Doesn’t the hadeeth “Do not initiate the greeting with a Jew or Christian” put people off Islam?

In a hadeeth narrated by Imam Muslim in his Saheeh from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), it says that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not initiate the greeting with a Jew or a Christian, and if you meet one of them on the road, push him to the narrowest part of it.” But doesn’t doing that put people off entering Islam?.

Praise be to Allaah.Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

We should note that the most correct of those who call people to Allaah was the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the best of those who guide people to Allaah was the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Once this is understood, if we understand the words of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in a manner that does not make sense, then we should question our understanding and realize that the way in which we have understood the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is mistaken. But this does not mean that we should measure the ahaadeeth of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) on the basis of our understanding, because our minds are imperfect. However, there are basic principles in sharee’ah to which we may refer concerning individual matters.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) says: “Do not initiate the greeting with a Jew or a Christian, and if you meet one of them on the road, push him to the narrowest part of it.” What this means is, do not give them lots of space when you meet them, so that they have plenty of room and you are constricted; rather continue in the direction in which you were headed, and if there is to be any constriction, make it for them. It is well known that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he saw the kuffaar (such as the Jews who lived in Madeenah), did not push them so that they ended up against the wall, and neither did his Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) after they conquered other regions.

So what is meant is that just as you should not initiate the greeting with them, you should not make way for them if you meet them; rather you should keep going in the direction in which you were headed, and let them be constricted if the road is not wide enough. There is nothing in this hadeeth to put people off Islam, rather it is a manifestation of the pride of the Muslim, and shows that he does not humble himself before anyone except his Lord.

From Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him), 3/38.

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