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Why the Word Salafee?

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."