Assalamu Alaikoum. If you’ve ever spent any time at all around Muslims, you’ve no doubt heard those words. Although they sound a bit like mumbo jumbo to an American ear, the words actually have a beautiful meaning. “Assalamu alaikoum” is an Arabic phrase that literally means, “peace be with you.”
“Assalamu alaikoum” is a Muslim greeting. Muslims of all nationalities, whether they speak Arabic or not, say “Assalamu alaikoum” when they meet and again when they depart. It is a way of showing respect to a Muslim brother or sister and of wishing them well. The response is, “Wa alaikoum asalam,” meaning, “And peace be with you.”
[h]The Importance of Arabic[/h]
Although most Muslims are not of Middle Eastern origin, most do know some level of Arabic. To a non-Muslim this might seem a bit Arab-centric. It might even seem as though Muslims have a bit of an identity crisis! (I know I have been accused of “trying to become an Arab.”)
Actually, though, the reasons for learning Arabic are much simpler and nobler than trying to become someone else:
- Koran — The Holy Koran is written in Arabic. In an effort to preserve the integrity of the holy book, most Muslims strive to read the Koran in its original Arabic.
- Prayer –Unless you have some understanding of the language, then prayer becomes meaningless words. Muslims pray in Arabic. During prayer, we recite verses of Koran. We also make supplications for the Prophets of Islam. All of this is done in Arabic.
- Unity — There is a powerful sense of unity in having a common language. It is a wonderful feeling to know that, wherever you go, you can communicate with fellow Muslims. At any mosque in the country you can see people of all colors, all nationalities, all races… all sitting together, praying in one voice. It is a true feeling of community.
Not everyone learns Arabic fluently. I haven’t. Some of us learn as we go, learning verses of Koran and Islamic phrases.
There are many common Islamic phrases that Muslims use in conversation. I will cover more of these words and phrases in coming blogs. Until then… Assalamu Alaikoum.