Salafism and modernism are quickly gaining momentum in and around the Islamic world. Whilst many may agree that the views held by either group would be in direct contrast with each other, I beg to differ. A new brand of Salafism has emerged, showing us that the generic off-shoot combining salafi core principles with a modern ‘Islamic’ mix may well be a force to be reckoned with.

This generic mutant force has slowly crept into the world of the orthodox Muslim and is threatening the existence of the soon-to-be-extinct traditionalist follower. How, or why you ask? Well, my thinking is that this mutant force knows that the goal is ultimately what matters. It is no easy task to break down 1400 years worth of solid Islamic grounding and so the mutant force is keen on increasing its numbers rather than a total traditionalist-madhab-following mutiny.

Salafis have always maintained that their way is that of the ‘salaf’ (i.e. the pious predecessors) but I have noticed a re-branding of sorts, a change in direction if you must, of a salafi-modernist group intent on breaking down every little piece of Islam in the name of Islam and unity. The concept is catchy, I’ll give them that. It’s something like this:

Firstly, we break down the traditionalist core. The focus is no longer on smaller, meaningless issues. Whatever is in your control is a ‘small issue’. This would include: Islamic dressing, apparel, the hijab, the beard, music etc. Whatever is not in your direct control is an issue. For example: saving the people of Palestine, Islamic unity, peace and prosperity, gender equality etc.

Secondly, we unite and conquer. It does not matter whether our belief structure differs, if you give me a platform to spread my beliefs, I will align myself with you.

Thirdly, destroy all structured forms of belief. If you can read it and understand it yourself, you do not need to follow anybody. Moulanas/Muftis/Molvis/Mullahs who force you to follow a Madhab are evil. Madressahs finding their roots via a Deobandi framework are evil. Scholars from India who cannot speak English are uneducated, dumb or silly; in fact, anything remotely Indian is backward and oppressive, misogynistic and cruel.

Some would say overactive imaginations, arrogance perhaps or maybe a severe inferiority complex resulting from the chance that perhaps someone out there knows a whole lot more than you do and of course since you know how to Google, read a couple of translated works on an Islamic Science, this naturally would qualify you to become a scholar in your own right.

In this lies the danger of a true blindness. The traditionalists have fallen asleep only to wake up in a world where Muslims enjoy the integration of halaal and haraam, where everything is subject to debate and opinion and where anything goes. Naturally, all Muslims should be worried, right? The answer is no. There are very few Muslims who find this to be a problem. In any event, why would they?

The modern salafis are serving them guilt-free Islam on silver platters; and it’s working. The effect of labeling and judging has worked in reverse and those who call for the preservation of a true Islam MUST be labeled extremists or fundamentalists, crazy and oppressive. This is the modernist-salafi core. So where does modernism fit in? This aspect is a bit tricky to explain but I do hope you’ll bear with me.

A modernist thrives on a ‘non-judgmental’ and unified approach. Confrontation is a total no-no and moderation is key. Salafis have been able to implement these aspects quite effectively into their strategies. Basically, a Muslim is a Muslim is a Muslim so as far as the Salafis are concerned, there is no place for sectarianism or the following of Madhaahib in Islam. We are all Muslim and a Muslim does not judge.

Now that’s all well and good up until you come to a point where the stark reality smacks you in the face: There can be no Islam without judgment. Muslims are in a constant state of judgment. That is the purpose of our test in this world. We have to constantly re-evaluate our actions, perfect what is required of us as living and practising Muslims in the hope that we will pass the most important test we spend our whole lives preparing for. In order to pass the test, how can there not exist judgment? The Qur’aan judges, Allah Ta’ala judges, Nabi sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam passed judgment, the Shari’ah passes judgment, the Sahaabah radhiAllahu anhum passed judgment and the most noble and illustrious Scholars, Qaadhis and Jurists passed judgments.

But the notion of not being able to judge is a perfect shield for those who do not want to be judged.

The modern salafis also combine the non-judgmental approach in other areas of modern issues affecting Muslim. An apt example which comes to mind is the issue of Islamic apparel. Most modern Salafis belief that items such as a thaub are purely cultural and some even contest the validity of hijab. Other examples include religious entertainment such as the permissibility of musical instruments or the hosting of concerts/events attended by both males and females. Again, the main objective is to spread their word. These aspects tie in to modern salafi principles such as practicing moderation, keeping the ultimate goal in sight and increasing alliances.

Are we on a path to a new modern Islam? The answer is yes. The mutant salafi force emerging to break down the pillars of Islamic belief are creeping in from all angles and are picking away at the very foundations of Islam. They are emerging in their numbers and by branding the true followers of Islam as extremist fundamentalists, they serve as nothing more than a crusade against the vestiges of traditional Islamic beliefs.

May Allah guide us and protect us all

The Say What? column featured on Muslimality is meant to inspire, teach, engage debate or simply make you laugh. This column revolves around a variety of issues relating to Muslims in South Africa and Muslims around the world.

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Comments
  1. Ismail says:

    Masha Allah, very well written. Sad thing is that people will eat all of that up without even a second thought coz as long as its under the banner of islam, the masses are doing it and it pleases the nafs not many people will really go and find out true islam for themselves as they kinda end up thinking that this flawed brand of islam is sufficient to earn them Jannah. Ive really found this blog to be extremely informative, may Allah bless all those that are involved and please keep up the good work, as this is definitely the best work