Who Are The Salaf?
Question: I hear much about the Salaf, who are the Salaf O Noble Shaykh?
The meaning of the [word] Salaf is (Al-Mutaqaddimoon) the predecessors so every person that precedes another is a salaf for him but when this term is used unrestrictedly then it only refers to the first three praised generations from the companions (as-Sahaabah) and those that followed them (at-Taabi’oon) and those that followed them [Atba’ at-Taabyi’een]. They indeed are the pious predecessors (as-Salaf as-Saaleh). Whoever came after them and traversed upon their way (Minhaaj) then he is like them upon the way of the Salaf; even though he may have come after them with regards to time because as-Salafiyyah is a designation which applies to the way (Minhaaj)) which was traversed by the pious predecessors (as-Salaf as-Saaleh) as the Prophet (salallaho aleihi wa sallam) said:
“Indeed my nation will split into seventy three sects all of them in the Fire except one and it is the united body (al-Jamaa’ah)”
and in another wording,
“..whoever is upon the same as what I am upon and my companions.”
So based upon that then as-Salafiyyah here is specific in meaning, hence whoever is upon the way (Minhaaj) of the Sahaabah, the Taabi’oon and those who followed them upon goodness then he is a Salafi even if he is in our contemporary times and whilst it being the fourteenth century after the Migration [of the Prophet] (al-Hijrah).
Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen
Fataawa Noor 'alaa al-Darb: at-Tawheed wal-'Aqeedah.
Translated by Abu 'Abdillaah al-Kashmiree