The Meaning of Salam

The Meaning of Salam, with Sheikh Hassan Dyck


As-salam alaykum (السلام عليكم) is an Arabic greeting often used by Muslims around the world.

It nearly translates to “peace be upon you”, but is often considered the equivalent to “hello”,

“hi” or “good day” in English. The standard response to the greeting is Wa alaykumu s-salam.


Assalamu Alaykum is generally accompanied with another gesture. In some parts people

put a hand on their heart as they shake hands and greet. In less formal situations, some will

use the shorter greeting of ‘Salam’ instead of the full phrase.




…. there is a verse in the Holy Coran that the only word which will be spoken in the paradise

is that word “peace”


Sheikh Hassan, born in Germany, found his way to Islam while studying Indian music.

It was later in India that his spiritual search began, which lead him to Sufism and to his

Master Sheikh Nazim in 1975, who he now represents in Germany.



Let me here introduce to you some muslim woman in history. Women played an important

role in the pre-modern Muslim world as scholars, poets, mystics, rulers, and warriors.



Razia Sultan (d. 1240)


She was the ruler of the Sultanate of Delhi between 1236 and 1240. Her father, Shams al-Dīn

Iltutmish (r. 1210-1236) had Razia designated as his heir before his death, therefore making

her the official ruler of the sultanate. She was a fairly effective ruler and was a major patron

of learning, establishing schools and libraries across northern India. In all matters, she

behaved like a sultan, leading armies, sitting upon the throne and even adopting the same

royal dress as her father; to the outrage of many, she also insisted on appearing unveiled

in public. In 1240, she was overthrown in a rebellion by the nobles of the kingdom,

who—among other things—were strongly opposed to being led by a woman and killed.

There is too much to be said about her life than I can do justice to here, but if you want to

know more, I suggest you read Rafiq Zakaria’s Razia: Queen of India (1966).



Shajar al-Durr (d. 1257)


She was the widow of the Ayyubid sultan al-Sālih Ayyūb (r. 1240-1249) and played an

important role in Egyptian politics following her husband’s death. She was most likely of

Turkic origin, beginning her life as a slave-girl in the Ayyubid court. By 1250, she had

become the ruler (or sultana) of Egypt; her reign is generally considered to mark the

beginning of the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt. She played an important role in the

preparations in defending northern Egypt against the Seventh Crusade, defeating the

crusaders (although she herself was not present) at the Battle of Fariskur (1250) and

taking King Louis IX of France captive. She was the effective head-of-state and her name

was mentioned in thekhutba and coins minted in her name with the title “Malikat

al-Muslimīn” (Queen of the Muslims). However, it was difficult for people to accept being

ruled solely by a woman and in August 1250, as a result of various pressures, she married

her commander-in-chief ‘Izz al-Dīn Aybak, who became the first Mamluk sultan.

Despite the marriage, Shajar al-Durr maintained her power and was even able to ensure

that documents of state bore the names of both sovereigns, rather than only that of Aybak.

However, in 1257 she decided to eliminate her husband (for political reasons in addition

to discovering that he was engaged in an affair with another woman or sought to marry

an additional wife [the sources are obscure on this issue]) and assassinated him in bath.

When this was discovered, she was deposed and brutally killed, bringing her reign to

a tragic close.



Zaynab b. Ahmad (d. 1339)


She was perhaps one of the most eminent Islamic scholars of the fourteenth century.

Zaynab belonged to the Ḥanbalī school of jurisprudence and resided in Damascus. She

had acquired a number of ijazas (diplomas or certifications) in various fields, most

notably hadith. In the early fourteenth century, she taught such books as Sahīh Bukhāri,

Sahīh Muslim, the Muwatta’ of Mālik b. Anas, the Shamā’il of al-Tirmidhī, and

al-Tahāwī’s Sharḥ Ma‘ānī al-Athār. Among her students was the North African

traveler Ibn Battūta (d. 1369), Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (d. 1355), al-Dhahabī (d. 1348),

and her name appears in several dozen of the isnads of Ibn Ḥajar al-Asqalānī

(d. 1448). It is important to point out that Zaynab was only one of hundreds of female

scholars of hadith during the medieval period in the Muslim world. For more on the

role of Muslim women in hadith scholarship, read Asma Sayeed’s Women and the

Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam (2013) and Mohammad Akram

Nadwi’s Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars of Islam (2007)



Sayyida al-Hurra (d. 1542)


With a name literally meaning “the Free Woman,” Sayyida al-Hurra was one of the most

interesting Muslim figures of the sixteenth century. She was originally from the Nasrid

Kingdom of Granada, but was forced to flee following its conquest by Christian Spain in

1492. Like many Andalusi Muslims, she settled in Morocco and, along with her husband,

fortified and ruled the town of Tetouan on the northern coast. Following the death of her

husband in 1515, she became the sole ruler of the city, which grew in strength and

population as more Andalusi Muslims were exiled or driven out of Iberia in the early

sixteenth century. For various reasons, including the desire to avenge the destruction of

al-Andalus and the forcible conversion to Christianity of Muslims there, she turned to

piracy and transformed Tetouan into a major base of naval operations against Spain

and Portugal. She allied with the famous Ottoman corsair-turned-admiral Hayreddin

Barbarossa in Algiers and together they dealt a serious blow to Spanish imperial power

in North Africa and the Western Mediterranean.


It is interesting to note that Muslim sources are quite silent about Sayyida al-Hurra, and

most of our information about her is derived from Spanish and Portuguese documents,

who emphasize her effectiveness as a pirate queen and the destructiveness of the raids

that she wrought against the southern shores of the Iberian peninsula. She later

married the Moroccan Wattasid Sultan, Abūl Abbās Muhammad (r. 1526-1545).

While the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read are well-known female pirates to many

audiences, it is a shame that Sayyida al-Hurra is much less known. For a good look

at her life, see Fatima Mernissi’s The Forgotten Queens of Islam (1997), where the

author discusses al-Sayyida al-Hurra as well as other important female figures in

the medieval Muslim world. For those who know Spanish, see Rodolfo Grim

Grimau’s “Sayyida al-Hurra, Mujer Marroqui de Origen Andalusi,”

Anaquel de Estudios Arabes (2000): 311-320.



Parī Khān Khānum (d. 1578)


A Safavid princess and daughter of Shah Tahmasp I (r. 1524-1576) by a Circassian

mother, she was one of the most influential Iranian women in the sixteenth century.

She was renowned as an educated woman and was well-versed in traditional Islamic

sciences, such as jurisprudence. She was also known to be an excellent poet. Parī

Khān Khānum  played an important role in securing the succession of her brother

Ismā‘īl II to the Safavid throne. However, during Ismā‘īl’s short reign, her influence

waned. During the reign of Ismā‘īl’s successor, Mohammad Khodabanda, she was

killed because she was seen to wield too much influence and power. For more, see

Shohreh Gholsorkhi’s “Pari Khan Khanum: A Masterful Safavid Princess,”

Iranian Studies 28 (1995): 143-156.



Kösem Sultan (d. 1651)


Many English-speaking audiences are quite familiar with Roxelana or Hurrem Sultan,

the queen-consort of Suleyman I (r. 1520-1566). However, Kösem Sultan seems to be

much less known. As the consort (then wife) of Ottoman sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603-1617),

the mother of the sultans Murad IV (r. 1623-1640) and Ibrahim (r. 1640-1648), and

the grandmother of the sultan Mehmed IV (r. 1648-1687), she wielded immense

influence and can be considered to be perhaps the most powerful woman in Ottoman

history. Originally a Greek with the name Anastasia, she was enslaved at a young age

and brought to the Ottoman palace, where she became the concubine of the sultan

Ahmed I.


According to a contemporary source, Cristoforo Valier, in 1616, Kösem was the most

powerful of the sultan’s associates: “she can do what she wishes with the Sultan and

possesses his heart absolutely, nor is anything ever denied to her.” Between 1623 and

1632, she served as regent for her son Murad IV, who took the throne as a minor.

Until her assassination in 1651, as a result of court intrigue, she exercised a major

influence on Ottoman politics. For more on Kösem Sultan and the institution of the

Ottoman imperial harem, see Leslie Peirce’s

The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (1993).