The Salafi Movement in America
by Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani
There are those out there in the masajid and on the 'net who have nothing better to do but bash Salafis. There have been some desparaging things said about Salafis. My opinion is that there are many two reasons as why there is dislike and definite hatred for Salafis and Salafiyya. I think that these two main reasons are: (1) The Salafis in America have acted in a negative manners towards others (2) People simply do not understand what Salafiyya is.
I will not try to get in the first issue right now, but I would like to address one misconception about Salafiyya. First of all Salafiyya is not, will not, nor will it ever be a "movement." I remember Abu Muslimah (despite my differences with him) made a true statement at the Eid back in the late 90s. What he said was "Salafiyya equals Islam." How powerful is that statment! That is why I cannot say that Salafiyya is a movement. Salafiyya is the din, and the din is Salafiyya. It cannot be confined to a movement. It is true Islam. It is tradition Islam. It is orthodox Islam. It is Islam according to the Quran and Sunnah, upon the understanding of the Salaf-us-Salih.
Having said that I will not deny that there have been movements based upon Salafi principles. That is why I may used the term "salafiyya" with a small 's' at times. That is because Salafiyya is more of an attribute or a way, orientation, or method, if you will, of understanding and practicing the din. Some example of salafi movements have been Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahamullahi 'alaihi) movement to return to the true principle of Islam at his time. Another example is the movement of Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (rahimahullah). Some more recent salafi movements have been Shaykh Muhammad Nasir-ud-Din Al-Albani and Shaykh Muqbil bin Hadi (rahimahumullah). There have been other an many other salafi movement throughout history. Like other movements there are ups and downs. Movements are sometimes more successful than others.
So was there a salafi movement in the United States? There is no doubt that there was a Salafi movement in the U.S. There are many reasons as to certain rises and falls of the movement of the greater Salafiyya. Perhaps a recent ebbing of Salafiyya in America is due the various reasons. This in no way tarnishes Salafiyya. It is the pracitioners (or claimed thereof) of Salafiyya and their lack of visions and their imperfections that can be analyzed and take into consideration. One area which the "movement" here in the U.S. has been unsuccessful or irrelovant is the lack of understanding of the context of the U.S. and shere denial of ones culture. I feel that the only way that any movement and the American salafiyya movenet can be relevant and vibrant is through being culturally relevant. Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab (rahmatullahi alaihi) could not have been so sucessfull if he did not understand his society and culture. Another example is the early days of Salafiyya, known as Ahl-ul-Hadith in the Indian subcontinent.
Once Salafiyya is confined to wearing Arab thawbs and spuratically using Arabic words in ones speech like "na'am," it cannot no longer be relevant to American Islam. Why would one want to convert to Islam if he/she is feel that he/she must put someone else's culture on a pedastool?
It is true that there is much kufr and jahilliyah within American society, but one should not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many things (as in many cultures) that are not haram but are considered mubah or makruh tanzihi.
That is all I would like to say about this subject at this time. Hope to hear your thoughts on topic.