This article is in response to the brother Alex Mwewa’s request. He said he doesn’t know much about what so-called “Salafis.”
However, I have just brought a conversation between British Muslim man who asked Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari of Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK about the same issue after being immersed with fear.
I live in England and I feel very depressed. Everywhere I go, I seem to only meet salafis and salafi inclined people. I have been searching for a wife for the past two years, but I find a similar result there.
This has left me feeling very isolated and confused. I learnt that the traditional path is the path of the majority, but my experience in life seems contrary to that.
The relatively open minded, spiritual way of those scholars that give speeches about this path appealed to me, but I cannot seem to find any like minded people, except those that are as insular as the salafis and attack other Muslims (who follow a madhab and the maturidi aqidah) because of issues such as non-celebration of the mawlid, etc.
I’ve met Muslims from the Middle East and they are also salafi inclined. It seems that only those from the Indian subcontinent are not.
How can I be certain that the path I have chosen is correct? Since the salafis/wahhabis control the two Holy Cities, does that not imply that Allah has favoured them? I thought bid’a could not exist in Madinah.
I apologise if these questions seem a little strange, but I am very confused and it is starting to affect my mental health.
Response from Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
It’s just that you have had bad luck in meeting the wrong people. It is incorrect to say that the majority of the Muslims are Salafis and that only Muslims from the Indian subcontinent are non-Salafis. The fact is that, over 85% of Muslims follow the traditional orthodox Sunni path of the mainstream Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. This has been the way for over thousand years, and only recently (in the last 30 years) has the (so called) Salafi sect come into existence.
The majority of Muslims in the Indo/Pak, Asia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, UAE and many other countries follow the Hanafi Madhab. Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Egypt and parts of Syria generally follow the Shafi’i school. The Maliki Madhab is mostly practised in North African countries, such as Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Libya and others. The Hanbalis can be found in parts of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria and other countries. The Ash’ari and Maturudi Aqidahs are also quite widespread in these Muslim lands.
Therefore, it is totally incorrect to assume that Sunni Muslims are in the minority; rather, as they have always been, they remain the mainstream and the majority.
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Verily Allah does not gather my Ummah-or he said, the Ummah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace)-upon deviation, and Allah’s hand (assistance, protection and mercy) is over the group, and whoever diverges from them diverges to hellfire.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no. 2167)
Therefore, rest assured that the path you have chosen is the right one, and that which the majority of the Muslims follow. In England there are many Sunni scholars, in fact the majority of the Masjids and Imams are almost all Sunni. You may have to move out from the narrow and limited circle that you find yourself in.
As for the disputes among Muslims who all follow the same traditional Sunni way, follow a Madhhab and the Maturudi Aqida, is surely something that is very unfortunate. Such people should be explained in a nice and gentle manner to leave these petty issues (regarding which one will not be asked on the Day of Judgment) to one side and concentrate more on the basics of Islam. You must also avoid falling into such arguments, and having such people around should never deter you from following the Sunni way.
Regarding your final point on the Salafis controlling the Haramayn, it should be kept in mind that controlling the sacred lands is not in any way a proof for one being on the true path. There are numerous examples in history where people on falsehood had control on such sacred lands.
Until not too long ago, the holy lands were controlled by Sunni scholars. The sacred Mosques of Makkah al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara used to witness four congregations for each Salat in accordance with the four traditional Sunni schools of Islamic law. Many great scholars lived and taught there for centuries. It was only until when Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers imposed their ideologies in these lands.
What is relevant that, there are great Sunni scholars till this day living in these lands despite the tight vigilance of the government and Salafi/Wahhabi oriented circles. Scholars such as, Shaykh Muhammad al-Awwama (a great Syrian Hanafi scholar), Shaykh Habib Zayn (a great Yemeni Shafi’i and Tasawwuf scholar), Shaykh Abd al-Hafidh al-Makki (a great Hanafi and Sufi scholar originally from Pakistan), Sayyidi Alawi al-Maliki (in Makka al-Mukarrama) and others reside and teach in these blessed lands.
One of the great Hanafi and Hadith scholars from India, Imam Muhammad Zakariyya al-Khandahlawi (Allah have mercy on him) spent many years of his later life in Madina al-Munawwara. His students and disciples number in many. My own personal Shaykh, Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Yusuf Mutala (Allah preserve him) was one of his main students. I personally heard from my Shaykh that, in the late seventies, the current head of the Imams of Haram in Makkah, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd Allah al-Subayl (who was also an Imam then) would regularly come and attend the Dhikr and Tasawwuf gatherings of Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya.
Finally, remember the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “O Allah! Bless our Sham and our Yemen. They (Sahaba) said: “Our Najd as well.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) again said: “O Allah! Bless our Sham and our Yemen. They said again, “Our Najd as well.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “There, will appear earthquakes and tribulations, and from there will rise the horn of Shaytan.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 990)
And Allah Knows Best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK