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Imaam al-Albaanee: Compelling Argument for the Usage of the Term 'Salafi'
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Imaam al-Albaani (rahimahullaah) has an excellent explanation of the necessity of the term 'Salafi' in terms of the underlying conceptual reason behind it.

In response to the question:

لماذا التسمي بالسلفية ؟ أهي دعوة حزبية أم طائفية أو مذهبية ؟ أم هي فرقة جديدة في الإسلام ؟

Why the label of Salafiyyah? Is this a partisan call or a doctrinal one? Or is it a new sect in Islaam?

He replied, as documented in al-Tuhfah al-Mahdiyah Liman Sa'ala an Ma'naa al-Salafiyyah (p. 34), cited from al-Asaalah, (Volume 9, pp. 86-90):

Indeed, the word 'al-Salaf' is known in the language of the Arabs and in the language of the [Divine] Shar' (legislation), and what concerns us here is to investigate it from the legislative aspect:

For it is authentically related from the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) that during the illness (preceding) his death he said to Sayyidah Faatimah (radiallaahu anhaa), "So fear Allaah and have patience for an excellent 'salaf' I am for you." And the Scholars' usage of the word 'al-Salaf' is abundant, and it is more abundant than can be enumerated. But sufficient for us is a single example, and it is what they use in combatting innovation (bid'ah):

And every good is in following the Salaf and every evil is in the innovation of the later ones (or those who turned away).

There is however, from those who claim knowledge, who rejects this ascription claiming that it has not basis! So he says, "It is not permissible for a Muslim to say, 'I am Salafi'," and it is as if he is saying, "It is not permissible for a Muslim to say: I am a follower of the Righteous Salaf in what they were upon of creed, worship and behaviour."

No doubt the likes of this rejection - if he was intending it - would make it binding upon him to free himself from the authentic Islaam which our Righteous Salaf used to be upon, and at the head of them, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), just as is indicated by the mutawaatir hadaeeth which is in the two Saheehs (of al-Bukhari and Muslim) and others, from [the Prophet] (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), "The best of generations is my generation. Then those who follow them. Then those who follow them." Hence, it is not permissible for a Muslim to free himself from ascribing to the Righteous Salaf. On the other hand, if he was to free himself from any other ascription, it would not be possible for any of the people of knowledge to ascribe disbelief and sin to him. But the one who rejects this ascription (to the Salaf), do you see that he does not ascribe to any particular school from amongst the schools?! Irrespective of whether this school is connected to creed or to jurisprudence?

For he will either be an Ash'aree or Maatureedee (in creed), or he may be from Ahl al-Hadeeth (in jurisprudence) or a Hanafi, Shaafi'ee, Maalikee or Hanbali from those (schools of jurisprudence) that enter into the meaning of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah [i.e. because they do not oppose the usool of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah even if they have different approaches in jurisprudence]. And alongside this, the one who ascribes to the Ash'aree madhhab or (any) of the four schools (of jurisprudence), then he undoubtedly ascribes to individuals who are not infallible (free of making mistakes), even if there are scholars amongst them who arrive at the truth (in matters), so I wish I knew why he does not reject the likes of these ascriptions to individuals who are not infallible?

But as for the one who ascribes to the Righteous Salaf, then he ascribes to that which is infallible - in a generalized sense - and the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) mentioned that from the signs of the Saved Sect (al-Firqah al-Najiyah) is that it holds fast to what the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and his Companions were upon.

So whoever held fast to it, out of certainty, then he is upon guidance from his Lord and there is no doubt that the clear, manifest, distinguishing, plain appellation (title) is that we say, "I am a Muslim upon the Book and the Sunnah upon the methodology of our Righteous Salaf" and this is said concisely as "I am a Salafi."

An important note here is that just as Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, in the 8th century hijrah, reconnected the Ummah back to the Salaf, after the Ahl al-Kalaam and other factions of Innovators had severed the Ummah from them, likewise, Imaam al-Albaanee reconnected the Ummah back to the Salaf and to the Prophetic Sunnah, and he received much abuse and antagonism from various factions of the Innovators from the Ash'ariyyah, Sufiyyah, Muqallidah, Takfiriyyah, Jihadiyyah, Rafidah and many others.

Here is the Arabic text of the answer:

إن كلمة السلف معروفة في لغة العرب وفي لغة الشرع ؛ وما يهمنا هنا هو بحثها من الناحية الشرعية :

فقد صح عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال في مرض موته للسيدة فاطمة رضي الله عنها : "فاتقي الله واصبري ، ونعم السلف أنا لك " . ويكثر استعمال العلماء لكلمة السلف ، وهذا أكثر من أن يعد ويحصى ، وحسبنا مثالاً واحداً وهو ما يحتجون به في محاربة البدع :

وكل خير في اتباع من سلف وكل شر في ابتداع من خلف

ولكن هناك من مدعي العلم من ينكر هذه النسبة زاعماً أن لا أصل لها! فيقول : (لايجوز للمسلم أن يقول : أنا سلفي ) وكأنه يقول : (لا يجوز أن يقول مسلم : أنا متبع للسلف الصالح فيما كانوا عليه من عقيدة وعبادة وسلوك) .

لا شك أن مثل هذا الإنكار ـ لو كان يعنيه ـ يلزم منه التبرؤ من الإسلام الصحيح الذي كان عليه سلفنا الصالح ، وعلى رأسهم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كما يشير الحديث المتواتر الذي في الصحيحين وغيرهما عنه صلى الله عليه وسلم : "خير الناس قرني ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم الذين يلونهم " . فلا يجوز لمسلم أن يتبرأ من الانتساب إلى السلف الصالح ، بينما لو تبرأ من أية نسبة أخرى لم يمكن لأحد من أهل العلم أن ينسبه إلى كفر أو فسوق . والذي ينكر هذه التسمية نفسه ، ترى ألا ينتسب إلى مذهب من المذاهب ؟! سواء أكان هذا المذهب متعلقاً بالعقيدة أو بالفقه ؟

فهو إما أن يكون أشعرياً أو ماتريدياً ، وإما أن يكون من أهل الحديث أو حنفياً أو شافعياً أو مالكياً أو حنبلياً ؛ مما يدخل في مسمى أهل السنة والجماعة ، مع أن الذي ينتسب إلى المذهب الأشعري أو المذاهب الأربعة ، فهو ينتسب إلى أشخاص غير معصومين بلا شك ، وإن كان منهم العلماء الذين يصيبون ، فليت شعري هلا أنكر مثل هذه الانتسابات إلى الأفراد غير المعصومين ؟

وأما الذي ينتسب إلى السلف الصالح ، فإنه ينتسب إلى العصمة ـ على وجه العموم ـ وقد ذكر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم من علامات الفرقة الناجية أنها تتمسك بما كان عليه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وما كان عليه أصحابه .

فمن تمسك به كان يقيناً على هدى من ربه ولا شك أن التسمية الواضحة الجلية المميزة البينة هي أن نقول : أنا مسلم على الكتاب والسنة وعلى منهج سلفنا الصالح ، وهي أن تقول باختصار : أنا سلفي


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