New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Do Not Blame the Salafis

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2015-12-11 Thumb

I wrote this essay almost five months ago, but did not post it until now because every time I was ready to post it I would encounter a virulent “Salafi” attack on a colleague or myself that would lead me to believe that posting this essay would be to ignore the narrow-minded bigotry behind those attacks. More recently, however, I reflected on the many Salafi friends and associates I have and the amazing work they are doing to serve Islam. Far from being narrow-minded, bigoted hotheads, they are honorable, fair-minded, balanced men and women whose love for Allah, the Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) and Islam itself is almost unparalleled. At a time when so many forces are trying to divide Muslims and get us to fight, disavow or abandon one another, I could see no way that I could remain silent and not add my voice to the desperately needed calls for unity and mutual appreciation and respect.

Do Not Blame the Salafis

The current avalanche of negativity directed at Islam and Muslims, fueled, to a large extent, by the actions of coldblooded “Jihadi” murderers, and increasingly stoked by the mainstream news media, is unsettling to most people, including most Muslims.  That being the case, there is a desperate search for answers and solutions. One result of that desperation is the tendency to discard nuance and history when analyzing the roots of “Jihadi” violence.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the argument being advanced by some that the maniacal violence of the likes of Boko Haram and ISIS is due to their Salafist roots. While this argument is convenient and simple, it is not an accurate or detailed explanation for such violence. Utilizing it disguises some very important facts and opens the door to undermining the very critical solidarity needed by those in the Muslim community, many of whom call themselves Salafis, who stand in vehement opposition to ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and their ilk.

We begin by mentioning that one of the most influential Salafi scholars of the Twentieth Century, Shaykh Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, was decidedly apolitical. This is particularly true after his indirect association with the failed Meccan Revolt of 1979. From then on, the focus of his “Dawah” was to encourage the adoption of a particular interpretation of the theological and legal methodology of the early generations of Muslims (as-Salaf as-Salih), while purging Islam of what he considered to be unfounded, corrupting accretions. In his view, and that of his followers, victory for Islam and the Muslims, in this world, would only be accomplished when these steps have been taken and would ultimately involve Divine intervention. This is the approach endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Salafis worldwide.

Furthermore, the Salafis have a consistent methodology (Minhaj), as Al-Albani and other Salafis place great emphasis on the foundational aspects of Muslim belief and practice. Legally, some see that methodology as reflecting elements of the literalism of Dawud al-Dhahiri and Ibn Hazm, and to a certain extent, the legal reasoning of the Shafi’i school, from which Dawud al-Dhahiri emerged. Others would say that Salafis are committed to a legal methodology more akin to what is popularly known as comparative fiqh, which focuses on considering the opinions of various juridical schools on a particular issue and then choosing the one deemed to be evidentiary preponderant.

In theology, most Salafis adopt a methodology that generally reflects the positions of the Hanbalis, with special emphasis on the emendations of the great, if controversial, Hanbali scholar, ibn Taymiyya. It is extremely important to note that the Salafi theological approach, while highly critical of the Ash’aris and Maturidis, in the Sunni realm, did not lead to the inability to peacefully and respectfully coexist with other Muslims –with rare exception. This respect is exemplified by ibn Taymiyya in his famous debate with the great Ash’ari, Sufi scholar ibn ‘Ata Allah Sakandari. Unlike the Salafis, ISIS, Boko Haram and their likeness have demonstrated no consistent legal or theological methodology. This allows them to distort the basic texts of Islam in ways that find little historical precedence and even less resonance among contemporary scholars.

Some will readily acknowledge that not all Salafis, such as al-Albani, are violent, but that the violence exhibited by Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda and similar groups is rooted in Salafi teachings. They would argue, to rephrase a popular Islamophobic cliché, “Not all Salafis are violent extremists, but all violent extremists are Salafis.” This is simply not true. While the violence of ISIS, Boko Haram and similar groups is well-publicized, the Alawi thugs defending the Asad regime, the Shiites of Hizbollah, who have flooded into Syria, the Iraqi Shiite militias and death squads that helped to push many Iraqi Sunnis into the ranks of ISIS, have all engaged in ghastly acts of violence. None of these latter groups, would be described in any way as Salafis. Hence, alienation, disenfranchisement, rabid sectarianism, a perceived threat to their very existence, or to the existence of an ally, as opposed to Salafism, might be more insightful explanations for the violence of all of these parties and factions.

We add here, for clarity, that of course not all violent extremists are Muslims. This is clearly indicated by the actions of the American military in Iraq and elsewhere, Hindu death squads in India, crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza, tribal militias in Rwanda and the Congo, Mexican and other Central and South American drug cartels, and many others. Examining this issue in detail is beyond the scope of this essay.

To begin to understand the sources of violence exhibited by “Jihadis,” we need to look beyond simplistic slogans. One of the issues that helps us to understand that violence is Takfir, the act of excommunicating other Muslims and declaring them to be outside the pale of Islam. This dangerous practice allows some Muslims to attack others with wanton impunity. While it is certainly true that some Salafis, contemporarily and historically, may be guilty of Takfir, it is not an exclusive Salafi problem.

Historically, Takfir was the hallmark of the Khawarij. The abuses and excesses of the Khawarij, in terms of their readiness to excommunicate other Muslims, were roundly repudiated by the historical antecedents of present-day Salafis and are rejected by most Salafis today. Many Muslims today view groups like ISIS as the modern-day Khawarij. That being the case, what do we say about those Salafis who condemn both the Khawarij as well as ISIS and reject their violence and the doctrines that enable it?

In more recent times, some of the groups most intense in their utilization of Takfir identify as Sufi. This would include a prominent Sufi group in Lebanon and some of the Sufi orders in the Indian subcontinent. In this regard, let us ask who declared the popular Muslim singer Junaid Jamshed an apostate, forcing him to temporarily leave Pakistan, fleeing for his life? It was not the Salafis. ISIS, Boko Haram and other “Jihadi” groups, however, have taken Takfir to a macabre extreme rarely witnessed in Muslim history. This extreme is rejected by virtually all Muslims, including most Salafis.

A second issue undergirding extreme “Jihadi” violence is the systematic erosion of the sanctity of life. In no uncertain terms, Islam strongly condemns the murder of innocents and noncombatants, even on the battlefield. Its teachings also endeavor to restrict the loss of life among active combatants. It does so through strong warnings against humans terminating lives that have been sanctified by Almighty God. When the concept of the God-given sanctity of life is lost, the ability and desire to distinguish between combatants, noncombatants, civilians, prisoners of war, women and children is lost. This is a reality likely to afflict anyone who finds himself adrift in the blinding fog of war. Far from being a Salafi issue, it is not even a religious issue, it is human issue.

One starts losing belief in the sanctity of life when one begins dehumanizing the “other.” Once that sanctity is lost, one is not killing an innocent human being, one is killing an object, a thing, which is totally undeserving of life. Consider the following chilling words of Steven Green, the American soldier who raped and then murdered a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl, after massacring her family, and then burning the bodies to hide the evidence of his crime. He stated at his trial, “There’s not a word to describe how much I hated these people… I wasn’t thinking of these people as humans.” The process whereby Green and others come to see Iraqis as towelheads and sand-niggers, may be different from the process whereby “Jihadis” come to see their victims as undeserving of life, but the common denominator is war.

A third issue contributing to the extreme violence we are currently witnessing in the Middle East is the unique nature of the apocalyptic reading of Islamic sources taken by ISIS. The feeling that we have literally reached the end of the world is not unique to contemporary violent groups. As the Muslim Ummah approached the end of the First Millennium, many respected scholars, such as Imam Suyuti, wrote treatises declaring the arrival of the Apocalypse. The difference between the vision of those scholars and ISIS is that no classical or contemporary scholar or group has politicized the apocalypse in ways ISIS has and then wedded that politicized interpretation with sensationalized violence.

ISIS’s violent eschatology cannot be described as Salafi, in the sense that it reflects neither the teachings of the early generations of Muslims, nor those of most contemporary Salafi groups. This is extremely important to bear in mind when one attempts to blame Salafism for the emergence of ISIS and related groups. There is a unique set of ideas and circumstances, a perfect storm if you will, one will have to comprehend if one is to truly understand these groups and combat their ideology. 

While it is easy to claim that the “Salafi” roots of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and others is the cause of the levels of violence currently witnessed in areas where these organizations are operating, it is far more difficult to point to the source of the arms that have made the violence of these groups so lethal. Who armed and provided the logistical infrastructure of what would become Al Qaeda and the Taliban? How did Boko Haram go from being a cult-like organization confined to a single city in Northern Nigeria, to a group that is better armed than the Nigerian army? Who supplied them with their weaponry?

A similar question can be asked about ISIS. How did they gain control of so much advanced weaponry, most of it American? To claim that they got it when Mosul fell is inadequate. Why did 30,000 Iraqi soldiers, armed with heavy American weaponry in that city abandon their positions in the face of approximately 1,500 lightly-armed ISIS fighters? Why was ISIS allowed to truck those weapons across open desert, when destroying them would have been a turkey shoot? Who financed the purchase of the balance of their weapons stockpiles and who sold the arms to them? Answering these questions involve inconvenient truths that will never be mentioned by the pseudo-journalists, pundits and experts so quick to weigh in on the sources of “Jihadi” violence.

A related issue revolves around the question of who is ultimately responsible for creating the conditions that led to the emergence of these murderous groups? Salafism existed in the Middle East and Africa long before “Jihadi” murderers appeared on the scene. Yet, there was no Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan before the old Soviet Union and then the American military ripped apart the social fabric of that country. Similarly, there was no ISIS before the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Nigeria, Boko Haram began its deadly rampage after the Nigerian regime killed hundreds of its adherents and executed its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, in 2009. To simply attribute the violence of these groups to “Salafism” is to ignore the many actual causal factors that triggered and sustain the violence we rightly find so abhorrent.

In conclusion, there are several other issues we could examine in order to get to the roots of the violence we see in many parts of the Muslim world. Ultimately, we are dealing with a massive crisis of ignorance. We need to educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike about our religion and what it says about matters related to dehumanizing members of “other” communities, violence, war and peace. This is a long and challenging process that will require a unified community that respects all of its constituents who are committed to sanity and peace. By simply reducing the cause of “Jihadi” violence to Salafism we run the risk of failing to address the real roots of a phenomenon tearing apart far too many Muslim societies. We also run the risk of alienating a lot of sincere, well-meaning Muslims, who, while calling themselves Salafi, are just as outraged by the brutal excesses of so-called “Jihadis” as any other Muslim.


By Colleen M Keyes on December 12, 2015 at 12:29pm

Tried to post a comment previously but not sure it went through, so if this is redundant, I apologize. Imam Zaid Shakir has penned an insightful and critical analysis concerning the roots of violent extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. He raises questions that require answers based in research and fact. Succinct and hard-hitting at partisan quick answers and assumptions. This is what we need from our younger scholars. We need Muslims who actually know history and politics, not just of the Muslim world, but of the world. We need scholars and activists who can think clearly, write well, and de-bunk the shoddy thinking and wild emotionalism that is popular on all sides of every argument today. We need scholars who can illuminate the thinking of the common Muslim with well-reasoned arguments based in facts. Much appreciation is due to Imam Zaid for writing this and helping people think through issues rather than simply react to each other. And he is right. We need unity in order to act in solidarity --and get our priorities straight.

By Ibrahim Long on December 12, 2015 at 12:46pm

Barak Allahu fik. Thank you for sharing this. It is an important reminder to not get swept up in doing what many Muslims acuse others of doing: stereotyping and oversimplifying matters. Very balanced. God bless.

By Hamza on December 12, 2015 at 1:00pm

JazakAllah Khair Imam Zaid for this thoughtful and unifying piece. The fact is that most of the people who end up learning from "Salafis" and even many who label themselves as "Salafis" are just Muslims trying to get closer to Allah. As a large portion of "Salafi" teachings are, in fact, consistent with main stream Islam, many people feel comfortable in these circles. Since many of these people are uneducated about much of what the great Scholars of the past have said, they end up picking up the problematic elements that come with modern Salafism. They then have to endure listening to comments such as "don't listen to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf" which they find problematic due to their Fitrah but sometimes end up accepting because they say to themselves: this person taught me so much, they must be right. Then if one goes down that ugly road, they unfortunately fall prey to arrogance because they are not provided with any spiritual training. Anyway, being someone who had briefly fallen victim to this modern phenomenon, I strongly caution against delving into it. Alhamdulillah there are "Salafi" scholars I respect but at the end of the day that affiliation leads to many other people who are referred to as Scholars yet are busy corrupting minds and hearts, spreading hate against the people of Allah, and causing divisions among our beautiful Ummah. After seeing the emergence of sectarian infighting among modern day "Salafis" you should immediately recognize the danger they pose and how far some of them are from The Truth. What can one say, At the end of the day, Other than to pray, For the blessings of men of understand to bring us back to the true way. Those who will unify us, Strengthen us, Uplift us, Console us. Those beloved to Allah, On the path of the messenger of Allah, Ones who fear Allah, Who love Allah. May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala Accept you as one of these people Imam Zaid. Please pray for this Ummah. Hope to see you at RIS soon, Insha' Allah. Barak Allahu feek

By Talha on December 12, 2015 at 4:17pm

As-salaamu Alaykum Very interesting article! The one issue I was hoping you would address is the issue of salafism introducing a sense of "protestantism" where anyone can access sources directly to derive their own rulings. This view brought led to the self-empowerment of individuals to interpret the quran and sunnah as they please, abandoning the religious clergy and tradition, subsequently allowing deviant sects like isis to emerge. It is this which I heard people point to when stating the roots of terrorism being in salafism, and would be interested to hear your thoughts. The other point is that whilst terrorism is not exclusively cause by salafism, the accusation people state is that isis, alqaeda etc used salafism to emerge. This specific chain is the criticism people point to. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on both of the above

By Miguel Taylor on December 13, 2015 at 3:33am

Informative and well said'

By Mohammad Yusuf Dadani on December 13, 2015 at 1:46pm

AsSalaamo Alaykum, Dear Imam Zaid, while I agree with you that it is wrong to blame all Salafis for the violence of ISIS and other extremists. We do have to look into the effects of the anti-Shi'a rhetoric that is preached by scholars, especially those who are trained in Saudi Arabia or in Madaris funded by the Saudis. I have grown up seeing this rise in anti-Shi'a rhetoric, that was funded by the Saudis in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, when they dreaded that their own people inspired by it, would rise up against them. So they had books authored and circulated that had virulent anti-Shi'a propaganda not just in the Arab world but also in the Indian sub-continent. The result is there for all to see. I would like to hear your views on how much you think this phenomenon of declaring the Shi'a as Kaafir that was first preached by the Saudi funded scholars, was the stepping stone to the next step, whose results are there for all of us to see.

By Muhammad on December 13, 2015 at 7:22pm

Imam Zaid it breaks my heart that you would defend an ideology Salafi/Wahabbism, that doesn't even consider you or your teacher Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shaghouri (May Allah be pleased with him) Muslim. This was my letter to President Obama last week; Dear President Obama, Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring speech last Sunday night. I am an American born Muslim, who loves our country and the great values that you spoke about tonight. You have mentioned that ISIL needs to be beaten not just by military power but by destroying/changing this non-Islamic hateful ideology that they spread like cancer all over the world. I agree with you. My father is an Imam in NYC/Jersey City since 1972, and has been fighting this extremist ideology all his life. There has been a theological war within Sunni Islam since the British put the house of Saud in power after WW1, in present day Saudia Arabia. When Ibn Saud took power he took the Sunni ideology of Tassawuf / Sufism (peace and loving all of God's creation) that the Ottoman's and the 99% majority of the Islamic world had been following for the past 1300 years out of the two Holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Saudi family has forcefully put this extremist ideology of Salafi /Wahhabism/ hateful Islam and spread it all over the world with their oil money the past 80 years. The theology of ISIL and Al Qaeda is the same as the official Islam of present day Saudia Arabia which they proudly say is Wahhabism. Unfortunately for the past 60 years, Muslims all over the globe with good intentions would go to Medina University for free, and study there for 5-6 years and earn a Alim (Imam) degree. But unknowingly be brain washed into this hateful ideology of Wahhabism while studying there. They would then go back to their home countries and start fighting with religious extremist ideas in their local mosques and communities. This hateful cancer spread with Saudi funding all over this planet. We need to do something about it. I believe the ONLY way that this ideology of hate (Wahhabism/Salafi) will ever vanish from this earth is if it is officially taken out from the Muslim Holy Lands of Mecca and Medina. The Saudi's must realize this is not the true Islam of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and stop preaching it to the world. I know this will not be easy. I am a physician, and when you have a cancer, you need to go to the source of the cancer to stop it. Unfortunately most of the people of majority Islamic countries are uneducated and poor, and they may only believe the Islam/theology that rules the two Holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Please call out Salafi/Wahhabism in your speeches so the youth are warned. God bless you and the United States of America, Muhammad

By Abu Abdillaah on December 13, 2015 at 10:50pm

Hizbullah = Shia Taliban = Sufi Deobandi ISIS, Al Qaeda and all those who resemble them = Khaarijee Muslim Brotherhood = Reviviers and promoters of Khaarijee ideology Salafis = Consistent in warning against the deviant beliefs and methodologies of all the above. Whilst the Shias, Sufis and Ikhwaani have a history of promoting each others deviation and making excuses for it. Any person, or group who claims Salafiyyah but does not act in accordance with the beliefs and principles of the Salaf is not a Salafi, but is a false claimer to a pure ideology.

By Fazel on December 14, 2015 at 3:57am

UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAM AND SALAFISM. ISLAM ▶ Action to achieve peace ▶Individually Islam, do not have forgiveness because all actions are predestined (will of Allah). Islam, is to purify the consciousness (pray), to accommodate the destiny. ASTAGHFIRULLAH ▶means, "Terminate the duality and delusion" THAWBA▶"Terminate the, present bearer" ("I")

By Syed Haider on December 14, 2015 at 4:11pm

This article ignores the violent interpretations of Ibn Tamiyyah "Ibn Tamiyyah was the systematiser of Salafi thought. He reaffirmed Ibn Hanbal’s scriptural conservatism and introduced an uncompromising literalist interpretation of tauhid. He taught that worship and devotion should be directed to God without any intermediary. For Ibn Tamiyyah, seeking the blessings of angles, saints and righteous people, and pilgrimage to tombs of saints is polytheism (shirk). This is the gravest sin in Islam, which if not recanted, leads to eternal damnation and can be punished by execution. This position rapidly became one of the defining features of Salafism. It is extremely controversial and brings Salafis into conflict with most other Muslims, for whom these practices are central elements of Muslim piety.[28]" Ibn Taimiyah cascades the following teachings in his esteemed book Majmo’a al-Fatawa, Volume 5, page 391: الْإِمَامَ أَبَا بَكْرٍ مُحَمَّدَ بْنَ إسْحَاقَ بْنِ خُزَيْمَة يَقُولُ : مَنْ لَمْ يُقِرَّ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى عَرْشِهِ قَدْ سْتَوَى فَوْقَ سَبْعِ سَمَوَاتِهِ ؛ فَهُوَ كَافِرٌ بِهِ حَلَالُ الدَّمِ يُسْتَتَابُ فَإِنْ تَابَ ؛ وَإِلَّا ضُرِبَتْ عُنُقُهُ وَأُلْقِيَ عَلَى بَعْضِ الْمَزَابِلِ . "Imam Aba Bakr Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Khuzaima said: ‘Whoever does not admit that Allah is sitting on a throne above the seventh sky, is a Kafir and his blood must be shed. He must be made to repent. Otherwise his neck must be struck and thrown into the garbage." Majmo’a al-Fatawa, Volume 6 page 500: أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ يَقُولُ : مَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُرَى فِي الْآخِرَةِ فَقَدَ كَفَرَ وَكَذَّبَ بِالْقُرْآنِ وَرَدَّ عَلَى اللَّهِ تَعَالَى أَمْرَهُ يُسْتَتَابُ فَإِنْ تَابَ وَإِلَّا قُتِلَ . "Aba Abdillah said: ‘Whoever claims that Allah cannot be seen (by eye sight) in the hereafter, is a Kafir and has rejected Quran and replied Allah (sw). He must be made to repent. Otherwise he should be killed." And finally, in Al-Seyasa al-Shari’a by Ibn Taimiyah, page 159: ولهذا أوجبت الشريعة قتل الكفار ولم توجب قتل المقدور عليهم منهم بل إذا أسر الرجل منهم في القتال أو غير القتال مثل أن تلقيه السفينة إلينا أو يضل الطريق أو يؤخذ بحيلة فإنه يفعل فيه الإمام الأصلح من قتله أو استعباده "Therefore the Shari’a (divine law) made the killing of the disbelievers obligatory, but didn’t make obligatory the killing of those who are captured during fights or other than fights such as falling from a ship or getting lost or kidnapped. Thus, the imam decided that the best option is to be killed or enslaved." From the above quotes we can conclude that the Salafi interpretation of the faith is dangerous because Ibn Tamiyyah is a major influence in Salafism and he has divisive fatwas. Peace.

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By Ahmad N. on December 15, 2015 at 1:00am

Sure, Daesh and Nusra are mainly a result of foreign invasions, but wahabism does play a role. ISIL teach books by ibn A. Wahab to brainwash kids, they attack non-wahabite sunnis as well. The increased tensions between Sunni and Shia are also a result of salafi-rhetoric. So it is a factor, although not the main cause.

By Latoya on December 15, 2015 at 4:08am

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By Taher Siddiqui on December 15, 2015 at 7:27pm

salam alaykum, Unfortunately such reasoning allowed the Najdis to nearly destroy all the Holy Places in Hijaz, along with the slaughter of men, women and children in the 1800s, and again in the 1900s. Da'sh, Qaeda, Boko Haram, Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, and almost all other extremist groups of the 20th and 21st centuries subscribe either to a takfiri, Wahabi/Salafi `aqeeda whose insistence on killing Muslims comes before all other aspects of its doctrine or to its mirror image, Shi`a extremism. These are people who spare not even the Prophets of Allah their evil harm. You will not grasp their taqiyya (hiding their true beliefs) until they come after you. Will you then say, "Oh but we love you as one of us!" when they come after your neck?

By Hassan on December 16, 2015 at 12:47am

My far-right neighbour hates muslims, but he makes the street safer and he helps homeless people

By Saida Abdul-Aziz on December 16, 2015 at 5:56am

ory lesson, but I have a different personal memory of the ımpact of Salafi Islam on my masjid in NJ. In the USA, the arrival of Salafi Islam separated brother from sister, broke up communities, and diverted the efforts of emerging African American Muslim communities away from developing agency towards dependence on an outside, force that questioned whether African American were even Muslim. They treated and to a very large extent still treat students of knowledge with less than their most prized pets. I was blessed to know Hajj Musaa Hamid and Shk. Nafea Muhaimin who talked about how the Saudi power structure derailed the unity meetings of African American Muslims through trips and a few dollars (Pauling, NY unity meeting for African American Muslims). In later years both these men (May Allah be pleased with their efforts) devoted their time to trying to halt the destruction of family life that accompanied much of the systemically damaging teachings that returned with our American "scholars" of Islam. Let's face it no scholarship is achieved in 4 years or 6 years for that matter. My thoughts and advice-get to work scholars' join a community and try to build something that benefits the lives of those all around you and then teaching will spread by your example. You only need to look to the work of Syed and Cathy El-Marzouky from Reading, PA and the Brothers Muhaimin from Philly to see that if you work for mankind you do not have to explain who the Muslims are. Bother ways exemplify character building exemplified through service. If The chasm that has always existed across ethnic groups and sectarian affiliations has widened. We have become blind to the realization that we lost the time-tested values that all people of God used to disseminate...honor, truth, justice, virtue and the list goes on. Muslims need not look at our inability to stay somewhere long enough to work without being paid. A basic civic responsibility towards our neighbors and community regardless of their religion has been replaced by an excessive concern over clothing and beards, while displaying a willingness to live in trash unless the someone else cleans it up. on the other hand, the cowardly act of sawing off some's head who is hog-tied, an act synonymous with lynching has become a symbol of our faith. How can any black people anywhere ever follow anyone who would see righteousness in these heinous acts? Can it be that merely possessing the social status and appearing to have knowledge has been made more important than any other thing. The collective has not seemed to provide any of you with comfort and a community of support at that level. So how can regular, lowly educated people be expected to understand backroom intrigue in using education to control the masses (a Napoleonic strategy). Come out of your silos, scholars and leaders! Build the future you want to see! Everybody was not meant to be a scholar, nor does everyone have that capacity. There is honor, good, and necessity in a community development let's get back to seeing honor in being a farmer, a policeman, a firefighter, and mother. While the history lesson is good, I would like to hear some solutions that worked in the past that have been analyzed and synthesized into practices and policies that teach us to live cooperatively, communally, and positively with others as opposed to merely preparing us to hate each other and to engage in endless war.

By Bryan Conn on December 16, 2015 at 7:12am

This was well written, although I didn't realize Salafi's needed defending right now. I look forward to the day when we Muslims in the Mid-West of America will be able to enter our mosques and mention even madhab, ijaza, or the isnad of our scholars, less yet discuss tassawuf or have mawlid.

By Muhammad on December 18, 2015 at 1:46am

How much is saudi paying you guys? Selling your religion Astaghfirullah

By Taher Siddiqui on December 28, 2015 at 11:37am

salam alaykum, If we look at the history of the Saudis, those who massively funded the Salafi movement in the last 50 years, we see that after the attack on the Haram by the "false Mahdi" in 1979, the Saudi government created a foreign policy, using petro-dollars, that would divert the anger of devout Salafi youth towards the regime and instead direct it outside the kingdom towards external "threats to the Ummah". The first of these was the "Afghan Jihad" whose funding began the same year. Assisted by the CIA, the Saudis developed a massive propaganda campaign to encourage their own, and other nationals to engage in the Afghan war. When this conflict ended they move on to Bosnia, Chechnya, Daghestan, Somalia, Palestine and so on. Eventually, many splits occurred in the Salafi ranks for by it very nature Salafism is divisive due to its inherent arrogance. Now the Salafi Ikhwan of Egypt condemn the "true" Salafis of Egypt and vice versa. Al-Qaeda, the Salafi miltant flagship organization, condemns ISIS and vice versa. This is as predicted by the Prophet (s) in a hadith related by Sayyidina Ali (r) describing Da'sh of today in explicit detail. I recommend a re-review of recent Muslim History by Shaikh Zaid, to refresh or perhaps realize the impact of Salafi "da`wa" (read Saudi foreign policy) on the growth of violent extremist groups around the world. Here's a link to a valuable introductory text:

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By Ahmed Pasha Al-Jezzer on January 20, 2016 at 12:52pm

Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca : "ISIS Is A True Product Of Salafism And We Must Deal With It With Full Transparency."

By screwyouzaid on January 21, 2016 at 11:08am

Why are you supporting the Salafis? Traitor

By Abu Luqmaan on January 22, 2016 at 11:46am

May Allaah reward you for this article. At a time when many are trying to criminalise the Salafis and jump on the bandwagon of aligning them with the Jihadi-Takfiris, you could have easily joined that caravan. Insted, you have been humble enough to put any animosity to one side and be objective and impartial. Some of the brothers have criticised you before for some of the things which you have said about Salafiyyah, which we may still deem to be inaccurate, yet at least you have not sought to let any misunderstandings cause you you to be unjust. jazakAllaahu khayran!

By Taher Siddiqui on February 20, 2016 at 7:52am

salam alaykum Shaykh Zaid, With all my respect for you, I have to say this article is based on an incorrect reading of history which is all the more surprising coming from you as an exemplar of Ahl as-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama'ah teachings, a whitewash glossing over of the facts. If the Salafis in America have adapted a form of taqiyya after 911, to cover up their sinister designs, this does not even put lipstick on the proverbial "pig". Today's Salafis, and I include within that all groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Boko Haram, Hamas, Ikhwan al-Muslimoon, Jama`ah Islami, Jama`at Islamiyya, Muhajiroun, Hizb at-Tahrir and nearly all political-Islamist groups you can name, have adopted violence and often terrorism as part of their approach to social change. While some 'official' scholars give lip-service to condemning it, in fact they do this in a pick and choose manner, condemning some acts while covertly or overtly supporting others. And the rhetoric is always the same, much as you have penned above: that we cannot blame them without looking at the circumstances that caused these groups to become violent, I.e. they are 'excused' due to their anger at the West or the East, etc. If that was true in Islam, would not our Beloved Sayyidina Muhammad (s) have had more excuse than anyone to punish the Quraysh of Mecca after the Fath? For futher discussions of your article and the current Salafi push to become respectable, please see: Taher Siddiqui

By Taher Siddiqui on February 21, 2016 at 2:11pm

Article by Wahabi Cleric Adil al-Kalbani, former Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca “Is Terrorism A Salafi Product?”: “Every time we see the fitna network sweeping up young people from among our sons… [and pitching them into] to a very deep abyss from which they will emerge only by means of idioms that drip blood, our conscience torments us and we wonder: From whence has this come upon us? How have they fallen into this? As if we could not do a thing before then. “But the opposite is true: The main reason for their deviation is our neglect – and by ‘our’ neglect I mean the [neglect of the] generation of the parents, and of the honorable members of society among the clerics, teachers, preachers, jurisprudents, and sociologists who are linked directly to that society. The words, the books, the sermons, the dramas, and all the artistic creativity and the essential link [to the audience] that these people present in all the media, whether print, radio, or television, [allow them] to monitor the ideas of the young people and to participate in balancing them. I exclude [of course] that tiniest of minorities whose throat is parched from warning about the extremism of theSalafis. “Yes, this is the plant that has sprouted in the garbage dump of those who excessively pass judgment on others and pretend to represent Salafism. How gravely they have accused others of apostasy, of deviating from the right path, of heresy, and of licentiousness – as if the arena lies open before them and there is nobody to condemn them and no judge to punish them. Furthermore, they are received with feigned respect and admiration, and opportunities have been opened to them to plant in the minds of our young people that this one has gone astray and that one is an infidel and the other one is lax in religion. Even the greatest of clerics, past and present, are not spared their arrows. They spread the principles of Islam in a twisted manner that makes them incomprehensible or distorted, and preserve things that negate Islam. They measure the judge, the educated, and the student, and even the simple folk by what they [i.e. these extremists] have learned by heart [but] do not understand, and think that they are entitled to rule that the above mentioned are apostates and to call down upon them the punishments of Allah that are no longer implemented and [by so doing, they think that they will] restore the glory and splendor of monotheism. “This group thinks that no one but itself and its supporters are the source of good and the defenders of monotheism – because [its members] imbibed with their mothers’ milk [the view] that all Muslims worldwide do not understand [monotheism] and that they are not worshipping only Allah but are polytheists who worship graves… and that there are no just clerics besides their own clerics and their disciples. [They think that] only a cleric whom they love, whom they heed and obey, and on whose say they reject or validate [others] – only he holds the truth and acts in accordance with the ways of[Islam’s] just forefathers… They spread out and multiply, and publicly call for following in the footsteps of some sheikh and for accepting his words in full. They have begun to classify people, preachers, and clerics – [for example,] this sheikh shouldn’t be listened to because he is more loathsome than the Jews and the Christians, and that fatwa deviates [from the right path], so it is forbidden to pray behind anyone who adopts it, or to sit with him, eat with him or respect him. They have begun… to separate the young people from the clerics who understand the result of [this activity by them] and what difficulties they are going to cause the nation. “Actually, there is no connection between the path of these extremists and the [true] path of the Salafis – which is tolerance, compassion, and gentleness, and in which there is no place for extremism and [religious] fanaticism. [Salafism] is a path that spreads love, brotherhood, and acceptance of the other among Muslims and coexistence with non-Muslims. But the thing is to understand it and to implement it – and not [just to] pretend [to do so] – in a way that is compatible with the deep roots of the past and with the demands of the present. “[However,] what is needed is a perception for reforming ideas, not admonitions, reproof, reactions and word-sparing that deal with the symptom and ignore the disease! There is still enough time to rehabilitate [these ideas], ideologically and practically, and to prevent society from splitting into sects and groups that throng after dignitaries who are enveloped in an aura of immunity [to sin and error] and sanctity, with each group thinking that it has the right to guide the nation and recruit its young people. “A plant is always like its roots. If we want a good, fruitful plant, it is incumbent upon everyone to care for its roots, its water sources, the spread of its branches, and the fertility of the earth [from which it grows], and to protect it from ideas and viruses that turn its fruit and seeds to poison from which the generations sip and on which the young people grow up; from [these seeds] sprouts a plant that has in it no place for compassion and to whom love and friendship are totally alien.” On August 31, 2014, Al-Kalbani published another article, “The Chains of the Past,” He wrote: “We never stop elevating the past at any cost, so much so that it has taken over our lives and thwarted our management of our present, and I do not know what it will do to our future. We claim that the past is the perception, the deeds, and the outlook of the forefathers [of Islam], to the point where if a catastrophe happens to one of us, he hastens to seek a solution for his catastrophe in a book written hundreds of years ago! And then we shout loudly, ‘Islam is compatible with every time and every place[!]’ “What is very strange is that we remain trapped in the dungeons of the very distant past, chewing over the words of Malik [bin Anas], may the peace of Allah be upon him, ‘The last of this ummah will not be successful unless they follow the same [pattern] that was successful in the hands of its first ones,’ and think that what it means is that we must remain in the first century of the era of the mission [of the Prophet Muhammad], in the same style of life, and in the same patterns and knowledge that he had. “From these words [of Malik bin Anas] I do not understand that our past [must] control our present and constrain our future; rather, I understand that [the past] is what caused the Prophet’s honorable Companions to change their perception, and brought about their wonderful transition from the caves of darkness and straying into the light of truth… What improved the situation of the first generation [of Islam] was not preserving the heritage of the forefathers and the ideas of the previous generations, but the complete opposite. The first generation [of Islam] abandoned the [pattern] of blind imitation, and with the descent [of Koran 96:1] ‘Recite in the name of your Lord,’ the use of the mind began, after it was neglected for many centuries; the wagon of change began to move and to shift the bitter reality full of oppression, backwardness, and idolatry with lofty and clear rational truths. They [the members of the first generation] opened their eyes to what had [always] been in front of them, but which the fog of imitating what their forefathers did had prevented them from seeing… until the honored Koran arrived and removed this fog and enabled them to see what they had been blind to, and to distinguish what they had not noticed [before]. “In the same spirit, I want the past to free us from the yoke of the backwards present – not drag us towards it. I want our past to make us see reality as it is, and for us to rely on it in the areas of development and culture, and for us to emerge from it with momentum towards the horizons of the future and with an enlightened perception. This [should be done] under the direction of the two revelations [the Koran and the Sunna] – and not by means of the opinions of people who have invested most of their efforts in studying that era [of early Islam]. “We should rely on the past as a foundation from which we head out to the future and to the building of the present; this is better than turning the past into [something] that binds our hands and arouses among us rivalry, conflict, and opinions for which we fight and as a result of which we weaken and splinter. Had we done this [from the outset], we would be sitting on the throne of the pinnacle of culture. “We must acknowledge that our past contains things that are not compatible with our present. The religious collapse of the West happened only after it became fully aware of the depth of the yawning chasm between the scientific knowledge that serves the culture that the human mind has attained and the religious beliefs and laws set out by the church, which included beliefs that had been distorted or misunderstood, or were not appropriate for every time. “From among those who call for absolute adherence to the past there has emerged a young generation that defends and fights for opinions and ways that are devoid of the [the correct] Islamic concepts and religious views that can guide the ummah in the right direction. This gang, that has granted itself the right to banish minds, has not grasped the situation of the ummah, and has not managed to adapt to [today’s reality]; therefore its path is to subdue the other or to accuse him of apostasy and of deviating from the right path. [These people] can be found in all walks of life, preventing men of insight from advancing and catching up to the present, and anyone who criticizes them and points out their mistakes is accused of being Khawarij – an accusation tailored for such [critics]. Anyone who talks about women’s rights is deviating from the right path and is loathsome and is lax in religion. Anyone who expresses a wise opinion that has been covered up and ignored because it contradicts their Salafism, is going against the vast majority of the people… and so on… “What is strange is that these radical extremists who accuse their opponents of heresy and of apostasy acknowledge neither the stagnation of their own perception and ideas nor the worthlessness of their religious law, and thus do not recognize that they have left seeds that are today inflicting suffering and torment on the ummah.”

By HAROON on March 15, 2016 at 10:41pm

This clown has nothing better to do than justify and defend the most grotesque, barabaric and savage sect to emerge in Islamic history namely Saudi Wahabism (Salafism) This sect since its inception has butchered, murdered, excommunicated muslims and degingrated sacred places. Muhammed ibn abdul Wahab and his followers were a blood thirsty bandit and terrorist, this is recorded fact! Their actions fulfilled prophetic predictions about the rise of extermists. They are the offspring of the kharijites! Every single lunatic commiting violent attacks in the name of Islam will have his ideas rooted in this sect. The Saudi Wahabism advocates murder and violence throughout the world but pacifism within the borders of Saudi. No nobody with a grain of intelligence should be duped by the apologists for wahabism and certainly not this author, who perhaps has ulterior motives for writng such an absurd and factually inaccurate piece. Muslims must not delude themselves in defending these vile cretins who would in any given day not hesitate in calling them apostates who deserve to be killed! Tell us Mr Shakir what do they say about Asharis like you? I think if you did you research you will find they will not care for support or opinion, because they would and have declared you a kafir

By Ibrahim on March 24, 2016 at 7:55am

The aim of Wahabis/Salafist is to Annihilate Tariqa/Sufis... Alas! how far does their knowledge goes. They are now battling their own existential war

By javad on April 20, 2016 at 2:54am

Dear Brothers are Salfaies moslems? i know they are out of ISLAM.'according to Holy Quaran. محمد رسول الله و الذین معه اشدا علی الکفار رحما بینهم .

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By Umm Musa on June 13, 2016 at 8:56am

1. There is no sect called Wahhabism. 2. Salafis are Muslims who try to follow the prophet, his companions in the light of the Salaf(early muslim scholars eho lived after sahaba). They are trying to understand the root of Islam without falsely ascribing anything to Islam. The people who follow the salaf(salafi) know that Allah has only sent the prophets to Tawhid. Therefore they single out Allah in worship and base their Islamic knowledge on the person who if you follow him Allah will love you(Muhammad alayhi salam) and his companions whom Allah is happy with and the Salaf who were most knowledgeable on what the Sahaba were upon. I know and believe from my heart that we all want to worship Allah correctly and follow what is true and at the core, root of Islam and that we want to know our lord correctly and what i mean with that is that we dont think he is everywhere in person. Also that we want to do our 3ibadat(religious devotion) sincerely for him so we can get His reward. Wallahi, the way of the salaf is i have found the most appealing to my heart and truthful way of living as a Muslim. Alhamdulillah. And i hope that Allah guides you Zakir shakir to the correct understanding of Islam. Amin.

By Jameel on June 15, 2016 at 12:33am

"Imam" Shakir I have totally lost any respect for you with this article which in the main is total ignorance and at best half truths. Given it is the holy month of Ramadan I would give you the benefit of doubt, you will use the Saudi money you received for this for charity. I do not understand why you have suddenly decided to become an apologist for the greatest fitna faced by this noble ummah. Call a spade a spade for remain silent.

By Hate Sulla Kullis aka Hypocrites on June 15, 2016 at 4:37am

This is the height of hypocrisy... Fake sell out 'Sufis' who are the root cause of terrorism by recruiting for ISIS with articles such as this causing the simple Muslims to fall into the hands of the so called 'salafi' movement and get brain washed to fight jihad and kill... So many are now in Iraq and Syria who started off with the Tablighi Jamaat then moved into the salafi movement then to Syria ISIS and all the terrorist groups follow the salafi creed a creed which promotes self interpretation of the Quran and prophetic traditions without scholarly consensus.... Interpretation of desires be it the desire to kill!! These dumb American Muslims seriously deserve Donald Trump as the Next President... They can explain to him 'what the hell is going on' Kiss and hug him write articles of praise for him and his love for the ummah !!

By Google Ppc Guide on July 5, 2016 at 6:10am

Grow your history.

By Ali on July 21, 2016 at 8:06pm

I appreciate the effort you took to write and support the Salafi sect in your view point however basic principle in looking at Islam is from PEACE FULL POINT OF VIEW ,kindly look into history when Islam started and check who have been more violent and ruthless before commenting on other sects in Islam.You are just supporting the actions of Salafi sect predominantly who started to expand with violence only.Please check your history and revert with a comment.

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By out wanter on August 27, 2016 at 6:07am

obviously there is no new way as per the final sermon of the seal of the prophets....i'm making/or aiming to make my own movement...perhaps call it sahabayia...i.e. what the sahaba were on....! whether I do a crusade on my own authority, and it later gets said that it is dis-allowed to not follow in the footsteps of omar's saying /agreement to what will be done to him if he deviates..etc. so I may be a khawarijite, so only listen to me and those I agree with....sorry to cause more fitna...... I suppose it is all greed and power....and worship of creation and the world.... patience...suppose we all do some extent....

By Haha on September 20, 2016 at 6:43am

Actually this is what islam represent. Muslims will do what ISIS is doing if they have power.Since the gate of Vienna, 1683 muslims are in loss. Salafism is a puritan form originated to counter this loss. It hasn't succeeded yet, and many muslims are getting disillusioned. However the greatest advantage of salafi ideology is that non practicing muslims who are still proud of islam and sure that they will go to heaven are being told that you may go to hell. This creates confusion amongst muslims and will eventually lead to muslims leaving islam

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By Sufi-4-life! on June 16, 2018 at 8:31am

as salamu alaikum it's strange to hear shaykhs? support salafi ideology of Islam when their top shaykhs including the one that was mention al-bani have no chain of transmission back to MUHAMMAD saw nor his teachers like bin baz or uthemen. These are the ones amongst the salafi ideology that arw praised IN this age. It's impossible to follow QURAN and sunnah or the salaf without a chain of transmission back to MUHAMMAD saw or the salaf.So there scholarships are negated its worthless!

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