Salaam is the greeting of Islam. Just as Islam stands for peace, the greeting of Islam is a greeting of peace and extends the message of peace. Salaam is one of the Islamic practices which are the hallmark of a Muslim and its importance has been greatly emphasized in the Mubaarak Ahaadith.
Hazrat Abdullah bin Salaam (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports:
عن عبد الله بن سلام قال: لما قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة انجفل الناس إليه وقيل: قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فجئت في الناس لأنظر إليه فلما استبنت وجه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عرفت أن وجهه ليس بوجه كذاب وكان أول شيء تكلم به أن قال: يا أيها الناس أفشوا السلام وأطعموا الطعام وصلوا والناس نيام تدخلون الجنة بسلام (سنن الترمذي، الرقم: ٢٤٨٥، وقال: هذا حديث صحيح)
At the time Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) migrated to Madinah Tayyibah, the people of Madinah Tayyibah rushed to receive him. I heard someone call out thrice, “The messenger of Allah has arrived! The messenger of Allah has arrived! The messenger of Allah has arrived!”
I also proceeded with the people to observe for myself (the personality whom people claimed to be a messenger of Allah, though I had not yet embraced Islam till then). No sooner did my sight fall on the countenance of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) than I was convinced that this face cannot be the face of an imposter or liar.
The first words I heard him utter while addressing the people (on that happy occasion) were, “O people! Make salaam a common practice amongst yourselves (at the time of meeting each other), feed the creation, join family ties, stand up in salaah during night while people are asleep, in this way, you will be blessed to enter Paradise with peace.’”
In the Mubaarak Hadith, Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) explained that making salaam is a means of creating mutual love in the Ummah, as well as a means of gaining entry into Jannah.
عن أبي هريرة قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: لا تدخلون الجنة حتى تؤمنوا ولا تؤمنوا حتى تحابوا أولا أدلكم على شيء إذا فعلتموه تحاببتم أفشوا السلام بينكم (صحيح مسلم، الرقم: ٥٤)
Hazrat Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “You will not enter Paradise until you bring Imaan, and you cannot acquire perfect Imaan until you possess mutual love. Shall I not show you a method whereby you will inculcate among yourselves mutual love? Make salaam a common practice amongst yourselves (at the time of meeting each other).”
Greeting a Muslim is one of the six general rights that each person owes his Muslim brother.
When one greets his Muslim brother with salaam, he benefits him in three ways:
1) He makes dua for him that Allah Ta‘ala should keep him in peace, as salaam is a greeting of peace.
2) He reminds him that Allah Ta‘ala is with him and watching him at all times, as ‘Salaam’ is the name of Allah Ta‘ala.
3) He informs him that when he has greeted him with the greeting of peace, he is certainly his well-wisher and he will not harm him in any way (neither verbally, nor physically nor in any other way).