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Who should I intend when giving the closing salams of the prayer?

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

We end the salah by saying al-salaamu `alaykum to the right and then to the left. My question is: who exactly are we saying salam to? I learned in the SunniPath Introductory Arabic course that the kum in al-salamu `alaykum indicates the plural form. Does that mean that this form of the salam is specific to the group prayer?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

n the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

The Law: What to Intend When Saying the Closing Salams

The salams are legislated in order to conclude the prayer, and one is not required to specifically intend anyone when saying them. In other words, if one doesn’t intend anyone at all, one’s prayer has been validly completed.

It is, however, recommended to intend all the angels, and all the Muslim jinn and Muslim humans who are on one’s right side when giving first salam, and to intend all the angels, and all the Muslim jinn and Muslim humans who are on one’s left side when giving the second salam. [1]

Shaykh Muhammad b. `Abdullah al-Turmusi–a late Indonesian Shafi`i scholar–elaborated,

The salam is not exclusive to those who are actually present: it encompasses everyone on one’s right side [h: when giving salams to the right, and everyone on one’s left side when giving salams to the left], even if far, all the way to the furthest point of the world. [2]

It is recommended for a worshiper to make this intention whether he/she is praying individually or in a group. [3]

The Spirit: Being with Allah

Your eagerness to understand the point of the closing salams is commendable because it reflects a desire to pray with with focus and concentration, which is the whole point of the prayer.

One of the great masters of Islamic spirituality, Ibn `Ajiba, raised a similar question: giving salams is only legislated when meeting someone after being absent from them. One does not, for example, give salams to someone who has been in the room with one for the past hour. Why, then, does one close one’s prayer by giving salams to those around one, regardless of whether they are present or absent, and regardless of whether they were already in the room when one began one’s prayer?

He answered this question as follows,

It is as though one was absent [h: during one’s prayer] in the divine presence. Thus, when one comes out of the prayer, it is as though one has returned after being absent [h: from everything in the universe], and one therefore gives salams to people. [4]

May Allah Most High infuse our prayers with His love and reverence. Ameen. And Allah Most High knows best.


[1] Zakariyya al-Ansari, Sharh al-manhaj, Chapter: Prayer, Section: The Description of the Prayer

[2] Muhammad Mahfuz b. `Abdullah al-Turmusi, Mawhiba dhil fadl `ala sharh Ibn Hajar Muqaddima Ba Fadl, Chapter: Prayer, Section: The Sunnas of the Salam

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ahmad Ibn `Ajiba, Tafsir al-fatiha al-kabir, Section: Commentary of Iyyaka Na`budu Wa Iyyaka Nasta`in, Subsection: The Secrets of the Prayer, its Proper Manners, and its Hidden Defects

This answer was indexed from Qibla.com, which used to have a repository of Islamic Q&A answered by various scholars. The website is no longer in existence. It has now been transformed into a learning portal with paid Islamic course offering under the brand of Kiflayn.

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