The Obligation To Follow The Way Of The Salaf al-Sâlih (The Pious Predecessors)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

واتِّبَاعُ السَّلَفِ الصَّالِحِ وَاقْتِفَاءُ آثَارِهِمْ، وَالاسْتِغْفَارُ لَهُمْ

And [required of the Muslims is] strict following of Salaf al-Sâlih and adhering to the knowledge and guidance which they left behind, and seeking forgiveness for them. (‘Abû Muhammad Ibn Abî Zaid al-Qayrawânî in his risâlah|d.389AH)


The meaning of the term ‘salaf’

Shaykh Muhammad al-Uthaymîn: The term salaf means those who preceeded (al-muqadimûn); so anyone who precedes another is a salaf for him. However when the term salaf is used in the general sense, then what is intended is the three best generations: the companions, their students and their students after them. They are the Salaf as-Sâlih (the Pious Predecessors). (Fatâwâ Nûr ‘ala-Darb)


The term ‘salaf’ is nothing new

It’s usage in the Qur’ân:

﴿وَلاَ تَنكِحُواْ مَا نَكَحَ ءَابَاؤُكُمْ مِّنَ النِّسَآءِ إِلاَّ مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَـحِشَةً وَمَقْتاً وَسَآءَ سَبِيلاً ﴾

And marry not women whom your fathers married, except what has already passed (Salaf); indeed it was shameful and Maqtan, and an evil way. (Sûrah an-Nisâ’ 4:22)

﴿فَجَعَلْنَـهُمْ سَلَفاً وَمَثَلاً لِّلاٌّخِرِينَ ﴾

 We made them a precedent (Salaf), and an example to later generations. (Sûrah az-Zukhruf 43:56)

It’s usage in the Sunnah:

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said to his daughter Fâtimah:

فَاتَّقِي اللَّهَ وَاصْبِرِي، فَإِنِّي نِعْمَ السَّلَفُ أَنَا لَكَ

So, be afraid of Allâh, and be patient, for I am the best predecessor (Salaf) for you. (Sahîh Bukhârî 6285)


Allâh, The All-Knowing placed his message with the best people & best supporters

Allâh says:

﴿اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ﴾

Allâh knows best with whom to entrust His Message. (Sûrah al-An’am 6:124)

Imâm Ibn Kathîr said: He knows best with whom His Message should be given and which of His creatures are suitable for it. (Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr 6:124)

‘Abdullâh Ibn Mas’ud said:

إنَّ اللَّهَ نَظرَ في قُلوبِ العِبادِ فوَجدَ قَلبَ محمَّدٍ صلَّى اللَّهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ خَيرَ قُلوبِ العبادِ فاصطَفاهُ لنَفسِهِ وابتَعثَهُ برسالتِهِ ثمَّ نَظرَ في قُلوبِ العِبادِ بعدَ قلبِهِ فَوجدَ قُلوبَ أصحابِهِ خيرَ قلوبِ العِبادِ بعدَهُ فجَعلَهُم وزراءَ نبيِّهِ يقاتِلونَ علَى دينِهِ فما رآهُ المسلِمونَ حَسنًا فَهوَ عندَ اللَّهِ حَسَنٌ وما رآهُ المسلِمونَ سيِّئًا فَهُوَ عندَ اللَّهِ سَيِّءٌ

Allâh looked into the hearts of His slaves, and He saw that the heart of Muhammad (ﷺ) was the best of people’s hearts, so He chose him for Himself and sent him with His message. Then He looked into the hearts of His slaves after the heart of Muhammad, and He found that the hearts of his companions were the best of people’s hearts, so He made them the supporters of His Prophet, who fought for His religion. So whatever the Muslims think is good, is good before Allâh , and whatever they think is bad, is bad before Allâh.(Musnad Imâm Ahmad, 3600. Declared Hasan by Ibn Hajr)


– The Salaf al-Sâlih are the best generations [in virtue]

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ سَأَلَ رَجُلٌ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ النَّاسِ خَيْرٌ قَالَ ‏ “‏ الْقَرْنُ الَّذِي أَنَا فِيهِ ثُمَّ الثَّانِي ثُمَّ الثَّالِثُ

Â’ishah reported that a person asked Allâhs Messenger (ﷺ) as to who amongst the people were the best. He said: Of the generation to which I belong, then of the second generation (generation adjacent to my generation), then of the third generation (generation adjacent to the second generation). (Sahîh Muslim 2536)


The saved individual is the one who follows the Prophet & his companions

Allâh says:

﴿وَمَن يُشَاقِقِ الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الْهُدَى وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّى وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ وَسَآءَتْ مَصِيراً ﴾

And whoever opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination. (Sûrah Nisâ’ 4:115)

Shaykh Ahmad al-Najmî said: Allâh, Exalted be He, referred to the Companions of the Prophet as the believers. (The word ‘believers’) also refers to those who succeeded the companions who are upon the same path as them. (Sharh al-Risâlah ibn Abî Zayd al-Qayrawânî p.166 & p.179)

وَإِنَّ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ تَفَرَّقَتْ عَلَى ثِنْتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً وَتَفْتَرِقُ أُمَّتِي عَلَى ثَلاَثٍ وَسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً كُلُّهُمْ فِي النَّارِ إِلاَّ مِلَّةً وَاحِدَةً قَالُوا وَمَنْ هِيَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ مَا أَنَا عَلَيْهِ وَأَصْحَابِي ‏

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Indeed the children of Isra’îl split into seventy-two sects, and my Ummah will split into seventy-three sects. All of them are in the Fire Except one sect.” He said: “And which is it O Messenger of Allâh?” He said: “[The ones who follow] what I & my companions are upon. (At-Tirmidhî 2641. Declared Hasan by Al-Albânî)


We should seek forgiveness for them

Allâh says:

﴿رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلإِخْوَنِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالإَيمَـنِ وَلاَ تَجْعَلْ فِى قُلُوبِنَا غِلاًّ لِّلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ رَبَّنَآ إِنَّكَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴾

Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed The Kind, The Most-Merciful. (Sûrah al-Hashr 59:10)


We should speak only good of them & make excuses for them

اَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ أَنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ أَنْفَقَ مِثْلَ أُحُدٍ ذَهَبًا مَا أَدْرَكَ مُدَّ أَحَدِهِمْ وَلاَ نَصِيفَ

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Do not revile my Companions, do not revile my Companions. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if one amongst you would have spent as much gold as (Mount) Uhud it would not amount to as much as one Mudd on behalf of one of them or half of it. (Sahîh Muslim 2540)

Published by أبو زكريا عيسى الألباني

BSc (Hons) Microbiology | Qur'ān | Sunnah |

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