When I hear the term ‘they have been slandered’ I feel my neck, for it means that they have been added to the groups that have been slandered over history, from Muʽāwiya who was ‘slandered’, to Yazid who was ‘slandered’, and the entire Umayyad dynasty which was ‘slandered’, and the Ottomans too. All of these perpetrated such mistakes or sins that would turn the hair of children grey. 


ONE NEED ONLY MENTION, for example, that Yazīd demolished the Kaʽba after pelting it with catapults, and that the Umayyad state executed Saʽīd ibn Jubayr, Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, and Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, and overthrew Imam al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī, as well as the handing over the city of the Messenger of God to the army of Yazid for three days, during which it was open season on people’s lives and honour to the point of violating thousands of Muslim girls in the city, who were the daughters of the Muhājirūn and the Anṣār.[1] The Ottoman state also perpetrated crimes that left the Islamic world prey to western occupiers after it had been impoverished both intellectually and religiously. Yet despite all of this we find voices and writings appearing from time to time saying ‘they have been slandered’. 

Recently, several ‘Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist and Gamāʽa’ voices have emerged defending the Salafists in Egypt against any accusation, big or small, as a blatant example of slander, on the grounds that the Salafist group in Egypt represents a ‘model’ of moderation, methodology, and preservation of Islam, but these lack any defense of themselves against the fierce secular attack that Egypt is being exposed to. But is this really true? Are the Salafists being slandered?

Despite dozens and dozens of Salafist satellite channels, and hundreds or even thousands of websites, are there still those who can maintain that these do not possess a media presence, or that, until now, they do not own a single newspaper in Egypt? In order to follow the theme in a proper scientific and methodological manner, we should first understand who the Salafists are, what their methodology is, and who their main luminaries are. 

The Salafist writer Mahmūd ‘Abd al-ḤamId al-ʽAsqalānī states the following:

The meaning of the word Salafism: This comes from the word for ‘predecessor’ – salaf – that is ‘went before’, the people who preceded. The people’s salaf are one’s forefathers.  What is meant by the Salafi doctrine is that which the honorable Companions – may God be pleased with them – and those who loyally followed them (the Tābiʽūn) in their righteousness to the Day of Judgment, and thereafter their followers and imams of the religion who witnessed these and knew their excellence in their faith. People received their words according to the predecessors, such as the four imams and Sufyān al-Thawrī, al-Layth ibn Saʽd and Ibn al-Mubārak, and al-Nakhaʽī, and al-Bukhārī, Muslim, and all the companions of the Sunna other than those who were accused of heresy or became notorious by an opprobrious label such as the Khārijīs, the Rāfiḍīs, the Murji’a, the Jabriyya, the Jahmiyya, and the Mu’tazila.[2] So whoever adheres to the beliefs and jurisprudence of these imams is considered to be one of them, even if separated from them by time and place, while all who oppose them is not one of them, no matter that he may have lived among them and shared the same time and place.

Salafism is a term that denotes a disregard for mankind’s intellect

So what is meant by the predecessors is the Companions – may God be pleased with them – and this term was later expanded to include those who followed them in righteousness from among the Followers and their followers in turn, from the imams of the religion who follow them in their righteousness until the Day of Judgment, whether they were from the finest of generations or those who came after them. 

As for Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ‘Abd al-Khāliq, he states that:

the term Salafi is an abbreviation for what is a lengthy definition. To say that so-and-so is a Salafī means that he is not a Khārijī who held that a Muslim could b killed if he sinned, nor is he a Rāfiḍī who considers the Companions to be infidels, nor is he some perverted false interpreter who denies God’s attributes and distorts their meaning, nor is he one who likens God to any of His creation, nor is he a Ḥulūlī[3] or an Ittiḥādī[4] who speak of union with God or dissolving within Him, nor is he a Sufi nor a Qubūrī [5] venerating graves offering vows there, nor is he a fanatical imitator who adheres to the sayings of a specific imam even if he knows that it might contradicts a Qur’ānic verse or a hadith.

The word Salafi is thus an abbreviated definition summarizing all the above precautions. Salafism is thus not related to a specific imam or a particular shaykh.  Rather, it is the methodology and path of the Companions, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and the approved imams and those who succeeded them with righteousness up until the Day of Judgment.

As for Shaykh Ṣāliḥ Āl al-Shaykh, he states the following: 

Muslims are of two types: Salafīs and Khalafīs. The Salafīs are the followers of the righteous predecessors. As for the Khalafīs, these follow the understanding of those who came after. They are termed ‘innovators’, since all who do not accept the way of the righteous predecessors in knowledge, action, understanding and jurisprudence are Khalafī innovators.

So Salafism, as they claim, is not something to be attributed to a specific imam, but is a term that denotes a disregard for mankind’s intellect, and one need only read any of their books to see that most of what they say is made up of quotations from Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn ʽAbd al-Wahhāb. These are their ‘imams’ they adduce as the source of evidence or knowledge so that: 

For them good is whatever they consider good and evil is whatever they consider evil. Their reliance for resolving distresses is on themselves. Their confidence in regard to dubious matters is on their own opinions as if every one of them is the Leader (Imam) of himself. Whatever he has decided himself he considers it to have been taken through reliable sources and strong factors.[6]

That most amusing thing in all of this is the definition of Salafism according to Shaykh ‘Abd al-Khāliq, who says that this definition is an abbreviation for what is a lengthy definition, although when a definition becomes lengthy it loses its most important characteristic: brevity. It thus turns into a description – and a description and a definition are two entirely different things!

They can be distinguished by their look of contempt at everyone other than them

I can describe Salafism by describing the appearance of those claiming to belong to the Salaf, those who don robes and caps, let their beards grow down to their shoulders, carrying a book under their arm while walking in the streets, and dropping Bism Allah al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm (‘In the Name of Allah the Gracious the Merciful’) from the Sūrat al-Fātiḥā into conversation (even though Abū Hurayra issued an instruction to delete it from the Qur’ān). They can be distinguished by their look of contempt at everyone other than them, in addition to cutting five to ten centimeters from the base of their sarwāl robe, from an obligation to show their humility before God, the Lord of the Worlds! What is certain is that this is a description of a bleak picture, not a definition in any way!

The other paradox lies in how they divide Muslims into righteous Salaf and innovator Khalaf while the doctrinal and jurisprudential approaches that everyone follows have all been formulated by these ‘innovators’. Just by way of example, the ‘Aqīda Wāsiṭiyya (‘The Median Creed’) that the people embrace was developed by Ibn Taymiyya al-Ḥarrānī, who lived in the eighth century AH, as well as his student Ibn al-Qayyim. How is it, then, that we are to accept this negative view of the work of the Khalaf, given that that the people consider it the basis of their belief?

Salafism then is nothing more than a flimsy framework through which ideas have been passed

Salafism, then, is nothing more than a flimsy framework through which ideas have been passed, most of them innovations of a star (and his successor) sired by the Mamluk era: Ibn Taymiyyah and his follower Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, no more, no less. 

The truth is that the actual name for Salafism is Wahhābism, they are seeing things through the eyes of Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb and the legal rulings which they promote are those of his students and disciples. And the religious police that burn churches and break into homes seeking out evidence of immorality and block the path of un-veiled women is but a carbon image of the Saudi mutawwiʽīn [religious police] most of whom people with a dubious history subsequently setting off to search people’s inner thoughts for what is permissible and what is forbidden.

It is no accident that we see in their demonstrations and meetings, or painted on their chests – the Saudi flag. Nor is it coincidence that it is Saudi Arabia that is financing their activities and spending generously on their satellite media channels, in which they been transformed from diploma-bearers in technical and physical education, into satellite stars. 

Suggested Reading

A fake Salafism – 2

It is this satellite Salafism that is reaching people in their bedrooms – without any need for mosque-attendance – which has multiplied their numbers exponentially. These malicious people in Riyadh, with the help of Mubarak and succeeding governments, have successfully attracted the sympathy of the simple people in Egypt, via the Association of the Anṣār al-Sunna Islamic Legislative Assembly, and via many Salafist mosques that receive huge sums of money from wealthy people in the Gulf and their governments, as we found out from WikiLeaks.

The question is who are the Wahhābīs and why did this money flow to them in Egypt?

[1] On these see Glossary.

[2] On these see Glossary.

[3] See Glossary: ‘Ḥulūlī’.

[4] See Glossary: ‘Ittiḥādī’

[5] See Glossary: ‘Qubūrī’

[6] The author is here quoting Nahj al-Balāgha, (Khuṭba 88). (Ed.)

Shaykh Salih Al Al-Shaykh: “Khalafis are ‘innovators’ since they do not accept the way of the righteous predecessors”