The Fallacy of Salafi “Trends”

In various media outlets in the blogosphere and beyond which is as well depicted by the think tanks from various sources is that current day Salafism has “trends” as if there is such a thing. Our goal here is to spearhead the actuality of what Salafism is and what is in opposition to Salafism so as to identify that when people make a stand on a position not defended under orthodoxy, then they as individuals or as a group cannot be intertwined with or be brought under the “Salafi cause” or “trend”. Here is a wonderful example of a deduction of this issue coming from Quintan Wiktorowicz, author of “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29 (2006): 207–239.


The actual quote is taken from an article produced by Sadek Hamid which can be found here which states the following.


The development of British Salafism reached a critical juncture in 1995 when tensions that had been simmering for a year or so between factions inside JIMAS eventually caused the organization to rupture and leave an ideological split that remains to this day. Ever since the first Gulf War in 1991, Salafi scholars have been divided over the presence of US troops in the heart of the Muslim world. The origins of this division started within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when a faction of younger scholars began questioning why its rulers had invited the Americans to fight another Muslim country, and worse still, establish military bases. Ideologically they were led by Salman al-Audah and Safar al-Hawali who gained prominence for their rebellious stances against the government. Quintan Wiktorowicz provides a helpful typology in differentiating three main global trends that were identifiable as a result of this emerging intra-Salafi factionalism; purists, politicos, and Jihadis.



The “purists” remain loyal to the principles of Salafi ‘aqida  (creed), and the Saudi state and therefore resisted any attempt to challenge the authority of the rulers. Their priority was peaceful preaching reform and correction of Muslim belief and ritual practice. The “politicos” agreeing to the importance of the Salafi creed nevertheless argued that the reform manhaj(methodology) had to include a consideration of the complex and changing social-political realities taking place in the world, which need to be addressed in addition to the concerns of the Salafi dawah. The Jihadis, on the other hand were impatient of the status quo, had participated in theatres of conflict like Afghanistan and wanted to take direct action, using violence to affect social change. All three tendencies share the Salafi positions in matters of theology but differ in their analysis of problems in the Muslims world and on how they should be solved.



The initial problem with this introspection is the incorrect application of labels. By default a Muslim who believes in the Quran and Sunnah and that those who exemplified these two sources in purity and in action the best were the companions and their students, is by default someone who either openly adheres to the Salafi way or that they are upon an understanding that this is a salafi way in spite of their explicit opposition in the appellation of being “salafi” as according to what we have gathered, there are as many people who understand the salafi way to be the way of Islam and yet do not directly apply the label who reach more in number than those who do apply the label upon themselves. By this defined reality, this includes hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide.

Secondly, by default, a Muslim who is like this, actually defines himself as a purist, politically educated, and affirms jihad. Someone who claims to be salafi and lacks in the involvement of any of these then the basis of their claim is questioned (are they really salafi).


This points us to another fault in this deduction, which is the oversimplification of the portrayal of these groups. In other words the people who were deemed “jihaadis” cannot be deemed jihadi on the mere basis of affirming jihad or practicing jihad. Based on that then every Muslim and every salafi could be brought into this specialized camp that this author has depicted for us. 

For example, the people who are called “jihaadi salafis” cannot Islamically, or under the principles of the sunnah, be called “jihaadi” or “salafi” in any sense of these two terms.

Jihad has stipulations, rules, conditions, requisites, manners, rulings. In short Jihad is an entire foreign policy of a nation, particularly the Islamic nation. One someone twists some of the rulings of jihad, this person cannot properly be called “Jihaadi”. One of special distortions made by the sympathizers for al-Qa’ida is the linking between the Islamic ruling of “martyrdom operations” and “suicide bombings”. Both, in Islam have two drastically different rulings, one is considered  an operation solely to be performed under the Imaam’s (Leader of the state and officials) approval and is acceptable even according to the standards of any “civilized” nation (the battle of battle of Thermopylae which was exemplified by 300 Spartan fighters to face an army of a million can correctly be termed as a “martyrdom operation”) whereas the other points to the legalization of oppression through targeting non combatants performed under the jurisdiction of people who have no jurisdiction and power and spread chaos, corruption, and eventually bring further decay to the Muslim nation cannot be attributed to jihad in any shape, fashion, or form. The difference between the two realities is like the night and day. One is Islamic and one is not. So the question is, if a salafi is intrinsically inclined to the methodology of pure Islamic thought and practice, then how is one to be called a salafi who inwardly believes or outwardly practices an act that is in essence “unislamic”. The end result and implications of western deductions in trying to define “Salafism” is oxymoronic in nature.


Another supreme misrepresentation of Islam and its thought being espoused by individuals and groups is the unilateral conclusion of the western analysts is bringing forth a demarcation between “Salafism” and “Traditionalism” as if there is such a thing that would differentiate one from the other. All of these western experts and commentators have timidly accepted the claims of people of unorthodox origins who have given them information that Sufism is the “traditional Islam”. We will not stress much on this point regarding the error of this phenomenon that has been clouding the minds of these experts and analysts for years, but needless to say that traditionalism is seen to be, linguistically, expressed in two main meanings.


Adherence to tradition as authority, esp. in matters of religion.


A system of philosophy according to which all knowledge of religious truth is derived from divine revelation and received by traditional instruction.

 So, in Islam, all religious truth is only restricted to how the orthodox sunni traditionalists have expounded upon, in that traditionalism, orthodoxy, originality, or what have you is only attainable upon the understanding that the first three generations employed in Islam and in how they divulged what is Islamic practice.  In other words, things that came later on into the religion cannot be called the religion, which is the wording of Imaam Malik, the traditionalist, and because of that, it definitely cannot be called traditionalism. Thus informing the public that Sufism is traditional Islam is not only misinforming the public with faulty heresiological speak, it is also inherently oxymoronic to call a heresy, traditional. Heresy in Islam is a practice that was not to be found among the companions because as the jurist Imaam Maalik said, “whatever was not the religion in their time cannot be called the religion at any time”. The initial forms of Sufism crept into the Islamic world during the time of Imaam Ahmad which was around 200 years after the prophet’s time. The mystical ultra heresies found in Sufism was never codified into Sufi thought until the time of Ibn Arabi who virtually transformed the Sufi cult from a group of conservative sufis (who were more keen to observe orthodoxy) and into a world of mysticism initially fueled by greek thought and turned into virtually another religion resembling pagan and even animists rituals. This was around the 6th Islamic century. Yet the extent of western research lands them to assume this factual history of theirs and of Islam as “traditional” with is nothing short of amazing.


As far as the “politicos” and “jihaadi” strands are concerned, I would like to best demonstrate absurdity by exposing it. The western Analysts and deceivers among the sufis and modernist who work within the confines of the western orientation of views have oppressively opined to the view and making a media frenzy that salafism is nothing but jihadism and a politicized version of Islam. Allow me to break this absurdity in quite simple terms.


In an article entitled “al-Muraabitoon World Sufi Movement” it was stated about the Shaykh Uthmaan bin Fuday commonly known in Hausa language and referenced by sufis as “Uthman Dan Fodio”, this was stated historically about the shaykh


Aboo Muhammad ‘Uthmaan ibn Muhammad ibn Foodee, born in Maratta in northern Nigeria in 1168 AH/1754 CE. The name ‘Dan Fodio’ is the Hausa rendition of Ibn Foodee. He was from a family of scholars that migrated to Hausaland from Futa Toro before the 15th century CE, bringing with it the Islamic tradition of Timbuktu. He waged a jihad in 1217 AH/1802 CE against clans that had opposed Islaam and the Muslims.  He established the Sokoto Islamic state which ruled by Sharee’ah in West Africa. He is known for his tajdeed (revivalism) efforts and his stance against innovations


So according to the deranged philosophy of modern day researchers, this person must be a “wahhabi”. He must be a “salafi”. No, this is absolute criminality; rather it is inherently Islamic in origin that a Muslim by default pays close attention to the political environment of his time. If there is a lack of an Islamic state, by default of being a Muslim, he is filled with the urge to not allow the corrupt to take place as in Islam; not ruling by the rule of Allah is what leads to catastrophes, despotism, discord, lack of freedom, unjustified wars, tyranny and the like and our history coupled by the history of those before us proves this reality. So by default, a Muslim is an Islamist by nature and anyone who claims that they are not an Islamist cannot rightfully be called a Muslim to begin with, because theoretically a Muslim who is not content or does not concede to seek the ruling of Islam, then he finds contentment and concedes to the ruling of other than Islam which is the ruling of jahiliyyah. The only reason why there was need to invent the term “Islamist” is to give legitimacy to the western essential ideal that there can be an acceptable form of Islam, but it has to be an Islam that is “assimilated” under American ideals because the Islam that was expounded upon by the traditionalists is antithetical to our cause and agenda. Thus the formulation of “moderate” Islam came about in the wake of this phenomenon where Islam by default is not “moderate” which is contrary to what was stated in the Qur’an “We have made you a moderate/justly balanced nation among the nations” Moderation being espoused among people who are deemed as moderates is nothing more than a proselytized effort of heretics who have accused 14 centuries of orthodox qualified scholarship of having it all wrong and that for the first time in centuries they have unlocked the key to Islam’s essence and the truth of Islam as if such a thing could occur.



As for the people who are deemed as “politicos” then in reality they are a group who has taken the political atmosphere of Islam to be the essential reality that the Muslim must deal with to pretty much the exclusion of everything else, which is exemplified by the following methodology. When it was asked to one of those affected or to be considered as “politicos” about what is the Islamic way of slaughtering chicken, the response of this person was simply “Muslims are being slaughtered in wholesale fashion and you can talk about how to slaughter a chicken correctly in Islam”


A real or true salafi is one who considers ALL aspects of Islam and that which affects it from any outside source. In fact this is what differentiates a pure sunni Muslim free of sectarian discourse with one that is not free of sectarian discourse because one of the signs of the people of sectarian discourse is that they revolve their campaign on the isolated topic of what they articulate (talking points) whereas the sunni (the salafi) who is inherently not sectarian deals with all spheres of Islam. That is because Islam, in the life of a Muslim is comprehensive in nature, the Muslim does not stick to one single aspect or section or field of realities, rather his world view is complex, and all of it is centered and focused through the lens of actualizing the pleasure of his Lord by trying to attain it. This is the overall goal of a Muslim In terms of debate, He is not interested in overpowering the other in argument or debate. His mission as he, the Muslim (salafi) perceives it, is to clearly relay the reminder plain and simple.


The validity of Jihaadi salafism, politicos salafism, and purist salafism.


In the understanding of Islam and heresiology as expounded by the traditionalist, there is only one single body of orthodoxy, which was usually exemplified by the term “ahlul-hadeeth”. This term, is not to be understood as the current day political organization in Pakistan known as ahlul-hadeeth, but rather the religious connotation among the traditionalists is that the person upon correct Islam is he who upholds to the sunnah laid down by the prophet with purity of intention and action (by not allowing and being vehement regarding that which contradicts it). The one who sees a practice or witnesses an idea contrary to the sunnah of the prophet is by default of his Islam motivated to correct the affair by correcting the person or by warning everyone else about the error. Strangely, this methodology is characterized under modern times as “divisive” and “always polemical towards other Muslims”. So we, salafis, or ahlu-sunnah, or ahlul-hadeeth, or ahlul-athar, or whatever name we were rightly attributed with, like athari, do not see a “plurality” in orthodoxy. Such a phenomenon is inherently contradictory to Islamic teachings and it contradicts logic and reason from a number of angles. For one, it contradicts an explicit hadeeth of the prophet in which he was asked concerning the saved sect by stating

“The Jews split up into 71 sects, the Christians split up into 72, and my nation will split up into 73 sects, all in the fire except one”


In philosophical discourse, the numbers 71, 72, and 73 can be interpreted as quantative and not necessarily expressing the exact quantity of these numbers. So under philosophical discourse one could say that the Jews split in so many sects, the Christians will split in even more sects, and the Muslims will split in even more sects. However, no amount of philosophical jargon can interpret “except one” with plurality under the contextual structure of this statement. It is linguistically impossible and is philosophically impossible to stretch the meaning of “except one” with the idea that one can be more than one. To opine to this illogical view is then essentially absurd at best, and it truly reveals the extent of a person’s intellect to do such a feat.


Therefore, to a sunni, there is only one salafi trend, or one sunni trend, and any trend differing from theirs cannot fundamentally be called salafi or sunni. What we have noticed is that just because groups or individuals agree on a talking point; that does not entail one or the other as being from amongst the other. An example of this is regarding the issue of jihad. Every single group in Islam have affirmed jihad, from the ash’aris to the sufis, and from the kharijites to the shi’ites. Does this mean that they can be correctly identified as “salafist jihadist” of the jihadi trend? The only group in the history of Islam to have fundamentally questioned the legality of jihad in Islam is none other than the “progressives” or moderates. Does this mean that the sufis are now salafist jihadist? This is where the oversimplification of western research is being performed on this subject. Islam is a criterion of a conglomeration of rulings, issues and beliefs, and people are measured upon that scale to be in line with that criterion or not. Those who match much more closely to this criterion are salafis and each group or individual affirms some of these Islamic ideals and denies others. So in actuality everyone is pretty much a salafi except when they hold an opinion contrary to the mandates mentioned in the Qur’an and sunnah.


When the sect known as the ash’aris accepts the sunni principle that there is nothing like Allah, “laysa kamithlihi shay” then this is a salafi principle. We, our masters came up with this as a principle when refuting the anthropomorphist amongst the shi’ites. However, when the Ash’aris mutilates the verse to stretch beyond the bounds of its application and begin to negate the very affirmations made by the two sources, then this is where they abandon the Islamic viewpoint for one of the philosophical viewpoints of the pagan philosophers. However, they believe as we believe that there is nothing like Allah as He is incomprehensible. Does this point make the ash’aris to be “salafis”? The answer is no.


One of the inquiries of the “politicos” “trends” of salafism argues about is the allowance of Americans on Arabian soil. This is not a point of disagreement at all. All Muslims were unanimous that they did not want for this to actually occur.  Even elements of the sufi world believe in establishing an Islamic state and having opposition to the Americans stepping foot on Arabian soil. However, they cannot be rightfully labeled as “salafists” and “jihaadits” which is what these wanton experts are doing in their various researches on “salafism” and “Islamism”.


Here is another example of nonsensical evaluations of westerners regarding how they view “salafism”

In the beginning passage of the introduction section of the work “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement” the following was stated


The Salafi movement (often referred to as the Wahhabis) represents a diverse community.

All Salafis share a puritanical approach to the religion intended to eschew religious innovation by strictly replicating the model of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet the community is broad enough to include such diverse figures as Osama bin Laden and the Mufti of Saudi Arabia.



1.       What makes “salafis” puritanical in their approach especially taking into consideration that the very prophet of the Muslims himself vehemently warned against innovation even far greater than any salafi could ever do. I will only present two of these prophetic ahadeeth


Hadith – Abu Dawud, Narrated Ali ibn Abu Talib

The Prophet said, “If anyone introduces an innovation in the religion, he will be responsible for it. (Good or bad). If anyone introduces an innovation or gives shelter to a man who introduces an innovation (in the religion) he is cursed by Allaah, by His angels and by all the people.”


In another hadeeth he stated

“Whoever renders support to an innovator, has just aided in the destruction of Islam”


These mere two narrations are mighty statements, statements that go beyond the “vehemence” that any claimed “salafi” could ever speak in terms of puritanical methodology. Therefore, the prophet himself must have been a “salafist” or he must have been a “wahhabi”


If Muslims are those who believe in the message of their prophet, and if the above two among many others were how the prophet felt about keeping the religion pure i.e. puritanical, then that would make every person who claims to be Muslim “puritanical”. SO we ask “how are the salafis to be highlighted with this title of “puritanical” to the exclusion of Muslims when the very methodology of being puritanical is from the religion of Islam itself”?


2.       How could he state “the community (salafis) is broad enough to include the likes of Bin Laden and the Mufti of Saudi Arabia”

This is radically illogical from a number of angles.

Firstly, Bin Laden was never viewed as a “salafist” and if he was ever viewed as such by the community, the community itself understands that nothing is certain. In other words, someone can be a salafi one day and then loose the light and therefore not be salafi the next day due to the hadeeth of the prophet

“The hearts (of men) are in between the Fingers of ar-Rahman (The Most Merciful; God)”. Thus in application of this specific situation, just because Bin Laden “may have been salafi” at one point in time, does not mean that his entire methodological outlook is based on the methodology upon which he was assumed to have been nurtured upon.


Secondly, the mufti of Arabia and the permanent committee of major scholars in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in different countries are the scholars of “Salafiyyah” or the “Sunnah” and not Usamah bin Laden. The difference between Bin Laden’s methodology and the methodology of the Salafi scholars is exemplified by the two following fact

a.       The methodology employed by Bin Laden is to hold the mantle of jihaad under his own methodological conclusions irrespective of the religious stances held in Islam which was even attested to by the mujahideen in Afghanistan when Bin Laden was “on the rise”.

b.      The methodology employed by the slafi scholars is to hold the mantle of the sunnah under the methodological conclusions of the qualified jurists, scholars, and men of understanding of the previous generations.

Thus, in essence, the methodology of these two is a world apart.


Thirdly, we have received a report that Bin Laden would say to his followers “to kill a wahhabi is greater in the sight of Allah than killing a communist”. From our standpoint, it makes no sense for anyone to incorporate Bin Laden and his sympathizers and supporters to the “salafist movement” when they themselves do not even acknowledge to be in agreement with salafis. Furthermore, in our dealings with these miscreants among his sympathizers, they do not even believe salafis to even be Muslims, often times referring them to be “munafiqeen”.


So with all of these facts, it is inconceivable that anyone who has done even a rudimentary amount of research that one could possibly come out with the formula that “salafism has trends” and that “Bin Laden is among or part of the salafi trend” And this fact was further exemplified in this awkward report “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement” when he stated



Individuals and groups within the community reflect varied positions on such important topics as jihad, apostasy, and the priorities of activism. In many cases, scholars claiming the Salafi mantel formulate antipodal juristic positions, leading one to question whether they can even be considered part of the same religious tradition.


Our question to this author, Quintan Wiktorowicz, is why then would you construe and formulate an entire analysis concluding terrorist’s methodologies to be a “trend” of Salafism when based on your above words, some of these positions are antithetical to the other. It makes no sense to conclude with this except that one does do so operating under the realm of chosen ignorance at the very least.


However, this question does not need to be answered, because as was stated by the next statement in this report, he pretty much concludes the intend of the study which is


This article explains what unites such seemingly irreconcilable tendencies as well as the causes of diversity, factionalization, and intra-community conflict. In doing so, it provides an anatomy of the Salafi movement to help readers better understand how groups like Al Qaeda are connected to similarly-minded nonviolent fundamentalists and what sets them apart.”


So we will, dissect this study God Willing and see the inaccuracies of this “study” and clarify what was pending to be clarified by an actual salafi rather than someone whose knowledge of Arabic is at least questionable, and more importantly, their knowledge of Islam is deficient and is only using the criterion of other non religious based “Muslims” as a pretext to this “study”