Salafism is a generic term which refers to a branch of Sunni fundamentalist Islamic thought. The term refers to the predecessors, or the first three hundred years of Islam, prior to the Crusades and Mongolian conquest of Baghdad and Persia. The Salafi school of thought appeared in the 1990s as a reaction against Western influences, such as tolerance, gay rights, or the women's movement. Salafi perspectives have gained wide mainstream acceptance among indigenous Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa, as people have lost faith in the very concept of the nation state, secular rulers, and regimes who are often seen as stooges of the West, colonialism, the United Nations, and the New World Order.
The term Qutbism is also sometimes used for militant, activist resistance to Western and foreign influence.
Salafi thought centers on the concept that the religion founded by Muhammad and his companions was perfect at the time of its creation, and that it has subsequently been weakened by materialist interferences, rationalism, and innovations. The term 'innovation' is condemned as corrupting, and does not imply 'reform' or 'improvement' as in the Western connotation of the word. Shariah law, as practiced in the vast majority of Islamic Republics after the fall of the Turkish Caliphate in the 20th century, has been watered down by innovations.
Salafis tend to be anti-imperialist and blame Western civilization for corrupting and contaminating Islamic society. The term 'religion', in Salafi thought, is all encompassing, and includes the notion of civil governmental authority. Only an anarchist would be deemed irreligious, and proponents of communism or democracy are considered idolatrous or worshippers of a Satanic religion.
The Salafi school, while of relatively recent origin (19th century), largely follows a train of thought attributed to the 13th century imam Ibn Taymayyih who issued a fatwa calling for jihad against the Mongolian conquerors. While the Mongolian Khans adopted the Islamic religion, Taymayyih insisted they did not implement or follow Sharia law, declared them takfir or unbelieving apostates, and could be righteously overthrown. Modern Salafists view Islam as under assault from the corrupting influences of Western Civilization; various leaders of Islamic nation states, whether secular or religious, have made peace treaties or participated in international conventions with non-Islamic governments (or the enemies of God). The success of Taymiyyah's revolution in throwing off the Mongolian invaders is an inspiration to modern Salafi theorists.
Salafism teaches that voting in democratic elections is un-Islamic, whereas some Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood have formed political parties, field candidates and encourage voter participation.
Some basic tenets of Salafism
- The people of God (ummah) are perpetually at war with the enemies of God (kafir).
- There is no making peace with the enemies of God.
- The earth is divided into two camps, Dar al Salam (the Realm of Peace) and Dar al Harb (the Realm of Conflict).
- Nation states are an artificial concept created by Western Christendom and Western Imperialism, and imposed upon Islam.
- There is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is his Prophet.
- Only Allah can create law as spoken through the mouth of his Prophet Mohammad.
- Western parliamentary democracy is an attempt at man-made-law, and thus blasphemous.
- The United Nations Charter is a Western creation, an attempt at man-made-law, and an effort to create a Peace Treaty between the people of God and the enemies of God.
- Signatories to the UN Charter are unbelievers.
- All persons who make a Peace Treaty with unbelievers, such as Anwar Sadat or the Saudi ruling clique, are apostates and unbelievers.
Contrasts with Wahhabism
Although the term is often used interchangeably with "Wahhabism" this is objected to by its followers. While the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab are a cornerstone of modern Salafism, the term 'Wahhabi' has become more associated with the Saudi religious establishment that receives funding and provides the veneer of legitimacy to the Saudi regime. The descendants of al-Wahhab have intermarried over generations with the descendants of Muhammad ibn Saud, mostly all of the present day House of Saud ruling class also carry the Wahhabi bloodline. Today's leading Salafi writers have branded the Saudi ruling family as unbelieving apostates of Islam, in particular Abu Muhaamad al-Maqdisi's 1989 book, The Obvious Proofs of the Saudi State’s Impiety.
- In pure, unadulterated Islam, religion is compulsory and there is no separation of church and state. Hence, conversion and apostasy are treason and capital offenses. Al-Bukhari (number 6922)
- Militant Ideology Atlas, Combating Terrorism Center at Westpoint, November 2006, p. 10, Conclusions: "The movement gained mass popularity during the last century and Salafis now constitute a majority or significant portion of the Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa. This is despite the fact that it was often strongly opposed by secular nationalist regimes and non-Salafi clerics. Western governments have neither the local credibility nor the cultural expertise necessary to diminish the popularity of Salafism."
- The First of Five Pillars.
- The Mideast Threat That's Hard to Define, Youssef Michel Ibrahim, The Washington Post, August 11, 2002. Retrieved from cfr.org
- Millat Ibrahim (The Religion of Ibrahim), Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, 1985.