It is difficult to make the above statement at a time when the dispositions of false claimants to Salafiyyah have a deleterious effect on the appellation. The pooh-bahs of ISIS, Boko Haram, and sundry other extremist organisations say they profess Salafism, but at the same time perpetrate a battery of heinous crimes that are alien to the teachings of Salafiyyah.
I am not a member of ISIS or Boko Haram, and I do not share their positions on terrorism, killing of the innocent and extremism even where they said they are Muslims and Salafis.
Salafus Saalih (often shortened as Salaf) refers to the pious predecessors, the companions of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and the two generations of Muslims that came after them. The Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, said:”The best of people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.” (Authentic Hadeeth). Indeed, the first of the Salaf was the Messenger of Allah himself, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam.
As a Salafi I align myself to the best of people who were with Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, when he received the messages of his Lord; who saw him put those instructions into action, and thus they understood the message better than those to whom it was only read or rehearsed in later years. The companions were not readers of the message; they were witnesses to it!
I will exert my utmost in offering service to my Maker according to the understanding of the Salaf who had unsurpassed grasp of the deen as they saw it from the Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam; the Khalaf (the generations that came afterwards, outside the first three eras), cannot understand what will bring the creature closer to his Creator better than the immediate recipients of the Divine Revelation, the Salaf.
I shall stubbornly cling to the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, and that of the ‘four Rashidite Caliphs’ that he enjoined me to follow, and to ‘avoid newly introduced things in worship because every such innovation leads astray’.
I am not a Takfeeree; I will not declare anyone a kaafir except where such a one is so described by Allah and His Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam. I treat with deference the position of various schools of thought and see them as my leaders. Some of the disagreements among them are jurisprudential, and not affecting the essence of the Deen.
I am not an extremist, and at the same time, I am not a moderate Muslim either, in the sense that some people want the Muslims to be today – a nominal lot, eager to play along even on issues that negate the Deen, and ready to apologise concerning things they have not done. Yes, moderation defines Salaf in as much as Allah has made us a middling, ‘justly balanced’ Ummah that we may be witnesses over the nations, and Messenger, a witness over us… (Al-Baqarah, 2:143), However, that middling, justly balanced modelling does not connote uselessness in serving the purpose of being Muslims in the first place.
I will not kill the other, burn his place of worship or force him to embrace my faith; there is no compulsion in religion… (Al-Baqarah, 2:256). I would rather take part and encourage dialogue between followers of religions in order to foster understanding and mutual respect.
My best Christian friend is the Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan. He comes to the Abuja National Mosque for meetings on inter-religious harmony; I and other members of the Ummah would have return legs of such meetings at the residence of the Cardinal.
Why will I not follow the path of a people that have attained the supreme Felicity; a people with whom Allah was well-pleased; a people who were the first to forsake their homes for Allah’s sake; a people who gave shelter to those expelled from their dwellings because of their faith? (At-Taubah, Q9:100)
Why will I not be with those who turn to Allah in love (Luqmaan:15), whom He has chosen to Himself, whom He guides because they have turned to Him? (Ash-Shuuraa, 13)
After this clear understanding, why will I contend with Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, and follow a path other than that of the Salaf, which will at the end consign me to an evil refuge? (An-Nisaa, 4:115)
I would rather be with that Taa’ifah (small band) of this Ummah than with any other group especially since the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, has said: “A Taa’ifah of my Ummah will not cease to be upon the truth, not being harmed by those who oppose them, until Allah’s command comes”.
The path of the Salaf is not a sect; it is not a movement or a political party. It is not owned by any individual or even a country. Many sects and movements took their appellations from the founder’s name or the preoccupation of the group. Even Ibn Abdul Wahhab was not the founder of Salafiyyah as some erroneously propounded. How could he be, since the Salaf are the Prophet’s contemporaries and the two generations after them? Ibn Abdul Wahhab was only part of the propagators and revivers of the path of the Salaf. Saudi Arabia does not claim ownership of Salafiyyah but it is a country that supports the principles of the Salaf as expounded by the grandfather of the current rulers and founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Abdurrahman Al Saud in a Khutbah he delivered during Hajj 1365 H in which he said: ‘I am Salafi; my ideology is Salafiyyah the dictates of which I abide according to the teachings of Kitaab (the Glorious Qur’an) and Sunnah.’
‘They said we are Wahhabis’, continued His Royal Highness, ‘but the reality is that we are Salafis, we guard our religion and follow the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, which bind us with the rest of the Muslims.’ Let the scions of the founder of the Kingdom remember this!