someone to do to my SIL.

Kate and Pea have adopted my habit of saying Salaams to random strangers we meet in the store.  We usually catch them off guard and  are often shocked, they don’t respond.  Very rarely do they say Salaams back to us, but sometimes we are met with a smile.

The whole family was out the other day, and Pea (choosing not to practice her hijab that day) said “Assalamu Alaikum” to a lady who had met her eye.  The lady didn’t say anything back to her and we went about our business.  Mr. Fox commented that it was extremely awkward to just go up to random people and say hello to them.  It got me thinking, is this rude to be Salaam-ing random people?  It seems like hijabis do it to each other all the time whether they know each other or not.  But then, there is a clear identifying marker to establish that one is, in fact, Muslim.  I didn’t think it was rude, I don’t find it offensive when people say Salaams to me.  It immediately translates into my head as “Peace Be Upon You.”  How is that rude?

While working at school, I came in contact with many families who may or may not be Muslim.  Only 1 family knew me from the community.  The rest were not Mosque goers.  So I had a struggle at first when I saw the hijabi mothers in school and car line.  Do I Salaam them?  A week went by, and I didn’t.  It felt wrong.  I couldn’t see someone who I knew was Muslim and NOT say Salaams to them.  I felt like I was being rude to them.  Even when I was saying Hello and Good-morning…So, I did.  I gave them Salaams and only 1 person responded.  Only 1 person gave me Salaams back.  Sometimes, when you are looking a person in the face and giving them Peace and Blessings…and they don’t give it back to you, it feels like you are being slighted.  I’m sure I don’t have a right to feel that way, because it’s not like they were going out of their way to be mean.  They did say “Hello” and “Good-morning” with smiles and happy faces.

But somehow it isn’t the same.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 02/20/2013 2:42 PM

    ABSOLUTELY NOT RUDE! It is our duty!:

    It has been narrated from Hazrat Ali that the Holy Prophet said, “Commonly in Islam there are six rights of a Muslim upon a Muslim: when he meets him he should give him salaam; when he invites him (to a meal) he should accept it; when he sneezes he should bless him; when he falls ill he should visit him; when he dies he should accompany his funeral and he should prefer for him that which he prefers for himself.”

    It has been narrated by Abu Umamah that the Holy Prophet said, “Whoever commences Salaam is very close to Allah and His Messenger Muhammad ()” Ibn Sunni has narrated this.

    In Imaam Ahmad’s narration there is, “The closest to Allah, the most glorious and eminent one, from amongst all the people is the one who commences salaam.”

    What is RUDE, however, and against Islam, is for the women not to reply with Salaam back!:

    It has been narrated from Abdur Rahmaan ibn Shayba; he says the Holy Prophet said, “whoever then responds to salaam, it is for his benefit, and he who does not respond to salaam, is not from amongst us.”

    May you, and your children (i’m assuming that’s who you mean by “Pea” ;) ) be blessed with mountains of hassanat for going out of your way – out of your language as well – to pray for peace upon those women!

    More information here: http://www.inter-islam.org/RightsDuties/slm.htm#Duty

  2. 02/20/2013 4:55 PM

    Hmm- I’m with you. There’s an awkwardness in American culture when it comes to greeting strangers. And yet, it can be really wonderful. In the Jewish community, there’s a tendency to do what gets called “bagel-ing”- identifying yourself as a Jew to someone who is more visibly Jewish than you, often greeting them and saying something rather out of the way in order to identify yourself. There’s a desire to make contact with people who are like you, to make them (and yourself) feel connected and wanted. I think that it’s a lovely desire, even if carrying it out can end up feeling awkward. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to say, but what you had to say, even with different cultural and religious particulars, feels so very familiar to me.

  3. 02/20/2013 8:08 PM

    WOW. I was not paying attention to that one. Most of the community responds to me when I say Salamu Alikum. The fact is we are ordered by Prophet Mohamad (PBUH) to say Assalamu Alikum to each other. Not responding I think is due to the fear of being exposed more than once ( the way we dress and the language.) After all the negative publicity (not getting into it) The Muslim communities just wanted to fold into itself and go into hiding! On the other hand I remeber when I worked in Vegas, I would walk into a place with all Latino speeking group and you could hear a pindrop, the conversation would immediately continue with my departure.

  4. 02/24/2013 4:59 PM

    Great article, and I feel you on it. Great info, laying out the protocol of giving Salaam from an Islamic perspective and with evidence. I know from my experience, as a woman who has been visibly Muslim for 30 years, how I have felt when I would give Salaam to ladies I did not know, both domestically and overseas. Usually, they do not respond to my salaam, sometimes the even scowl, sometimes they smile, sometimes they answer back. I found it puzzling, especially back in the days when I was “poster child for the American convert woman” and trying to really live and apply Islam in my life and gain every spare ounce of hasanat out there. Even my children noticed as the grew, that it was just painfully awkward to give salaams to random strangers who were visibly Muslim. They just dont answer back. On the other side, sometimes as I have been outside attending errands or shopping, a random stranger has given me salaam, and it would shock me out of my thoughts so much! And then I would answer back with the biggest smile I could possible muster, and feel delighted for a good while after…………

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