It is not correct to differentiate between the Salafis and Ahl al-Sunnah
What is your view of those who differentiate between the Salafis and Ahl al-Sunnah, and who regard the Salafis as a more specific group than Ahl al-Sunnah, and that the principles of this group are based on the opinions of the group’s shaykhs?
Shaykh ‘Abd-Allaah al-Ghunaymaan replied;
This is not correct, because the Ahl al-Sunnah are those who follow the Sahaabah and the path of the Salaf (the early generations of Islam). These are not two distinct groups, and the Salafis are not a more specific group!
According to the terminology that is well known, the Salaf are the Sahaabah and those who follow their path, and the Ahl al-Sunnah are those who follow the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). They are the ones concerning whom the hadeeth was reported: “Whoever follows the same path as me and my Companions” (The hadeeth about the saved group).
Stirring up disputes and conflict on the grounds of names alone is not permissible. Allaah has commanded the believers to be united and has forbidden them to be divided and warned them against that.
The individual’s aim must be to seek the truth, and when he speaks he should say what is fair and just, and not hate individuals in such a way that his hatred makes him reject the truth that the person is saying, or look for faults in him. He should not come up with things that are ambiguous or far-fetched for that purpose. This is not the way of Ahl al-Sunnah, and the Muslim has to like for his brother what he likes for himself. He must be sincere towards him, and hold love and sincerity in his heart.
Who are Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah?
Praise be to Allaah. Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah are those who adhere to the Sunnah and who unite upon it, not turning to anything else, whether that be in matters of belief (‘aqeedah) or matters of actions which are subject to shar’i rulings. Hence they are called Ahl al-Sunnah because they adhere to it (the Sunnah), and they called Ahl al-Jamaa’ah because they are united (mujtami’oon) in following it.
If you examine the followers of bid’ah (innovation), you will find that they differ concerning that which they are following, with regard to beliefs, methodology and practices, which indicates that their being far removed from the Sunnah is commensurate with the extent to which they have introduced innovations.
Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Rasaa’il Fadeelat al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him), vol. 1. p. 37
Should he say that he belongs to Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah or al-Salaf al-Saalih?
Is it correct to say that one belongs to Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah or to al-Salaf al-Saalih?.
Praise be to Allaah.
Both are correct. Al-Salaf al-Saalih (the righteous forebears) are the elite of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah, and following them is the standard by which Ahl al-Sunnah are distinguished from others.
But what is more important than merely claiming to belong to them is belonging to them in a real sense, in words, beliefs and actions, and following them in that.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked: Some people objected to saying that one belongs to Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah and said that everyone says that, and it is better to say that one belongs to al-Salaf al-Saalih.
He replied: The Salaf are Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah, and there is nothing wrong with saying that one belongs to them. Rather that is a duty, and he is one of the believers, one of the followers of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah, one of the followers of the Sahaabah, one of those who believe in Allaah and the Last Day, one who belongs to the people of truth and does not belong to the people of falsehood, who strives to follow truth path sincerely and does not pay mere lip service, who strives against his inclinations until he becomes sincere. End quote.
Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz (28/50)