Unveiling the Innovators—A Glimpse on Sufi-Salafi Polemics
2. The Relationship of Textualist Currents within Islam with Sufism—Some Examples
3. A Sufi Critique of Salafism
3.1. Some Aspects of a Sufi Critique of the Salafi Understanding of Islamic Concepts
And just as the Shari’a [sic] did not develop outside the framework of Islam, the Qur’an and the Sunna, even though it [sic] branches and knowledge encompassed many areas not mentioned verbatim in these sources, so too did tasawwuf develop based on the framework established by the Book and the Sunna and never did it step out of the bounds of these parameters.
Whosoever practices Sufism without legal knowledge is a heretic, whosoever [in turn] practices jurisprudence without Sufism is a deviator and who combines between the two has found the truth (man taṣawwafa wa-lam yatafaqqih fa-qad tazanndaqa wa-man tafaqqaha wa-lam yataṣawwaf fa-qad tafassaqa wa-man jamaʿa bainahumā fa-qad taḥaqqaqa).
The delusion that ‘no Islamic knowledge is hidden from me if only I decide to find it in the books,’ is the Westernized belief of the ‘Salafis’ who rebel against the idea of having an Imam of fiqh or tasawwuf (…). Therefore it [Islamic knowledge] is taken and understood NOT [original emphasis] from the books—as is taught by Jewish and Christian professors in non-Muslim academies—but from Allah’s awliya’, the scholars of knowledge who are the full beneficiaries of the Prophet (…).
Even if he fights the unbelievers and the polytheists with his sword until it breaks and is being stained red from blood, those who continiously remember Allah are better than him (lau ḍaraba bi-sayfihi fī l-kuffār wa-l-mushrikīn ḥatta yankasira wa-yakhtaḍiba damman la-kāna l-dhākirūn Allāh kathīr afḍal minhu).
The statement that counting dhikr on beads is an innovation is undoubtedly false. The use of beads for counting dhikr was definitely allowed by the Prophet, and a sunna of the Companions. This is proven by the sahih hadith of Sad ibn Abi Waqqas, who related that the Prophet once saw a woman using some date-stones or pebbles to count dhikr (…), and dit not prohibit her use of them.(Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Majah) (Kabbani 1998a, p. 37)
3.2. On the Status of the Prophet and Sound Belief
Whatever the majority of Muslims see as right, then this is good to Allah, and whatever is seen by the majority of Muslims as wrong, it is wrong with Allah
To prohibit that upon which the scholars have formed consensus is disbelief, because it exceeds the allowable prohibiting that is agreed upon in this topic.(as cited in Kabbani 1998b, p. 98)21
The recurrence of such historical incidents teach us time and again that the Salafis of today, like the Wahhabis before them, like Ibn Taymiyya and his student, did not make up all of their positions but took many of them from previous anthropomorphists, such as the Barbaharis and Karramis of Baghdad who raged in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries and were put down each time (…)
The Prophet therefore meant to determine what she worshipped. When she said: in the ‘heaven,’ -- and another narration says that she made a sign towards the heaven -- it was understood that she was a believer in oneness. He meant by this line of questioning the disavowal of the gods of the earth (nafi al-aliha al-ardiyya) which are the idols, not the establishment of the heaven as a location for Allah, and Allah is greatly exalted from the sayings of the wrong-doers!
He [al-ʿUthaymīn] continues his explicit similes (“just as the sun…”) with royal indifference to his blatant commitment of tamthil [comparing God to his creation] (…). Since when do created things serve as an analogy for the Creator? (…) No rational person can say that such a meaning is meant here, for when the person at prayer prostrates, he does not draw near to a body nor to Allah’s body. This proves that the proximity in question is that of his mercy, and that the words ‘in front of him’ in the above hadith mean that Allah is looking over him and taking account of his works—not that He is there literally, which would be ascribing to Him a place, and this is an aberration.
3.3. On the Bad Character of Salafis
It is ironic that under all such lying charges, the ‘Salafis‘ cannot hide the fact that they are seldom seen bringing anyone into Islam, while the Naqshbandis whom they attack have brought thousands and tens of thousands into Islam! (…) ‘The Salafis’ have declared loud and clear that their aim is to destroy Islam from within, while wearing the cloak of Islam.
he remains the qibla of the people of Innovation [sic], self-styled re-formers of Islam, and other ‘Salafi’ and Wahhabi sympathizers, and the preferred author of book merchants and many uneducated Muslims.
He advocates in his Salat al-Nabi the formula “Peace and blessings upon the Prophet” instead of “upon you, O Prophet” in the tashahhud in contradiction of the Four Sunni Schools, on the basis of a hadith of Ibn Mas’ud whereby the Companions used the indirect-speech formula after the passing of the Prophet. But the Prophet himself instructed them to pray exactly as he prayed saying: “Peace and blessings upon you, O Prophet” without telling them to change it after his death, nor did the major Companions (whose Sunna we were ordered to imitate together with that of the Prophet), such as Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, teach the Companions and Successors otherwise!
He prohibits praying more than 11 rak’as in Tarawih prayers on the grounds that the Prophet never did and in blatant rejection of his explicit command to follow the Sunna of the well-guided Caliphs after him.
4. The Salafi Response
He [the Salafi] is not of the sects of the Khawaarij who consider the Muslims to be Kaafirs (nonbelievers) due to their committing major sins, and make lawful the taking of their wealth and blood. He is not of the sects of the Shi’ah (Shi’ites) who hate and curse the Prophet’s Companions and claim them to be apostates, claim that the Qur’an has been altered, reject the authentic Sunnah and worship the Prophet’s Family, peace be upon them. He is not of the Qadarīyah who deny Qadr (the Divine Decree). He is not of the Murjiah who claim Imaan (Faith) to be only in words and not in deed. He is not of the Asharriyah who deny Allah’s Attributes. He is not of the Sufis who worship graves, saints and claim Divine incarnation. He is not of the Muqallidoon who necessitate that every Muslim adhere to the Madhhab (School of Thought) of a particular Imam or Shaikh, even when that madhhab differs with the clear verses of the Qur’an and authentic hadiths of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
4.1. Countering the Accusation of Anthropomorphism
The establishment on the throne is not unknown, the how is beyond the intellect, the belief in it is obligatory, and asking about it is an innovation (al-istiwāʾ ghayr majhūl wa-l-kayf ghayr maʿqūl wa-l-imān bihi wājib wa-s-suʾāl ʿanhu bidʿa).
Either the Prophet (…) knew the meanings of the words with which Allaah described Himself or he did not. If he knew them then he would have taught their meanings to his Companions by virtue of the command of His Lord: “O Messenger! Proclaim that which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not do it, then you have not conveyed His message.” (5:67). And if he (…) did not know their meaning then it results in a Messenger from Allaah who speaks about His Lord’s Attributes and yet he does not know what they mean and he is speaking with words he does not understand, and this is inconceivable.
If he should say: ‘You have abstained from the interpretation of the Qur’anic verses and narrations which have come down to us in respect of the Attributes, claiming that the Salaf did make ta’weel of them and explain them, then he is uttering falsehood, forging lies, and is guilty of the most grievous aberration. For there is no question about the fact that the doctrine of the Salaf, in this regard, consisted in acknowledgement, unreserved approval, and avoidance of the temerity of using allegorical interpretation (ta’weel) and resemblance. Moreover, the fundamental rule is to presume the lack of their use of ta’weel. So, let him who claims that they did interpret them allegorically produce evidence in support of his statement. But there is no way of knowing this save by the transmission and relation of narrations. Let him then transmit to us narrations to this effect on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (…) or his Companions or from one of the Successors or one of the approved Imaams. Furthermore, he who claims this is one of the people of kalaam (theological rhetoric), and they are the most ignorant of men with regard to the narrations.
4.2. Further Points of Contention
Allah has no limits, nor any rivals… He who says: ‘I do not know if my Lord is in the heavens or on earth’ is a disbeliever, and he who says: ‘He is on the Throne, and I do not know whether the Throne is in the heaven or on the earth,’ he is also a disbeliever.
Aboo Mutee’ al-Hakam ibn ‘Abdullah al-Balkee said: “I asked Aboo Haneefah about the one who says: ‘I do not know whether my Lord is in the sky or the earth.’” So he said: ‘He is a kaafir, for Allaah, the Most High, says: “The Most Merciful has ascended over the Throne” and His Throne is above the heavens.’ So I said: “If he says: ‘I say that He ascended above the Throne but I do not know whether the Throne is in the heavens or the earth.’” He said: ‘If he denies that He is above the sky then he is a kaafir’.
How ludicrous then are the words of Kabbani: ‘We warn the reader not to be deceived by the disclaimer invoked by some of Ibn Taymiyya’s admirers that he did not really hold all these beliefs but merely quoted them in his review of the positions of those he criticized.’.
What benefit, therefore, is there in Kabbani quoting the earlier scholars if, as he would have us understand, their knowledge is over and done with, it is now limited to its own time and place?
There are a number of phrases and terminologies used within the various Islamic sciences, such as the science of hadeeth, fiqh, tajweed and their like, which are not to be found in either the Qur’aan or hadeeth. Should all these terms then be rejected? (…) Accordingly, the term bi dhatihi, although not employed to begin with, came into use at the appropriate time when it was helpful for the People of Knowledge to clarify the false interpretations of the various sects.
Kabbani generally presents a series of anecdotal and juristic statements for most issues he addresses. However his treatment lacks a critical analysis of the material. Rather his conclusions, whether on the legality of wiping over one’s socks for ritual ablutions or the permissibility of juristic difference, are simplistic and unequivocal.
As for those who lead prayer and khutba in Western-style pants and other tight-fitting garments, both they and those who follow them are behaving indecently and ignorantly, jeopardizing their worship, ignoring the excellent example of the Prophet, and instead following the model of non-believers.
To reject a hadith that is in al-Bukhari and Muslim and claim that it is inauthentic is the mark of deviancy and innovation because it also contradicts the consensus of Ahl al-Sunna that everything attributed to the Prophet, upon him peace, in the Sahihayn is unquestionably authentic.
Asalamu Alaykum wa Ramatullahee wa Barakatuhu, There is a big, big fitnah in my community of Vancouver Canada. Some brother is passing out this horrific book against our Sh.Albani(Raheemullah). I need to know if there is a book in english [sic] written in defence of the Shaikh, defending him against this book and it’s lies??????? Or if there isn’t who will stand up for the shaikh and write a piece in defence of him, and make Jihad against the people of desires and deceptions. I need to distribute this is in my community ASAP!!! Inshaa’ALLAH. Was Salaam Akhook Fil Islaam Abu Abdurrahman as Salafee al Kanadi.
No doubt, some people, at some level, do need to discuss the reality of the mawlid, and the Attributes of Allah and other aspects of faith. But these are not the problems of our time, nor do they present major challenges to the faith of our young men and women. These are controversies of a bygone era: the Salafīs and the Ashʿarīs can go on debating such aspects amongst themselves, and I too as a theologian will be glad to participate in such debates, in appropriate forums, in front of appropriate audiences. But the vast majority of our youth couldn’t care less about such abstract non-tangible theoretical discussions. They are struggling to retain faith in their religion, problematizing Darwinism and secularism and post-modernism and humanism and liberalism and a thousand other ‘isms’, while Salafīs (and Deobandis, and Ashʿarīs, and Sufīs) still debate in their circles matters that only concern the 0.1 %. (…) And while I might agree with the hard-core Salafī that Allah has indeed istawā ‘alā al-ʿarsh (risen over the Throne) in a manner that befits Him, his myopic narrow-mindedness of the problems facing the Ummah, and self-righteous arrogance, and his cultish mentality, will be major turn-offs for me personally, and harmful to the Ummah as a whole.
Conflicts of Interest
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Some exceptions can be found among those belonging to the “post-Salafi spectrum” (Hamid 2008). For the attempt of an ecumenical discussion, see (Anonymous 2016) “Imam’s panel discussion: Salafis/Sufis finding common ground” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=825GBEOS6EM&t=89s).
It is unclear if the description of abdāl as “extraordinarily pious Muslims” is taken from the writings of Ibn Ḥanbal or if it is an explanation by Melchert. In later Sufism, the abdāl are more than just pious. They are seen as saints, without whom the universe would be thrown off balance (Goldziher and Kissling 2012).
Also known as Naqshbandiyya Ḥaqqāniyya, Ḥaqqāniyya or Naqshbandiyya Nāẓimiyya.
For some critical questions by Malay students concerning the Nāẓimiyya directed to the former Mufti of Egypt ʿAlī Jumʿa, who is a Sufi himself, see (Anonymous 2015) “Ali Jumaa’s Answers to the Wahhabi Run JAKIM of Malaysia, Regarding Naqshbandis” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNXAR-M_VpM).
The names of persons commonly known in their English version will not be put in Arabic transliteration.
Similar to Hamid, Geaves does not provide an in-depth analysis of the “Encyclopedia” since his article focuses on the ways in which Traditionalist and Sufi circles in Britain re-organized in response to the Salafi challenge.
Much of the criticism in this book focuses on another anonymous book called “Haqiqat ul-Haqqani”, whose content was purportedly rejected by Shaykh Nazim himself (Kabbani 1997, p. 50).
It is transmitted in different versions in the Hadith-collections of Abū Dāwūd (d. 889) in the “Book of Sunna”, chapter “Explanation of the Sunna” (sharḥ al-sunna), al-Tirmidhī (d. 892) in the “Book of Faith” according to the prophet, chapter “What has been told about the split of this Umma” (mā jāʾa fī ftirāq hādhihī l-umma) and Ibn Māja (d. 887) in the “Book of Tribulations” (fitna), chapter “The splitting up of peoples (iftirāq al-umam). It is not to be found in the collections of al-Bukhārī (d. 870) or Muslim (d. 875).
It can be found in Ibn Māja in the “Book of Tribulations”, chapter “Islam began as something strange” (badaʾa l-Islām gharīban).
This quote was first mentioned in the marginal notes (ḥāshiyāt) of the Maliki scholar Aḥmad al-ʿAdawī (d. 1775) in the explanatory work (sharḥ) of the Maliki scholar ʿAlī Ibn Muḥammad al-Manfūfī (d. 1532) on the prominent legal compendium “Risālat Ibn Abī Zaid (Epistles of Ibn Abī Zaid)”, written by the Maliki scholar Muḥammad Ibn Abī Zaid al-Qairawānī (d. 996). Almost needless to say, Salafis regard this connection as being too vague, which is why they refuse to attribute this quote to Mālik. See Islamweb (2005).
The original quote can be found in one of the Fatwa collections of Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, published by Ibn ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ (1986, pp. 118–19).
The Hadith is not found in the six prominent Hadith collections, but is mentioned in the “Musnad (Hadith-Collection)” of Ibn Ḥanbal. It seems, however, that the word “majority” was added to the English translation, since it cannot be found in the Arabic original.
The quotation is taken from an explanatory work of al-Qārī on the famous book “Al-Shifāʾ bi-taʿrīf ḥuqūq al-muṣṭafā (Healing Through the Identification of the Rights/Truths of the Chosen One)” by the Maliki scholar Qādī ʿIyād ibn Mūsā (d. 1149).
For a comparison of Salafi theology with the Ashari and Maturidi school of thought concerning these issues see Gharaibeh (2014) and to a lesser extent Wiktorowicz (2006).
Translation by Yusuf Ali.
It can be found in Muslim in the “Book on Mosques and Places of Prayer”, chapter “The prohibition of talking during prayer and the abrogation of its permission (taḥrīm al-kalām fī ṣ-ṣalāt wa-naskh mā kāna min ibāḥatihi)”.
These words are originally found in ʿAlī al-Qārīs commentary “Mirqāt al-mafātiḥ (Ladder of Keys)” on the book of Hadith-science “Mishqāt al-maṣābiḥ (The Niche of the Lamp)” of the Persian Hadith scholar Muḥammad Khaṭīb al-Tabrīzī (d. 1341), which is based in turn on the original work “Miṣbāḥ as-sunna (Lamp of the Sunna)” written by the Shafii scholar Abū Muḥammad al-Baghawī (d. 1122).
Al-ʿUthaymīn’s comparison is to be found in his commentary on “Al-ʿAqīda al-wāsiṭiyya (The Creed of [the town] Wasit)” written by Ibn Taymiyya, who took the moon instead of the sun as the object of comparison (Kabbani 1996, p. 190).
It is found in al-Bukhārī in the “Book of Prayer”, chapter “The burying of the expectoration in the mosque (dafn al-nakhāma fī-l-masjid)”.
The tashahhud is an invocation during prayer, where the person facing the qibla is greeting God and the messenger.
The “Hadith of the blind man” can be found in al-Tirmidhī in his “Book on Supplication” with no subchapter, and in Ibn Māja in his “Book on Establishing the Prayer and the Sunnah Regarding Them” with no subchapter.
The quote in question goes as follows: “This is evident by the fact that Jesus, peace be upon him, ruled with our law and ruled with the Quran and the Sunna and not with something else such as the gospels or Hanafi law or something similar (hādhā ṣarīḥ fī an ʿīsā ʿalaihī al-salām yaḥkumu bi-sharʿinā wa-yaqdī bi-l-kitāb wa-l-sunna lā bi-ghairihimā min al-injīl au al-fiqh al-ḥanafī wa-naḥwahu)“. This comparison is supposedly found in his commentary on “Mukhtasar ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Summary of the Hadith collection of Muslim)” of the Shafii Hadith scholar Zakī al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad al-Mundhirī (d. 1258). It is said that the commentary has been removed from later editions. I was not able to detect a version containing the original citation. Looking at Salafi websites, however, it is possible to find the quote, which is interpreted in a different way: al-Albānī did not equate Hanafi fiqh with the gospels, all he wanted to do is to point to the fact that there were Hanafi scholars who stick so much to their fiqh that they neglect the Quran and the Sunna. See Sunnah.net (2011).
The school of the textualists (Ahl al-Ḥadīth) and the school of the rationalists (Ahl al-Raʾy) were the two major legal schools in Islam before the formation of the four contemporary law schools. For a depiction of this process see (Melchert 1997). For the two terms Ahl/Aṣhāb al-Ḥadīth and Ahl/Aṣhāb al-Raʾy see (Schacht 2012a) and (Schacht 2012b).
On the politicized use of al-jarḥ wa-l-taʿdīl in intra-Salafi polemics see (Meijer 2011).
“[…] there is nothing whatever like unto Him (laisa ka-mithlihi shayʾ)”. For a thorough analysis of both Salafi and non-Salafi perspectives on anthropomorphism see (Gharaibeh 2014).
For an analysis of the foundations of the “Bi-lā Kayfa” doctrine in Islamic theology see (Abrahamov 1995).
This statement can be found in (Qibrisi 1980, p. 44).
This lengthy quote by Ibn Qudāma is originally found in (Makdisi 1985, p. 7).
It is therefore no coincidence that the Syrian Ashari scholar Saʿīd Ramaḍān al-Būṭī (d. 2013) is frequently quoted in the works of Kabbani.
The Hadith is to be found in al-Bukhārī in the “Book of Times of the Prayers”, chapter: Superiority of the Fajr [early morning] prayer (faḍl ṣalāt al-fajr).
On this book see (Van Ess 1991).
So far I have not come across an academic study on Ibn Abī l-ʿIzz. He is not mentioned in the Encyclopaedia of Islam.
On the Muʿtazila, a rationalist movement in early Islam deemed heterodox by most contemporary Muslim currents, see (Gimaret 2012).
On the undisputed authority of the shaykh in Naqshbandi thought, see (Meier 1994, pp. 259–304).
This holds obviously true for the quietist spectrum only. The politically activist and jihadi Salafis have their own authorities.
Based on his field studies in Egypt, Richard Gauvain concludes: “Ultimately, charting the boundary lines that separate what is authentically Sufi from what is demonstrably Salafi in modern Egyptian religio-social realities has become an extraordinarily difficult, and arguably rather pointless task” (Gauvain 2013, p. 81).
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Fouad, H. Unveiling the Innovators—A Glimpse on Sufi-Salafi Polemics. Religions 2020, 11, 144. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030144
Fouad H. Unveiling the Innovators—A Glimpse on Sufi-Salafi Polemics. Religions. 2020; 11(3):144. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030144Chicago/Turabian Style
Fouad, Hazim. 2020. "Unveiling the Innovators—A Glimpse on Sufi-Salafi Polemics" Religions 11, no. 3: 144. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030144