Answering a Muslim with words other than those of Salam

Q 4: Your Eminence, should we return the greeting of those who say other than the Salam (Islamic greeting of peace)? For example, someone may greet others with utterances, such as "hello," "welcome," or "how are you," or just wave their hands, or use eye gestures, and some drivers even use horns as a way of greeting others. (Part No. 24; Page No. 135

A: It is an act of the Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet) for Muslims to greet each other with the prescribed wording of the Salam. It is even more preferable for the Muslim to say: "As-salamu `alaykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh (May Allah's Peace, Mercy, and Blessings be upon you!)" This is indicated by the Hadith related by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhy, and Al-Nasa'y on the authority of `Imran ibn Al-Husayn who said: A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, "As-salamu `alaykum (May Allah's Peace be upon you!)" He returned his greeting and the man sat down. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Ten (i.e. He will have ten rewards)." Another man came and said, "As-salamu `alaykum warahmatullah (May Allah's Peace and Mercy be upon you!)" He returned his greeting and the man sat down. He said, "Twenty." Another man came and said, "As-salamu `alaykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh." He returned his greeting and said when he sat down, "Thirty." The hearer should return the same greeting or even a better greeting, for Allah (Exalted be He) says: When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. It is also permissible for the Muslim to greet a person who is far from him or while seated in his car and wave his hand to let him know that he is greeting him and simultaneously utter the wording of Salam. Likewise, there is no problem if a Muslim says to his fellow Muslim, "May Allah greet you," "hello," or "how are you," or other like words and utterances that are pleasing to his Muslim brother. However, they should be said after uttering the permissible Salam. Restricting the greeting to such utterances and abandoning the Salam or blowing the car horn as a way of greeting is contrary to the Sunnah and has no origin. Thus, it should be abandoned. (Part No. 24; Page No. 136) May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.