Also called: Salafiyyah, Salafi Islam
A number of interpretations of Islam within its Sunni branch, which claims that the true Islam rests with the practice of the earliest Muslims, the followers of Muhammad.
As is, Salafism is used in so many different meanings that it has become very confusing. Either the term is employed to identify important characteristics of many conservative Muslim groups which are known by other names, or it is used as names for some distinct orientations.
Among the most commonly accepted ways of using the term, is to designate Wahhabism, although the wahhabis promote another term, Muwahhidun.
Often Salafism is also used as another name of Islamism. The most extremist groups are distinguished by being called Jihadist-Salafis.
When Salafism is used as an actual name, it is of the moderate, modernist reorientation of Islam as defined by the EgyptianMufti, Muhammad Abduh, early in the 20th century. He used the principle of the pious forefathers, the salafiyya to create his understanding of Islam in a modern world. He asserted that they represented a rational and practical understanding of the society. From this, he claimed that Islam both had the capacity to, and was forced to adjust to modernity. He claimed that ijtihad (legal independent judgement based upon case law or past precedent) still could be performed. Despite being a moderate of his time, his teachings seems to have been taken up by the founders of Islamism, transforming them into a strict and rigid system without will to compromise and the will to resolve the unsolvable by violence.
Attempts to systemize Salafis have resulted in divisions like this:
- Jihadist or Jihadist-Salafis, would be extremist groups willing to use violence and terror to promote their views.
- Salafis, would be those who reject violence, but share the same belief in the value of imitating the earliest Muslims.
- Islamists, which is used in this context to indicate that there are Islamists who cannot be labelled Salafis, simply because they are willing to interpret the principles of Islam. This appears to be a construction, mainly because this understanding of Islamism places it within moderate Islam.
- Discontented Muslims, would be used to indicate Muslims in favour of change, but wanting to use more than just the basic principles of Islam to bring that through.
With the two first understandings of Salafism, it involves a great degree of imitation of every aspect of the lives of the first Muslims. Being an orientation ascetic in nature, there is a great focus on laws and punishments, with the claim that correct actions of an entire society will lead to rewards in terms of safety, stability, welfare and progress.
Central to understand the confusing variation of using the term is principally linked to the different understandings of how and why the earliest Muslims acted. Judged from Muslim sources they can be interpreted as acting out in perfect guidance with God, or as acting as normal humans resolving normal problems of a society but with firsthand knowledge of the divine truth.
Central for a true Salafi is to value tawhid, identifying God in everything, from ordinary actions to any form of worship. Also to reject what they consider bid’a, inventions to the religion. This has caused tension with the beliefs of Sufis and Shi’is, the veneration of prophets and saints and the celebration of the birthday of Muhammad. Still most Salafis support other forms of bid’a, like the building of minarets on mosques.
For Salafis, growing a long beard and wearing a long robe of the dishdasha style are popular accessories and indicators of belonging.