The Dispute Between Hanbali Scholars and Contemporary Salafis

By Sh. Faris ibn Falih al-Khazraji

Many people wonder about what is happening in the academic arena between the Hanbali scholars and contemporary Salafism, why this dispute exists, and whether the dispute is confined to creed alone? Our answers to these questions are as follows:

When we began to present the Hanbali jurisprudential, theological, foundational, and the mu’tamad discussions, opposition from contemporary Salafism emerged. Their rebellion erupted for three reasons:

Firstly, they believe that they are following the belief of all the companions of the Prophet ﷺ and that they are absolutely correct in their beliefs, jurisprudence, and hadith [discussions]. Therefore, anyone who speaks contrary to what they believe is considered to be opposing the beliefs of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ. However, in reality, they are only following some of the theological and jurisprudential choices of Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and the [proposed] beliefs and jurisprudence of [some of their] contemporary scholars. In Hadith, they [exclusively] follow what Sheikh Al-Albani has written and said. This caused a clash between us [Hanbalis] and them.

Secondly, they believe that they are guardians of the religion in general, and of the Hanbali school of thought in particular, because they thought they were Hanbalis. They thought speaking about the Hanbali school is only permissible for those who follow their contemporary scholars’ method of belief, jurisprudence, preference, weakening, and correction.

Thirdly, contemporary Salafism is confined to reading limited books and having limited scholars (their own contemporary ones) because they are not allowed to do otherwise. If they go beyond that, they do not exceed the books of Ibn Taymiyyah but without understanding his words and methodology. Therefore, they do not know anything about the Hanbali school except what their contemporary scholars have repeated to them. When Allah Almighty revealed the Hanbali beliefs, it was a shock to them. Their Shaykhs, followers, and supporters started hurling insults, belittling and mocking.

They were disturbed by any disturbance in the creed of the Hanbalis. They wrote articles, authored books, published and spread them, however, they did not deviate an inch from what Ibn Taymiyyah decided on the Names and Attributes of Allah. Then one of them, a famous teacher, coined the term “new Hanbalis” and claimed that the later Hanbali scholars were innovators. Despite his childish attitude that reflects ignorance and bigotry, he was the bravest among them, as he expressed his position without any hesitation or ambiguity unlike the others. He claimed that Ibn Taymiyyah was a reformer of the theological and jurisprudential aspects of the Hanbali school.

In the view of contemporary Salafism, anyone who associates themselves with the Imam, the Hanbali school, and adheres to its principles and branches is a misguided innovator, deviant, jahmi, and a host of other insults. So then they asserted that we [Hanbalis] created the controversy and made a false claim even though contemporary Salafism is the one that confronts those who deviate from its path, not just limited to the Hanbalis. Anyone who opposes them is considered to be either an apostate or a misguided innovator with no other options.

Therefore, it was our duty to expose their selective, exclusionary, and innovative approach and their weakness in the methodological and cognitive research. We made it clear that they have no affiliation with the Hanbali school and our statement is firm.

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