Home > Innovated MAtters, Manhaj (Methodology) > Misconceptions about the word Salafee

Misconceptions about the word Salafee

Clarifying Misconceptions about the word Salafee

Shaikh Saleem Al-Hilaalee
1. Is using the name “Salafee” an innovation?
Some people say: “Calling oneself Salafee is an innovation because during the time of the Messenger (SALLALAW HU ALAYHI WA SALAM) , the Companions did not call themselves by it.”
The Answer: The word Salafee did not apply to the time of the Messenger SAWS and his Companions because there was no need for it, since the first Muslims were upon the correct form of Islaam. So there wasn’t any need for the word Salafee, since they were naturally upon that (correct) understanding (of Islaam). Similarly, they used to speak the pure form of the Arabic language – free from grammatical mistakes and errors. So the sciences of Nahu, Sarf and Balaagha did not exist until grammatical mistakes appeared. So therefore, when these grammatical errors appeared, the sciences that set guidelines to the language also appeared afterwards.
In the same manner, when there appeared diversions and deviations from the main body of Muslims, the word Salafee began to appear in reaction to those occurrences. And furthermore, the Messenger  (SALLALAW HU ALAYHI WA SALAM)  gave an indication towards this understanding in the hadeeth that states that the ummah will divide up into sects, by saying: “(The group that is on) That which I and my Companions are upon.”
And when the Islamic groups became many and all of them began claiming that they followed the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, the scholars of the ummah took it upon themselves to differentiate it more from the rest. So they called it: Ahlul-Hadeeth and the Salaf.
Because of this, the word Salafee is distinguished from all the other Islaamic groups. This is since it attributes itself to something that guarantees for its adherents that they are upon the correct form of Islaam, and that is: Adhering closely to what the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger (SALLALAW HU ALAYHI WA SALAM) were upon – the Muhaajiroon, the Ansaar and those who followed them in goodness. These are the generations of Muslims that have received testimony and affirmation of their excellence.
2. It is said: “Why should we attribute ourselves to the Salaf when Allaah says: “It is He who has named you Muslims since before.” [Surah Al-Hajj: 78]
Answer: We will present to the noble reader a short debate that occurred between our Shaikh (i.e. Al-Albaanee), rahimahullaah, and the professor ‘Abdul-Haleem Abu Shaqqah, author of the book “The woman’s liberation during the time of the Revelation”:
The Shaikh said: “If it is said to you ‘What is your madh-hab’, what will you say?”
He said: I will say: “I am Muslim.”
The Shaikh said: “This is not sufficient.”
He said: “But Allaah has named us Muslims.” And then he recited the verse: “It is He who has named you Muslims since before.” [Surah Al-Hajj: 78]
So the Shaikh said: “This is a correct answer – if we were living during the first generation, before the spreading of groups. So if we were to ask any Muslim today, from these groups that we differ with fundamentally in Creed, his response would not be any different from this word, for all of them – the Shi’ee, the Raafidee, the Khaarijee, the Durzee, the Nusairee, the ‘Alawee – would say ‘I am Muslim.’ So this is not sufficient in these days.”
He said: “So then I will say: ‘I am a Muslim upon the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.'”
So the Shaikh said: “This is also not sufficient.”
He said: “Why not?”
The Shaikh said: “Do you find any person from the people we have just used as an example saying: ‘I am a Muslim that is not upon the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.’ Which person will say that he is not upon the Qur’aan and the Sunnah?” Then the Shaikh began to explain to him the importance of this supplemental phrase, which we have adopted. And it is: The Qur’aan and the Sunnah with the understanding of the Salaf As-Saalih (righteous predecessors).
He said: “So then I am a Muslim on the Qur’aan and the Sunnah with the understanding of the Salaf As-Saalih (righteous predecessors).”
The Shaikh said: “So if someone were to ask you what is your madh-hab, you would tell him that?”
He said: “Yes.”
So the Shaikh said: “What do you think if we were to shorten that linguistically, for the best types of speech is that which is short but has a lot of meaning? So let us (just) say: I am a Salafee.”
He said: “I could be polite to you and say yes, but my belief is the same as before. Because when people hear that you are a Salafee, the first thing that will come into their minds are occurrences in which they experienced harshness from some of the extremists amongst the Salafees.”
The Shaikh said: “Assuming your words were correct, if you said: ‘I am a Muslim’, will they not think that you are a Shi’ee or a Raafidee or a Durzee or an Isma’eelee, etc.?”
He said: “Possibly, but I would have followed the noble verse: ‘It is He who has named you Muslims.'”
So the Shaikh said: “No, my brother! You did not follow the verse because the verse refers to the correct form of Islaam. It is necessary that you speak to the people according to their levels of comprehension – will anyone understand from you that you are a Muslim according to the intended meaning of the verse?
And the things that you warned about just now may be correct or they may not because your mentioning ‘harshness’ – this can be found in some individuals, but not as a methodology of belief and knowledge. So leave the individuals to the side for we are talking about the methodology. This is since if we were to say: ‘Shi’ee’ or ‘Durzee’ or ‘Khaarijee’ or ‘Sufi’ or ‘Mu’tazilee’, these same things that you warned about (i.e. harshness) would appear from them (also).”
So this is not our discussion. We are looking for a name that provides an indication of a person’s belief, which he worships Allaah with.”
Then the Shaikh said: “Were not all of the Sahaabah Muslims?”
He said: “Of course.”
The Shaikh said: “But in spite of this, there was among them those who stole and those who fornicated, but this did not lead any of them to say: ‘I am not a Muslim.’ Rather, he was a Muslim – a believer in Allaah and His Messenger  (SALLALAW HU ALAYHI WA SALAM)  as a methodology – however he would contradict his methodology at times, for he was not infallible.
Therefore, may Allaah bless you, we are talking about a word that indicates our belief, our ideas, and our source of reference in our life in that which is related to the affairs of our religion, which we worship Allaah by. And as for this person being harsh and that person being lenient, then that is another matter.”
Then the Shaikh said: “I want you to contemplate on this concise word until you no longer persist in (just using) the word Muslim. And you know well that there doesn’t exist anyone that will understand what you are intending to say at all, so speak to the people according to their levels of comprehension. And May Allaah bless you for your compliance.”
From his book Limaadha Akhtartu al-Manhaj As-Salafee (pg. 36-38)
Translated by isma’eel alarcon
  1. Aboo Redundant
    April 29, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I came across this book in a Masjid one time and as I began to read it I was really amazed by the Adillah which the Shaykh used, I highly recommend this book to the brothers and sisters. JazaakAllaahu khair for posting this online.

  2. September 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Assalamu alaykum ya sheikh saleem, but from what I understand, the Prophet (s.a.w) did call himself salaf in a hadith where he spoke to Fatimah saying “fainna salafu ana laki”. So here and other hadiths the prophet clearly mentions that he and his companions are the “salaf”. So its a word used by the salaf to describe themselves, hence its not an innovation.
    Just my two cents worth. thank you 🙂

    Farihin Fong

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