Salafi Aqeedah and Salafism discussion and Fatwa by Mufti

Category: Beliefs
Asked Country: South Africa
Title: I'd like to know about your view about this matter. Here in my country, salafi/wahhabi claim that they are the best ummah among the other islamic group which has different...
I'd like to know about your view about this matter. Here in my country, salafi/wahhabi claim that they are the best ummah among the other islamic group which has different comprehension with them, they have an excuse that the definition of salafi itself is three generation after the leadership of Nabi SAW (sahaba, tabi'in, tabiut tabi'in), so their way of ibadah is far away from bid'ah. Is it true? Just for you to know that I sometimes join with salafis tabligh and learn from them, but I don't accept totally to their knowledge. Please explain it to me so I am not trapped in a confussion. Jazakallah.... 
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

It is a known principle in the world of advertisement that in order to market a product well, it needs to be promoted under an attractive name or title.  However, as a consumer, it is necessary to look at the product's details and specifications, and not just be swayed by its appealing name.  Similar is the scenario with a group who are promoting their incorrect beliefs under the catchy title of "Salafīsm."  Although this group claims to follow the way of the pious predecessors (salaf), they, in reality, follow the way of a select few scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله who, despite their vast knowledge, held several views contrary to the vast majority of the scholars and were heavily criticized for it[1]

Modern day Salafīs are of many types and it is difficult to generalize them all together.  Some are Salafī in 'aqīdah but follow a madhhab in fiqh, while others are Ash'arī (used to include both Ash'arīs and Māturīdīs in the context of Salafīsm) in 'aqīdah but Salafīs in fiqh, whereas many are Salafīs in both 'aqīdah and fiqh

The topic of Salafīsm in fiqh mainly revolves around the issue of taqlīd (following one of the four accepted madhāhib, namely Hanafī, Shāfi'ī, Mālikī, and Hanbalī).  Much has been written on our site ( regarding this before. 

As for 'aqīdah, the salient characteristic of the Salafīs is their view on the sifāt (attributes) of Allāh.  The Salafīs only accept the literal meaning of sifāt of Allāh and refute any interpretations of it.  Therefore, according to them, Allāh has an actual face (wajh), hand (yad), and shin (sāq).  Furthermore, according to many Salafīs, Allāh physically ascends (istiwā') on the Throne ('Arsh)[2] With such beliefs, one has essentially associated features to Allāh which are the same as that of his creation, thus violating the governing principle regarding the features of Allāh:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ (الشورى: 11)
There is nothing like Him, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing (Qur'ān 42:11).

The Ash'arīs, on the other hand, have two approaches in understanding the sifāt of Allāh:
1)      To depute unto Allāh the apparent meaning of which might lead to resemblance with His creation
2)      To interpret the text within its linguistic meaning in such a way that it does not show any resemblance with His creation. 
Therefore, the Ash'arīs accept that Allāh has a wajh, yad, sāq, and that He does istiwā' on the 'Arsh However, the meaning and the description of the wajh or the istiwā', for example, is only known by Allāh[3] This is the first approach according to the Ash'arīs. 

An example[4] of the second approach, for example, can be seen in understanding the following hadīth:

حدثنا عبد الله بن مسلمة عن مالك عن ابن شهاب عن أبي سلمة وأبي عبد الله الأغر عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال: ( ينزل ربنا تبارك وتعالى كل ليلة إلى السماء الدنيا حين يبقى ثلث الليل الآخر يقول من يدعوني فأستجيب له من يسألني فأعطيه من يستغفرني فأغفر له (صحيح البخاري، باب الدعاء والصلاة من آخر الليل)
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "Our Lord, the Most Blessed and High is He, descends each night to the sky of this world during the last third of the night and says, "Who is calling Me so that I may respond, who is asking Me so that I may give, who is asking Me for forgiveness so that I may forgive him?" (Bukhārī)

According to the Ash'arīs, one meaning of the descending of our Lord is in relation to His mercy.  In other words, Allāh's special mercy descends during the last third of each night.  However, according to the literal approach of the Salafīs, it means that Allāh physically descends each night.  This is similar to their incorrect belief of Allāh physically sitting on the'Arsh This implies that the laws and restrictions of physical space (makān) also apply to Allāh and that He has a body, both concepts which have been rejected by scholars of all times.  This concept will lead one to question where Allāh was before He created the 'Arsh Obviously, Allāh existed before the 'Arsh and was never confined to the area of the 'Arsh. Our belief is that Allāh is as He was before the creation of the 'Arsh Therefore, it is necessary to interpret such hādīthsand ayāhs to understand them correctly.
Considering the above, we advice you to not go in the lessons conducted by the Salafīs as you may not be able to distinguish between their views and the correct views of the vast majority of the mainstream scholars.  However, it is extremely important that good relations and proper etiquettes be maintained when conversing and interacting with the Salafīs.  Disagreement cannot and should not be an excuse for disrespect of any kind.
And Allah knows best
Wassalamu Alaikum
Ml. Abrar Mirza,
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by:
Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In'aamiyyah

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[1] السلفية الوهابية، الفصل الأول: ص 20؛ الرواس
[2] المرجع السابق: ص 58
[3] المهند على المفند، السؤال الثالث عشر والربع عشر
[4] For twenty other examples, please see pg. 134-148 of Aqā'id al-Ashā'irah.

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