In recent times there are Muslims who now say, they are “Salafi”, the word “Salaf” literally means predecessor. The premise is if follow the generation shortly after the Prophet SAW, they are more likely to have the correct understanding of Islam.
However, when pushed to say who are the Salaf, they often produce a very strange list indeed, and far from going with early scholars, they simply pick the scholars from early-ish times that agree with their own ideology.
Here is an example of a list of the “Salaf” according to the world famous Troid.ca Salafi site :
- ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Hasan aalush-Shaykh
- ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Naasir as-Sa’dee
- Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn al-Husayn al-Aajurree
- Abu Daawood as-Sijistaanee
- Ahmad Ibn Hanbal
- Ahmad Muhammad Shaakir
- al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee
- Badrud-Deen al-Ghazzee
- Ibn Abil ‘Izz al-Hanafee
- Ibn al-Jawzee
- Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
- Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed
- Ibn Hajr al-Asqalaanee
- Ibn Hajr al-Hanbalee
- Ibn Katheer
- Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisee
- Ibn Taymiyyah
- Mohiud-Deen Yahyaa Ibn Sharaf an-Nawawee
- Muhammad Ibn ’Abdul-Lateef
- Muhammad Ibn ’Abdur-Rahmaan al-Mubaarakfooree
- Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhaab
- Muhammad Ibn Ibraaheem Aalush-Shaykh
- Muhammad Ibn Ismaa’eel al-Bukhaaree
- Muslim Ibnul-Hajjaaj al-Qushayree an-Naysaabooree
- Zaynud-Deen al-‘Iraaqee
- Click to see Original
There are many notable omissions, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik for a start who predate most of this list by 500 years. Confused by this strange selection, I started to read their articles, which imply that the “scholars” have determined who are the salaf by their teachings, they teach what those selected “salaf” have written. The circular logic which clearly allows a modern scholar to hand pick whom they feel the masses should know about is very disturbing. Other “salafi” groups have adopted a different approach, they have extended their time range to include even quite recent people as being the “Salaf”, the world famous salafi.com website lists the salaf as follows:
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.
Again, very strange selection of people, as people like Muhammad bin Abd Al Wahhab was born over a thousand years after many of the companions had died, so the principle of following the salaf because they are the nearest and best way to know the Prophet’s SAW views seems to have been stretched to ridiculous levels.
It turns out there is not a definitive list of “Salaf”, depending on which modern scholar is asked they will give their own list, which is obviously useless, as the premise was to follow the early generations, not select people from early-ish times that agree with whatever the modern scholar is trying to push. So what is to be done? Most people who have researched the matter, such as Yasir Qadhi, have realised that Salafism is a nice idea, but not actually grounded in Islamic texts, nor logical, nor even practical. If we use fiqh of an example of how the Salafi concept fails, if we have the question of “is a womans hand part of her awrah”, from that era, we have a variety of opinions, so which is correct? Which of the “Salaf” are we to follow? The same can be said for “where to put hands in Salah” again, there are several different opinions from the “Salaf”, could one take Imam Malik’s view of putting the hands by the side? so what kind of fiqh is this where the layperson is left to select an answer that the expert is supposed to have answered? It simply doesnt work.
Most people have simply reverted back to “sunni” Islam and following one the four Imams for Fiqh, some however have been left confused and lost by the “Salafi” phase.