The Doctrine of Ahl as-Sunnah Versus the “Salafi” Movement

بســـم الله الرحمن الرحيــــم

وصلى الله على سيدنا محمـد وآلـه وصحبه وسلَّم

“And say: Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Lo! falsehood

is ever bound to vanish.”



Praise belongs to Allah Who has made truth clearly distinct from error, who puts down innovation and innovators and raises high the Sunna of the Prophet, Peace be upon him, and the people who follow it. Praise belongs to Allah Who in every century inspires a group of scholarly people to defend the Way of the Prophet, Peace be upon him, from the distortions of the ignorant — those who call the majority of Muslims mushrik (idolaters) and mubtadi` (innovators) and kafir (disbelievers), falsely claiming that they alone are saved. Salutations and greetings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions who are the exemplars and guardians of the Sunna.

The Reason for this Book

This brief but excellent book by the Iraqi scholar al-Zahawi (1863-1936) is published in English for the first time, by Allah’s grace, to give our Muslim brother in the West the necessary historical background on important questions of belief and methodology which are currently under attack from certain quarters of our Community. It is a companion volume to our two books entitled Islamic Doctrine and Beliefs According to Ahl al-Sunna.[1]

Islam, in our understanding and that of the majority of Muslims, both scholars and non-scholars, is the Islam of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a — The People of the Way of the Prophet and the Community of Muslims. Chief and foremost among them are the true Salaf of Islam: the Companions, the Successors, and their Successors according to the Prophet’s sound hadith in Muslim: “The best century is my century, then the one following it, then the one following that.” All the scholars understood by that hadith that the true Salaf were the models of human behavior and correct belief for us Muslims and for all mankind, that to follow them was to follow the Prophet, and that to follow the Prophet was to achieve salvation according to Allah’s order: “Whoever obeys the Prophet obeys Allah” (4:80).

In our time, however, the name Salaf has been usurped by a movement which seeks to impose its own narrow interpretation of Religion towards a re-fashioning of the teachings of Islam. The adherents of this movement call themselves “Salafi.” Such an appellation is baseless since the true Salaf knew no such school as the “Salafi” school nor even called themselves by that name; the only general name they recognized for themselves was that of Muslim. As an eminent scholar has stated, the Salafiyya is not a recognized school of thought in Islam, rather, it refers to a blessed historical period of our glorious past.

In reality, today’s so-called “Salafi” movement, now about thirty years old, is the modern outgrowth of an two-century old heresy spawned by a scholar of the Najd area in the Eastern part of the Arabian peninsula by the name of Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). This scholar has been refuted by a long line of scholars both in his time and ours. Their names and the titles of some of their excellent refutations are found in the bibliography given at the end of this introduction.

In essence, Salafism and Wahhabism are the same, but the latter is identified by its founder while the former takes the name of the Salaf and makes it its own. Yet both Salafism and Wahhabism depart from the belief and practice of the Salaf, as the present book abundantly makes clear.

About the Book

Al-Zahawi displays a profound mastery of the proofs of Ahl al-Sunna which he presents in a clear and systematic style. The book is divided into concise sections tracing the origins of the Wahhabi/Salafi movement and the teachings that this movement promotes in isolation of the doctrine of the majority of Muslims. After a brief historical overview of the bloody origins of Wahhabism and the “Salafi” creed, the author turns to investigate the foundations of the shari`a which have been targeted by the Wahhabi/Salafi movement for revision, namely:

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