The Salaf, the Salafîs & Salafism

(Taken from an article I’m in the process of writing for another site)

Linguistically, the term salafî (pronounced să-lă-fî) is derived from the Arabic word salaf and is an ascription to it. The word salaf means predecessor(s) and refers to the first three generations of Islam: Prophet Muhammad’s companions, their students (the Tâbi’îs[1]) and the students of their students. These three generations are commonly referred to as as-salaf as-sâlih (the righteous predecessors), the Salaf, in short. In his book, al-Qutbiyyah, Shaikh Abū Ibrâhîm bin Sultân al-‘Adnânî writes, “The salaf are the [Prophet’s] companions, the Tâbi’îs, and the followers of the Tâbi’îs. These [three generations], they are our predecessors, and whoever traverses upon their path, he is a salafî.”[2]

As for Salafism, then it is the methodology of following Islam according its two legislative sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, according to the understanding of the Salaf, and has its basis in the divine legislative texts. Allah, mighy and sublime is He, says, «The first forefathers from the Muhâjirs,[3] the Ansâr[4] and those who followed them in excellence, Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. He has prepared for them gardens under which rivers flow; in which they will be immortal forever. That is the tremendous achievement» (9:100). ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ūd, may Allah be pleased with him, the noble companion of Allah’s messenger, reported from him that he, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said, «The best of the people is my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them. Then a peoples will come, the witness of one of them will precede his oath and his oath will precede his witness.»[5] In another narration Abū Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, another of Prophet Muhammad’s noble companions, reported, “Allah’s messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said, «The best of my nation is the generation which I was sent in, then those who follow them, then those who follow them,» and Allah is more knowledgeable of [whether] he mentioned the third [generation] or not, «then a peoples will succeed who love [the meat of] the calf of the leg and they bear witness before they are asked to bear witness.»”[6]

The Salafî call is characterised by a general call to what has been dubbed, the methodology of “purification and cultivation”.[7] The main aspects of this call are:

1.       Returning to the magnificent Qur’an and the authentic prophetic Sunnah and understanding them according to the path which the righteous predecessors were upon; acting by the statement of our Lord, sublime is His nature, «Whoever opposes the Messenger after the guidance has been made clear to him, and follows other than the believers’ path, We will turn him to what he turned to and We will roast him in Hell—[which is] wretched as a end!» (4:115) and His statement, glorified is He, «Thus, if they believed with the likes of what you believed in, then they have been guided» (2:137).

2.       Purifying what is connected to the lives of the Muslims of polytheism according to its differing appearances; warning from reprehensible heresies and false foreign ideologies; and cleansing the Sunnah from the weak and fabricated narrations which have deformed Islam’s clarity and prevented the Muslims’ progression; fulfilling the trust of knowledge as the noble Messenger said, «From every descendant [generation], its upright ones will carry this knowledge, removing the extremists’ distortions, the liars’ plagiarism and the ignorant ones’ interpretations from it» and in application of the command of Allah, mighty and sublime is He, «Cooperate upon righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate upon sin and enmity» (5:2).

3.       Cultivating the Muslims upon their true religion and calling them to acting by its rulings and adorning [themselves] with its virtues and its etiquettes, which will guarantee Allah’s pleasure for them and will actualise happiness and splendour for them; actualising the Qur’an’s description for the group excluded from [being of] the losers, « … they urge [one another] to adopt the truth and they urge [one another] to adopt patience» (103:3) and [actualising] His command, glorified is He, «But be divine [people][8] because of what you taught of the Book and because of what you studied» (3:79).

4.       Reviving the correct Islamic ideology in light of the Book and the Sunnah, and upon the path of the predecessors of the [Muslim] nation, and elimination of the denominational stagnation and the partisan bigotry that has dominated the minds of many of the Muslims and distanced them from the immaculate Islamic brotherhood; fulfilling the command of Allah, sublime and high is He, «Grasp onto Allah’s rope collectively and do not divide [into sects],» (3:103) and his statement, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, «And be Allah’s servants, as brothers.»

5.       Presenting (realistic) Islamic solutions for the current contemporary problems.

6.       Endeavouring towards the renewal of a sensible Islamic life according to the road of prophethood, the formation a divine society, and the application of Allah’s rule on the earth; starting from the methodology of purification and cultivation built upon His statement, exalted is He, «He teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, purifying them,» (2:129) placing before our eyes the statement of our Lord, exalted is He, to His Prophet «So whether We show you some of that which We promised them or We cause you to die, to Us they are returned,» (40:77), and actualising the legislative principle, “whoever rushes something before its time is punished with its deprivation.”[9]

These are the aspects of the Salafî call as professed by Salafî organisations such as the Imâm Albânî Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Jordan, the Qur’an & Sunnah Society and Dar al-Kitab wal-Hikmah in North America, the Call To Islam Centre in the UK, and many other organisations and individuals (scholars, speakers, community leaders, and commoners alike) worldwide.

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Endnotes:
[1] Ar. tâbi’î (pl. tâbi’ūn) – follower, successor; adherent. It refers to the generation following the Prophet’s companions, those who studied directly under them.

[2] al-‘Adnânî, Abî Ibrâhîm bin Sultân. al-Qutbiyyah Hiya al-Fitnah, Fa’rifūhâ. 2nd printing, 1416H. pg. 8.

[3] Ar. muhâjr (pl. muhâjirūn) – emigrant, immigrant, migrant. It is the title given to the Makkans who emigrated with Prophet Muhammad to the city of Madînah.

[4] Ar. ansâr (pl.) – helpers, protectors, sponsors. It is the title given to the Madînan followers of Prophet Muhammad who sponsored him and the Muhâjirs when they emigrated to Madînah.

[5] Reported in Sahîh al-Bukhârî (no. 2652), and Sahîh Muslim (no. 2533).

[6] Reported in Sahîh Muslim (no. 2534), and others.

[7] Ar. at-tasfiyah wat-tarbiyah – purification and cultivation. It is a term made famous by the hadîth scholar of our era, the late Shaikh Muhammad Nâsir ad-Dîn al-Albânî, may Allah shower him with His mercy.

[8] Ar. rabbânî (pl. rabbâniyyūn) – divine, heavenly, of God, pertaining to God; “one acquainted with Allah” (see Mukhtâr as-Sihâh); “meaning scholars, sages, patient ones, teachers for the people and their cultivators.” (See Taisîr al-Karîm ar-Rahmân by ‘Abdur-Rahmân bin Nâsir as-Sa’dî).

[9] Markaz ad-Dirâsât al-Manhajiyyah as-Salafiyyah (Centre of Salafî Methodological Studies), Our Call, Jordan.

About Rasheed Gonzales
My name is Rasheed Gonzales. I’m a Muslim convert of Filipino descent. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was guided to Islam through one of my younger brothers and a couple of friends, all of whom had converted to Islam sometime before me (may Allah reward them greatly). I am married with four children (and the praise is Allah’s) and also a volunteer for the Qur'an & Sunnah Society of Canada, based in Toronto.

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