Salam was there when the father of mankind, Prophet Adam, was created. It continued throughout the long history of humankind and its numerous prophets. It played such a prominent role during the groundbreaking community and civilization building ventures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), remaining afterwards as a means of instilling love and fostering understanding and solidarity between Muslims until the Day of Judgment.
In addition, when departing from this world into the Hereafter, those in a pious state who kept their duty to Allah, when their souls are taken by the angels, will also be greeted by the words:
salam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you) “enter you Paradise, because of (the good) which you used to do (in the world)” (16:32).
Likewise, when they are led to Jannah in groups:
…till, when they reach it, and its gates will be opened (before their arrival for their reception) and its keepers will say: salam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you)! You have done well, so enter here to abide therein” (39:73).
Inside Jannah, too, their mutual greeting will be salam ‘alaykum:
Their greeting therein will be: salam (peace!) (14:23).
Because Jannah is a place of exchanging salams “They shall not hear therein any laghw — dirty, false, evil vain talk — but only salutations of peace, or salam” (Maryam 19:62), and because it is the ultimate, absolute and perfect abode of peace, which every pure human soul incessantly longs and strives for, it is called Dar al-Salam (the Home of Peace) (6:127).
In passing, some of the meanings of salam are likewise being safe, secure, in a good state, unblemished and free from imperfections. Certainly, those attributes befit Jannah more than anything else.
It is truly fascinating to note that the journey of human existence is primordially set — and meant to unfold — between two salams, signifying the beginning and the end: the salam of Prophet Adam to the angels, and the salams of Almighty Allah and His angels to the inhabitants of Jannah, Dar al-Salam (the Home of Peace).
If a person is admitted into Jannah, that means that he stayed true to himself, and true to the ontological and purely spiritual implications of the concept of salam, and thus fulfilled his life purpose.
However, if a person is eventually cast into Hell (Jahannam), that means that he was untrue to himself, and untrue to the meanings and effects of salam, and thus failed to fulfill his life purpose. His belated and so, hollow realization of this truth, and the truth that he will be forever banished from Jannah as Dar al-Salam (the Home of Peace), and that he will be denied eternally the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah As-Salam (Peace as well as the Source and Embodiment of Peace), will denote one of the most agonizing sufferings associated with Hell (the Burning and Fierce Fire) and its inhabitants.
Instead of the peace of Jannah, the latter’s eternal destiny will be the torment of Hell. He will be deprived of peace in the Hereafter because he failed to actualize and live peace in this world.
As far as the prophetic mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the spiritual lives of such as follow it are specifically concerned, they are also sandwiched between two salams: the salam (peace) of the Night of Power (Laylatu-l-Qadr), when the whole most revolutionary process in human history was inaugurated, and the salams connected with the Hereafter and Jannah.
That being said, it is both painful and disturbing to see today’s Muslims — especially youth — increasingly abandoning the profoundly reach and meaningful concept of salam as a greeting in favor of some peculiar, bogus, meaningless and sometimes outright nonsensical alternatives, some of which are home-grown while others are of foreign origin.
In worst-case scenarios, a person may walk in a college or university campus for hours, hearing all sorts of greeting, except salam, which is frowned upon and looked upon as an anomaly. Yet, as a perceived sign of Muslim cultural incompetence and backwardness, salam may sometimes be the object of public ridicule and mockery.
Undoubtedly, the main reasons for this decadent phenomenon are ignorance and negligence, which shows how challenging the prospect of reviving Islamic culture and civilization, in fact, is, and that, when all is said and done, the best strategy might just be going back to basics.
Finally, the definitive aim of every Muslim should be to live in total submission to the Will of his Creator and Master (islam), and in peace (salam) with his Creator, other people, the environment and his self, the latter being as much corporeal as psychological and spiritual. His being muslim should embrace and exemplify the spirit and all the constituents of both domains.
The pinnacle of the amalgamation process between submission (islam) and peace (salam) is a state which the Holy Qur’an depicts as the state of a reassured soul in complete peace, rest and satisfaction (al-nafs al-mutma’innah) (89:27).
Such a state is solely spiritual in nature, and is in its own way indicative of a person’s success while in this world. Its repository is the soul, or the heart, and its effects do not necessarily spill over into the physical world.
In such a perfect state, a person is called back to his Lord:
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Come back to your Lord, well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter you, then, among My honored slaves; and enter you My Paradise (Jannah) (89:28-30).