The term Salafiyyah is an ascription to the Salaf, and it is nothing but a worthy ascription. As it has been shown here, it is not an innovated thought nor a new school-of-thought. Rather it is a phenomenon that has always been in Islam and which has ensured the passage of Islam, upon the Mercy of Allâh the Mighty Lord, over the periods of time even in the face of massive odds.
To show the worthiness of ascription to the Salaf, Shaykhul-Islâm, Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahuLlaahu, said in Maj'muul-Fataawaa [4/149]:
'There is no fault in a person who exhibits the school-of-thought of the Salaf, ascribes himself to it and seeks honour with it. Rather such must be accepted from him according to the consensus (of the Ummah) because the school-of-thought of the Salaf is nothing but the truth.'
In a nutshell, Shaykhul-Islâm was saying there is nothing wrong in somebody saying he follows the way of the Salaf; in other words that he is a Salafee.
Some people shudder when Salafiyyah is mentioned, they tend to believe that Salafiyyah is a new development embodied in an Islamic group which breaks off from the circle of one Jamâ'ah of Islam; that the movement takes the appellation for itself for a specific understanding and such that it seeks to become distinct within the rest of the Muslims in terms of its rulings and tendencies.
A suspicion such as above is borne out of illusions of some people who hate to hear the precious and magnificent word of Salafiyyah whose root – as it has been shown earlier on – was in the annals of the Ummah. Some people say Salafiyyah is a movement whose flag was raised by people like Jamaaldeen Al-Afghaanee and Muhammad Abdu-hu in the heydays of English colonization of Egypt!
Whoever makes – or transmits – a statement like the above is but ignorant of the historical, etymological and epochal origin of the term Salafus-Saalih. In fact, the early people of knowledge used to call anybody who remained upon the creed and methodology of the Salaf a Salafee. See for instance what the historian of Islâm, the Great Imam, Adh-Dhahabee wrote in Siyar A'alaami Nubalaa [16/457] while reporting a statement from Imâm Daaruqutunee that: 'Nothing is displeasing to me as Scholastic Theology (Il'mul-Kalaam).' Then Al-Imâm Adh-Dhahabee said: 'The man (Imâm Daaruqutunee) never entered into Scholastic Theology (which was a borrowing from the Greek Philosophy) nor argumentation (over matters of the religion); he never ventured into all those, rather he was a Salafee!'
Therefore ascription to Salafiyyah is not an innovation in the religion of Islâm though it was not in use during the time of the Companions (becuase there was no need; the themselves were the Salaf) but from the time of the Taabioon, it became imperative from linguistic and religious points-of-view. Linguistically, the Taabioon would see the Companions as their Salaf, and religiously, as the people whom they should emulate to practise the correct Deen.
To fortify the second reason, scholars of Islam say it became imperative to refer to the Companions as the Salaf during the time of the Taabioon because it was in the latter that some big heretical thoughts and divisions – like Khaarijiyyah, Shi'ah, Qadariyyah, Ir'jaa, I'tizaal, etc – came forth. In the face of the new sects then, Salafiyyah essentially stood out because it was the only means of safety from horrendous thoughts which even made claims to following the Book of Allâh and the Sunnah of His Messenger but upon the understanding of those making the claims.
Salafiyyah says the understanding of the Book of Allâh and the Sunnah of His Messenger must be upon the understanding of the Companions because they were the transmitters of the religion to the successive generations. No Muslim will dispute the fact that remaining upon the Qur'ân and Sunnah according to the understanding of the Companions is safer.
At-Taaifatu Al-Mansuurah (the Victorious Sect) and Al-Fir'qatun An-Naajiyah (the Saved Sect):
The two terms above were alluded to in the statements of the Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – when he was talking about the divisions that would – out of the Universal Knowledge of Allâh – come upon the Ummah of Islam. It was as if he was saying that when you see divisions among the Muslims, then the way out is what he proffered as the solution.
On the authority of Abu Hurairah – the Memorizer of the Ummah, the Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – said:
'The Jews divided into seventy-two or seventy-one sects; the Christians, seventy-two or seventy-one sects, my Ummah will divide into seventy-three sects.' [Reported by Aboo Daawud (2/503) and others].
The narration of Anas bn Maalik – may Allâh be pleased with him – has an addition:
'…all the sects would be in the Hell except one; and that is the Jamâ'ah.' [See As-Saheehah 1/356].
Yet there is an addition over that in the hadith of Abdullâh bn Amr, that the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – said those who would be safe in the face of the divisions are those upon 'what I am upon today and my Companions.'
The Ahadith above illustrate the following: That in the face of divisions in the Ummah, the entity that will be safe is the one that treads the path of the Prophet and his Companions. In other words, the Fir'qatun-Naajiyyah, in the face of calamities that would befall the Ummah, are those upon the methodology of the Salaf.
As for the term At-Taaifatu Al-Mansuurah, several narrations have come to illustrate it, so also its direct link with the way of the Salaf.
On the authority of Muaawiyah bn Abee Sufyaan – may Allâh be pleased with both; he said: I heard the Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – say:
'A group of people, in my Ummah, will not cease to remain upon the command of Allâh; they will not be harmed by those who will despise them or those who will oppose them till the Command of Allâh will come, they will remain on that.' [Recorded by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim].
Also Al-Mugheerah bn Shu'bah – may Allâh be pleased with him – reported that the Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – said:
'A people will not cease to be victorious (in my Ummah) until the command of Allâh will come while they will be on that.' [Recorded by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim].
Imraan bn Husayn – may Allâh be pleased with him – reported from the Messenger of Allaah – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – that he said:
'A group will not cease in my Ummah fighting upon the truth while being victorious against those who oppose them until their last will fight Maseeh Dajjaal.' [See As-Saheehah number: 1959].
There are several other reports wherein the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam –informed of the Victorious Sect such that it can be said that the narrations reach the Tawaatur level, that is a level whereby it is highly impossible it was a falsehood.
A perusal of the narrations talking about the Victorious Sect will indicate that they are the people that will be upon the methodology of the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – and his Companions. In history of Islam, it has always been like that.
Al-Imaam Al-Munaawee – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – said in Faydul-Qadeer [6/395]:
'There is a clear wonder (in the narrations) because the People of Sunnah have never ceased to be victorious in all the generations even till now. Since the appearance of heretical thoughts in their different forms, such as the Bid'ah of the Khawaarij, Mu'tazilah, Raafidah and others beside them; none of them have been able to achieve a state (all over the Muslims), (and when they seemed to achieve that), their influence did not last long; every time they tended to inflame the populace would Allâh quench their fire with the Light of the Book and Sunnah (of His Messenger). To Allâh be all the praise and glory.'
The People of Sunnah will continue to be victorious (in all their religious endeavours) and they will continue to be hated by the People of Bid'ah. This is what occurs in all the generations.
Al-Imaam Ahmad bn Sinaan Al-Qattaan – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – [d.258 hijrah] said:
'There is no person of Bid'ah in life except that he hates the People of Hadith; when a person innovates a Bid'ah, the sweetness of hadith will be taken away from his heart.' [Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee mentioned it in Sharaf As'haab Al-Hadeeth (p.73)].
Abu Haatim Ar-Raazi – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – said:
'The sign of the People of Bid'ah is that they attack the People of Narrations (Athar); the sign of the heretics is that they label the People of Athar as People of Trivialities, they tend to destroy the narrations (by their that statement); the sign of the Qadariyyah (those who dispute Allâh's Predestination for His creation) is that they label the People of Sunnah as people that liken Allâh to His creatures; the Raafidis label them as haters of the family of the Prophet.' [Al-Imaam Ar-Raazi mentioned it in his Asl As-Sunnah Wa I'tiqaad Ad-Deen (which was published in the magazine of Salafiyyah University in year 1403 hijrah)].
This is another term that is often mentioned alongside Salafiyyah. It should therefore be noted that the people of knowledge have come to the conclusion that Ahlul-Hadith is also the same as At-Taaifatu Al-Mansuurah and Al-Fir'qatu An-Naajiyyah.
The term Ahlul-Hadith, should not be taken in its literal sense to mean those who specialize in the hadith of the Messenger of Allâh, rather its purview is larger than that meaning. Shaykhul-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – said in Majmu'ul-Fataawaa [4/95]:
'We do not mean by Ahlul-hadith those who only heard, wrote and reported Ahadith rather they mean those who strive to protect, know and understand them whether explicitly or implicitly, and who also follow them in that regards; so also are the People of Qur'ân.'
In essence the People of Hadith are also the People of Qur'aan for in some regards, Qur'ân is also 'hadith.' Allâh the Mighty said:
"Allâh has sent down the best hadith, a Book (this Qur'ân), its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated…" [Zumar: 23].
There are two central elements in the appellation: Sunnah and Jamâ'ah. And that was how the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – described those that would be safe in time of tribulations when they hold to what he – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – and his Companions were upon which is the Sunnah, and their being united over that, which makes them the Jamâ'ah.
Thus the People of Sunnah and Congregation are those who remain upon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allâh and his Companions while they unite over it. It should be noted here that what should be united upon is the way of the Messenger of Allâh and that of his Companions; it is upon that that the much-quested Muslim unity can be forged.
The School of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamâ'ah had been in existence aforetime, and it cannot be ascribed to any individual that came after the Companions of the Messenger of Allâh.
Shaykhul-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – said:
'The School of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamâ'ah had been in existence aforetime; it was in place before Allâh created Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Ash-Shaafi'yy and Ahmad. It was the school of the Companions which they derived from their Prophet. Therefore whoever opposes that is an innovator in the sight of the People of Sunnah.' [Li Maa dhaa…p.65].
Thus it is pretty clear from the above that Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamâ'ah had their origin in the way of the Prophet and his Companions which is essentially what Salafiyyah embodies.
Just One Path!
Just as Islam stands out among the various religions in the world today, so also is Salafiyyah – the way of the Pious Predecessors – the only means of safety in the face of diverse thoughts, collations, formations, groupings, etc, the Ummah is witnessing today.
Ibn Mas'uud – may Allâh be pleased with him – reported: The Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – drew a line for us then he said: 'This is Allâh's path.' He then drew some other lines on its right hand side and left hand side and said: 'These paths; on each of them there is a Shaytân calling people to it.' After that he recited (Allâh's Word [interpretation of the meaning]:)
"And Verily, this is My Straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate You away from His Path…" [Al-An'aam: 153].
Ibn Al-Qayyim – may Allâh bestow mercy on him – said:
'This is because the path to Allâh is one; that is the path upon which He raised His Messengers and sent down His Books. None can come to Him except through that path. If people were to come via all other paths through various doors, all other paths will be closed against them so also are the doors except this One Path; it is the One that leads to Allâh.' [At-Tafseer Al-Qayyim (pp. 14-15)].
There is no gainsaying the fact that to have the correct belief, creed, worship, manner, call, etc, the way of the Salaf must be adhered to. There should not be any compromise in this regard.
On the authority of Muaawiyyah bn Abee Sufyaan – may Allâh be pleased with both – who said the Messenger of Allâh – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – said:
'Indeed those before you among the People of Scriptures divided into seventy-two sects; verily this Ummah shall divide into seventy-three sects. Seventy-two will be in the Hell and one will be in Jannah; and that is the Jamâ'ah.' [Reported by Ahmad and others; the narration is authentic.]
And the Jamâ'ah is that which conforms to the truth which the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – and his Companions were upon even if it were just a single person that is on that.
May Allâh make us among those that will be upon what the Prophet – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – and his Companions – nay the Pious Predecessors – were.
Wa sallahu alaa nabiyyinaa muhammadin wa aali-hi wa sahbi-hi ajmaeen.
HISTORY OF SOME SALAF
WHO ARE THE SALAFUS-SAALIH?