7. But Salafism is a Process… with Roots and Principles

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This article discusses misconceptions about salafīsm, arguing that it is an approach with rationality as a basic principle.
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Today, salafism is attacked, accused of causing both Muslim backwardness and the regression of Arab-Muslim intellectualism, as well as violence and terrorism. It has also been opposed to ijthād and modernization.
To clear up the misconceptions surrounding salafism, the author begins with a definition of Salafism as an abstract concept—an approach which should be classified according to its origins, sources, principles, and rules. In this article the author deals with the principal of rationality.
Prophet Muhammad’s companions were characterized by rationality and precision, having been influenced by the Qur’ān in three areas. Firstly, the Qur’ān emphasizes the value of mind, asking believers to use their minds to contemplate and understand the manifestations of God in the universe. Secondly, it states that the mind is the key to understanding the Qur’ān: “Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture in Arabic, that ye may understand.” [Yūsuf2 taken from The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'ân, by M.M. Pickthall http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/012.htm]. Thirdly, monotheism—the major theme of the Qur’ān—recalls the liberation of the mind from superstition, illusion, and ignorant habits.
Prophet Muhammad led the greatest enlightenment in human history and the key to this renaissance was ‘the revival of the mind.’ The Prophet was the teacher of his companions (sahābah) and the leader of the tābi‘ūn—the followers of the sahābah who inherited this rational framework from it. The sahābah’s legacy can be seen in the period of enlightenment following it which witnessed the emergence of the imāms of the salaf (i.e. early Muslims: Abū Hanīfah, Mālik, al-Shāfi‘ī and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.)
The author argues that, given the fact that the four aforementioned imāms agreed on the fundamental principles of belief, indicates the employment of rationality in their approaches. Additionally, rationality appears in the fiqh of the ‘salaf’; the use of ‘qiyās’—a syllogistic deduction expressing a mental process and one of the broadest gates to ijthād—reflects the salaf’s adoption of rational principles.
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