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Ruling on initiating the greeting of salaam with Jews and Christians, and how to push them to the narrowest part of the road

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According to a hadeeth narrated by Imaam Muslim in his Saheeh from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not initiate the greeting of salaam with the Jews and Christians, and if you meet one of them on the road then let him go to the narrowest part of it.” (Muslim, al-Salaam, 2167). Doesn’t doing this put people off entering Islam?

Praise be to Allaah.  

You should note that the best of those who call people to Allaah is the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and that the best of those who guide people to Allaah is the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). If we know that, then we should be skeptical about any interpretation of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that does not make sense or does not seem to be wise. We should realize that our understanding of the Prophet’s words may be wrong. That does not mean that we should judge the ahaadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) on the basis of our personal reasoning, because our reasoning and understanding may be lacking. But there are general guidelines in sharee’ah to which we may refer with regard to individual matters. 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not initiate the greeting of salaam with the Jews and Christians, and if you meet one of them on the road then let him go to the narrowest part of it.” What this means is: do not give way to them if you meet them, so that the way is open for them and you cause restriction to yourself. Rather, continue on your way and leave the narrow gap – if there is a narrow gap – for them. It is known that the teaching of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he saw a kaafir, was not to go and crowd him out of the way so that he would end up against the wall. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not do this to the Jews of Madeenah and his Companions did not do that after their conquests of other regions.

 What it means is that just as you do not initiate the greeting of salaam, you should not make room for them. If they meet a group of you, do not split up to let them pass, rather continue on your way and leave them the narrow space if there is a narrow part of the road. This hadeeth is not meant to put people off Islam, rather it is a manifestation of the Muslim’s pride and a sign that he does not humiliate himself for anyone except his Lord.

Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Rasaa’il al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthyameen, part 3, p. 38
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