AbstractAlthough the term ‘Salafism’ has sometimes been applied to certain nineteenthto twentieth-century Islamic modernist thinkers, including the Egyptian Grand Mufti Mohammad ‘Abduh (d.1905) and Rashid Rida (d.1935), Salafism actually takes its origins from Ibn Taymiyyah’s (d.728/1328) essentially deconstructionist stance towards Islam’s scholastic legacy. In essence, Ibn Taymiyyah maintained that any position or ruling issued by a madhhab should be considered circumspect and unacceptable if not directly supported by a hadith text. On this basis, he denounced a number of common religious practices as ‘pernicious innovations’ (bid’ah) because they could not be traced to the hadith. Instead, he called for a return to what he believed to be the norms of the first two or three generations of Muslims – that is, to the norms of the al-salaf al-salih (‘righteous forebears’), hence the word ‘Salafi’. Ibn Taymiyyah believed that every apparent conflict between the Qur’an and Sunnah had been resolved either in the hadith or by a statement from the Salaf, effectively making the Qur’an completely subject to them.
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