The Sunnis versus Salafis: The Confused and the Confusion …


I have followed the raging and seemingly unending debates among Muslim youths involving those who could best be described by the traditionalists or conservatives and those who are seen as progressives or dynamic elements. I have thus seen many innocent but inquisitive souls asking innocuous and harmless questions with a view to understanding the causes of the crisis and the nuances of the debate.

Sunni versus salafi

However, I got seriously perturbed and became jolted when a Brother, Bamgbopa Bamidele Yusuf asked a mind boggling question on Ibn Taofeeq Abdul Azeez’s wall. Ibn Taofeeq was responding to Abdul Ganiy Jumat’s post entitled: The People of Bid’ah Aim to Divide the People of Sunnah!

More disturbing

Bamgbopa inquired thus: “Truth is that you people (salafis and the sunnis and the likes) are making this beautiful deen difficult for us. You will never agree to one Aqeedah. And we trying our best to better our Deen through your teaching and vast experiences are becoming CONFUSED. You make reference to one Hadith the other said it was Da’eef and we got stock in the middle. Bear it in mind that you will be accountable on the day of judgement for misleading us. Allahu aalam.”

The concluding part of Bamgbopa’s concern about the Day of Judgement was particularly more disturbing. More so, when the two groups are of the Ahlu-Sunna Wal Jama’ah extraction. In my spontaneous reaction, I made the following clarifications:

I posited that all the dissenting groups (Salafi, Suufi, Tabligh, Ikhwan etc) do belong to the Ahlu-Sunnah wal Jama’ah but a group suddenly came out of the blues and claim to have the only authentic Minhaj. It also lays claim to be the One and Only Saved Group. So, while a group calls to the unity of the Ummah, the other inadvertently calls for its division.

A group holds that, despite the differences, (Sunni, Shia’, Sufi or Ahlul Tariqah, etc) Muslims could still find a point of convergence and move forward as an Ummah to forge a common front, the other group holds that there can be no meeting point. One group holds that you cannot have any relationship with other Muslims (be it social, political or economic) as long as you have ideological differences with them, the other group believes in the contrary.

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Use of human intellect

While a group takes delight in removing others from the fold of Islam –  claiming authentic Minhaj or syllabus, the other merely practices what they know and call people to it, using the best methods available.

While a group remains offensive, insisting that no other methodology outside the method of the Salaf can be applied to the practice of Islam, other group holds that using the method of the Salaf doesn’t preclude dynamic use of human intellect to combat modern and contemporary challenges.

One group remains offensive, attacking and abusive, the other remains restraint, receptive and accommodating even in the face of arguments and confrontations.

While a group is popular with attack, antagonism, accusation, condemnation and name tagging, the other group is always on the defensive and are often accused of over-protection of their ladies from the ‘predators’.

A group embraces unregulated Nikah and its members are renowned for reckless divorce at the least provocation while the other often insists on parents’ permission and husband’s physical, psychologically and financial readiness.

A group remains closed, accepting only evidence and proves from Salafi-Saudi-Hambali scholars, the other remains open to all Schools of Thought and respected scholars of Islam across the globe.

One group embraces outward appearance as sacrosanct and use such to judge individuals adherence to Sunnah, the other group remains liberal with appearance but puts more premium on civilisation and universalism as long as it doesn’t contravene the bases of the religion.

Extremism tendencies

While a group is quick to condemn virtually everything novel or new as Bidia’h, changing Fatwa at will and regularly recanting what it had previously condemned as Bidia’h, Haram and unfounded in Islam (such as camping programmes, peaceful protest, Solaatu Haajah, Salaatu Tasbih, rosary or tasbih, voting and participating in politics or governance) and so many masaail; the other appears to be consistent, constructive, pragmatic, dynamic and progressive as they systematically adjust to the dynamics of time.

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While a group models its Islamic practice along Saudi Arabian mode, swallowing its Minhaj and state policy hook, line and sinker, befriending its friends (including US and Israel) defending virtually all its misdemeanor, taking as enemies all the perceived Saudi’s enemies and accordingly attacking them (foremost among the perceived enemies of Saudi is the Ikhwanul Muslimeen of Egypt); the other group remains unattached to a particular country or a specific School of Thought but are notably known to identify with Duat (callers) worldwide , criticising, condemning and moving against any perceived enemies or persecutors of Muslims across the globe.

While members of a group arrogate and attach to themselves a newly invented name ‘Salafiyyah’, the other has many names or are called names by the new Salafiyah group.

Consequently, the Salafiyah group invariably becomes a minority group as they earn more antagonists for themselves. Hence, anyone who moves against their tendencies is tagged ‘Ikhwani’ even if he could neither spell ‘Ikhwan’ nor has he ever heard of the group or its activities. Hence, personalities like Ibn Abdullah Kunle Gbolahan, Abu Mazeedatil khayr Bn Sa’eed, Ibn Taofeeq Abdul Azeez, Abdullah Abdulganiy among others are respectively tagged ‘Ikhwani’ on social media.

Accordingly, it appears to me, just as many have also opined that of the two groups, one appears to be the Destroyer of the Religion in the name of reformation while the other seem to be Builder of the Deen as they call to the Religion of Peace. One only needs to study the two painstakingly and determine where to pitch his or her tent.

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Satisfying Allah

One of the contributors, Ismaa’eel Olanrewaju Abu Umaamah further assisted me in answering Bamgbopa’s question by advising thus: “My dear brother, please do not measure the truth with the attitudes of these lots, learn your deen by attaching yourself to a good and righteous teacher outside this space. May Allah guide you to correctness.”

And while Idris Aloma apologised on behalf of major stakeholders from both sides of the divide; Olajire Nurudeen has this to say concerning Bamgbopa’s question:

“My brother, there’s no confusion here. It’s all mere display of intellectual sagacity. With a careful study of the wave of the arguments, you can easily decipher where the truth swings and develop yourself islamically to be a better Muslim. It’s natural, some people will want to prove to be the best or holiest, it takes a humble heart to explain and establish that it is not our duty to place ourselves. Ours is to strive towards satisfying Allah even though we can’t satisfy Him. It is He who places us at our rightful positions before Him.”

It is needless to start repeating what other speakers have said but will rather stand by a popular saying of the Duat: Let us cooperate with one another on Issues of Agreement, and Pardon ourselves on Issues of Disagreement.

Time has therefore come for the two groups of the Ahlu-Sunna Wal Jama’ah to close ranks in the overall interest of the Ummah, using another popular maxim as a guide: We are Callers; we are not Judges!

By Elder Yinka Salaam

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