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Landmarks of the Virtuous Salaf Approach


Sheikh Abdurrahman Al-Sudais – 30 Thul Hijjah 1435

His Eminence Sheikh Abdurrahman Al-Sudais –may Allah protect him– delivered this Friday Khutbah entitled “Landmarks of the Virtuous Salaf Approach” in which he talked about a year departing and a new one coming. He insisted on the idea of self-accountability in the sense of monitoring oneself for any negligence or perpetration of evil deeds. He also listed a number of traits characterising the approach of the Salaf Salih (virtuous predecessors), explaining their most salient landmarks and warning against following approaches that are deviant from Islam.

Due praise be to Allah! We praise Him, seek His assistance, repent to Him, and beseech Him for forgiveness. We offer Him (Glory Be to His sublime Existence) unremitting praise and profuse expressions of gratitude for His abundant blessings bestowed in succession. Sincere and interminable homage is due to Him Almighty.

(The Sheikh includes one line of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Due praise be to Allah, unmatched by
Any form of praise ever offered by a lauder!

I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah, alone with no associate. He foreordained time, calculated its allotment, and flawlessly designed its alternation. I equally bear witness that our Prophet and Master, Muhammad, is the Servant and Messenger of Allah. He is endowed with the best manners and the most perfect look amongst mankind. May Allah send His profuse Salat (Graces, Honours, and Mercy) upon him, his family, Companions, the tabi’īn (the contemporaries of the Companions of the Prophet [May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him] after his death), and all those who righteously follow in their footsteps till the Day of Judgement!

Now then, O Servants of Allah!

Observe taqwa (fear of disobeying Allah) vis-à-vis Allah (Glory Be to Him), show gratitude to Him, obey Him, cease disobeying Him, and thank Him for His hidden and apparent favours as well as His inexhaustible blessings and bounties. Only then could you gain the well-being of the herein and the unrivalled comfort of the hereafter.

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Gratitude helps you gain entrance through locked gate,
Where Allah bestows bountiful favours upon His beseechers.
Proceed to show gratitude and yourself from manacles liberate,
And implore Allah to lift whatever causes afflictions to befall His worshippers.

O Muslims!

At this very blessed moment, our Ummah is bidding farewell to a year that has elapsed and is welcoming another whose pleasant breeze is heralding its advent. It was a year that elapsed, drifting away in its folds both our positive and negative deed records. It has been superseded by another year bearing witness to the galloping time on the wane. O Allah! We ask You in supplication to bestow Your blessing upon what You have decreed for this Ummah in the new year! O Allah! Make it a year of blessing, growth, glory, victory, and empowerment for Islam and Muslims!

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

A year proffered by Time, serenely approaching us,
Escorted by a procession of jubilant company.
It held events captive in its invisible folds,
Wandering in its dominion in all directions.

O Muslims!

In the succession of elapsing and coming years, and with the advent of each new year heralding joy and optimism, wise people are systematically inclined to stop by and call themselves to account in order to carry out an overall assessment of their own record of past deeds and proceed to certain self-critical review. This is typical of the Muslim who always engages in severe self-criticism and proceeds to prompt action with the aim of going over his past deeds. Therefore, with the advent of the new year –whose radiant optimistic spirit is traced along the entire horizon– it is incumbent upon any sagacious person to have an insightful perspective of the future of the Ummah, a sharp-witted mind to remedy previous pitfalls, and aspiration to face the coming years with determination and truthful conduct.

(The Sheikh recites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

A new year is approaching the entire existence,
Each community on earth is showing festivity.
The hopes of all creatures have hailed its embarkation.
Celebrating its eagerly awaited arrival.

O Ummah of faith!

Our strong sense of historical attachment and our deep-seated spirit of civilisational belonging confirm that only genuine faith can reconcile disbanded parties, reunite conflicting views, and reunify discordant voices. Subsequent to such appalling disunity, humiliating underdevelopment, and loss of orientation in dark channels and suspicious tunnels leading to lethal temptation, will the Ummah realise that its lifejacket for rescue resides in strictly adhering to the righteous approach of the Salaf, which is the favourite approach ever devised by the earlier generations epitomising Islam. It is reported in the two Sahih Books that Abdullah Ibn Mas’ūd –may Allah be pleased with him– narrated that Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s (Salat and Peace be upon him) said, “The best among (Muslim) people is my generation, then the generations succeeding them, and then the generations succeeding them.”

It is really heartbreaking to notice that some people from our Muslim community have recently abandoned the method of the Salaf Salih. They have been inspired with a myriad of fallacious beliefs and flaws associated with misguided and injudicious people. In addition, they have acted in opposition to the devout Salaf and accordingly deviated from their transparent and enlightened approach. In fact, they have hoisted the sails in the direction of globalisation and westernisation, blaspheming the constant foundations of religion and the unequivocal principles of Sharia.

Other people are imbibed with the doctrine of extremism, takfiri thought, violence, bombing, homicide, sabotage and destruction, to mention but some examples of disasters normally disclaimed by the monotheists believers but embraced by the Kharijites.

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Tell those who spread suspicion and corruption everywhere,
For us, your existence is next to nothing.
None has permitted terrorism except you,
Nay, you are even worse in nature than its advocates!

In a world afflicted by turmoil and unrest where denominations, affiliations, sects, groups, and parties emerge like mushrooms to intercept the precepts of Islam and disfigure its bright image, and where each person claims to be right and alleges his exclusive possession of truth ‒one really needs to grope for a rescue exit, which is only accessible through revisiting the method adopted by the venerable and virtuous Salaf Salih.

An investigative look at the method of our Salaf Salih –may Allah have mercy on their souls– reveals that their outstandingly prestigious approach is characterised by certain features not shared by any other approach. The first feature is its special care for tawheed (Islamic monotheism). In pure tawheed, Allah is absolutely worshipped as One, without peers, associates, similar entities, or counterparts. Allah (Glory Be to His sublime Existence) says:

“And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allâh, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him)…” [Al-Bayyinah: 5]

“…There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” [Al-Shūra: 11]

Given the fact that the notion of tawheed occupies a central position in the Islamic creed, it is essential to safeguard it, satisfy its requirements, and realise its implications, particularly in the field of real-life practice and the sphere of principled position-taking. Tawheed is considered as the ultimate purpose of life per se, for the major goal of noble Sharia is to preserve religion –that is to say, both to protect its existence and to prevent its extinction– in addition to safeguarding faith against all types of violation, polytheism, bid’ah (fabrications in religion), and invented rituals.

Brothers in faith!

Another eminent feature typifying the approach of Salaf Salih is lucid and well-grounded recourse to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah in all matters, whether trivial or substantial:

“… (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [Al-Nisa’: 59]

In addition, ostensibly ambiguous verses are interpreted with reference to the straightforward ones, and generic religious data are construed in the light of detailed and explicated content. They (i.e. Salaf Salih) always try to reconcile the literal meaning of the text with its hidden or intended meaning, in an attempt to bring together the interpretation by reasoning and that transmitted by Islamic tradition (the Holy Qur’an and the Noble Sunnah). This is indeed a prominent feature of the approach and mode of life adopted and bequeathed by Salaf Salih. Therefore, they confirm everything that coincides with the Holy Qur’an and the Noble Sunnah but invalidate whatever is in discord with it. Thus, they never reject an authentic text or engage in a counterargument to defeat it relying on their own opinion or any other rational postulate. They never subjugate revealed texts to the dictates of reason. They seem to say:

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Hold fast to the bond of Allah and follow guidance to succeed,
Never side with the advocates of fabrications in faith.
Believe in the Book of Allah and the teachings bequeathed
By the Messenger of Allah; then, salvation and success will be yours.

Still another significant feature of the approach adopted by our Salaf Salih –may Allah have mercy on their souls– is strict adherence to the Muslim jama’ah (Muslim congregation) along with its corollary precepts: acquiescence and obedience. It is one of their innermost traits or even the most salient trait characterising their outstanding approach:

“And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allâh (i.e. this Qur’ân), and be not divided among yourselves…” [Ᾱl Imran: 103]

Imam Ibn Mas’ūd –may Allah be pleased with him– said, “The rope of Allah is the jama’ah.” Abdullah Ibn Omar –may Allah be pleased with him and his father– narrated that Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him) said, “My Ummah will never reach consensus on matters of misguidance; so, adhere to jama’ah, for the hand of Allah is with jama’ah,” [Reported by Al-Tirmithi]. In the Islamic tradition, Ibn Mas’ūd –may Allah be pleased with him– delivered a speech where he said, “What you resent within the context of jama’ah is better than what you like in disunity.” In the same vein, Imam Al-Ṭahawῑ –may Allah have mercy on his soul– said, “We see jama’ah as right and appropriate and disunity as deviation and torment.” Sheikh Al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah –may Allah have mercy on his soul– says, “In addition, adherence to jama’ah and consensual unity is one of the fundamentals of religion.”

Thus, the Salaf Salih –may Allah be pleased with them– along with those who have followed in their footsteps and adhered to their guidance are in total harmony as regards their common adherence to jama’ah, defence of truth, and acquiescence and obedience to their rulers. This is in total compliance with the intent of the religious legislator, who aims at fulfilling collective interests, preventing or minimising evils, protecting and sanctifying innocent blood, and proscribing all types of bloodshed.

O Brothers in Islam!

O, You, who hold true faith and adopt the smooth unambiguous approach! Do appreciate the majestic sense of harmony and jama’ah:
“And obey Allâh and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, …” [Al-Anfal: 46]

(The Sheikh cites one line of poetry paraphrased as follows):

The best option is a path trodden by well-guided predecessors,
And the worst of all matters are fabricated rituals in religion.

Brothers in faith!
The advocacy of imitating the interpretation of our Salaf Salih –may Allah be pleased with them– and following in their footsteps is not a call to retreat into underdevelopment or reactionary attitudes; it is rather a plea for the most prestigious method and the most enlightened path. It is the path of adhering to truth and showing clemency to all creatures, which is definitely the most well-grounded, wisest, and safest approach.

The true salafi approach is neither partisan nor fanatical, neither sectarian nor denominational. It is rather a self-renewed and self-regulated approach and a faith based on whatever is in compliance with the rules and higher-order precepts of Islam. In addition, the salafi approach is not exclusive to any individual, group, or country. It is far from the practices of exclusion, categorisation, segregation, discrimination, violence, and reductionist concepts.

The salafi approach is a universal plea for following the guidance of the Select Prophet (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him) overtly and covertly as well as the guidance of his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), abandoning bid’ah and invented rituals, and behaving differently from those guided by temptations and forbidden pleasures:

“And the first to embrace Islâm of the Muhâjirûn (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansâr (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhâjirûn) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allâh is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him…” [Al-Tawbah: 100]

In the gracious verse above, there is clear evidence on the idea of following in the footsteps of the Salaf from among the virtuous Companions, both the Muhajireen (emigrants from Makkah settling at Madinah) and the Ansar (the Prophet’s supporters in Madinah), because they are the most trustworthy, virtuous, and well-versed in the religion of Allah. Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him– says, “If any of you wants to adhere to the Sunnah, let him follow in the footsteps of those who had died, as no living creature is immune from fitnah (ordeals and predicaments afflicting believers).”

Such are the Companions of Muhammad (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him); they are the most benevolent, knowledgeable and authentic of this Ummah. These are people whom Allah had chosen to accompany His Prophet and to help establish His religion. Therefore, you are called upon to give them the respect they deserve as they were always on the right path of guidance.

Amīr al-Mu’minīn (the Commander of the Faithful) Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz ‒May Allah have mercy on his soul– said: “The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him) and the leaders (of this Ummah) after him, had laid down sunan the abidance thereby is considered an act of adherence to the book of Allah, an attempt to accomplish perfection of His worship, and an enhancement of His religion; none of His creatures is authorized to change or alter them or to consider anything else that is in conflict with them. Those who take them on for guidance are the ones that are rightly guided, and those who seek victory through them are the ones to carry the day. Conversely, those who disregard them are the ones to follow a path other than that of the believers; these are to be burdened with whatever Almighty Allah wills and are to be dumped in Hellfire as there is no worse destiny.”

O Ummah of Islam!

Viewed as a deeply-rooted concept, the Salafi approach encompasses faith, values and a way of life without which time and place would amount to absurdity.

Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah ‒May Allah have mercy on his soul– said: “The approach adopted by Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah rests on the premises of following the Prophet –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– both explicitly and implicitly, the path of the first and forerunners among the Muhajirin and Ansar, as well as the commandment of the Messenger of Allah –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– where he said: “You must then follow my sunnah and that of the rightly-guided Caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation” [Narrated by Abu Dawood]

Certainly, this does not contradict with following the advantage of the renovation in the means and tools used in this age, benefitting from its data in an attempt to keep up with its developments and breakthroughs, and reconciling between what is normative and what is liable to change.

O Ummah of Islam!

This da’wah (call), which is as bright as the sun in the zenith shall pass unscathed by the imperfections and mistakes marring human action. What we (humans) say may or may not be valid, except for the Messenger of Guidance, the Prophet of Mercy, Muhammad (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him).

Likewise, such da’wah may never be dented by the actions of those who are too radical or too lenient from among its affiliates, for Allah’s religion embraces the principle of compromise and moderation. Such actions should constitute no justification at all to go after its leaders or to try to slander its (religious) scholars, dispraise those priceless writings by some of its best thinkers, truncate its texts or set them off their original context and obvious meaning by introducing false concepts in substantiation of ill intentions.

Furthermore, the various approaches, precepts, and norms must not take the blame for the mistakes and infractions committed by some individuals at the level of understanding and applying certain legal terms. Therefore, the righteous and the fair-minded among us are called upon to turn a deaf ear to tendentious rumours, and provocative slogans.

Now then, O Muslims,

As we are on the threshold of a new Hijri year, we launch this hearty appeal to observe pure devotion to Allah, empowerment of His religion, the upholding of His sharia, adherence to the Sunnah of His Prophet (May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him) and his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them), understanding the Ummah’s salaf, and gathering around this righteous approach with cordiality and brotherly love. In fact, nothing shall be able to set right the ending of this Ummah except that which was able to set right its earlier generations.

(The Sheikh quotes one line of poetry to this effect which translates as follows):

My Sharia is no other but the Sharia of Truth,
And my School is no other but the School of Truth.

The words of our Lord (May He be extolled) in this regard come out, yet, stronger and more expressive:

“And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqun.” [Al An’am: 153]

May Almighty Allah bless you and me through the two Revelations, and benefit us with the guidance of the Master of the thaqalain (mankind and Jinn)! Having said this, I ask Almighty Allah to forgive me, you and all Muslims for all our wrongdoings; so ask Him for forgiveness and repentance; indeed my Lord is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful!


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