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Can one greet the dead? – Join islam

One of the standard practices among Sunni Muslims is their greeting (Attahiyat) of the prophet during their Salat. Despite such practices being a blatant form of idol worship (shirk) according to the Quran and discussed in previous articles, does it even make any sense to send greetings to one who is dead according to the Quran?

Sunni Attahiyat

For reference, the Sunni Attahiyat is recited in the sitting position (Jalsa) after the second Rak’ah and the final Rak’ah of the prayer. The statement is the following:

Greetings to God and prayers and good deeds. Peace be upon you, O Prophet, as well as God’s mercy and His blessings. Peace be upon us and upon the righteous servants of God. I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.”

ٱلتَّحِيَّاتُ لِلَّٰهِ وَٱلصَّلَوَاتُ وَٱلطَّيِّبَاتُ، ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِيُّ وَرَحْمَةُ ٱللَّٰهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ، ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَىٰ عِبَادِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلصَّالِحِينَ، أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ، وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ.

at-taḥiyyātu li-llāhi, wa-ṣ-ṣalawātu wa-ṭ-ṭayyibātuas-salāmu ʿalayka ʾayyuhā n-nabiyyu wa raḥmatu -llāhi wa barakātuhu. as-salāmu ʿalaynā wa ʿalā ʿibādi -llāhi ṣ-ṣāliḥīna. ʾashhadu ʾan lā ʾilāha ʾillā -llāhu wa ʾashhadu ʾanna muḥammadan ʿabduhu wa rasūluhū.

Arabic Transliteration English Translation
ٱلتَّحِيَّاتُ Al-tahiyyatu Greetings
لِلَّٰهِ lillahi to God
وَٱلصَّلَوَاتُ wa-al-salawatu and prayers
وَٱلطَّيِّبَاتُ wa-al-tayyibat and good deeds.
ٱلسَّلَامُ al-salamu Peace
عَلَيْكَ alayka be upon you (singular)
أَيُّهَا ayyuha O
ٱلنَّبِيُّ al-nabiyyu Prophet
وَرَحْمَةُ wa-rahmatu and the mercy
ٱللَّٰهِ Allah of Allah
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ wa-barakatuhu and His blessings.
ٱلسَّلَامُ al-salamu Peace
عَلَيْنَا alayna be upon us
وَعَلَىٰ wa-ala and upon
عِبَادِ ibadi the servants
ٱللَّٰهِ Allah of Allah
ٱلصَّالِحِينَ al-salihin the righteous.
أَشْهَدُ ash-hadu I bear witness
أَنْ an that
لَا la there is no
إِلَٰهَ ilaha god
إِلَّا illa but
ٱللَّٰهُ Allah Allah,
وَأَشْهَدُ wa-ash-hadu and I bear witness
أَنَّ anna that
مُحَمَّدًا Muhammad Muhammad
عَبْدُهُ abduhu is His servant
وَرَسُولُهُ wa-rasuluhu and His messenger

The use of “Peace be upon you, O Prophet” ( ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِيُّ ) is a direct call upon the prophet of God, who is not only another entity beside God but also dead and incapable of hearing their greeting. The use of the word “you” in the singular form in the word “alayaka” ( عَلَيْكَ ) and “ayahu” ( أَيُّهَا ) for “O” indicates that this is a direct calling upon the prophet as if he is able to hear the call and greeting.

SUNNIS MISUNDERSTAND of 33:56

Sunnis justify this by misunderstanding the following verse.

[33:56] GOD and His angels help and support the prophet. O you who believe, you shall help and support him, and greet him as he should be greeted.

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

Their takeaway from this is that they are supposed to continue greeting the prophet even after his death. What they fail to understand is that when the term “nabi” is used in the Quran to address the prophet, it only applies when he was alive. Even if we look a the preceding verses this becomes very obvious.

[33:28] O prophet, say to your wives, “If you are seeking this life and its vanities, then let me compensate you and allow you to go amicably.

 يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَٰجِكَ إِن كُنتُنَّ تُرِدْنَ ٱلْحَيَوٰةَ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَزِينَتَهَا فَتَعَالَيْنَ أُمَتِّعْكُنَّ وَأُسَرِّحْكُنَّ سَرَاحًا جَمِيلًا

[33:50] O prophet, we made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their due dowry, or what you already have, as granted to you by GOD. Also lawful for you in marriage are the daughters of your father’s brothers, the daughters of your father’s sisters, the daughters of your mother’s brothers, the daughters of your mother’s sisters, who have emigrated with you. Also, if a believing woman gave herself to the prophet—by forfeiting the dowry—the prophet may marry her without a dowry, if he so wishes. However, her forfeiting of the dowry applies only to the prophet, and not to the other believers. We have already decreed their rights in regard to their spouses or what they already have. This is to spare you any embarrassment. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

 يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِنَّآ أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَٰجَكَ ٱلَّـٰتِىٓ ءَاتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ مِمَّآ أَفَآءَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمِّكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمَّـٰتِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَالِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَـٰلَـٰتِكَ ٱلَّـٰتِى هَاجَرْنَ مَعَكَ وَٱمْرَأَةً مُّؤْمِنَةً إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِىِّ إِنْ أَرَادَ ٱلنَّبِىُّ أَن يَسْتَنكِحَهَا خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا فَرَضْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِىٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ لِكَيْلَا يَكُونَ عَلَيْكَ حَرَجٌ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

Obviously, the prophet can not tell his wives something or get married once he dies, so this shows that when he is being addressed as nabi (prophet), it is only applicable for when he was alive. Once he died, that command could no longer be acted upon. Another clear example of this can be observed in the following verse.

[49:2] O you who believe, do not raise your voices above the voice of the prophet, nor shall you shout at him as you shout at each other, lest your works become nullified while you do not perceive.

 يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَكُمْ فَوْقَ صَوْتِ النَّبِيِّ وَلَا تَجْهَرُوا لَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ كَجَهْرِ بَعْضِكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ أَنْ تَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ

GREETINGS ARE FOR THE LIVING NOT THE DEAD

Again, once the prophet died, it was no longer possible for one to raise one’s voice above that of the prophets. Similarly, one could not continue greeting the prophet once he died.

If we look at the Quran, we see that every time a greeting is mentioned, it is used in the context of those who are in the physical presence of one another, either at their homes or in their company or when the believers are admitted into Paradise. Never are greetings utilized for those who are absent (4:86, 10:10, 14:23, 24:61, 25:75, 33:44, 58:8). So unless Sunnis want to claim that the prophet is always present, their tahiyat to the prophet is a direct contradiction to the Quran.

Even the word Tahiyat (greeting) comes from the same root as the word for living. The root is “Ha-Ya-Ya” ( ح ي ي ), which occurs 189 times in the Quran, with over 170 of these occurrences of this root used in reference to life.

[2:28] How can you disbelieve in GOD when you were dead and He gave you life, then He puts you to death, then He brings you back to life, then to Him you ultimately return?

 كَيْفَ تَكْفُرُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَكُنتُمْ أَمْوَٰتًا فَأَحْيَـٰكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

To apply a greeting to one who is dead by those who are living is purely nonsensical. And for those who want to claim that Muhammad is still alive, like in the case of the martyrs (2:154, 3:169), the Quran informs us that, in no uncertain terms, the prophet did die.

[39:30] You (Muhammad) will surely die, just like they will die.

 إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُم مَّيِّتُونَ

Interestingly, the next verse states that people will argue about this fact on the Day of Resurrection.

[39:31] On the Day of Resurrection, before your Lord, you people will feud with one another.
[39:32] Who is more evil than one who attributes lies to GOD, while disbelieving in the truth that has come to him? Is Hell not a just requital for the disbelievers?

ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ عِندَ رَبِّكُمْ تَخْتَصِمُونَ

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن كَذَبَ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ وَكَذَّبَ بِٱلصِّدْقِ إِذْ جَآءَهُۥٓ أَلَيْسَ فِى جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِّلْكَـٰفِرِينَ

WHAT ABOUT PEACE BE UPON…?

Some may argue that since the Quran says “Peace be upon…” various prophets and messengers (37:79, 109, 120, 130, 181), there should be no harm in us saying “peace be upon” any of His messengers as well. However, the difference is that God is a witness over all things, and these messengers who passed from this world are in the presence of God, much like the case of the righteous martyrs. Therefore, when God makes such statements, they are inherently true, but for living humans to make similar comments about dead prophets without directly quoting God’s speech lacks any possibility of such statements ever reaching the prophet. This is because once someone dies, their soul is separated from this world, and they have no clue what is happening in this world.

[5:109] The day will come when GOD will summon the messengers and ask them, “How was the response to you?” They will say, “We have no knowledge. You are the Knower of the unseen.”

 يَوْمَ يَجْمَعُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرُّسُلَ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَآ أُجِبْتُمْ قَالُوا۟ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّـٰمُ ٱلْغُيُوبِ

A Simple Test To Determine Who One Can Greet

Despite all this, if there is still confusion regarding who we are permitted to greet, a simple test is to see if they can respond. The reality is that Muhammad, as well as the other dead prophets and saints, will never be able to do this and, therefore, should not be greeted by those who are alive.

[7:194] The idols you invoke besides GOD are creatures like you. Go ahead and call upon them; let them respond to you, if you are right.

 إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ فَٱدْعُوهُمْ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـٰدِقِينَ

Summary

The Quran commands the believers to greet each other with the correct greetings in accordance with God’s commands.

[4:86] When greeted with a greeting, you shall respond with a better greeting or at least an equal one. GOD reckons all things.

 وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوا۟ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَآ أَوْ رُدُّوهَآ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَسِيبًا

[24:61] The blind is not to be blamed, the crippled is not to be blamed, nor the handicapped is to be blamed, just as you are not to be blamed for eating at your homes, or the homes of your fathers, or the homes of your mothers, or the homes of your brothers, or the homes of your sisters, or the homes of your fathers’ brothers, or the homes of your fathers’ sisters, or the homes of your mothers’ brothers, or the homes of your mothers’ sisters, or the homes that belong to you and you possess their keys, or the homes of your friends. You commit nothing wrong by eating together or as individuals. When you enter any home, you shall greet each other a greeting from GOD that is blessed and good. GOD thus explains the revelations for you, that you may understand.

 لَّيْسَ عَلَى ٱلْأَعْمَىٰ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى ٱلْأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى ٱلْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَن تَأْكُلُوا۟ مِنۢ بُيُوتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ ءَابَآئِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أُمَّهَـٰتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ إِخْوَٰنِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخَوَٰتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَعْمَـٰمِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ عَمَّـٰتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخْوَٰلِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ خَـٰلَـٰتِكُمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكْتُم مَّفَاتِحَهُۥٓ أَوْ صَدِيقِكُمْ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَأْكُلُوا۟ جَمِيعًا أَوْ أَشْتَاتًا فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُم بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِّنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ مُبَـٰرَكَةً طَيِّبَةً كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمُ ٱلْـَٔايَـٰتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Yet, we see that it is the enemies of God who distort God’s authorized greeting.

[58:8] Have you noted those who were enjoined from conspiring secretly, then insist on conspiring? They conspire to commit sin, transgression, and disobedience of the messenger. When they come to you, they greet you with a greeting other than that decreed by GOD. They say inside themselves, “GOD will not punish us for our utterances.” Their only requital is Gehenna, wherein they burn; what a miserable destiny.

 أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلَّذِينَ نُهُوا۟ عَنِ ٱلنَّجْوَىٰ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا نُهُوا۟ عَنْهُ وَيَتَنَـٰجَوْنَ بِٱلْإِثْمِ وَٱلْعُدْوَٰنِ وَمَعْصِيَتِ ٱلرَّسُولِ وَإِذَا جَآءُوكَ حَيَّوْكَ بِمَا لَمْ يُحَيِّكَ بِهِ ٱللَّهُ وَيَقُولُونَ فِىٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَوْلَا يُعَذِّبُنَا ٱللَّهُ بِمَا نَقُولُ حَسْبُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ ٱلْمَصِيرُ

Therefore, it is not a surprise by this same token that the Sunnis make it mandatory to greet the dead during their Salat, and thus not only set up another partner with God but also defy this most basic commandment.

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