‘Peace be upon him’ in Judaism and Islam

Both Jews and Muslims use the expression “Peace be upon him” when mentioning the names of deceased individuals, but with whom did the tradition originate?

Islam teaches that when mentioning the name of Muhammad SAW it is proper to say ‎”May God’s prayers and peace be upon him” (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and when mentioning any other prophets it is proper to say “Peace be upon him” (alayhis salam). Surprisingly Jews also say “Peace be upon him” (alav hashalom) when mentioning names of the deceased.

The earliest sources of this expression are found in Jewish homiletics (midrashim) centuries before Islam, when Jewish scribes would leave the acronym A”H after the names of certain prophets. In midrashic writing acronyms were rarely explained and it was expected the reader would know what they stood for. The traditional understanding has always been that A”H was an abbreviation of alav hashalom, peace be upon him.

Today Jews use this expression when referring to people they knew, but in every Jewish text that pre-date Islam “peace be upon him” was exclusively used with certain prophets – perhaps hinting to a Jewish tradition forgotten by Banu Yisrael, but preserved by the Ummah.

Honorific for the dead in Judaism and Islam

Expression Hebrew Jewish Subject Arabic Muslim Subject
Of blessed memory Zikrono l’vracha
Z”l
Laymen
May God have Mercy upon him Rahimahullah
R
Scholars
May the memory of the righteous be a blessing zekher tzadik livrakha
ZT”L
Scholars
May God be pleased with him Radi Allahu ‘anhu
RA
Companions of Muhammad
Peace be upon him Alav hashalom
A”H
Laymen Alayhi s’salaam
AS
Any prophet other than Muhammad SAW
May God pray on him and grant him peace sall Allahu ʿalay-hi wa-salaam
SAW
Muhammad SAW
May God avenge his blood Hashem yikom damo
HY”D
Martyrs

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One thought on “‘Peace be upon him’ in Judaism and Islam

  1. perhaps the phrase began with distinguished people, and then spread to everyone because people wanted to accord special honor to their loved ones.
    i think the same process happening with Zecher l’bracha

‘Peace be upon him’ in Judaism and Islam