Definitions

be upon

Peace be upon him (Islam)

For the Jewish honorific, see Honorifics for the dead in Judaism: Peace be upon him.

Peace be upon him is a phrase that Muslims often say after saying (or hearing) the name of a prophet of Islam. There are two variants of this phrase in Arabic:

  • (Arabic: عليه السلام ) "Peace be upon him": This expression follows after naming any prophet (other than Prophet Muhammed), or one of the noble Angels (i.e. Jibreel, Mikaeel, etc.)
  • (Arabic: صلى الله عليه وسلم ) "May Allah bless him and grant him peace." : This expression follows specifically after saying the name of the last Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammed. Note that Muslims do not use this expression for any other prophet.

In Arabic these salutations are called salawat. 'Peace be upon him' is abbreviated to SAW (in accordance with the Arabic words sallallahou alayhi wasallam) or PBUH (according to English).

The phrase is also encoded as a ligature at Unicode codepoint U+FDFA SALLALLAHOU ALAYHI WASALLAM.

Qur'anic evidence for asking the blessings on Muhammad

In the translation of the meanings of the Qur'an in Surah 33 entitled Al-Ahzab (The Confederates), ayah (verse) 56:

"Allah sends His Salah on the Prophet (Muhammad), and also His angels (do so). Oh you who believe! Send your Salah on (i.e. ask Allah to bless) him (Muhammad) and greet him with the Islamic way of greeting (i.e. as-Salaam Alaykum, which means peace be upon you)" (33:56)

The Islamic scholar, ibn Kathir, entitled the section in his tafsir (i.e., explanation of the Qur'an) regarding this verse, "The Command to say Salah upon the Prophet (Muhammad)."

This point is further founded in the saying by Muhammad that, "The misser is the one in whose presence I am mentioned, then he does not send the Salah upon me." This was recorded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad.

Hadith evidence for asking the blessing on Muhammad

The evidence for sending Salah on Muhammad is not limited to the Qur'an. It is also found in hadith about Muhammad. Examples include:

At-Tirmidhi recorded that Abu Hurayrah said:

"The Messenger of Allah said, May he be humiliated, the man in whose presence I am mentioned and he does not send Salah upon me; may he be humiliated, the man who sees the month of Ramadan come and go, and he is not forgiven; may he be humiliated, the man whose parents live to old age and they do not cause him to be granted admittance to Paradise."

At-Tirmidhi said that this hadith was, "Hasan gharib" (Good but only reported once).

Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan at-Tirmidhi, and Sunan an-Nasa'i, recorded that Abu Hurayrah said,

"The Messenger of Allah said: Whoever sends one salah upon me, Allah will send ten upon him."

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal reported in his Musnad that the companion of Muhammad, Abu Talhah al-Ansari said:

"One morning the Messenger of Allah was in a cheerful mood and looked happy. They said, 'Oh Messenger of Allah, this morning you are in a cheerful mood and look happy.' He said, Of course, just now someone [an angel] came to me from my Lord [Allah] and said, 'Whoever among your Ummah sends Salah upon you, Allah will record for him ten good deeds and will erase for him ten evil deeds, and will raise his status by ten degrees, and will return his greeting with something similar to it.'"

The isnad (chain of narrators) of this hadith is good.

It was reported by Razin ibn Mu'awiyah in his book Jami al-Usool that Muhammad said:

A supplication remains suspended between heaven and earth and does not ascend any further until a person sends Salah on me. Do not treat me like a spare water container, send Salah upon me at the beginning of your supplication, at the end, and in the middle.

Commentary regarding abbreviating the Salah on Muhammad

Many of the Islamic scholars have instructed Muslims not to abbreviate sending the Salah on Muhammad. Shaykh Abd al-Azeez ibn Baaz said regarding the issue:

"As it is prescribed to send blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in prayer when saying the tashahhud, and it is prescribed when giving khutbahs, saying Du’a and praying for forgiveness, and after the Adhan, and when entering and exiting the mosque, and when mentioning him in other circumstances, so it is more important to do so when writing his name in a book, letter, article and so on. So it is prescribed to write the blessing in full so as to fulfil the command that Allah has given to Muslims, and so that the reader will remember to say the blessing when he reads it. So one should not write the blessing on the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in short form such as writing (S) or (SAWS) etc, or other forms that some writers use, because that is going against the command of Allah in His Book, where He says (interpretation of the meaning):

"Send your Salaah on (ask Allah to bless) him (Muhammad), and (you should) greet (salute) him with the Islamic way of greeting (salutation, i.e. As‑Salaamu ‘Alaykum)" [al-Ahzab (33:56) ]

And that (writing it in abbreviated form) does not serve that purpose and is devoid of the virtue of writing 'salla Allaahu ‘alayhi wa salaam (May Allah send blessings and peace upon him)' in full. Moreover the reader may not take notice of it and may not understand what is meant by it. It should also be noted that the symbol used for it is regarded as disapproved by the scholars, who warned against it."

Terms used for those other than Muhammad

Al-Bayhaqi reports that Abu Hurayrah said that Muhammad said:
Send the Salat on Allah's messengers and prophets for Allah sent them as He sent me.
The scholar of hadith, Muhammad Nassir ad-Deen al-Albani, said this hadith is hasan (good) in his book Saheeh al-Jama'at'. (See hadith number 3782).

When mentioning sahaba (the companions of Muhammad), radhi Allahu anhu (for males) and radhi Allahu anha (for females) are used by Sunnis; they mean may Allah be pleased with him or her respectively. The phrase is sometimes also used after mentioning other names including that of Jesus and Moses, but the term عليه سلام aleyhi salaam, "On him be peace" is more common. See for example letter from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, to G. W. Bush: "Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, Feel obliged to respect human rights ..."

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