Arabic Class

is Learning Arabic by teaching it

Hello (السلام عليكم, as-salaamu 3alay-kum)

with 2 comments

Learning the basics of greeting people is a rewarding exercise in any language, and even more so in Arabic, because meeting and greeting takes such a central part in the culture.

A number of Arabic greetings have a fixed reply, for example “peace be upon you” must always be answered with “and upon you be peace”.

Saying hello:

السلام عليكم (as-salaamu 3alaykum), literally meaning “peace be upon you”.

وعليكم السلام (wa-3alaykum as-salaam), literally meaning “and upon you be peace”.

Welcoming people:

أهلا وسهلا (ahlan wa-sahlan, means “welcome”)

أهلا بك (ahlan bik, is the reply to a man)

أهلا بك (ahlan biki, is the reply to a woman)

Open questions to me:

  • Many Arabic greetings have origins in القرآن (al-quraan), although I must admit I do not know exactly where. It would be nice to have a bit more background on that.
  • I vaguely remember that اهلا وسهلا (ahlan wa-sahlan, welcome) is an abbreviation of something, but forgot the details.

Written by klaasvanschelven

January 6, 2008 at 9:37 am

2 Responses

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  1. Arabic can be pretty tricky. Almost always you will find a huge explanation behind expressions. So here’s the story behind السلام عليكم (as-salaamu 3alaykum) and
    اهلا وسهلا (ahlan wa-sahlan, welcome)
    The phrase السلام عليكم is mentioned quite a few times in the quran. It is used by angels as a greeting to those who enter paradise in chapter 7 verse 46. It is also used by the prophet Abraham (with out عليكم) when he greeted the visiting angels in chapter 11 verse 69. But the “command” to use السلام عليكم is found in the quran in chapter 6 verse 54.
    (وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآَيَاتِنَا فَقُلْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ) “And if those who believe in our proofs come to you, say: May peace be upon you”
    Before islam the arabs used to greet each other with (عم صباحا) -im sabahan- which means good morning or (عم مساء) -im masaan- which means good evening. When islam came it changed a lot of expressions that were common among the arabs.

    With regards to أهلا و سهلا the original meaning of أهل is “family” or “people”. When the word is used as a verb it basically means to “relate” (blood relation) to someone, or it could even mean to “marry”. This expression was originally said to someone who was passing by and would want to stop and rest. The person inviting would say أهلا و سهل meaning “You have found “ease” (سهلا) and comfort with these (أهلا) people”. This explanation can be found in the book “Uncommon Quranic Vocabulary” by Ragib AL Asfahani. The book hasn’t been translated but its pretty useful with etymology.
    I hope this was what you were looking for. If you have any other questions feel free to ask at


    January 11, 2008 at 10:30 pm

  2. I remember أهلا و سهلا is the abbreviation of
    حللت اهلا و نزلت سهلا


    June 16, 2008 at 9:42 am

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