To say that the COVID-19 period wasn’t challenging for me would be to blatantly lie. After having a clear purpose and drive of my life – I found myself waking up some days thinking what was I doing with my life. Not being able to go out or interact beyond my family (for which I was immensely grateful), I felt like a prisoner in my own home. As I spoke to others, they all shared a common sense of emptiness and deep isolation.
The Most Important Gift
This helped me reflect on a profound realization that amidst all this noise we were exposed to – really the most important gift we can give ourselves and wish for others is inner peace.
Prior to this pandemic, many of us were so glued to our social media, spurring comparisons of ourselves with others, globally depressing news and generally the busy-ness of life – many of us forgot the true value of peace and contentment spurring out of true gratitude for the gifts that we were all granted including the simple act of breath (Indeed the meditation that is all the rage now focuses solely on breathing).
Then Came COVID19
COVID-19 was an opportunity for a reset and allowed many of us (who otherwise live in our social bubble) to shut down the noisy outside world and really appreciate the value of peace. COVID-19 was the final trigger that made me understand that’s the most powerful gift and wish we can have for others – peace and contentment.
For myself personally, it took several decades of inner reflection and external cues to make me realize that peace (or as I broadly like to define it – contentment) or in these days – the trendy buzz terms of wellness and mindfulness – is one of the rarest and most hard to acquire blessings we can receive. So why wouldn’t we wish this upon others? Why wouldn’t we want to wish this upon others every time we meet them?
So Why Wouldn’t We Wish This Upon Others?
As a Muslim growing up in an overwhelmingly Muslim country for the first part of my life, I grew up with a simple phrase we used to greet others as a daily and habitual practice. It was insisted on by my parents, although I never reflected on it deeply nor realized its significance. The word was Salam Alaikum – Peace be upon you.
To imagine that this is what dozens of Prophets thousands of years back encouraged their followers to proclaim as the first greeting to others including to their own families and relatives – now makes complete sense.
In Arabic, Salam has a range of meanings but the root S-L-M literally translates as =whole‘ or =safe‘.
A Shared Value
In Hebrew, the word has a similar and powerful connotation – Shalom is a noun that denotes not only peace but also completeness, welfare, and well-being (Webster New World Hebrew Dictionary). Indeed, our Jewish brethren wish the same upon others when they greet them with Shalom Aleichem.
Further, in the Gospels, Jesus often uses the greeting “Peace be unto you” (e.g., Matt 10:12), a translation of shalom aleichem.
Indeed, even Hindu’s and other religions use the word ‘shanti’ as part of their meditation rituals, which roughly corresponds to inner peace, a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress.
It is no wonder then that Salam is such a powerful word. Why then would I ever resort to such pointless greetings as Hi or Hello or even just a short temporal Goodmorning when we can wish upon others the best they can have – peace wellness wholeness and contentment.
I also thought it was something I restricted to ‘my kind’ of people – Muslims as others wouldn’t get ‘it’. But now, I don’t see why I wouldn’t wish it on everyone.
I, for one, have a lot more conviction to use Salam alaikum, even when I used to feel reserved before. It is the best I can pray for and wish for others – they may not appreciate it at the time – but I pray they do appreciate the value of it in future, as I have.
It’s taken almost 40 years to realize this but I guess that’s the beginning of wisdom.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, the best people to Allah are those who are first to greet with peace.”
Dr. Sayd Farook is a Strategy and Foresight Advisor at the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Dr. Sayd is also an early-stage investor in more than a dozen mission-oriented startups through Falcon Network, an angel investment network he co-founded. He is a guest author on Halalop.