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- Salafism

salafism is doctrines sunnite, i.e. a movement asserting a return to the Islam of the origins. The salafism results from the doctrines .

, salafism (in Arabic : ???? salafiy) comes from the word salaf, predecessor or ancestor, which designates the companions of and the two generations which succeeded to them.

Name "salafist" (or salafi) gathers two main antagonistic tendencies today:

  • djihadists who preach the salafism by violence and terrorism like Islamic face of the Hello or it Group salafist for preaching and the combat. This tendency truly developed only since 1991, with the first war of the gulf.
  • cheikhists, of the theologists or preachers salafists opposed to the violence of the djihadists (it Abd Al-Mâlik Ramdânî gathered in its book Fatâwa Al-' Ulamâ' it-Akâbir ((rear) [ 1 ]) fatwas of several theologists salafists who condemn with greatest firmness islamist rising in Algeria).


Origins of the salafism

The salafists refuse to see themselves like a movement of recent foundation, and consider that they represent the legitimate continuation of the Islam of the first centuries. The use of the Arab word "salafiy" (salafist) goes up at least in XIVème century. Ibn Taymiyyah declared as follows: "there is not no disadvantage to be allotted to the salafs". One finds also this attribution in the writings of his pupil, historian and specialist in the hadith, Adh-Dhahabiy.

Attribution with the salafism was more widely diffused at the beginning of the XXème century by the school rationnalist of the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh and his Syrian pupil Muhammad Rashid Ridha, in opposition to the Sufism, which they fought as being one of the principal sources of the decline of the Moslems. However, they did not adopt the other bases which distinguish today the salafists (not interpretation from the divine attributes, limited role of the reason in the interpretation of the crowned texts...). The salafists of today are thus rather critical towards this school. The Yemeni Muqbil Ibn Hâdî thus wrote a book to show that Rashid Ridha and even less its Master Muhammad Abduh, cannot prevail himself of the salafism.

The word "salafi" was still taken again by Nâsir ud-Dîn Al-Albâniy (1914-2000), which acknowledges to be influenced in its youth by Rashid Ridha. Al-Albâniy considered that it is necessary to be called today "salafis", and that it is not enough to be declared "Moslem simply", because the most opposed currents, of the Shiism to the kharidjism, are declared also Moslem. It is thus in a preoccupation with a distinction of the other currents that it insisted on this name. It affirmed that it was simply a summary in Moslem word of the sentence a "according to Coran and Sunna, according to the interpretation of the piles predecessors" (have-salaf have-sâlih).

Principal bases of the salafism

  • To insist on tawhid (monotheism) from which they distinguish three branches, which is a clear differentiation with respect to the other Moslem theologists:
    • Tawhîd ur-rubûbiyyah: The unicity of Allah as creator, and provider with the needs for his creatures.
    • Tawhîd ul-Ulûhiyyah: The fact of devoting all its acts of worship to Allah and him only. They affirm that the first mission of all the prophets was to invite people to conform to this aspect of the monotheism.
    • Tawhîd ul-Asmâ`i was-Sifât: The fact of accepting the apparent direction of the attributes and divine acts which appear in Coran and authentic Sunna, without interpreting them in a metaphorical way, and without assimilating them to the human attributes.
  • To return to the religion as practised by the "piles prédecesseurs" and to denounce any innovation in the precepts or the religious practices, which very often leads them to denounce things which are not recognized like innovations by the consensus of the sunites traditionels.
  • No word or opinion of any person must take precedence over the texts of Coran and Sunna. They thus often quote the word of Imâm Mâlik: "the opinion of any person is suceptible to be accepted or refused, except [ words of ] that which to lie in this tomb", showing fall it from the Prophet, or that of Imâm Ash-Shâfi' iy: "If it appears authentic [ whereas it is contradicted with my word ], then throw my word against the wall ".


  • It is wise to specify that these doctrines are taught in no university sunnite world except their, and that they are regarded as marginal per many sunnites. They have more or less explicit doctrines which are to be the group saved among all the Moslem groups.
  • Their policy of fight against the worship of the saints raised polemic because of the many destruction of many vestiges of Islam in Arabia, amongst other things the tombs of many Companions of Prophête of Islam, and the mosques going back to this time.

Position about the divine attributes

From the doctrinal point of view, the salafists are opposed to the asharites and the maturidites, while claiming to refuse to interpret in a metaphorical way the divine attributes and acts (such as the rise on the throne, the "hand of God", "the eye of God"...), without however assimilating them to the human attributes. They claim majority of the hanbalites thus, and in particular ofIbn Taymiyyah who constitutes one of their privileged references. But in the facts, they interpretent the divine attributes in a literal way, which is considered by the majority of the scientists sunnites not salafis anthropomorphism. Indeed, for each attribute, they say that the direction is known but the method inconue. Thus the Hand of God would be according to them truly a hand with the direction or let us hear we it but does not resemblerait with the other known hands.

This position is attested in old writings. At-Tirmidhiy (Xème century), known as in its Sunan (delivers which constitutes one of the six more important references of hadîth at the sunnites), by commenting on the hadîth according to which "Allah accepts alms and its right hand takes it..." :

"In connection with this hadîth and of the accounts of the same order, mentioning attributes [ divine ], or evoking the descent of the Lord - Glorifié and Elevé are it - each night, to the sky low, several scientists said: some of these accounts are authentic, [ one must ] to believe in it, but one should not imagine it nor to wonder about how. This was brought back of Mâlik Ibn Anas, Sufyân Ibn ' Uyaynah and Abd-Allâh Ibn Al-Mubârak. They said in connection with these hadîths: "Make pass them without speaking about the ' comment'". This is the opinion of the scientists among people of and of the consensus. As for [ sect ] of djahmiyyah, they disavowed these accounts and said that it is anthropomorphism. Whereas Allah mentioned in several passages of its Book, "the Hand", "Hearing", "Sight", them djahmiyyah these verses interpreted in a metaphorical way and explained it in a contrary way to that of people of science. They claimed that Allah did not create of Its Hand, but they said that "hand" here means "force". Ishâq Ibn Râhawayh said: "It would be anthropomorphism if one said: ' a hand such as such main' (yadun ka-yad) or ' a hearing such as such ouïe' (sam' a ka-sam' ) or ' which resembles such ouïe' (sam' a mithla sam') (...). As for saying, as Allah said, ' Main', ' a ouïe', ' a vue' without speaking of how and without saying ' which resembles such ouïe' or ' such as such ouïe', then this is not to in no case anthropomorphism. It is in conformity so that Allah - Glorifié and Elevé is it - said in its Book: ????? ?????????? ?????? ????? ?????????? ????????? ("There is nothing which resembles to Him; and it is Him Audient, the Clear-sighted one")"

The ash' arites show the salafis anthropomorphism when they speak about "Hand of Allah", of the "Eyes of Allah", the "Anger of Allah", the "Mercy of Allah", etc. with the clean direction, bus for them these attributes are clean creatures and imply a certain weakness. The salafis answer them that the ash' arites also recognize certain attribus ("the Life", "the Will", "the Sight"...) whereas they are divided by the creatures. Why thus would not speak they about anthropomorphism in this case?

Position compared to the quatres traditional schools

Although they claim to respect the 4 schools sunnites, and that some are allotted to it explicitly (the majority of the Saoudi oulémas are claimed thus ), salafis are deeply reformists in celà that much of them refuses adhesion with the one of the legal schools (what is considered by several contemporary scientists sunnites a mislaying, because they affirm that it is interdict in Islam to practise a ijtihaad (effort of reflexion personel) without having preliminary science, validated by ijazas (authorisations)). The scientist Syrien Sa' id Ramadan Al Bûtî denounced these practices while indicating that it was allowed to change legal school during his life, and without denying the possibility of the ijtihaad for those which reached the capacity of it.

The arguments advanced by the salafis, on this subject, are developed in books such as I' lâm ul-Muwaqqi' în ofIbn Al-Qayyim (XIVème century), Al-Qawl ul-Mufîd fî hukm it-taqlîd of Ash-Shawkâniy (XIXème century), Hadiyyat custom-Sultân, ilâ muslimî bilâd it-Yâbân of Sultân Al-Ma' sûmiy, or Bid' At C-Ta' assub it-Madhhabiy of the contemporary ' Îd ' Abbâsiy, who is a response to the book Al-Lâmadhhabiyyah of Al-Bûtî.

Position compared to terrorism

This subject divides those which are allotted to the salafism in two antagonistic groups. Certain Western specialists distinguish salafists "cheikhists" (who refer in particular to the official theologists of the Saudi Arabia and which are opposed to risings against the governments in place) and salafists djihadists (who refer in particular to Sayyid Qotb or Usama Bin Laden). The polemic between these two currents is very strong, each one estimates that other betrayed the bases of the salafism.

In addition, several theologists salafists (them of Âl Ash-Sheikh, Ibn ' Uthaymîn, Al-Fawzân, Al-' Ubaykân) decided against the attacks suicides whatever their justification. What was worth sour criticisms of the djihadists to them.

Many was also opposed to the entry of the Moslem militants in political activism. One of the famous words of the sheik salafist Nasir ud-Dîn Al-Albâniy was: "It forms part of [ good ] political, today, to forsake the policy". This theologist albano-Syrian who was the most outstanding figure of the salafism since the Sixties, until his death in 2000, and which took part much in the diffusion of attribution to the salafism, was convinced that the only solution with the problems of the Moslems consists of what it called "At-Tasfiyatu wa-Tarbiyah" (purification and education): on the one hand, to purify the Islamic religion of all the "innovations" which sullied its precepts and its dogmas, to return to the original religion such as it was transmitted by the Prophet, and on the other hand, the education of the Moslems so that they conform to this purified religion, and forsake their bad habits. It thus considered, which any other solution (that it is political or revolutionist) does nothing but divert the Moslems of the good way to be followed. Little before its death, it estimated that much was done as regards the "purification", but that essence remains to be made with regard to "education".

Relation with the Moslem Brothers

Certain members of Moslem brothers are more or less sympathisans salafism, but the movement in itself is not an emanation of the salafism. Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the movement, defined it as "at the same time salafist and soufi", in a concern of gathering the most Moslems in his movement politico-monk. The majority of the salafis are very critical towards the movement of the Moslem Brothers. They show them in particular:

  • not to insist on tawhid in their sermon.
  • to gather people of various beliefs without worrying to correct their possible deviances.
  • to base the criteria of alliance and disavowal on the membership of their movement, the compliance with its rules, and obedience with their murchid instead of basing them on the respect of Islam.
  • to have approached the Shiites who are the group more hated salafis.

Cf. Waqafâtun ma' has kitâbi Li-ddu' âti faqat ((rear) [ 2 ]) of Muhammad Ibn Sayf Al-' Adjmiy.

Sâlih Âl Ash-Shaykh, current Saoudi Minister for the religious businesses, declared:

"As for the group of the Moslem Brothers, among the principal aspects of their call, one raises: the secrecy, the dissimulation, fickleness, the bringing together of those which are of an interest for them (...). Also, among the aspects [ distinctive ] of this group and its bases, is the fact that they prevent their disciples from hearing the opinions which are opposed to their. They for that of the tactics varied: to occupy the time of the young people of the morning at the evening (...) so that they do not have any more the occasion to be interested in another thing, to show people which know their truth and to defame them (...) to prevent the others from listening to them. They are in that similar to the polytheists, in a certain aspect, which showed the Messenger of Allah (...), in public, of various evils to prevent people from following it. (...)
In addition, the ultimate goal of the call [ of the Moslem Brothers ] is to arrive at the capacity. (...) As for the fact that people are saved punishment of Allah (...) and enter to the paradise, this is not important for them."

(Remarks recorded in a cassette entitled Fatâwâ Al-' Ulamâ`i wire-djamâ' âti wa atharuhâ ' alâ bilâd it-h' aramayn, with the editions Minhâdj custom-Sunnah, Riyadh).

References of the salafists

The salafists refer to old:

  • Initially companions of the Prophet, whom they regard as being most erudite and the first example to be followed afterwards .
  • Four Imâms founders of the legal schools, for which they show a large respect although they refuse to follow them blindly (a weak minority of salafists however emitted some criticize with regard to Imâm Abû Hanîfah, reviving old quarrels).
  • The scientists specialists in the hadith of IXème-XIIIème century, such as: Ibn Al-Mubârak, Ibn ' Uyaynah, Al-Bukhâriy, Muslim, At-Tirmidhiy, Abû Daoûd, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Battah, Ibn Mandah, Ibn Qudâmah...
  • Ibn Taymiyyah and its disciples Ibn Al-Qayyim, Ibn Kathîr and Adh-Dhahabiy, which lived in XIIIème-XIVème century, at the time of . The salafists very often quote them (especially the three first) because their?uvres is abundant and that they defended with energy the belief "salafist" against the currents soufis and asharites, majority at their time.

All the theologists who precede are also recognized and respected by the Moslems sunnites other currents (besides some soufis extremists and not representing the majority of them, or the sect of the ahbâchs, which hold Ibn Taymiyyah for an heretic).

  • and its disciples, whose?uvres were gathered in "the complete?uvres of Muhammad Ibn ' Abd Al-Wahhab" and "Al-Fatâwa Year-Nadjdiyyah". These theologists are the subject of much more polemic between the salafists and the other currents.
  • Muhammad Ibn Ibrâhîm, former mufti of Saudi Arabia, at the beginning of the XXème century. Its book Tahkîm ul-Qawânîn is very quoted by the salafists "djihadists", because they think of finding there a judgement of apostasy of the governors who do not apply chari' has. This passage of the book was discussed by certain salafists "cheikhists" to give him another interpretation.

As for the contemporary oulémas, it is necessary to distinguish the salafists "cheikhists" who refer to:

  • Ibn Bâz, precedent of Saudi Arabia. Its?uvres complete was gathered in a collection.
  • Nasir ud-Dîn Al-Albâniy, specialist in science in . It emigrated of Albania with his father who was a mufti hanafite, to settle in Syria. It is for a great self-educated part. It was called to teach sciences of the hadith at the University of Médine, the year of its foundation. But, after two years, its contract was not renewed. It lived a certain time in Lebanon and the Emirates, before settling definitively in Amman in Jordan.
  • Ibn ' Uthaymîn, former member of the "Committee of the large scientists" Saoudi. Among its famous fatwas is the fact that "the author of an attack suicide will be in hell for all eternity" (cf its book Sharhu Riyâdh is-Sâlihîn).
  • the Yemeni Muqbil Ibn Hâdî, formed in Saudi Arabia. It was expelled by it, which it lived like an injustice. It was very critical towards the Saoudi government, until little before its death. It reconsidered its position when Saoudi reponsables accomodated it and transferred to be neat to the United States then in Saudi Arabia. It reported that proposed to him to provide out of weapons its students to Yemen, which it refused. It was very critical towards him, and it declared before the attacks of September 11: "That Allah protects us from Usama Bin Laden. It is ill omen for the Moslems ".

These four all oulémas, deceased between 1999 and 2001, constitute the first contemporary references of the salafists "cheikhists". They are often more or less attacked by the "djihadists" who readily regard them as being with the pay of the Arab governments, because they refused to declare them "apostates" as the djihadists do it, and are opposed to armed risings and the attacks.

Among the still alive oulémas auquels refers the "cheikhists":

  • The Saoudi Rabî' Ibn Hâdî Al-Madkhaliy, who is undoubtedly their first spokesman today. Former chief of the department of sciences of Sunna at the University of Médine. It was raises of Al-Albâniy. The sheik Rabî' concentrates criticisms most vehement of the djihadists.
  • The current mufti of Saudi Arabia, ' Abd Al-' Azîz Âl Ash-Shaykh (descendant of Ibn ' Abd Al-Wahhab).
  • Sâlih Al-Fawzân, member of the "committee of the large scientists" Saoudi.
  • Sâlih Âl Ash-Shaykh, current Minister for the religious businesses of Saudi Arrabie (also descendant of Ibn ' Abd Al-Wahhab).

As for the "djihadists", they refer rather to:

  • Sayyid Qotb, dissenting member of the Moslem Brothers, former journalist, author of the book "Fî Zhilâl it-Qur`ân". Rabî' Ibn Hâdî, mentioned above, devoted several books to the refutation of its ideas (dogma, to takfir widened Moslems, remarks considered moved towards or towards certain companions of the prophet, description considered to be disrespectful of Coran...).
  • The Saoudi Salmân Al-' Awdah and Safar Al-H' awalî which supported énergétiquement MADE it ensuring them (often with twists) support of the scientists salafists. They were imprisoned in 1995. After their release, they adopted a more careful attitude, in particular condemning the attacks of September 11.
  • The Saoudi Sulaymân Al-' Alwân and Nâsir Al-Fahd. This last wrote a work "showing" the apostasy of the mode of Saouds because of their support for the attack of the talibans.
  • Abû Qatâdah, Jordanian, residing in the past in England, expelled since.

Salafism in the world

  • Saudi Arabia : The Saoudi authorities and oulémas claim salafism while rejecting name "wahhabite" regarded as an insult.
  • Afghanistan : At the time of the Soviet occupation, the salafism was represented by rear-Rahmân the Djamîl combatant who was assassinated by a rival fraction related to the Moslem Brothers. The talibans did not assert salafism. They were rather soufis of the school of Deoband. In Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, the salafists name themselves Ahl ul-Hadîth.
  • Algeria : Some see in Djam' iyyat Al-' Ulamâ` ("the association of the oulémas) founded by Ibn Bâdis and Al-Bachîr Al-Ibrâhîmiy in 1931 a tendency being attached to the salafism.
  • Egypt : Muhammad Rashîd Ridhâ (1865-1935) contributed to the diffusion of attribution to the salafism, but he is criticized by the salafists of today. The salafists were represented a long time by association Ansâr have-sunnat it-Muhammadiyyah founded in 1926 by Muhammad Hâmid Al-Faqî (1892-1959), and which counted among its members of the oulémas such as Ahmad Shâkir, Muhyi-ddîn Al-Khatîb, ' Abd Ar-Rahmân Al-Wakîl, Khalîl Harrâs, and others. Muhammad Hâmid Al-Faqî was very opposite with the organization of the Moslem Brothers, whom it ironically called Al-Khuwwân (traitres) instead of Al-Ikhwân (Brothers). This association still exists in Egypt and in Sudan. Even if if certain members of the Moslem Brothers approached the salafists or adopted some their principles, they cannot be regarded as a continuation of the tendency salafie.
  • Syria, Lebanon, Jordan : The followers of the salafism in this area were influenced much by Nâcir ud-Dîn Al-Albâniy. A group of its pupils (Jordanian of Palestinian origin for the majority) created a center called Markaz Al-Albâniy in Amman.
  • Yemen : The salafist presence in Yemen is in particular due to the teaching of Muqbil Ibn Hâdî (Mr.2001). Its pupils are with the head of centers of teaching in several cities of Yemen.

External bonds

Bonds towards sites salafists "cheikhists"


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