Who are the Salaf and who are the Salafis?
The Pious Forefathers (i.e. As-Salaf as-Saalih) of the Islamic Community of Believers are the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, their Followers (the Taabi’een and the Taabi Taabi’een (i.e. the first three generations of Muslims) and the Scholars of the Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah after them who followed their way in belief and deed. Among them are :
Imam Abu Hanifah (150 AH), Al-Awzai (157 AH), Ath-Thawri (161AH), Al Laith ibn Saad (175 AH), Imam Malik (179 AH), Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (181 AH), Sufyan ibn Uyainah (198 AH), Imam Ash-Shafi’i (204 AH), Ishaq (238 AH), Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (241 AH), Al-Bukhari (256 AH), Muslim (261 AH), Abu Dawood (275 AH) and others.
Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH), and his students: Adh-Dhahabi (748 AH), Ibn al-Qayyim (751 AH), Ibn Katheer (774 AH) and others.
Muhammed bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1206 AH) and many of his students.
And in our time: Abdul Aziz bin Baz, Muhammed bin Saalih Uthaimeen, Muhammed Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaani.
The Salafis are the Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. They are the Taaifatul- Mansoorah (the Aided, Victorious Group) and the Firqatun-Naajiyyah (the Saved Sect) which have been mentioned in the following statements of the Messenger, peace be upon him:
“There shall not cease to remain a single group from my community upon the Truth, victorious; they are unharmed by those who abandon them and those who oppose them. They will remain (in my community and in such a state) until they fight the liar (i.e. the Anti-Christ (Dajjal).” [Reported in Sahih Muslim]
“Verily those before you from among the People of the Book split into seventy-two sects and verily this religion . . . ”
and in another narration
” . . . this Ummah will split into seventy-three sects: seventy-two will be in the Fire and one in Paradise and that is the Jamaa’ah.” [Reported by Abu Daawood – Sahih]
“And this Ummah will divide into seventy-three sects all of which except one will go to Hell and they (i.e. the Saved Sect) are those who are upon what I and My Companions are upon (i.e. those who follow My Way and the Way of my Companions.)” [Reported by at-Tirmidhee – Hasan]
Why do we call ourselves Salafis?
The name Salafi refers to the one who attaches himself to that group of people about whom the Prophet , peace be upon him, said: “The best of people is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them (i.e. the first three generations of Muslims).” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim – Mutawaatir]. This attachment is not to a single person or persons (i.e. scholars), which is the case of many groups present today. It is not an attachment to a person or even tens of people, but to that which will not err, since it is impossible that the Salaf would unite upon error or misguidance. So in his subscribtion to the way of the Salaf, the Salafi has attached himself to that which cannot go wrong. This is taken from the hadith: “My Ummah will not unite upon error.” [Reported by at-Tirmidhee and Haakim – Sahih], and it is not correct that this hadith refers to the people of later ages, since it was only in the era of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his Companions that the Ummah was free from widespread division and deviation. The deviant sects separated themselves from the Jamaa’ah after them, and from that time onwards their was disunity.
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