Greeting a non muslim first

Greeting a non muslim first
Is it permissible for a Muslim to great a non-Muslim first?.

 

Praise be to Allaah.
 

 

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was
asked about the ruling on greeting non-Muslims. He replied as follows: 

Greeting a non-Muslim first is haraam and is not permitted,
because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Do not initiate the greeting with the Jews and Christians, and if you meet
them in the street push them towards the narrowest part of it.” But if they
greet us we have to respond to them, because of the general meaning of the
verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“When you are greeted
with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least)
return it equally”

[al-Nisa’ 4:86] 

The Jews used to greet the Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allaah be upon him) by saying, “Al-saam ‘alaykum ya Muhammad (Death be
upon you, O Muhammad),” praying that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) would die. So the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Jews say ‘al-saam ‘alaykum
(death be upon you),’ so if they greet you, then say, ‘Wa ‘alaykum (and also
upon you).’” 

If a non-Muslim greets a Muslim by saying “al-saamu
‘alaykum,” then we should respond by saying “wa ‘alaykum (and also upon
you).” The fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said “wa ‘alaykum” indicates that if they were saying “al-salaamu
‘alaykum (peace be upon you),” then peace will also be upon them, i.e.,
whatever they say to us, we say to them. Hence some of the scholars said
that if a Jew, Christian or other non-Muslim clearly says “al-salaamu
‘alaykum,” it is permissible for us to say “ ‘alaykum al-salaam (upon you be
peace).”  

Similarly it is not permissible to initiate a greeting such
as Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome) and the like, because that is a kind of
honouring them. But if they say something like that to us, then we should
say something similar to them, because the greeting should be returned in
like manner and each person should be given his due. It is well known that
the Muslims are higher in status before Allaah, so they should not humiliate
themselves in front of non-Muslims by greeting them first. 

So, in conclusion, it is not permissible for us to greet
non-Muslims first, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) forbade that, and because this is a humiliation for the Muslim
when he starts to honour a non-Muslim. The Muslim is higher in status before
Allaah, so he should not humiliate himself in this manner. But if we are
greeted then we should return the greeting in similar terms. 

Similarly it is not permissible for us to greet them first
with words such as Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome), Marhaban (hello) and so on,
because that is a kind of honouring them, so it is like initiating the
greeting of salaams with them. Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 3/33. 

If there is a need
to greet a kaafir first, there is no sin in that, but it should be something
other than the greeting of salaam, such as saying Ahlan wa sahlan or How are
you, etc. In that case the greeting is for a reason, not to honour him. 

See al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 25/168. 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Zaad
al-Ma’aad (2/424), concerning greeting a kaafir first: 

A group of scholars
said: It is permissible to greet him first if that serves a purpose, or for
fear of his harm, or because of blood ties, or for a reason that requires
that. 

And Allaah knows best.

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