Best Advice-Call Yourself Muslim Not Salafi
If you do a simple search online on the word "Salaf" you will find quite a number of articles which are titled" Why you should call yourself Salafi. The word "Salafi" is been pushed as if it is a must for you to call yourself in such a manner. Some Muslims pride themselves with the usage of the word 'Salafi" or "Salaf" and many of them quote the below hadith of the prophet (Sal).
The prophet (Sal) told his daughter, Fathima (Rali),
“Indeed Jibreel used to listen to my recitation of the Qur’aan once a year, and he has now (i.e. this year) done so twice, and I do not see except that my appointed time is close, so fear Allah and be patient for indeed I am a blessed ‘Salaf’ (Predecessor) for you”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Now, the word "Salafi" has been taken out of context and has been interpreted to fit sectarian means which is unfortunate. In the above hadith, the prophet (Sal) used the word 'Salaf" to mean that he is a blessed predecessor. Names or words can be used and misused and played around but what is important is to understand that word or name in the right context based on the Quran and the Sunnah. Let us take the example of another word that is been misused. The word"Ghuraba'(strangers) is been used by Kawarij terrorists like ISIS in their videos twisting the meaning to mean that is they who are the real strangers(They are not strange, they are deranged)
Abu Hurayrah (Rali) narrated,
“Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers.”
In this hadith, the word الغرباء (Ghuraba (strangers)) is mentioned and even deviated sects are misinterpreting this word to mean it is them. The prophet(Sal) explained who the strangers are.
Abdullah ibn Amr (Rali) narrated,
The prophet (Sal) said,
“Toobaa is for the strangers.” It was said: “And who are the strangers?” He (Sal) replied: “A righteous people surrounded by an abundance of evil people. Those who disobey them are more numerous than those who obey them.”
(Musnad Ahmed-Graded Sahih by Sheikh Albani-in Sahih al Jami)
All the scholars of the Sunnah base on this hadith and others to confirm it is those who are the ones who are upon the truth which means the ones who follow only the Quran and the authentic hadiths as understood by the salafus saliheen that are the strangers.
The argument that you must call yourself Salafi rather than Muslim is based mainly on the argument of Sheikh Nasiruddeen al Albani (Rahimahullah).
Sheikh Albani was asked why ascribe as Salafeeyah? and he said the following,
"Indeed the word ‘as-Salaf’ is well known in the Arabic language, and in the Sharia’, and what is important to us here is the research from the Sharia’ point of view. It has been authentically reported from the Prophet (Sal)-that he said to Sayyidah Fatima –Radi Allaahu anhu– during the illness from which he died:
‘Fear Allaah and be patient, for indeed I am a blessed Salaf (Predecessor) for you."(Bukhari and Muslim)
The scholars used this word ‘as-Salaf’ a lot, and it has been used so much more than can be enumerated, it is sufficient for us to use one example, and that is what we need to fight against Bida’:
Every good is in the following of the Salaf and every evil is in the innovations of the Khalaf
However, there are those who claim to have knowledge who reject this ascription, claiming that it does not have any foundation, so they say: it is not allowed for a Muslim to say I am a Salafi. Its as if they say: it is not allowed for a Muslim to say: I follow the Salaf as-Salih of what they are upon from ‘Aqeedah, worship and manners!
There is no doubt that this type of rejection – if this is what they mean – necessitates being free from the correct Islam which our Salaf as-Salih were upon, and at the head of them is the Prophet -(Sal)- as is indicated in the Mutawatir hadeeth which is in Bukhari, Muslim and in other books, from the Prophet -(Sal):
"The best people are my generation then those who will come after them and then those after them."
Therefore it is not allowed for the Muslim to free himself from the ascription to the Salaf as-Salih, whereas if a Muslim freed himself from any other ascription, then it would not be possible for anyone from the people of knowledge to ascribe them to Kufr (disbelief) or Fasooq (openly sinning).
And this person who rejects this ascription, don’t you see that he himself ascribes to a Madhab from the Madhahib (plural: Madhab)?! Whether this Madhab was connected to ‘Aqeedah or with Fiqh?
So he is either an Ashari or a Matroodi, or either he is from the Ahl-ul-Hadeeth, or Hanafi, or Shafia’i, or Maliki, or Hanbali from those who enter into the title of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal Jammah. Even though he who ascribes to the Ashari Madhab or to the four Madhahib then he ascribes to people who are without doubt not infallible, even though there from those scholars who are correct, I wish he had only rejected the likes of these ascriptions to individuals not infallible.
As for the one who ascribes to the Salaf as-Salih, then he ascribes to that which is in general infallible, and indeed the Prophet -(Sal)-mentioned that from the signs of the Firqat an-Najeeha (the saved sect) that they adhere to that which the Messenger of Allaah (Sal)– was upon and what the Companions were upon, so who ever adhered to it is with certainty upon guidance from his Lord.
Without doubt the clear, manifest, distinguished, evident evidence of this title is to say: I am a Muslim upon the Book and the Sunnah and upon the methodology of our Salaf as-Salih, and that is to summarize it by saying:
I am a Salafi."
(Al-Asaalah’ Magazine No. 9 p. 86-87, & an-Nabthaa al-Waafi fee wajoob al-Intessab ila Salafeeyah p.26-29)
The above argument of sheikh Albani is only his opinion and blind following a scholar is haram in Islam. It is unfortunate that Muslims especially those who brand themselves as "Salafi" should understand that Allah (Swt) says in the Quran very clearly,
"And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, "Indeed, I am of the Muslims."
In this verse Allah (Swt) tells to call ourselves Muslims not Salafi. I would like to ask the brothers who want to call themselves "Salafi", do you want to follow the advice of Allah azza wa jal, or the opinion of Sheikh Albani?. Sheikh Alabni's argument is that if you just plainly call yourself a Muslim then everyone are calling themselves Muslims. Even the Shia,Sufi and others are also calling themselves Muslims so the argument of Sheikh Albani is to straight say"Salafi" instead of Muslim because everyone will know that you follow the Quran and the Sunnah as understood by the Salafus Saliheen. This argument is wrong because nowadays even deviant individuals and organizations are also calling themselves "Salafi" and the word 'Salafi' is associated wrongly with terrorism and if you are going to ascribe yourself as "Salafi", then people will only start to ignorantly misunderstand you. The other thing that is wrong with Shaikh Albani's opinion is that the majority of the people in the world, both Muslims and non Muslims do not know what "Salafi" is or have started to insult the word"Salafi" by labelling it with terrorism due to the general ignorance of the sound aqeada and manhaj. My argument is the usage of the word "Salafi" is not practical and it is not prescribed to call yourself "Salaf" rather what Allah (Swt) tells you is to call yourself Muslim. Islam is a religion for all ages and times and the word Muslim is the best way a Muslim can ascribe him/herself. If someone happens to ask you what sect you are following. you can simply say that you do not follow any sect because it is haram in Islam. Allah(Swt) says,
"And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided."
"Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do."
"Do not be among those who commit idolatry, those who divided their religion and became sects, each party rejoicing in itself"
“And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment.”
The Prophet(Sal) said in a hadith narrated by Jundab ibn Abdullah,
"Whoever is killed under the banner of blind following, who calls to tribalism or supports tribalism, then he has died upon ignorance."
Muslims are forbidden to divide in to sects and blindly follow the opinions of scholars. Some try to use the below hadith to prove that dividing in to a sect is allowed.
Abdullah ibn Amr(Rali) narrated,
“What comes over my nation will surely be what came over the children of Israel, step by step until if one of them fornicated with his mother, one from my nation would do the same. Verily, the children of Israel split into seventy-two sects and my nation will split into seventy-three sects.” They said, “Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Those who follow my way and my companions.” (Tirmidhi-Graded Sahih by Albani)
In the above hadith and other similar hadiths, the prophet (Sal) said that the Jews will split in to seventy two sects and the Muslims will split in to seventy three sects. This doe not mean that Muslims are encouraged to divide in to sects. This hadith has been taken out of context. What the prophet (Sal) mentioned was that jsut like the Jews, the Muslims too will divide in to various sects meaning that the Muslims will be doing something which is forbidden in Islam and that is to divide in to sects. In another hadith narrated by Awf ibn Malik, the prophet (Sal) said,
“The Jews split into seventy-one sects, one of them is in Paradise and seventy are in the Hellfire. The Christians split into seventy-two sects, seventy-one are in the Hellfire and one of them is in Paradise. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, my nation will split into seventy-three sects, one of them is in Paradise and seventy-two are in the Hellfire.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, who are the ones in Paradise?” The Prophet said, “The united community (Al Jamah).”
(Ibn Majah and graded Sahih by Albani)
In the above hadith it is clear that what the prophet (Sal) meant was the ones who will enter paradise are those who stick to the understanding of the prophet (Sal) and his companions and who are the 'Jamah" meaning the community that is united. This clearly proves that dividing in to a sect and calling yourself "Salafi" is not established in Islam. Rather, A Muslim who follows the Quran and the authentic Sunnah should not divide and brand one self as " Salaf", he should only call himself Muslim.because this is what has been legislated in Islam. In many authentic hadiths the prophet (Sal) used the term"Muslim" and not "Salafi' when telling about a Muslim. One example isin the below hadith,
Narrated by Abu Hurayrah(Rali),
The prophet (Sal) said,
"It is enough evil for a Muslim to look down upon his (Muslim) brother."
A Muslim should only refer to Allah and his messenger (Sal) if there is an issue. Allah(Swt) says,
"And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best (way) and best in result."
Sheikh Albani as a scholar made a mistake and blindly accepting the opinion os scholars is not acceptable. If someone asks you, what Muslim are you, then you can exolain to him by saying that you are a Muslim who follws the Quran and the authentic Sunnah as understood by the Sahabah and the pious predecessors. Allah (Swt) says,
" Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best."
The prophet (Sal0 said in a hadith narrated by Irbad ibn Sariyah,
"For surely, he who lives from amongst you will see much differing, so it is upon you to be upon my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Bite on to it with your back molar teeth and beware of newly invented matters, for verily, every newly invented matter is an innovation, and all innovation is misguidance.’
(Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi-Graded Sahih by Albani)
Sheikh Salih al Uthaymin correctly said with regards to the dangers of calling oneself a Salafi. He said, "It can be learnt from the (Prophet's(Sal)) statement,
"Whoever lives among you will see much differing.so upon you is my Sunnah"
That when many sects emerge in the Ummah, do not seek any of them. Today, parties have emerged and some of them are old. Kawarij, Mutazila, Jahmiyyah, Shia, rather the Rawafidah, then came the Muslim brotherhood, and then the Salafis, and Tabligh Jamaath and other than that, all of these are sects. Put them all to the side and upon you is a trust and it is what which was instructed by the prophet (Sal) ,
"Upon you is my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided khaliphs"
And without doubt,it is binding upon all the Muslims to have as their methodology the way of the pious predecessors without having any affiliation to a group called the Salafis. What is obligatory for the Islamic nation to have as their methodology the way of the pious predecessors with out having affiliation to a party called the Salafis. Pay attention to the difference. There is the way of the predecessors and then there is a group called the Salafis. What is sought, following the predecessors and but why? because the group, the Salafis are the closest group to the truth without doubt. However,their problem is the same (as the other misguided groups) that parts of these groups stray and isolate and declare one another as heretics and sinners though we do not disapprove of that if it is true rather we disapprove the denouncing of evil in this fashion. It is obligatory to unite, and the leaders of these groups and let there be between us the book of Allah (Azza wa jal) and the Sunnah of the messenger (Sal). So, let us judge by that, not by desires and speculation or via so and so or so and so. Everyone hits and misses, regardless of what he attains of knowledge and worship. However, the infallibility is in the religion of Islam so, in that hadith, the prophet (Sal) guided towards a methodology by which a person can be safe not to associate with any sect, only the way of the righteous predecessors rather, the way of the prophet (Sal) and the way of the rightly guided khaliphs."
(Youtube-The Danger in Calling Oneself "Salafi" | Sheikh Ibn 'Uthaymeen-Published on Feb 13, 2016-0.02-Link-https://youtu.be/Q1uIa-Wtqd0?t=2)
From all the above evidence , it is clear that you must onky call yourself a Muslim and dividing in to a sect and branding yourself as "Salafi" is haram in Islam.