Why use the name Salafee? Is it a call towards a party or a group or a madh-hab (school of thought)? Or is it a new sect in Islaam?


Question: Why use the name Salafee? Is it a call towards a party or a group or a madh-hab (school of thought)? Or is it a new sect in Islaam?

Answer: Indeed, the word Salaf is well known in the Arabic language as well as in the religious terminology. But what concerns us here, is its discussion from the religious standpoint. Thus, it has authentically been reported on the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that during the sickness from which he died from, he said to Faatimah, radyAllaahu ‘anhaa: “…So fear Allaah and have patience. And I am the best Salaf (predecessor) for you.” (Saheeh Muslim: no. 2450)

Furthermore, the scholars have used this word “Salaf” many times, such that it would be too abundant to number and take into account. Sufficient for us, is one example, and it was that which they have used in their battle against innovations:

“And every good lies in following he who has preceded (man salaf)
while every evil lies in the innovating of he who came after (man khalaf).”

However, there are from those who claim to have knowledge, some people who reject this ascription, claiming that there is no basis for it! And so they say: “It is not permissible for a Muslim to say: ‘I am Salafee.’” So it is as if he is saying that it is not permissible for a Muslim to say: “I am following the Salaf As-Saalih (the Pious Predecessors) in what they were upon from beliefs, worship and methodology”! There is no doubt that such a rejection – if that is what he intended – necessitates that one free himself from the correct Islaam, which the righteous predecessors were upon, at the head of whom was the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This is as is indicated in the mutawaatir hadeeth found in the two Saheehs and other than them, that he صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

“The best of mankind is my generation, then those that come after them, then those that come after them.” So it is not permissible for a Muslim to absolve himself from this ascription to the righteous predecessors, whereas, if he were to absolve himself from any other ascription, the scholars would not be able to ascribe him with disbelief or sinfulness.

As for the one who rejects this name from himself, will you not see him ascribing himself to one of the madh-habs?! Regardless of whether this madh-hab is related to ‘Aqeedah (Creed) or Fiqh (Jurisprudence)? So he is either Ash’aree or Matureedee. Or perhaps he is from the people of Hadeeth or Hanafee, or Shaafi’ee or Maalikee or Hanbalee or whatever else enters into the title of “Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah.” But in spite of this, the one who ascribes himself to the Ash’aree madh-hab or to one of the four madh-habs is in fact ascribing himself to individuals that are not infallible, without a doubt, even if there were scholars among them who were correct (in their verdicts). I wish I knew – why doesn’t he reject the likes of these ascriptions to individuals who are not free from error?

But as for the one who ascribes himself to the Salaf As-Saalih (righteous predecessors), then he indeed ascribes himself to infallibility ( ‘ismah), in the general sense. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has mentioned that one of the signs of the Saved Sect is that they will cling tightly onto what the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم was upon and what his Companions were upon. So whosoever holds tightly onto them, then he is certainly upon the guidance from his Lord.

And furthermore, it is an ascription that brings honor to the one that ascribes himself to it, and one that facilitates for him the way of the Saved Sect. And these matters do not apply to anyone that ascribes himself to any other ascription, since they are not free from one of two things. Either it is an ascription to a specific individual that is not infallible or it is an ascription to a group of people who follow the methodology of this individual who is not infallible. So there is no infallibility (in their ascriptions) either way. On the opposite of this, there is the infallibility of the Companions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (as a whole). And it is that which we have been commanded to hold tightly onto, from his Sunnah and the Sunnah of his Companions after him.

And we must persist and strongly emphasize that our understanding of Allaah’s Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم must be in accordance with the methodology of his صلى الله عليه وسلم Companions. This is so that we can be upon infallibility, as opposed to inclining away towards the right or the left, or deviating with an understanding that comes solely from ourselves, of which there is not found in the Book of Allaah or the Sunnah of His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم that which provides evidence for it.

Furthermore, why is it not sufficient for us to ascribe ourselves to (just) the Qur’aan and the Sunnah? The reason goes back to two matters, the first of which is related to the religious texts , and the second of which is due to the existence of numerous Islaamic groups.

With regard to the first reason, then we find in the religious texts, a command to obey something else in connection with the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, as is found in Allaah’s saying:

“O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those in authority amongst you.”

So if there were someone in authority, who was given the oath of allegiance by the Muslims, it would be obligatory to obey him just as it would be obligatory to obey the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. So even if he or those around him commit errors, it would be obligatory to obey him in order to repel the harm of differences of opinions. But this is with the well-known condition:

“There is no obedience to a creation (if it involves) disobeying the Creator.” (See Silsilat-ul-Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah: no. 179)

And Allaah, may He be Exalted, says:
“And whosoever opposes the Messenger after the guidance has been clearly explained to him, and follows a way other than the Way of the Believers, We will turn him to what he has chosen and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 115]

Indeed, Allaah, Mighty and Sublime, is free and far removed from all imperfections and defects. And there is no doubt or uncertainty that His mentioning of “the Way of the Believers” here, is only due to an immense and comprehensive wisdom and benefit. So it indicates that there is an important obligation – and it is that our following of the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم must be in accordance with what the first Muslims were upon. And they are the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم then those who came after them, then those who came after them. And this is what the da’wat-us-salafiyyah (The Salafee Call) invites and calls to. And it is that which is its main priority in the foundation of its call and the methodology of its educating process.

Indeed, the Salafee Call truly unites the ummah, while any other call only causes division to the ummah. Allaah, Mighty and Sublime, says:

“O you who believe, fear Allaah, and be with the truthful.”

[Surah At-Tawbah: 119]

So anyone that distinguishes between the Book and the Sunnah on one side and the Salaf As-Saalih (Righteous Predecessors) on the other side, then he can never be truthful.

As for with regard to the second reason, then the groups and parties of today do not direct at all towards the following of “the Way of the Believers ”, which has been mentioned in the ayah. And there are some ahaadeeth, which further confirm and support that ayah, such as the hadeeth of the seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the Hellfire except one. The Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم described them as:

“The one which is upon the same thing that I and my companions are upon today.”
(See Silsilat-ul-Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah no. 203 & 1492)

This hadeeth resembles that ayah which mentions the “Way of the Believers”. Also, there is the hadeeth of Al-‘Irbaad Ibn Saariyah, radyAllaahu ‘anhu, in which he, sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:

“So stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Khaleefahs after me.”
(See Irwaa-ul-Ghaleel no. 2455)

So therefore, there are two Sunnahs: The Sunnah of the Messenger, sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the Sunnah of the righteous Khaleefahs.

So there is no doubt that we – who come in a later time – must return back to the Qur’aan, the Sunnah and “the Way of the Believers.” And it is not permissible for us to say: “We can understand the Qur’aan and the Sunnah by themselves, without turning towards what the righteous predecessors were upon.” And there must be an ascription in this time that distinguishes and is detailed. So it is not sufficient for us to say, “I am a Muslim” only! Or “My madh-hab is Islaam”! For every sect says that! – the Raafidee, the Ibaadee, the Qadyianee, as well as other sectarians!! So what is it that distinguishes you from them?

And if you were to say, “I am a Muslim who is upon the Qur’aan and the Sunnah”, this would also not be sufficient. This is because, the members of these sects – of the Ash’arees and the Matureedees and the Hizbees – they all claim to follow these two sources also. So there is no doubt that the clear, plain, distinctive and decisive classification is to say, “I am a Muslim who is upon the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and upon the methodology of the Salaf As-Saalih (Pious Predecessors). And that can be said in short by saying, “I am a Salafee.” So based on this, indeed the truth which is unavoidable, is that it is not enough to rely on the Qur’aan and the Sunnah without the methodology of the Salaf, for it explains these two with regard to understanding and concept, knowledge and action, and da’wah
(calling) and Jihaad.

And we know that they (the Sahaabah), may Allaah be pleased with them, did not used to fanatically cling onto one specific madh-hab or to one specific individual. So there was not found amongst them he who was Bakree (a follower of Abu Bakr), or ‘ Umaree (a follower of ‘Umar), or ‘Uthmaanee (a follower of ‘Uthmaan) or ‘Alawee (a follower of ‘Alee). Rather, if it were more easy for one of them to ask Abu Bakr or ‘Umar or Abu Hurairah, he would ask any of them. This is because they believed that it was not permissible to have total and unrestricted devotion in following, except to one individual.
Indeed, he was the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم the one who did not speak from his own desire, rather it was only revelation revealed to him.

And if we were to submit to these criticizers, for the sake of argument, that we would name ourselves “Muslims” only, without ascribing ourselves to the Salaf – in spite of it being an honorable and correct ascription. Would they abandon classifying themselves with the names of their parties or their madh-habs or their ways – based on the fact that they are not prescribed in the Religion nor are they correct?

“So this contrast between us is enough for you
And every container becomes wet due to what is in it.”

And Allaah is the Guide to the Right Path. And He, free is He from all defects, is the One in whom we seek assistance.

[Al-Asaalah, Issue #9]

4 comments on “Why use the name Salafee? Is it a call towards a party or a group or a madh-hab (school of thought)? Or is it a new sect in Islaam?

  1. I’m a bit confused about this article. Did Fatima (RA), after the incident as quoted in (Saheeh Muslim: no. 2450) started calling herself a Salafee? The point is, should we label ourselves in this manner? If so then why not call ourselves “Muhammadis” and even a further step back, “Allah walay”? So in my view this has nothing to do with following (or not following) the Salaf As-Saleheen as that’s what every follower of Islam intends to do. This is more to do with labelling yourself because for anyone and everyone who correctly follows the Salaf As-Saleheen the only title is “Muslim” as that’s what the Salaf also called themselves. So whilst agreeing with your intention of following the way of the Salaf I beg to disagree with the labelling part as these prominent titles and labels have only created divisions and further divisions amongst the Ummah and so they must be avoided.

    Similarly this concept of a “saved sect” would only be relevant to Islam if sects were at all allowed in Islam, but they are not. The Prophet (SAW) didn’t endorse sect making in the hadith or this would be against Quranic orders that clearly forbid sects. So being like the Messenger of Allah and his Companions or clinging to their way is again called “being a Muslim” as according to “their way” they called themselves only Muslims.

    As for following the “Quran and Sunnah” part, I agree with your understanding and I think a better thing to say would be “following Quran, Sunnah of Muhammad (SAW) and Ijma (consensus) of Sahaba. Still, anyone who does this would only be a Muslim and not a Sunni or a Salafee etc.

    So just because some followers of Islam are following it incorrectly under the same banner doesn’t give us the excuse to come up with our own label just so we can differentiate ourselves from them. For instance the Shi’ites originated during the time of Sahaba but neither Sahaba nor Taba’een ever came up with any label to differentiate themselves the Shi’ites.

    Lastly, if there were no Bakarees, Umarees, Uthmanees and Alawees amongst Sahaba then there also weren’t any amongst the Taba’een or the Taba-Taba’een.

    To sum it up every Muslim follows the way of Salaf but that doesn’t make him a Salafee as an appropriate title is already chosen for him by Allah, “Muslim”.

    I would be happy to discuss this further should you decide to publish my disagreement on the blog.

    • Assalamu alaykum,

      It has been many months you posted this comment and I have only just realised, why would we not publish your comments?
      You say you are a bit confused but you are not a bit confused, you comments tell me that you are very very confused.

      I will answer your questions insha Allaah.

      Q. …after the incident as quoted in (Saheeh Muslim: no. 2450) started calling herself a Salafee?
      A. No, there was no need. There was no deviant sects at that time so there was no need to differentiate.

      Q. The point is, should we label ourselves in this manner?
      A. There is no problems in calling yourself salafee and Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullah said: “There is no blame on the one who proclaims the way of the Salaf” and there are hundreds of quotes from the salaf and past scholars just simply search this site.

      Q. If so then why not call ourselves “Muhammadis” and even a further step back, “Allah walay”?
      A. Because the salaf never called themselves these names, you claim to follow the way of the salaf so name one person from the salaf who called themselves this?!

      You said:
      “So in my view this has nothing to do with following (or not following) the Salaf As-Saleheen as that’s what every follower of Islam intends to do”

      your view doesn’t matter to us or anyone who ascribes to the madhab of Ahlul-Hadeeth unless your a bonafide scholar.

      You also said:
      “the only title is “Muslim” as that’s what the Salaf also called themselves”

      The salaf also called themselves and their companions with other names such as Ahlus-Sunnah, Ahul-Hadeeth, Ashabul-Hadeeth, Ahlul-Athar and others so you are mistaken please

      Then you said:
      “titles and labels have only created divisions and further divisions amongst the Ummah and so they must be avoided.”

      Yes titles and labels that were not used by the 3 best generations (The Sahaabah, companions of the sahaabah and the companions od the tabi’een) have caused many divisions, the titles that were not used by the great Imaams of Sunnah such as Ahmad bin Hanbal, Sufyaan ath-Thawri, Ibnul Mubaarak have caused many divisions and The Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) told us this would happen.
      These titles and names are Deobandi, Barelvi, Hanafi, Maliki, Qadri, Naqshbandi and there is too many to mention and you will never find the 3 best generation have used these names but most people dont see a problem with that but they see a problem with us when we use words that the salaf have already used.
      We feel safe following the salaf and calling ourself Ahlul-Hadeeth as that is what they called themself.
      Please check the 2 E-books below and the articles I have posted.

      http://ahlulhadeeth.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/ahlul-hadeeth-an-attributive-name.pdf
      https://ahlalhadeeth.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/ahlehadeethandolonwhatbyprof-dr-muhammadasadullahal-ghalib.pdf

      https://ahlalhadeeth.wordpress.com/about-us/who-are-ahl-al-hadeeth/
      https://ahlalhadeeth.wordpress.com/about-us/manhaj-of-ahl-al-hadeeth/
      https://ahlalhadeeth.wordpress.com/about-us/definition-of-ahl-al-hadeeth/
      https://ahlalhadeeth.wordpress.com/about-us/virtues-of-the-ahl-al-hadeeth/

      Then you said:
      ” I think a better thing to say would be “following Quran, Sunnah of Muhammad (SAW) and Ijma (consensus) of Sahaba”

      There is a word you can use to shorten this sentence and the word is “Salafee” Meaning you follow the Salaf.
      Every time you meet a person and they ask you what you are upon then are you going to say “I follow Qur’an & Sunnah upon the methodology of the salaf” ? It’s no problem but if we want to shorten it and say Salafee then what is your problem with that?
      Just like Ahlus sunnah wal Jama’ah shortened we call ourselves Sunni.
      Alhamdulillah I am Sunni and Salafi and Muslim.

      Then you said:
      So just because some followers of Islam are following it incorrectly under the same banner doesn’t give us the excuse to come up with our own label.

      Please read the links above and you will see these are not labels we came up with, we didn’t gather around one day and say “hey I’m really bored of being called muslim lets call ourselves Ahlul-Hadeeth NO but we are only repeating words that the salaf used unlike the deviant sects who come up with names of various tareeqa’s.

      Lastly you said:
      “Lastly, if there were no Bakarees, Umarees, Uthmanees and Alawees amongst Sahaba then there also weren’t any amongst the Taba’een or the Taba-Taba’een”

      Our predecessors didn’t use these names so we don’t use them, we are followers not innovators and we follow the best (The 3 generations you mentioned above) so when they call themselves Ahlul-Hadeeth we call ourselves Ahlul-Hadeeth.

      You summed it up by saying:
      “To sum it up every Muslim follows the way of Salaf but that doesn’t make him a Salafee as an appropriate title is already chosen for him by Allah, “Muslim””

      So what do you say about those from the salaf who called themselves with other then Muslims?
      For example when Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal mentioned “If this Taa’ifatul-Mansurah (Victorious and Aided Group) is not Ashaabul-Hadeeth, then I do not know who they are.”
      and you can find 49 more statements like that on this link
      http://ahlulhadeeth.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/ahlul-hadeeth-an-attributive-name.pdf

      Your last comment was:
      “I would be happy to discuss this further should you decide to publish my disagreement on the blog.”

      No problems at all I will only delete comments if you post links to deviant websites or use inappropriate language but seeing that you claim to follow the salaf I won’t have to worry about this insha Allaah.

      Wassalaamu alaykum

  2. i like the ”MUSLIM” comments,well quote!- ok, now what i read about calling oneself salafi or salafiyah all that,from a famous saudi scholar is that

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