the 11th century, Ibn-e-Hazm of Cordoba expressed his concerns about the blind
imitation of legal schools. Islam, according to Ibn-e-Hazm, did not enjoin
Muslims especially the scholarly elite to restrict themselves to a single
school of law and theology. In his work Al-Muhalla, he undertook a major task
of reinterpreting the tradition of Islam with an aim to foster the spirit of
creativity. He made an attempt to identify the roots of intellectual decay that
had already crept into Islamic scholasticism.
of theology and the schools of law, in the assessment of Ibn-e-Hazm, had lost
the creative impulse to generate answers to emerging problems. He further
argued that the formal legalism and the systematic theology of medieval schools
were rooted in ancient schools of Greek syllogism and Iranian gnosis, and
lacked an Islamic orientation. This Greco-Iranian strands of thought had
drained the intellectual energies of Muslims.
pressed for the need to break free from the obsolete interpretive models of
reasoning espoused by the medieval schools. He proposed that an innovative
system of reasoning must be adopted that should be solely grounded in the
Quranic text and the normative practice of the Prophet. The medieval schools
already sprawled across the Islamic world were neither creative nor were they
legitimately Islamic in their orientation. This resulted in a repetition of a
series of ideas that were mere a regurgitation of obsolete creedal
The call of
Ibn-e-Hazm towards an epistemology that was both rationalist and Islamic in its
orientation paved the way for the emergence of Salafi Islam. Though still in
its early stages, the Salafi Islam transformed into a comprehensive system of
interpretation with its own principles and reasoning in the centuries to come.
Islam in its most basic philosophy is a religious thought or an interpretation
that urges for the need to locate morality, ethics, politics, and theology in
the practice of early Islamic community. Islam as a religious dispensation was
revealed to the Prophet in the 7th century Arabia. This religion was propagated
and disseminated by the Prophet.
long arduous campaign aimed at proselytisation, scores of people gravitated
towards the Prophet and became Muslims. This early Islamic community remained
under the supervision of the Prophet. The companionship of the Prophet enabled
Muslims to refine their moral character and help them become role models for
the generations to come.
tradition maintains that Islam is to be understood through the collective
conduct of the early Islamic community, for it remained under the religious
tutelage of the Prophet. Islam, according to them, is expressed in its original
form through the moral behavior of early Islamic community.
tradition posits that the later generations after their encounter with the
Hellenic and Iranian sciences developed a system of knowledge that was out of
keeping with the original understanding of Islam. The schools of law, theology,
ethics, and morality were based on the pre-Islamic notions of reality, and
lacked an Islamic content and orientation. Hellenic philosophic ideation and
the Iranian illuminative gnosticism had crept deep into Islamic scholasticism
by 11th century. Against this intellectual backdrop, Ibn-e-Hazm undertook his
reformist project. Salafi Islam was at its embryonic stage of growth in the
works of Ibn-e-Hazm. It underwent a number of reincarnations, and every birth
had its own context and intellectual flavor, but all of them insisted on the
need to return back to the roots of Islam in the early Islamic community for
the attainment of moral perfection.
Islam had its second reincarnation in the 14th century in the reformist project
of Ibn-e-Taymiyah and his student Ibn-e-Qayyim. Both of these scholars
redefined ethics, law and especially systemic theology in a bid to buttress
them with Islamic underpinnings. Ibn-e-Taymiyah is credited to have revived the
spirit of Islamic creativity. He held in his book Refutation of the logicians
that the Greek logic had its own fallacies. The Salafi interpretation of
Ibn-e-Taymiyah and Ibn-e-Qayyim had a traditionalist bent with a reformist agenda.
Islam had to be reformed from within. This reformation was only possible
through dismantling the Greco-Iranian architecture of knowledge-system(s).
the death of Ibn-e-Taymiyah and his student Ibn-e-Qayyim, Salafi Islam did not
experience a resurgence up until 18th century. The advent of 18th century
heralded an Islamic awakening leading to the emergence of multiple Salafi
strands. This was the 3rd reincarnation of Salafi Islam, but in a series of
strands. The revivalist project of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab was the
traditionalist version of Salafi Islam. It preached a rigid interpretation of
Islam that was geared towards stripping Islam of historical accretions.
in Muslim India, Shah Wali-ullah also launched a socio-political reformist
project that was both Sufi and Salafi in orientation. Himself a Sufi, Shah
Wali-ullah embraced a Salafi tradition that was steeped in mysticism. His work
The Conclusive Argument from God expressed a Salafi bent in a Sufi idiom. This
excellent combination of Salafism and Sufism culminated in the writings of his
grandson Shah Ismail. His work Abaqat is a classic example of Salafi-Sufi
blend. The third strand of the 18th century Salafi Islam was represented by
Shawkani in Yemen. It was strictly rationalist in orientation; as a result,
placed a much greater emphasis on the role of reason in re-assessing Islamic
incarnation of Salafi Islam had a colonial context of 19th century. It
expressed itself in two stands. The first was represented by Jamal ud-din
Afghani and Mufti Muhammad Abduh. Their reformist project was called Salafiyah,
as Qasim Zaman established in his work Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age.
This movement of Salafiyah was rationalist, philosophic, and progressive. The
second strand was represented by Shaykh Rashid Rida. It was traditionalist in
its vision, and was later on co-opted by Wahhabite scholarly elite of Saudi
Arabia. It reached its zenith in the works of Shaykh Nasir-ud-din Albani.
established, Salafi Islam has a long complex history and has underwent major
transformations and incarnations over the course of centuries. It is important
to remember that it is neither a monolithic entity nor a modern phenomenon.
Khan is a Prospective Candidate for the Ph.D. program at NYU.
Headline: Salafi Islam And Its Reincarnations
Source: The Eurasia Review