What does (swt) stand for?
July 18, 2008 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Recently, I left a job. One of the responses I got to my "goodbye" email was a beautiful and touching message I received from one long-time colleague, an American-born Muslim. In his email, he said "May Allah (swt) bless you and your family. I will keep you guys in my prayers." In this context, what does the (swt) stand for? And, what would be a culturally-appropriate response?

I was thinking something along the lines of "Assalam Aleikum, my friend.", but didn't know if that was really appropriate coming from a non-Muslim (raised Catholic, now more of an agnostic). This person is someone I've mentored for many years now, and his email really moved me. I really want to make sure I get this right.
posted by deadmessenger to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Subhanahu wa ta'ala
posted by Doofus Magoo at 1:50 PM on July 18, 2008

SWT stands for "Subhanahu Wa-Ta'ala," meaning "Glorious and exalted is he."
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:51 PM on July 18, 2008

Best answer: you don't have to reply "in muslim" to him--a simple "thanks for your friendship and kind thoughts" would be totally appropriate.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I suspect Assalam Aleikum would be a perfect response, especially as the sentiment expressed isn't sectarian. Certainly the nearly-identical Hebrew version, Shalom Aleichem, has never struck me as religious (I'm Jewish), and I wouldn't have the problem using it that I might with other faith-based greeting/parting phrases.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:56 PM on July 18, 2008

As someone who is nominally Muslim, I don't mind non-Muslims using these expressions when I know that they're heartfelt and well-meant. But they're certainly not necessary, and to be honest I'd rather hear someone express their best wishes to me in the way they'd express than to anyone else. There's no need to be overly sensitive - you don't speak Arabic, so why would you use it for someone who was born in America just because they're Muslim?

Again, it won't matter much either way. It's beautiful that you want to return this nice sentiment, but for me, the best way of doing this is in the language that your own personal soul speaks.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:11 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

"May Allah (swt) bless you and your family. I will keep you guys in my prayers."

That's basically an expression to show close familiarity. I can understand why you would want to reply back with something meaningful.

Assalam Alaikum would not be the best reply though. It's really a greeting. You're just parroting something you heard. You would get points for trying. The translation works well, so if you like it, just write back in English.

And there's also inherent suspicion of non-Muslims greeting Muslims with "Assalam alaikum". He doesn't sound the type since he's an American Muslim though.

He's basically trying to say, "God be with you" or "God bless" but doing it in his own way.

I think the best way to compare is if someone wrote you, "May Jesus our Lord and Savior bless you and your family". I know I personally would not use similar terms to reply.
posted by abdulf at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2008

>It's meant as a veneration of God

Meant, I think, as a marker to show that the use of His name is not casual, but respectful. It follows the commandment in Qur'an 2:224 -

"Do not subject God's name to your casual swearing, that you may appear righteous, pious, or to attain credibility among the people."
posted by yclipse at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2008

Response by poster: Many good responses here and lots to think about - thanks to all of you who responded. I'm going to go with thinkingwoman's suggestion - there really isn't any reason to "speak muslim" here.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:17 AM on July 19, 2008

Can I tag on here? I am greeted regularly with Salam Alaykum by Arabic speakers who know that I am not muslim, and have been replying with Alaykum Salam, but the link above suggests that for muslims replying to non-muslims you can say wa'alaykum (basically, right back at you), and was wondering if that might also be most appropriate for a non-muslim replying to muslims?
posted by Iteki at 11:12 AM on July 19, 2008

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