A compilation by Saboor Aboo Israaeel
The term "Salaf" (as a singular or plural usage) means "predecessor" as explained by the reliable scholars.
The Sahaabah and their immediate students (the Taabioon) are called the "Salaf" for they preceded us in Eeman and understanding of Allaah's religion; and their path is referred to as "Salafiyyah". It often time extends to the time of the Atbaaut-Taabioon (the Followers of the Taabioon) too. The Three Epochs constitute the era the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ referred to as al-Quroon al-Mufaddalah as derived from an authentic hadeeth.
The term "Salaf" is not a newly discovered name or idea for many scholars in the past like Imaam Al-Bukhaaree, Ibn Hajar, An-Nawawee, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim. and the likes used it in their works.
"Salafiyyah" is the Islaam practiced by the Sahaabah and their immediate-students which no Muslim today have choice than to follow their path; [Q. 4:115 / Q. 9: 100]
"Salafiyyah" is the Islaam free from all sorts of religious innovations (bid'ah) while Islaam of some people today are mixed and full of serious heresies; [At-Tirmidhee, 2641]
A "Salafee" is a man ascribing himself to the path of the Salaf; while a woman is "Salafiyyah" (not as المصدر الصناعي [Constructed Nominal Word]).
Ibn Taymiyyah - rahimahullaah - explained there is nothing wrong in an individual to exhibit and ascribe himself to their path for that is the truth.
Anciently, the scholars - like Adh-Dhahabee - would describe whom was upon the path as 'Salafee'.
No dispute that Allaah named us "Muslims" [Q.22:78], but being "Salafee" is nothing but to distinguish the truth from the falsehood [Q. 8:37] at the time of disunity and opposition to the true path of the Salaf.
The term 'Ahlu Sunnah' is quintessentially 'Salafiyyah'; it is from there, names such as "Ahlu Athar" and "Ahlu Hadeeth" are derived.
Naming oneself or being called a "Salafee" is not blameworthy but rather it is just distinguishing oneself from other Muslims treading other dangerous paths. It is therefore not a self-purification.
Imaam Ad-Daaraqutnee, Ibn Abd-l-Barr and many scholars in the past were called "Salafees" for adhering to the path.
(To be continued Inshaa Allaah).