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Salafism, Salafiyya, or the Salafi movement, is a Sunni Muslim branch that was formed in Egypt in the late 1800s, largely as a response to European colonization.

The reform movement sought a return to the traditions of the first three generations of Muslims, known as the salaf. Similar to the manner in which the Restorationists and others have tried to remodel Christianity on the New Testament Church, the Salafis based their doctrine on the idea of looking back to a prior historical record in order to determine how the Islamic world should be ordered.

They reject Islamic innovations, and support the implementation of Sharia law.

There are three groups of Salafis. The largest group is sometimes referred to as the purists or the quietists; they avoid politics. The next largest group are the activists, who are politically inclined. The third group are the jihadists.

Some Salafis do not believe that the four Sunni schools of law need to be strictly adhered to, while others are faithful to them. However, in the West particularly, the Salafi movement is associated with a strict, literalist, and puritanical approach to Islam, including Salafi Jihadism.

Salafis are stringent when it comes to actions in accordance with the known sunnah, not only in prayer but even in the simple things in their lives. Many Salafi are careful to always use three fingers when eating, for example, or to drink water in three pauses.

In matters of Islamic law, the Salafis are divided between those who reject strict adherence to the four Sunni schools of law and those who require faithfulness to them.

However, even those who would reject strict adherence would hold that those regulations of Islamic law that governed worship, such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage, were unchanging, while the larger core of regulations concerning social affairs was open to change. As conditions changed over the years, Islamic values could be reapplied to new realities, and unnecessary traditions could be discarded.

Safaris do not try to conceptualize the Quran rationally, but rather hold to an exoteric or literal interpretation.

As noted above, Salafis can be divided into three groupings, those being purists, activists, and jihadis.

The purists are non-violent. They focus on preaching and on educational issues, dismissing politics as a diversion that may lead people away from Islam. They also do not oppose governmental leaders.

Salafi activists reject violence but are involved in political processes, particularly in Muslim countries where political rule is based upon the Sharia. Because they are active in social media, they have also gained support among the more educated youth.

Salafi jihadists are those who became active in jihad during the 1990s, and may also be referred to as Salafi jihadis. The Salafi jihadists reject democracy and believe that violence is the only way to advance the cause of Allah on the earth. Despite common relationships, the three Salafist groups often disapprove of one another strongly, and may deny that the others are true Muslims.

Salafi jihadism has been sponsored around the world by Saudi Arabia, and its ideology has been used to justify the actions of Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS. Saudi Arabia also publishes textbooks for Islamic schools and universities that teach Salafism, helping to spread Salafi extremism worldwide.

Wahhabism is an even stricter form of Salafism found largely in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Wahhabism is the best funded of all of Islam, which has gone a long way toward overwhelming less strict interpretations of Islam. Although Wahhabis are Salafis, not all Salafis are Wahhabis.

Another sub-sect of Salafism is Ahl-i Hadith, an Islamic movement that began in Northern India in the mid-1800s. Its adherents regard the Quran, Sunnah, and Hadith as the sole sources of religious authority, opposing anything that has been introduced in Islam after the early years. In particular, they reject the Islamic concepts of following legal precedent (taqlid) and independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) based on the scriptures. Adherents of Ahl-i Hadith refer to themselves as Salafi, while others often refer to them as Wahhabi. The movement is still active in India and is now active in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as well.

Salafism is not recognized as legitimate in Egypt. Books associated with the Salafi movement are banned in Egypt, although the Salafism is not itself banned. Perhaps because of their lack of status, Salafis in Egypt are not a united group. The larger Salafi factions are the Al-Sunna Al-Muhammadeyya Society (Ansar Al-Sunna), the Salafist Calling, al-Madkhaliyya Salafism, Activist Salafism, and al-Gam'eyya Al Shar'eyya.

The focus of this category is on Salafism, Salafiyya, and the Salafis.



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