My experience with Salafis and Sufis (Not always chalk and cheese)

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Qur’an 4:135)

I thought that for today’s entry I would share with you dear readers some of my personal experience with those who call themselves ‘Salafi’ or follow what is known as “daawat salafiyyah” as well as those who call themselves ‘Sufi’ and are associated with Sufi Tariqah (spiritual orders).

For the record I am writing this as someone who is not a ‘Salafi’ nor do I follow the manhaj that is known as “daawat salafiyyah”. I am inclined towards some ‘Sufi’ practices -with the exception of tawassul, and I do not belong to any tariqah.


But I want to share my experience with some people who are affiliated with or identify with either
‘Salafi’ or ‘Sufi’.


When I was in Manama Bahrain at the
Discover Islam training centre there was a man who was driving us around in one of the vans around the city. To be honest I thought any moment we would meet our Lord because of the way he was driving. I was doing a loud dhikr to myself la ilaha il law lah. Some other brothers in the van joined in. One brother also began to do the dhikr but his Shaykh put his hand on his shoulder and said, “We don’t do that.” That was it. He didn’t condemn me or the others, he simply said of himself and his student that they do not do this.


Also, I observed at the great Masjid in Manama that the tourist were allowed to go into the Masjid unrestricted. They had to wear appropriate attire but they could go anywhere. All the way up to the niche in the wall facing the qiblah.

The hotel I stayed in Manama there was a small Masjid nearby and I can tell you that the Imam and nearly everyone in that masjid prayed in the style of brothers who are known to practice, ” “daawat salafiyyah” and at that time I was following the Maliki school of jurisprudence and I was praying with my arms to the side (as is one of the positions of the Maliki school). No one said anything to me, everyone greeted me, returned my salam, and smiled. They were all very kind.

The same can be said about the people of Discover Islam, whom I gather were a mixture of ‘Salafiyyah’ and ‘Ikwani’ influences.


Whereas when I went with a particular
Tariqah (sufi group) to a place in Malaysia called, ‘hulul langat’, just outside of Kuala Lumpur. We had a wonderful group dhikr together. However one day one of the murids was relating how the shaykh got sick and blew his nose in the tissue paper. So one of the followers of the tariqah took the tissue paper out of the wastebasket boiled it in water and drank the water. I couldn’t have been more disgusted.


There was another time when I was with a tariqah in Singapore
‘Firqat ul Huda’ the sect of guidance, a Qadiri tariqah. Beautiful beautiful dhikr, wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yet one time of the murids invited me to his house for tea. Very hospitable brother. He then discussed with me about the hadith about the Blessed Messenger (saw) existing before Adam (as). So then he asked me what I understood about “The Prophet being called the Nur of Allah.” I told him that I thought it meant that he was an illuminating guide and representative of Allah (swt). He replied, “brother the light of Allah IS Allah.” I thanked him for the tea and the hospitality and I told him that he went to a place that I could not follow him in. I parted ways with him and have never seen him since.


I witnessed first hand with my own eyes as I worked at the Sultan Mosque in Singapore (
predominantly Sunni/Shaf’i/Ashari/Balawi) I have witnessed first-hand tourists being clapped at and shooed away from the Masjid.
One brother came up to me and said, “how do we know they don’t have maniyy (sperm) on their underwear.” To which I exclaimed, “How do you know that I don’t?” Are we going to ask everyone to drop their pants for inspection before they enter the Masjid?” Now this was coming from someone who a) followed a madhab -Shafi’i b- Ashari I cannot clarify this but I’ll assume because c) he was associated with the Balawi Tariqah.


Whereas in the same Masjid (Sultan Mosque), I witnessed a Salafi brother bring his young daughter to the afternoon salah (prayer) and pray beside him (he would pray at the furthest end so his daughter would be between him and a wall) -this was done to respect the other’s views, and even then many of them shook their head at the brother.

Then came the ban of Mufti Menk from Singapore! Now I am not a follower of Mufti Menk and again it is clear that he is following what is called, ” “Daawat-us-Salafiyyah” -which for those who may not know what this means it is a claim to be following what the Blessed Messenger (saw) and his companions followed.

So Mufti Menk was banned from Singapore because someone asked him if we could say or respond to ‘Merry Christmas’ in kind with ‘Merry Christmas’ and he replied, ‘no’. Now because those Sunni Muslims who follow schools of jurisprudence and who are often associated with Sufi Tariqah are rivals of those Sunni Muslims who claim not to follow a particular school of jurisprudence this was an opportunity for them to ban Mufti Menk from Singapore.

Personally, even though I wouldn’t have a problem responding to Christians with, ‘Merry Christmas‘ or simply ‘happy holidays‘ I thought the way Mufti Menk was dealt with was quite cowardly. After all, if someone would have asked Mufti Menk can we celebrate the ‘Mawlid An Nabi’ (celebration of the Blessed Prophet’s birthday) he would say, ‘no we cannot’. It’s not like this was some personal swipe at Christianity. Mufti Menk comes from a school of thought that doesn’t recognize such ‘urf-customs, or anything such as bid’ah hasanah – (innovations that encourage good and do not contravene establish practices of the faith).

I just thought it was strange that since Christians have been such a huge presence in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt etc…that surely there was something from the traditional schools that would warrant replying, ‘Merry Christmas‘ or something that the followers of Imam Shafi’i could have used to refute his (Mufti Menk) position.

I’m telling you this dear reader because not everything is chalk and cheese. Not all of these groups are alike and many of them even have subgroups. There is fierce competition among rival Salafi groups just as there is fierce competition among rival Tariqah groups.

However, as Muslims, we are always commanded to speak plainly, truthfully, and justly about one another even if that group does not share our world view or our approach to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to what is beloved to Allah (swt).

 

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Qur’an 3:103)

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