Adaab in a Time of Allah Hafiz

Children motioning Adaab

Indian children welcome onlookers with "adaab," the traditional and universal South Asian greeting. Photo: Firoze Shakir

Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi, India, with a special interest in media for children. Her films include Two Lives, The House on Gulmohar Avenue and Stories of Girlhood. Her published work for children includes Hina in the Old City, The Magic Key series, and The Goat That Got Away.

Some months ago, I was chastised by a woman for saying “adaab,” instead of “assalamaleikum,” the latter being the “the proper Islamic greeting” in her opinion. I grew up as a Muslim and learned to say “adaab” when I met someone and “khuda hafiz” when we parted ways. Originating from a North Indian Islamicate high culture, “adaab” as a form of greeting was imbued with a certain class hierarchy. It was a familiar greeting even in many elite non-Muslim households in North India. Among many other Muslim populations, the Arabic greeting “assalamaleikum,” meaning “may peace be upon you,” was also used. But there was no formal dictum about the usage while I was growing up and there could be overlaps.

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