Is Calling Oneself ‘Salafi,’ permitted in Islaam?

Posted: August 27, 2009 by millatibraheem in Bid'ah

Bismillaah, as-salaatu was-salaam ‘ala Rasoolullaah

Is Calling Oneself ‘Salafi,’ permitted in Islaam?

Before we proceed deeply into the discussion, one must keep in mind that these labels are not legal terms defined by Qur’aan and Sunnah.  They are simply linguistic concepts used in language and do not carry any Shari’ meaning which one will be sinful for not adhering to. Also, we should remind the reader that those who profess ‘salafi’ are not in agreement as to who they consider to be from the ‘salaf.’ Some restrict this to the Sahaabah [ra], others to the first three generations (Sahaabah [ra], their followers and then those who followed them) while the rest say anyone who has preceded their generation. From this, we will continue inshAllaah…

Definition and usage

Arabic definition of the word ‘Salaf’:

وسَلَفَ يَسْلُفُ بالضم سَلَفاً بفتحتين أي مَضَى. والقَوْمُ السُّلاَّف المُتَقَدّمون. وسَلَفُ الرَّجُل آباُؤه المتقدّمون والجَمْع أَسْلاف وسُلاَّف

“It means what passed, and people who have gone forth can be called Salaf, and the ‘Salaf’ of a person are his forefathers, and plural can be Aslaaf and Sullaaf” (Mukhtaar as-Sihaah)

Allaah ta’ala says in surah az-Zukhruf referring to Firawn and his people:

فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ سَلَفاً وَمَثَلاً لِلْآخِرِينَ

“And We made them a precedent, and an example for later generations.”

And recorded in Saheeh al-Muslim under ‘Kitab al-Fada’il al-Sahaabah’ book 031 hadith #6004 from our  mother ‘A’isha [ra] that Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam said to Fatima [ra] (narrating from her):

“…so fear Allaah and be patient (and he told me) that he would be a befitting forerunner for me…

In simple terms, ‘salaf’ means those who past away.

Claims and criticism

“…so fear Allaah and be patient (and he told me) that he would be a befitting forerunner (salaf) for me…

Many, if not all, have used the above hadith to justify labeling themselves as ‘salafi,’ separating themselves from other Muslims. This no doubt demonstrates the deficiency of their intellects.

Firstly, Allaah ta’ala has clearly prohibited the Muslims from breaking into differing sects intentionally, each rejoicing on that which they are upon. So this action of there’s is in fact sinful and not praiseworthy.

Secondly, if calling yourself ‘salafi’ was to be derived from this hadith, Fatima [ra] would have been the first one to use it. Since Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam was directing this towards her.

Thirdly, this hadith alone proves that the best person to follow is Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam himself. He is the best of salaf. And it is reported in Musnad Ahmad (4/130, 202 & 344) and by at-Tirmithi in a lengthy hadith, from Harith al-Ash’ari that Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam said:

“…so call with the call of Allaah which Allaah gave you – al-Muslimeen, al-Mumineen, ‘Ibaadullaah.”

Hence, the best of the salaf said to call ourselves by the call of Allaah which he gave us. Thus, calling yourself ‘salafi’ is in disobedience towards Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam.

In this way, the claim of theirs is frail and holds no weight.

Another argument they have brought forth is that by calling themselves ‘salafi,’ they are referring themselves as followers of the best of generations. And they use the following ahadith for their justification:

Reported in Saheeh al-Bukhari and Saheeh al-Muslim from our mother ‘Aisha [ra] that Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam said:

“The best of people is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.”

And reported by at-Tirmithi:

“The best of people are my generation, then those who follow after them, then those who follow after them. Then there will come after them a people who will be fat, and they will love obesity, bearing witness before being asked to.”

And other similar reports.

Again, these reports by no means provide any evidence for them.  None of the generations that Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam praised, referred to themselves as ‘salafis’ saying they follow the salaf.  They all called themselves Muslims, in accordance with the Sunnah. So this claim is void of any substance.

They also use statements of some later scholars, such as ibn Taymiyyah and adh-Dhahabi. This does not require any criticism as sayings of scholars is not evidence and their opinions are not binding upon the Ummah.  Their statements must be judged according to the Qur’aan and Sunnah and if their sayings comply with these two divine sources, then it is accepted. If not, then their sayings are discarded and rejected.  Also to note, nowhere does ibn Taymiyyah state that calling yourself ‘salafi’ is permissible.

They also state that since times have changed and many sects have emerged. It is obligatory to identify and separate ourselves from these deviant sects (deviant in their eyes), is in fact an innovated belief and method.  There existed sects amongst the previous nations, such as amongst the followers of Eesa ibn Mariam [as], and also during the time of the Sahaabah [ra]. Yet, they still referred themselves as Muslims; since this is what Allah ta’ala had named us.

In surah aali ‘Imraan ayah 52:

“But when Jesus felt disbelief from them, he said, “Who are my supporters for Allaah?” The disciples said,” We are supporters for Allaah. We have believed in Allaah and testify that we are Muslims.”

And in ayah 78 of aali ‘Imraan:

“…It is He Who has named you Muslims both before and in this…”

And the hadith reported by Abu Dawud from Furat ibn Hayyan [ra]:

“Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam commanded to kill him: he was a spy of Abu Sufyan and an ally of a man of the Ansar. He passed a circle of the Ansar and said: I am a Muslim. A man from the Ansar said, Rasoolullaah, he is saying that he is a Muslim. Rasoolullaah sallaahu alayhi wa salam said: ‘There are people among you in whose faith we trust. Furat ibn Hayyan is one of them.’

So the best label and the most proper is what Allaah ta’ala and His Messenger sallaahu alayhi wa salam had given us. This is also the way of the salaf.

It is a Call of Jaahiliya (Asabiya)

Linguistically, ‘asabiya’ comes from the word ‘asabah’, which is the relative of the person from the fathers’ side. These relatives are called ‘asabah’ because they strengthen and defend the person that makes him stronger.

So ‘asabiya’ is mans supporting his people to whom he belongs, whether they are right or wrong, oppressing or oppressed. The belonging to these people can be due to kith and kin, ethnicity, color, birthplace, citizenship, school of thought, or a group of people with common interest.

And an example is an incident that took place amongst the Sahaabah [ra] themselves. Jabir ibn ‘Abdullaah [ra] narrated what happened at the watering place of al-Muraysi which led to the Munafiqoon stirring up the traces of asabiya and seeking to destroy the unity of the Muslims. He said:

“We were on a raid when one of the Muhajiroon kicked one of the Ansar. The Ansar said, ‘O Ansar! Help me!’ and the Muhajir said, ‘O Muhajiroon! Help me!.’ Rasoolullaah sallahu alayhi wa salam heard them and said, “Why are you stirring up something which belongs to Jaahiliya?”

From this we can conclude, calling towards this label of ‘salafiya’ is indeed against the Sunnah and it is a call of jaahiliya which holds no benefit. And calling oneself ‘Muslim’ is the right way and in accordance to the Sunnah.

“O you who have believed, fear Allaah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims. And hold firmly to the rope of Allaah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allaah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allaah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” [aali ‘Imraan  3:102-103]

Wa Allaahu alim

  1. jaamiahamidia says:

    masha ALLAH an excellent attempt in clarifying the issue.The so called Salafiyyah are actually an iseology that wishes to propogate their political agenda via the guise of Islaam. May ALLAH guide us all to that which pleases him. Ameen

  2. khuzayma says:

    asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullaah

    which scholars stated that it is haram to call oneself salafi?
    we should be careful not to answer extremism with extremism.
    why is it than allowed to call oneself sunni? or sahibu-Sunnah or Ahl al hadith and so on?

    i dont see strong eidence in the article and Allaah knows best jalla wa ala

    and its defenitly no asabiya bro, and it doesnt has anything to do with seperating oneself from the ummah. its just that u make clear that u dont have anything to do with the innovaters in times of fitna

    and there is no group i hate more than madakhila

    • Admin says:

      walaykum salaam wa rahmatuallaah

      “which scholars stated that it is haram to call oneself salafi?”

      = If you would like a scholar (s), then the first person to comment on this article was Mufti Hussain from South Africa, who agreed to the content. And there are other Olema also that agree. What is important is what Allaah ta’ala has stated and what He Himself has named us. Although we should understand that scholars have no authority to make things haraam or halaal or innovate new things into the religion.

      “we should be careful not to answer extremism with extremism.”

      = Jazakullaah khayr, there is nothing extreme about being pleased with what Allaah has named us and displeased with what men have innovated.

      “why is it than allowed to call oneself sunni? or sahibu-Sunnah or Ahl al hadith and so on?”

      = If you have any shari’ evidence, it would be sufficient as an answer. Sunni comes from Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah which was used by Ibn ‘Abbas [ra]. As for sahibu-sunnah or Ahl al-hadith, these were not sectarian labels, but semantics.

      “i dont see strong eidence in the article and Allaah knows best jalla wa ala”

      = InshAllaah you will

      “and its defenitly no asabiya bro, and it doesnt has anything to do with seperating oneself from the ummah. its just that u make clear that u dont have anything to do with the innovaters in times of fitna”

      = It surely is a form of asabiya. If you understood the definition, then you would have no problem identifying it as one of the calls of jaahiliya. Asabiya does not only apply to the English definitions of nationalism or tribalism.

      wa Allaahu alim

  3. MuslimBro says:

    Imaam al-Asbahaanee (d.535H) – rahimahullaah – said: “The sign of Ahlus-Sunnah is that they follow the Salafus-Saalih and abandon all that is innovated and newly introduced into the Deen.” [Al-Hujjah fee Bayaanil Mahajjah 1/364]

    Abu Haneefah (d. 150H) (rahimahullaah) said: “Adhere to the athar (narration) and the tareeqah (way) of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) and beware of newly invented matters for all of it is innovation” [Reported by As-Suyootee in Sawn al Mantaq wal-Kalaam p.32]

    lbn Taymiyyah (d.728H) – rahimahullaah – said: “There is no criticism for the one who proclaims the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is obligatory to accept that from him by unanimous agreement (Ittifaaq) because the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf is nothing but the Truth (Haqq).” [Majmoo al-Fataawaa 4:149]

    Imaam adh-Dhahabee (d.748H) – rahimahullaah – said: “It is authentically related from ad-Daaraqutnee that he said: There is nothing more despised by me than ‘ilmul-kalaam (innovated speech and rhetorics). I say: He never entered into ‘ilmul-kalaam, nor argumentation. Rather, was a Salafee (a follower of the Salaf).”[Siyar 16/457]

    As-Sam’aanee (d.562H) said in al-lnsaab (3/273): “As-Salafi: this is an ascription to the Salaf and following their ways, in that which is related from them.” lbn al-Atheer (d.630H) said in al-Lubaab fee Tahdheebul-lnsaab (2/162), commenting upon the previous saying of as-Sam’aanee: “And a group were known by this ascription.” So the meaning is: that the term Salafi, and its ascription to them, was a matter known in the time of Imaam as-Sam’aanee, or before him.

    • Admin says:

      asalaam alaykum Muslimbro.

      Firstly, if you are Muslim as stated in your name, you should greet in the Islaamic manner. Thus, you seem to have left out a Sunnah on the course of trying to prove a false point.

      This has been answered within the article, please actually try to read the post before commenting next time. If you have any proof from the Qur’aan and Sunnah authorizing you to call yourself ‘salafi’ that we have missed, inshAllaah provide them. Other then that, the quotes are irrelevant and are not evidence.

  4. al-hindee says:

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum dear brothers and sisters

    first of all the opinions of the ‘ulema are not binding upon the ummah. second when one refers to himself as a muslim we should assume that he is upon the sunnah and that he conforms to the ijma’a (consensus) of the sahaabah (raa) unless he proves through his speech or actions that he is upon a path other than this.

    the main intent in one calling oneself ‘salafee’ or any other title is to distinguish himself from the rest of the ummah to make oneself stand out. in reality what one means by this is ‘i am salafee therefore i am upon the haqq and those who share my views are upon the haqq and those who don’t are upon falsehood and misguidance’.

    O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former..[49:11]

    so first he assumes that all are upon misguidance then he assumes that since he has restricted himself to the views of a particular group of scholars which claims to be upon the understanding of the salaf us-saleh he is saved and rightly guided. this is nothing more than pride and the messenger of Allaah (salAllahu ‘alayhi was-sallam) said: ‘and none shall enter paradise who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride’. [Muslim]

  5. TheGenocideGeneral says:

    although the salafis claim that their manhaj is the manhaj of the salaf as-saleh the first three generations since the time of the prophet muhammad (saw) we know that today this label refers to those who blindly follow those ulema whose allegiance lies with the tawagheet (false gods). they issue conflicting fatawa without any consistency and which is dependent upon the capitalist agenda of these tawagheet.

    we can say the same for the word shi’a which they claim is an ascription that denotes their support for the ali (ra) and the ahl ul-bait and ofcourse we should all support ali (ra) as his judgment was correct during the fitnah of the khawarij. yet we know today this label refers to those who blindly follow their ayatollahs in cursing the sahabah (ra) and calling upon other than Allah (swt).

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