When the first Salafi Muslims appeared in Western European cities, they were often laughed at, even by their fellow Muslims. This is because most of the young men wore trouser legs so short that their naked ankles were visible in their attempt to emulate the apparel of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions. These strictly pious Muslims also stood out with their other mannerisms.
They eat with three fingers, take three pauses while drinking water, and brush their teeth not with a conventional toothbrush, but with a dry twig from a miswak tree (salvadora persica). This was also advocated by Mohammed. According to a saying of the Prophet, "Four things are from among the practices of the Prophet: Circumcision, perfume, miswak, and marriage."
The "Pious Predecessors"
Some two decades have past since the Salafis first aroused public attention. Until then, only specialists were aware of them. Even recognized reference works on Islam published around the turn of the century do not include the entries "Salafism" or "Salafi". The attempt to return to the lifestyles of early Islam and to cleanse the faith from later errors has been made time and again over the course of history.
The "Pious Predecessors" (as-Salaf as-Saleh), who serve as the role models for the Salafis, consist of the Prophet and his companions, as well as the first two generation of his followers.
According to the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, Mohammed said, "I am the best Salaf for you." The authenticity of this saying has been recognized by the famous Hadith collection of Mohammed al-Buchari.
Salafis reject as erroneous all interpretations and practices that have been introduced to Islam over the following 1300 years. They are condemned as "religious innovations" (Bidah). These include modern interpretations of Islamic law, the mystically oriented Sufi Order, the veneration of Islamic saints and their graves, as the faithful require no intermediary to God, and the Shia denomination of Islam.
The Salafis see the strict adherence of religious law as the reason for the rapid expansion of Islam in its early days and "innovations" as the cause of the decline of the Islamic world. They claim that a renaissance of Islam is only possible with a return to the principles and practices of this glorious epoch.
By Rudolph Chimelli; Translated by John Bergeron
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