How to greet non-Muslims
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
Imam Haskafi (RA) has said “A believer may greet a non-Muslim (with the greeting of salaam) if there is a need for him otherwise it is prohibitively disliked…Therefore one should abstain from saying salaam to the disbelievers. If a Jew, Christian or fire-worshipper greets you, then there is nothing wrong in replying to them, but one should not say more than ‘Wa alaykum’ ”.
Allahmah Ibn Abideen Shami (RA) writes that when one greets non-Muslims one should say: Assalumu ala man ittaba al-huda (may peace be upon the guided ones). (Raddul Muhtar)
Saaiduna Anas Ibn Malik Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said: “If the people of the book (Ahl Kitaab) greet you, say in reply: “Wa alaykum”. (Sahih Bukhari p.925 v.2)
From the aforementioned discussion we can deduce that it is impermissible to greet non-Muslims with the Islamic greeting of Assalumu Alaykum. Furthermore, at times of need, such as the hope of accepting Islam, it would be permissible to greet non-Muslims with the Islamic greeting and if a non-Muslim greets a Muslim with the Islamic greeting, one should respond by saying Alaykum or Assalamu ala man ittabaa al-huda.
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham