Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Meaning of the Word “Salaf”

The Meaning of the Word “Salaf”

AUTHOR: Abu 'Abdis-Salaam Hasan bin Qaasim ar-Raymee
SOURCE: At-Tuhfat-ul-Mahdiyyah Liman Sa'ala 'an Ma'anaa as-Salafiyyah (pg. 7-11)

Chapter One: The Meaning of the Word “Salaf”

The Linguistic Meaning:

Ibn Mandhoor said: “The words Salaf, Saleef and Salafah all refer to the unified group of the past.” [1]

Abus-Sa’adaat Ibn-ul-Atheer said: “It is said that the Salaf amongst people are those who died previously, such as one’s forefathers and relatives. This is why the first generation, such as the Taabi’een, were called the Salaf as-Saalih (pious predecessors).” [2]

‘Abdul-Kareem As-Sam’aanee said: “The word ‘Salafee’ with an ‘a’ after the S and L and ending with an F is an ascription to the Salaf and an attribution to their beliefs.” [3]

After quoting these words from As-Sam’aanee, Abul-Hasan Ibnul-Atheer Al-Jazree said: “A group of people were known by this ascription.” [4]

The Religious Meaning:

Imaam As-Safaareenee said: “What is meant by the madh-hab (belief) of the Salaf is that which the Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, adhered to, as well as the distinguished ones who followed them upon goodness, their successors and the Imaams of the Religion – those who received testimony as to their leadership, were known for their great status in the Religion and whose words are taken by the people after the Salaf, apart from those who are accused of innovation or renowned for unacceptable ascriptions such as the Khawaarij, Rawaafid, Qadariyyah, Murji’ah, Jabariyyah, Jahmiyyah, Mu’atazilah, Karaamiyyah and those similar to them.” [5]

The Permanent Committee (for Research and Verdicts) was asked: “What is Salafiyyah, and what is your opinion concerning it?”

So they replied: “Salafiyyah is an ascription to the Salaf. The word ‘Salaf’ refers to the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the Imaams of guidance from the first three generations of whom the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) testified for as to their superiority when he said: ‘The best of mankind is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them. Then there will come a people who will bear witness before taking an oath, and take an oath before bearing witness.’ [Reported by Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad, Al-Bukharee and Muslim]

The word Salafiyoon is the plural of Salafee, and it is an ascription to the Salaf. The meaning of the word Salaf has already been mentioned. Furthermore, it also refers to those who follow the methodology of the Salaf, which entails following the Book and the Sunnah, calling the people to them and acting upon them. So as a result of this, they become the adherents of the Sunnah and the unified body (Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah).” [6]

Our teacher, Muhammad Amaan bin ‘Alee Al-Jaamee, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “When we use the word ‘Salaf’ generally, from a religious standpoint, we mean by it: The Companions of Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) – i.e. those who were present during his lifetime and accepted the Religion from him directly…those who also fall under this term are the ones who followed them – those who inherited their knowledge before a long time had passed and those who fall under the testimony and praise of Allaah’s Messenger for them that they were the best of mankind, when he (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘The best of mankind is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.’ This term (Salaf) also includes the successors of the Taabi’een.” [7]

Our teacher, Saalih bin ‘Abdillaah Al-‘Abood, said: “What is intended by the term ‘Salafiyyah’ is: Following the way of the Pious Predecessors (Salaf as-Saalih) of this Muslim ummah, who are in fact Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. This means uniting oneself and gathering others upon the following of the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), in hidden and in open, and following the way of the first and foremost from the Muhaajireen and Ansaar, who followed them in goodness.” [8]

Shaikh Bakr bin ‘Abdillaah Abu Zaid said: “If it is said: the Salaf or the Salafees or their efforts, Salafiyyah, then these are all ascriptions to the Salaf as-Saalih (righteous predecessors), which includes all of the Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, as well as those who followed them in goodness, excluding those who were driven by vain desires. Those who remained firm upon the methodology of the prophets (after them) were ascribed to their righteous predecessors because of that. And so they were called: Salaf, Salafees, and their ascription would be: Salafee. So based on this, the term Salaf means the righteous predecessors. When used generally, this term means: Everyone that strives to follow the Companions, even if they are in our time, and so on. This is what the scholars all agree on. So it is an ascription, which can be traced back to the Book and the Sunnah, and it is an ascription that cannot be separated for even a moment from the first generation (i.e. Salaf), rather it was from them and returns to them. As for the one who opposed them by using a different name or ascription, then no (he is not from them), even if he lived amongst them and was their contemporary. This is why the Companions were free from the Qadariyyah and the Murji’ah.” [9]

He also said: “Be a Salafee upon earnestness, following the way of the pious predecessors , as well as those after them, who followed their footsteps in all aspects of the Religion, such as Tawheed, acts of worship and so on…” [10]


[1] Lisaan-ul-‘Arab (6/330)
[2] An-Nihaayah fee Ghareeb-il-Hadeeth (2/390)
[3] Al-Ansaab (7/104)
[4] Al-Lubaab fee Tah’dheeb-il-Ansaab (2/126)
[5] Lawaami’-ul-Anwaar: (1/20)
[6] Al-Lajnat-ud-Daa’imah Lil-Buhooth-il-‘Ilmiyyah (no. 1361) (2/165-166)
[7] As-Sifaat-ul-Ilaahiyyah fil-Kitaabi was-Sunnah (pg. 57)
[8] ‘Aqeedat-ush-Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab as-Salafiyyah (pg. 254-255)
[9] Hukm-ul-Intimaa ilal-Firaq wal-Ahzaab wal-Jamaa’aat al-Islaamiyyah (pg. 46-47)
[10] Hilyat-ut-Taalib al-‘Ilm (pg. 8)

Published: October 7, 2005 | Modified: October 7, 2005

Why the word Salafee?

Why the word Salafee?

AUTHOR: Imaam Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee
SOURCE: Al-Asaalah Magazine, Issue 9

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 been authentically reported on the Prophet, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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,
while every evil lies in the innovating of he who came after."

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 a 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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. This is as is indicated in the mutawaatir hadeeth found in the two Saheehs and other than them, that he, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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, none of the scholars would 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 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 - would these people reject the likes of these ascriptions to individuals who are not free from error?

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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, has mentioned that one of the signs of the Saved Sect is that they will hold tightly onto what the Messenger of Allaah, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, (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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, be in accordance with the methodology of his, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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 appearance 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:

"And obey Allaah and obey His Messenger and those in authority over 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. This is in spite of him, as well as those around him, committing errors. So it would be obligatory to obey him in order to repel the harm of differences of opinions. And this is with the well-known condition: "There is no obedience to the creation in 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 he 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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, must be in accordance with what the first Muslims were upon. And they are the Companions of Allaah's Messenger, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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 makes a distinction between the Book and the Sunnah from one perspective and between the Salaf As-Saalih (Righteous Predecessors) from another perspective, 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, sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, described them as: "The one which is upon the same thing that I and my companions are upon today." [See 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 - us who come in a later time - we 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."

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 sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 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 will eventually let out 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. [1]


[1] Translator's Note: It must be noted here that there is a difference between one ascribing himself to the Salaf and thus syaing he is Salafee and one taking that as part of his name, calling himself i.e. Abu Fulaan As-Salafee. This (latter example) is not what is intended here by the speech of our noble scholar, Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee, as can be seen in his example, since he did not used to attach the phrase "as-Salafee" at the end of his name. Neither was this the example set forth by the other major scholars of our time, such as Imaams Ibn Baaz, Ibn 'Uthaimeen and Muqbil bin Haadee Al-Waadi'ee. In spite of this, they were salafee in their Creed and their Methodology and when asked as to their methodology, they never hesitated to say that they were salafee or upon the Salafee Manhaj, and Allaah knows best.

Published: July 15, 2004 | Modified: July 15, 2004

10 Points on the Salafee Manhaj

10 Points on the Salafee Manhaj

AUTHOR: Shaikh Ahmad bin Yahyaa An-Najmee
SOURCE: Al-Fataawaa al-Jaliyyah ‘anil-Manaahij Ad-Da’wiyyah (pg. 56-57) compiled by Hasan
Ibn Mahmood Ibn Mansoor ad-Daghreeri

The Salafee Manhaj

1. We worship Allaah by way of Tawheed. So we do not supplicate to anyone besides Allaah nor do we seek refuge in anyone besides Him in matters of bringing about good or repelling some harm. We perform worship by having hatred and enmity for the polytheists. However, we are obligated to call them to Tawheed first and clarify to them that there is no Islaam without Tawheed and that whoever calls unto other than Allaah has committed disbelief. So whoever persists after that, then at that point we are obligated to distance ourselves from him and hate him for the sake of Allaah.

2. The Creed of the Salaf is established upon the principle that "Allaah is described with what He has described himself with in His Book and upon the tongue of His Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), without resorting to tahreef, tamtheel, tashbeeh, ta’teel or ta’weel." [1]

3. We affirm for Allaah the best of Names, which He has affirmed for Himself and which He has praised Himself with, whether they are mentioned in the Qur’aan or the Sunnah.

4. We believe that there is no path towards achieving Allaah’s contentment, or a way towards Paradise, except through the Way of Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). And whoever seeks a way towards gaining Allaah’s contentment through other than the Way of Allaah’s Messenger, then he has gone astray and been blinded from the truth. And he has lost in this world and the next.

5. We believe that the Legislation of Allaah is what has been brought down through the two revelations: The Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallAllaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). This is what our Lord has indicated in his saying: "Then we placed you on a Sharee'ah (Legislated System) based on Our Command, so follow it, and do not follow the desires of those who have no knowledge." [Surah Al-Jaathiyah: 18]

6. We believe that the Qur’aan is the Speech of Allaah, which was revealed and not created, and that the Sunnah is what explains and clarifies it. The Qur’aan is interpreted by the Sunnah and by the interpretations of the Sahaabah (Companions) and those who followed them in goodness. So the interpretation of the Qur’aan is by way of the narration, meaning by way of the Sahaabah, the Taabi’een and the Ahaadeeth concerning it. And the books that contain these interpretations are the ones we are obligated to acquire and read, such as the Tafseer of Ibn Jareer, the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer, the Tafseer of Al-Baghawee, the Tafseer "Ad-Durr Al-Manthoor" of As-Suyootee and so on.

7. We are obligated to take the Sunnah according to the way of the Muhadditheen - in terms of their authenticity or weakness. So we take what is found to be authentic and leave off what is weak.

8. We worship Allaah by obeying the rulers, as long as they are Muslims who seek judgement through Allaah’s Legislation and who establish the prescribed punishments, and as long as they establish the prayer. Obeying them is an obligation even if they commit oppression. And whoever says something contrary to this and makes it permissible to revolt against the Muslim leader, even if he may be oppressive, then he is an innovator and a deviant. And it is obligatory on the Muslim scholars to refute this statement of his and to expose his deviance.

9. We hold that it is not permissible to spread the faults of the leaders, because doing this influences and brings about trials and afflictions (fitan), and causes them to spread.

10. We are obligated to worship Allaah through the Sunnah, by following it and by loathing innovations and the innovators. This is based on the Prophet’s saying: "Whoever does a deed, which is not in accordance to our affair (i.e. the Sunnah) is rejected." And in another narration: "Whoever introduces into our affair (Sunnah) that which isn’t part of it is rejected."

This is a summary and some brief words on the Creed of the Salaf, which we are obligated to accept and follow if we truly want salvation and the truth. And we must renounce those opinions of men, which cannot be traced back to any source of evidence, since men are known by way of the truth and the truth is not known by way of men. Lastly, we must beg and implore Allaah to show us the truth as true and enable us to follow it, and to show us the falsehood as false and enable us to avoid it. Indeed Allaah is Responsible for that and Able to make it happen. And may the peace and blessings of Allaah be on Muhammad - the best, most dutiful, most pious and purest of creation - and on his family and his Companions.


[1] Translator’s Note: These are forbidden acts committed against Allaah’s Names and Attributes. Tahreef means to change or distort the wording of Allaah’s name or attribute. Tamtheel and tashbeeh means to give a like resemblance to a name or an attribute. Ta’teel means total denial of a name or an attribute. Ta’weel means to misinterpret a name or an attribute, thus changing it’s meaning.