السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
English Transliteration: As-Salāmu `Alaykum wa Raħmatullāhi wa Barakātuhu
English Translation: May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon you all
IPA Spelling: ʔæsːæˈlæːmʊ ʕæˈlæɪkʊm wæ’raħmætʊlˤːahɪ wæ’bærakæːtʊhʊ
What great words to initiate my first posting with. May the Peace of God be with you all!
This greeting, the ‘Salam’ is used throughout the world by the approximate 1.7 billion Muslims to greet each other daily, it is the greeting which is truly the most universal of greetings used by mankind. Whether you be as far west as Morocco or as far east as Japan or Brazil, one can hear the Salam being used not just by Muslims but even by non-Muslims. As such its definitely an interesting phrase to look at from a linguistic perspective.
In Classical Arabic, the spelling of the greeting in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) would be: /ʔæsːæ’læːmʊ ʕæ’læɪkʊm wæ’raħmætʊlˤːaːhɪ wæ’bærakæːtʊhʊ/ however, other than in ‘religious’ gatherings and talks, one might usually hear the greeting adjusted to the pronunciation of localised Arabic dialects or with accents from other languages. The difference in pronunciation is never so great as to be unintelligible so the greeting is always understood.
Some example of the different ways in one might hear the Salam being said around the world –
- Morocco: ss’lēmu ‘leikum IPA /sːəleːmʊ ʕleikum/
- India: asalāmu aleikum IPA /asalaːmʊ ʔaleɪkʊm/
- Japan: assarāmu areikum IPA /asːʌɾaːmʊ ʔaɾeɪkʊm/
- Lebanon: selēm ‘aleikum IPA /sɛleːm ʕalɛɪkʊm/
- Turkey: selâmun aleyküm IPA /selaːmʊn ʔeleɪkym/
NOTE: Not all of the letters from the IPA will be displayed properly on all computers as the font may not be supported. Also some symbols may incorrectly displayed, I have found that some letters are displayed wrongly as other letters on some computers.
It is rather common amongst Arabic speakers to omit the ‘As-‘ at the beginning of the greeting, this can be seen in the Moroccan and Lebanese examples given. The Turkish form bears similarity to the alternative from of the Salam ‘Salāmun `Alaykum’ as mentioned in the Qur’ān –
And angels shall enter unto them from every gate (saying) Salāmun `Alaykum (peace be upon you) for you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!’— (Ar-Ra’ad 13:23-24)
Along with the different ways to pronounce the Salam, there are also variations that one might encounter according to the rules of Arabic grammar. The reason for this is that the term `Alaykum is used for the plural which in Arabic means 3 or more people, however it may also be used in the singular and indeed mostly is. The following forms are used to identify the gender and number of recipients of the Salam in Arabic –
(note that the final letter which is in the brackets may be omitted in speech)
- As-Salāmu `Alayk(a) — Peace be upon you (m. sing.)
- As-Salāmu `Alayk(i) — Peace be upon you (f. sing)
- As-Salāmu `Alaykumā —Peace be upon you (to two people of any gender)
- As-Salāmu `Alaykunn(a) — Peace be upon you (f. plural – to three or more females)
- As-Salāmu `Alaykum — Peace be upon you (plural or may be used for singular especially as a polite form)
Inshā’ Allāh (God willing) I will later add some information on the ettiquettes of giving Salam, however for now this should suffice as a good brief introduction to the greeting. Don’t forget to greet each other now with an improved pronunciation ‘As-Salāmu `Alaykum!’