An Academic Discussion with Dr. Yasir Qadhi


Salafi Islam

An Academic Discussion with Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Discussion #1

The term Salaf and its methodology

Prepared by

Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle

M.A Candidate (Hadith and its sciences)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Verily praises belong to Allah. We praise Him, seek his assistance and His forgiveness. Blessed is Allah, Who sent Islam as a complete way of life to mankind and sent His final and last Messenger Muhammad (SallAllahu alayhi wa salam).

Recently an article was sent out from Dr. Yasir Qadhi titled, “On Salafi Islam”. This article directly attacks the correct practise of Islam, causes confusion among naive Muslims and aides the enemies of the Sunnah. What’s more is this paper can and will possibly push people away from Salafi character and its beliefs.  Therefore due to this imminent threat, I seek Allah’s support in highlighting the misconceptions, distortions and contaminated facts found in this piece of writing.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the beginning Dr. Yasir (May Allah rectify his affairs) begins by defining the term salafi . Nonetheless, he hurls deception for its definition. He misleads the reader into thinking the word, ” Salafi “ is a term not known to the Muslims, or is either new, or needs a more modern definition.

  • Dr Yasir says: What exactly is ‘Salafism’? In the absence of a unanimously agreed upon definition, I propose to elucidate the modern Salafī phenomena via an outline of its beginnings, an assessment   of   its   particular   characteristics,   manifestations   of   it   in   various contemporary groups,…

Here, Dr. Yasir stayed away from basic academics. Having completed an Undergrad and  a Postgraduate education from an Islamic university and more recently a PHD from Yale, he  still  managed to drop the ball by not  presenting an accurate definition. That is, whenever we define something in Islam it has always been the methodology of a researcher to define the word linguistically, and then define it with its Islamic meaning.

Dr. Yasir where are those two meanings for this word, ” Salafi ” ?  Don’t you have Lisan Al-Arab or Qamus al-Muheet ?My brother in Islam, since you aren’t aware about this word’s definition and propose to elucidate it for your readers, then allow me to assist you in defining it from the presence of a unanimously agreed upon meaning by Muslim linguists and Muslim scholars.




Salaf (سلف)

Allah (The Most high) says:

فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ سَلَفًا وَمَثَلاً لِلآخِرِينَ

And We made them a precedent (as a lesson for those coming after them), and an example to later generations (Az-Zukhruf 56)

Al-Qurtubi said about this verse: We made Fir’aun a precedent an example for anyone who does the same acts they did. Mujahid said: Salaf refers to a sign for Muhammad’s (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) nation. Salaf (precedent) for the disbelievers among your people. They will precede them in entering Hell.[1]


Linquistically: refers to anyone who preceded you from your forefathers or close relatives, who are senior to you in age and virtue. For this reason the 1st generations from the Tabi’een[2] are called: As-Salaf As-Salih. Also, it refers to anyone who preceded you in a journey [3]

Here we find the meaning linguistically defined as anyone who has  preceded us.

Islamic definition:

Allah says:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

“And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansar (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhajirun) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success. (At-Taubah 100)

The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) said:

سَأَلَ رَجُلٌ النَّبِىَّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- أَىُّ النَّاسِ خَيْرٌ قَالَ « الْقَرْنُ الَّذِى أَنَا فِيهِ ثُمَّ الثَّانِى ثُمَّ الثَّالِثُ

“A man asked the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) about the best people. He replied: The era I lived in, then the 2nd generation and then the 3rd generation.”[4]

These texts clearly illustrate the virtue of the Prophet’s (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) companions; as they are the best people after Muhammad. There is no doubt they preceded us in virtue, in  knowledge and in faith.

  • Dr Qadhi says: Within the context of our modern World, or to be more precise over the last half a century,   the   term   ‘Salafī’ has   come   to   designate   an   Islamic   methodology…”

Dr. Yasir (May Allah help you to see truth as it is) the fact of the matter is, Salafi has and always will be what designates an Islamic methodology. This term as you call  it, in fact represents Islam in its particular application of all aspects of life including worship, character, belief, business dealings, marriage, divorce and the issuance of religious verdicts based on the understanding of our salaf (the 1st three noble generations of Al-Islam)

The Prophet ( SallAllahu alayhi wa salam) said:

قَدْ تَرَكْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْبَيْضَاءِ لَيْلُهَا كَنَهَارِهَا ، لاَ يَزِيغُ عَنْهَا بَعْدِي إِلاَّ هَالِكٌ ، فَمَنْ يَعِشْ مِنْكُمْ فَسَيَرَى اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيرًا ، فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا عَرَفْتُمْ مِنْ سُنَّتِي ، وَسُنَّةِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ الْمَهْدِيِّينَ ، عَضُّوا عَلَيْهَا بِالنَّوَاجِذِ.

” I have left you upon clarity its night resembles its daylight. No one deviates from it after my death, except he will be destroyed. Whoever among you lives after me will see a lot of differing. Therefore, you must hold on to what you know from my sunnah and the sunnah of the four rightly guided caliphs. Hold firmly to the sunnah.” [5]

you must hold on to what you know from my sunnah…” this refers to Prophet Muhammad’s(sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) manner and method which he laid down in belief ,  and in obligatory and in sunnah actions.[6]

Day in and day out through the five daily prayers we ask Allah to guide us according to the way of Salaf.

اهدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ (6) صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ (7)

6. Guide us to the Straight Way The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians). (Al-Fatihah 6-7)

Ibn Kathir said : This refers to the path of those who obeyed you among your servants such as, the Angels, the prophets, those who believed in you, the martyrs and the righteous.[7]

  • Dr. Yasir says: Inasmuch as the term refers to a methodology, it would be fair to say that it does not specify any one particular or distinct community or group of believers

This is conjecture mixed with some political mendacity. To use this term as a reference for only the methodology when in fact it defines what Islam is in practice and belief, is incorrect. Additionally, Salafi covers any Muslim and any group of people who adhere to its principles correctly. It makes no difference where they are. They could be in Africa, Asia, Europe, or in North or South America. Nonetheless, had you said, “It’s not restricted to one particular or distinct community or group of believers…Then this would have been better; as you are trying to infer political leanings here in this article.

  • Dr.Qadhi says: it is worth noting that every one of these groups considers the correct application of the term exclusive to itself, alleging that all other claimants are not representative of ‘true Salafism’

Who and where are these groups that considers the correct application of the term, Salafi only for themselves? Just because some people might affiliate themselves with something doesn’t necessarily mean they have the right to its association.

وكل يدَّعي وصلاً بليلى …. وليلى لا تقر لهم بذاكا

Everyone claims to be in a relationship with Leila

But Leila doesn’t acknowledge any of them in their claims

Don’t the NOI (nation of Islam) there in America claim to be Muslims?

Don’t the Jews claim to be the chosen people?

And doesn’t every sect of Islam from among the ones you acknowledge claim to be adhering to the correct way? i.e Shi’ites, Mu’tazilah, Ash-sha’irah and Sufis. It’s impossible for all of these groups to be correct as the Prophet (SallAllahu alayhi wa salam) said:

تفترق أمتي على ثلاث و سبعين ملة كلهم في النار إلا ملة واحدة ما أنا عليه و أصحابي

My nation will split up into seventy three denominations. Each and every one of those sects will enter Hell, except one:  those who believe like me and my companions.[8]

The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) warned that the Muslims would one day differ and divide up into 73 sects, but he said only one would be safe. It is the group of Muslims who believe like him and his companions. Aren’t the companions and Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) our predecessors?

 سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَبِحَمْدِكَ ، أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لا إِلهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ أَسْتَغْفِرُكَ وَأَتْوبُ إِلَيْكَ .

[1] Tafsir Al-Qurtubi 16/102

[2] Anyone who meet a companion of the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam), believed in Islam and died as a Muslim.(refer back Ba’ith Al-Hatheeth.)

[3]  Lisan Al-Arab vol9/159

[4](Muslim # 2536)

[5]Ibn Majah # 48, graded as being Sahih by Shaykh Al-Albani

[6] Faydul Qadir by Al-Munaawee

[7] Ibn Kathir in Tafsir

[8] At-Tirmithi (2641) graded as being Hasan from Sh.Al-Albani

2 thoughts on “An Academic Discussion with Dr. Yasir Qadhi

  1. This is an interesting rebuttal, but it fails in some aspects. In Part 1 you seem to be arguing whether or not we should follow the salaf. I believe Dr. Qadhi’s argument is more nuanced than that. He seems to be suggesting that current salafi groups purport to follow the salaf but distort those teachings. Whether or not that is true or not can be debated, but you don’t adequately respond to that claim. Second, I am curious about your notion that there are not different salafi groups. Don’t groups like Salafi Publications have a different approach than Bilal Philips? Third, and curiously, although you have written about cult like characteristics of Salafi’s in the West, you seem to dismiss the notion that some are fanatical in their criticism and separation from “traditional” Sunni Muslims. In many cities, our salafi brothers don’t even cooperate with the general Muslims on basic issues such as charity, civil rights, etc.
    Thank you for your excellent website. May Allah bless your efforts.

    • Salam,

      In part 1 the main focus was the proof the word Salafy existed and was used in the early generations. The rest of the issues were discussed in cult papers. Another key factor is Dr. Qadhi seems to dismiss the fact that Salafiyah is the proper practice and instead a political movement. His work seems to come from

      Lastly, the point that needs to highlighted more is the fact there is a sect who abuse the term salafy and use it as an advertisement brand like the Salafipublications, Troidca and 1mmeducation. They have – Salafi products, salafi masjids, Salafi Eid, Salafi families, everything is Salafi to them and even among their followers they believe you will be asked about Shaykh Rabee and Abu Khadeejah in your grave.

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