The description “Salafi” applies to one who truly attaches himself to the Salaf. This attachment is not to an arbitrary single person or group of people. It is an attachment to that which will never err – to the guidance of Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), his Sahabai, and their true followers. Likewise, Salafiyyah (the Salafi Da’wah) is not blind following of any particular Shaikh or Imam. It is adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah as understood and practiced collectively by as-Salaf as-Salih. A true Salafi values Tawhid, singling out Allah in all acts of worship: in supplication, in seeking aid, in seeking refuge in times of ease and hardship, in sacrifice, in making vows, in fearing and hoping and total reliance, and so on. A true Salafi actively seeks to remove shirk (polytheism) with all his capacity. He knows that victory is not possible without true Tawhid, and that shirk cannot be fought with the likes of it (i.e., with another form of shirk). A true Salafi adheres to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and of his companions after him.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, Adhere very closely to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided successors after me; bite on to it with your molar teeth, and beware of the newly invented matters. [Authentic; recorded by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidthi. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, a true Salafi refers matters to Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), acting in accordance with the ayah: If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you do believe in Allah and the Last Day, that is better and more suitable for final determination [An-Nisa 4:59]. He gives precedence to the Word of Allah and of His Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) over the opinion of anyone else, in according with the ayah: Believers! Do not put your opinions forward ahead of Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah. Verily Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing. [Al-Hujurat 49:1].
A true Salafi revives the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in his worship and behavior. This makes him a stranger among people, as the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has described: Islam began as a stranger, and it will revert to being a stranger just as it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers. [Recorded by Muslim]. And he (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said in another narration: So give glad tidings to the few, those who purify and correct what the people have corrupted of my Sunnah. [Authentic; al-Albani’s as-Silsilat us-Sahihah number 1273].
A true Salalfi enjoins the good and forbids the evil. He warns people, out of deep concern, about shirk, innovations, misguided ways, and of deviant, destructive groups: Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong [Aal Imran 3: 104].
A true Salafi constantly seeks Allah’s forgiveness, makes true repentance, remembers Allah abundantly, and rushes to perform the righteous deeds in order to purify his soul. Thus he attempts to follow the ayah: Truly he succeeds who purifies it (i.e., the soul) [Ash-Shams 91:8].
A true .Salafi worships Allah out of a combination of Fear, Hope and Love. Allah says (what means): Call upon Him, with Fear and Hope. [Al-Araf 7:56]. And He says (what means): There are people who take [for worship] alleged rivals to Allah, loving them as only Allah should be loved. But the Believers love Allah more than all else. [Al-Baqarah 2:165].
A true Salafi is not of the Khawarij who consider most Muslims to be kafirs (disbelievers) because of committing sins. He is not of the Shiah who revile the Sahabah, who claim that the Qur’an has been altered, who reject the authentic Sunnah, and who worship the Prophet’s Family. He is not of the Qadariyyah who deny qadar (the Divine Decree). He is not of the murjiah who claim that iman is only words without deeds. He is not of the Mu’attilah who deny Allah’s Attributes. He is not of the Sufis who worship graves and claim Divine incarnation. He is not of the Muqallidun who insist that every Muslim should adhere to the Madth’hab (understanding) of a particular imam or shaikh, even when that madth’hab conflicts with the clear texts of the Qur’an or authentic Sunnah.
Thus the true Salafs are Ahl us-Sunnati wal-Jamaah. They are at-Ta’ifat ul-Mansurah (the Aided, Victorious Group) and al-Firqat un-Najiyah (the Saved Party) which have been described in several hadiths. The Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: A group from my Ummah (nation or community) will always be aided with victory as they continue to persevere upon the Truth; they will not be harmed by those who abandon them or those who oppose them. [Recorded by Muslim]. And he (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: This Ummah will split into seventy three parties, all of which will go to Hell – except for one party: the one which will follow the same path as what I and my companions are following today. [Authentic; recorded by Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidthi, and others]. In one report he (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) described this Saved Party as: … except for one party, which is the Jama’ah.
Upon comprehending this, a Muslim has no option but to be salafi. In doing so he attaches himself to that group which has been guaranteed success, victory, salvation and safety from the Fire.