A recommendation

Some of the people dearest to me are people who would call themselves “Salafis”. They nurtured me when I was new to this deen, helped me and never failed to offer me support. Over the years I have seen each of them evolve in their own particular way. One of my friends is sensitive, has had his ups and downs with like-minded people, but is firm on this path; he has had the jibes about his baseball cap and the times he returned to rap, but he always comes back, each time stronger than before. Another friend is an intellectual: he reads widely, thinks deeply and is gentle in character. As for me: what can be said of me? I decided several years ago that I wasn’t going to call myself a Salafi because the term “Muslim” was enough for me. But what group do I belong to? I don’t belong to any: I am just a simple Muslim, trying to do the best I can.

But something has changed along the way. My regular company has altered perhaps. One of my closest friends once kept company with those people we hear referred to as “hardcore salafis”; he believed passionately in that way, but things happened that left him severely bruised. These days he is an adamant critic of almost all of those who call themselves salafis, with perhaps the exception of a mutual friend of ours.

It is interesting: while my experiences has hardly been negative at all, other people’s cynicism has had its effect on me. In my mind I have exaggerated my few meetings with some less pleasant characters: like those lectures when I first became Muslim which saw some brothers boycotting me because my friend who couldn’t be there was a sufi (in fact he is one of the most resolute salafis I know; he just happened to be studying Arabic under a non-salafi sheikh).

The cynicism reveals itself in a number of ways. If I happen to be talking about a salafi opinion, I will find myself saying, “The salafis or wahabis or whatever you want to call them say…” Subhanullah, I have also found myself making fun of the double letters in their transliterations, the use of complicated parenthesis within parenthesis and the excessive use of footnotes. I feel ashamed really. I do not consider myself a salafi, not because I am passionate about something else; it is simply because my life does not resemble the lives of the earliest generations at all.

Salafis come in for a lot of stick, the kind of thing that drives this cynicism, but over the years I have met people from all sorts of groups who display exactly the same characteristics. In fact there are the people who take the same line as the salafis regarding going back to the earliest generations – except they insist on following Maliki fiqh instead of the Hanbali madhab. I have seen extremes in many a group, and yet I know that extremism is not its primary characteristic. Some of us owe our Islam to those people. Some of us have forgotten. I find that some of their biggest critics are those who were once proud to call themselves salafis; mankind is ever pessimistic, always ignorant of the blessings. As I wrote just a week ago in my post entitled “Words”, it is time we recognised that all of us are brothers.

You may wonder what has made me write all this. It was an article I read this lunchtime by a sister who is certainly not a salafi herself; an article which kicked me, because she talks about a trap I regret I have fallen into myself. It is a beautifully well written piece entitled “To be a Wahabi” and I would advise everyone to read it. She left me humbled and full of remorse.

You can read the article here: http://www.sunnisisters.com/?p=1429

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