What is Wahhabism and Salafism about

Answers to Salafism

Main content

Salafism: what is it exactly?

In Germany and worldwide, Salafism is the most active and dynamic Islamist movement. Salafism is a current in Islamism. It has similarities with other Islamist movements. But there are also differences: in its genesis, in the models that Salafists refer to, in their form of organization and their approach.

Difference Between Islamism and Salafism

The essential characteristic of Salafism: it only regards the actions and views of the Prophet Muhammad and his generation as well as the two following generations as a model for all times. Today he orients himself primarily on the strict and uncompromising doctrines of Wahhabism. Salafism is a sub-category of Islamism.

At a glance: ISLAMISM

Islamism is a form of political extremism. It describes a political worldview that uses the language of religion to pursue political goals. Islamism calls for the (partial or complete) abolition of the free democratic basic order in Germany. In doing so, he refers to Islam. Islamism begins where religious Islamic commandments and norms

  1. as binding political instructions and
  2. can be interpreted with an absolute claim to other social models.
What is Islamism?

Hardly any other term experienced such a boom after the attacks of September 11, 2001 as that of Islamism. But what exactly is Islamism? Which groups and currents are there? And which ideological (pre-) thinkers do they refer to? Are all Islamists violent criminals?

A video from the Federal Agency for Political Education provides answers.

Why is Salafism Unconstitutional?

Salafists are uncompromisingly oriented towards the early Islamic period 1,400 years ago. They reject secular laws and the values ​​of the western systems as un-Islamic and inferior. They perceive a society with democratic values ​​as alien; they advocate the early Islamic forms of rule and society.
Salafist actors in Germany campaign for a unity of religion and state. The Islamic legal system (Sharia) set them absolutely. This shows: Salafist views claim validity for all areas of life.
These ideological principles are incompatible with the principles laid down in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany: democracy, the rule of law - and a political order based on the inviolability of human dignity.

"Salafism": where does the term come from?

The first three generations of Muslims, the so-called “righteous ancestors”, lived in the 7th to 9th centuries AD. In Arabic they are called "alsalaf alsalih"; the short form “salaf” is also often used.
The model of this Salaf is the basis of the Salafist ideology. The early Islamic community idealized it as the Golden Age of Islam. Salafists are demanding that their followers follow the Salaf's example uncompromisingly: this is how Islam will regain its old strength.
The majority of the Salafists reject the term “Salafism” as a foreign term. The term “Wahhabis”, which Muslims in particular use as a synonym for “Salafists”, is just as vehemently rejected. The Salafists prefer to call themselves “people of the prophetic tradition and community”, in Arabic “ahl alsunna waljama’a”, or simply “Muslims”. In doing so, they claim to be the only “true” representatives of original Islam according to the tradition of the Prophet and his companions.

Goals of the Salafists

  • All Salafists have a common goal: the Establishment of a political system according to the rules of Sharia and with a caliph as political and religious head.
  • The complete reorganization of the state, legal system and society following the example of the so-called “righteous ancestors”, they see it as a “godly” norm.
  • Salafists do not recognize nation states. Starting from a core state, the borders should "expand" and finally include the entire Ummah (the all-Islamic world community).
  • Muslims who live elsewhere would then be obliged to emigrate to a core Islamic state following the example of the Prophet (Arabic “hijra”: emigration) in order to lead a godly life there and not have to live among “unbelievers”.

Are all Salafists the same?

No. Salafism is not a unitary movement. In Germany, two extremist currents of Salafism can be distinguished:

  • The so-called political salafismwho refrains from using direct violence to achieve his goals.
  • The Jihad Salafism, to which al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" can be assigned.

The transitions between the two currents, however, are fluid.

"Political Salafism"

Political Salafists spread their ideology through intensive propaganda activities (Dawa = "proselytizing"). So they want to change society in a long-term process according to Salafist norms. They distance themselves demonstratively from terrorism and avoid open calls for violence. But they exclude religiously based violence such as B. Corporal punishment does not generally apply. In their interpretation of Islam they refer to the works of very specific legal scholars, e.g. B. Muhammad Ibn al-Uthaymin (1925-2001) and Abdalaziz Ibn Baz (1910-1999).

"Jihad Salafism"

Jihadist Salafists advocate immediate and immediate violence. Most Muslims see jihad as a personal struggle against moral inadequacies - the struggle against their inner instincts. Jihadist Salafists, on the other hand, understand him v. a. military. For them it is the individual duty of every Muslim to take part in the armed struggle against what they see as un-Islamic conditions. The jihad is directed not only against the West, but also against those in power in Islamic countries, whom the Salafists accuse of having fallen away from Islam and being the henchmen of the hated “West”.

Situation in Germany

Political Salafists are predominantly active in Germany. But all the Islamist-terrorist individuals and network structures that have been uncovered so far have developed in the Salafist environment. Salafism can therefore be described as a breeding ground for radicalization and Islamist terrorism.

View of the world and view of man

Salafism is based on an intolerant, anti-democratic and violence-glorifying worldview. For Salafists, respect for the laws enshrined in Sharia law and the principles described below decide whether to go to paradise or to hell after death.

The Tawheed Concept

In Islam, the term “tawheed” denotes the doctrine of the absolute “unity and uniqueness of God” (monotheism). Salafists derive from the Tawheed principle, however, that Allah is the sole ruler and Sharia is the only law allowed. As a result, Salafists reject the people as the bearers of state power and man-made laws as "un-Islamic". The tawheed is symbolized by the index finger pointing upwards.

Enemy images

Salafists divide the world into two opposing camps - here the Salafists, there the infidels they call "kuffar". Salafism is directed

  • against non-Salafist Muslims,
  • against all other beliefs.
Rigorous interpretation of religious texts

Salafists demand a return to the sacred texts (Koran and Sunna) as the sole source of legislation. Every Muslim should understand the religious texts as literally as possible. The doctrines of the traditional Islamic schools of law, the historical context and the social development of Islam over the centuries are completely ignored.

Salafism is directed against non-Salafist Muslims and against all other beliefs.

Absolute claim

Salafists see themselves as an elite or as chosen champions. They want to unite all other Islamic faiths or replace them with the only “true” doctrine. As a result, they lay claim to the sovereignty of interpretation over all other Muslim orientations.

The takfir concept

Takfir plays a special role in jihadist Salafism. The term means that someone is declared an unbeliever or charged with disbelief. Salafists declare their opponents in other Islamic faiths to be “infidels” and “enemies of Islam” and thus justify violence against Muslims as well.

Military jihad as the "sixth duty of faith"

Against the background of the Afghan war (1979-1989) the idea of ​​a global jihad developed. Jihad ideologues like Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989) had a strong influence. Jihadist-Salafist ideologues argue that it is next to the classic Islamic pillars of faith

  • Creed
  • prayer
  • Fast
  • Alms / poor tax
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca

there is a “sixth duty of faith” that has been forgotten, namely militant or military jihad. Every Muslim is obliged to support his oppressed fellow believers - whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia or Syria - militarily (or at least financially, logistically or propagandistically).

Martyrs cult

Salafists create drastic images of the “hell fire” from which they want to save people. In countless lectures and sermons distributed on the Internet, Salafist preachers warn their listeners about the torments of hell in the most terrifying colors possible.
This threat education should be v. a. swear young people to Salafism. It is supposed to give the impression that only blind obedience and a life according to the laws of Sharia can save from the torments described. Critical questioning is seen as apostasy.
The temptations of paradise, on the other hand, are decorated with colorful pictures. Especially in jihadist circles, the idea is widespread that death as a “martyr” is the direct route to paradise and at the same time a liberation from all previous sins. Any fighter who fell in jihad is glorified as a martyr.

“Hellfire” or paradise: Threatening images are intended to impress young people in particular.

"The green birds" ...

... are a symbol for martyrs, whose souls are allowed to fly around in paradise as green birds.

How dangerous is Salafism?

Only a small percentage of Salafists can be attributed to jihadist Salafism; the majority of Salafists belong to the political spectrum.

But political Salafism has a radicalizing effect. That means: He moves his followers into extreme positions. This also creates the breeding ground for terrorist actions. Almost all Islamist terrorist persons and structures that have so far been uncovered in Germany were Salafist in character or developed in the Salafist environment.

For people from Salafist circles are

  • staying in terrorist training camps and
  • participating in battles in areas of international jihad

continues to be of particular importance, even though the dynamism of emigration has slowed sharply with the territorial defeat of IS in Syria. The people who left were often very young and some had a very short radicalization process behind them - in individual cases this only lasted a few weeks and is not always visible to the personal environment.

Men and women who are a particular security risk

  • from a terrorist training camp or
  • from the paramilitary fight

return to Germany. Returnees from the jihad areas are held in high regard in the Islamist scene. They can encourage further radicalization of Islamists who have not previously been oriented towards violence. They can be particularly attractive to young people.

Salafism: Brochure provides compact information

The brochure “Salafism - Prevention through Information - Questions and Answers” ​​aims to educate people about Salafism. It informs inter alia about the goals of Salafism, its various forms and the activities of Salafists in Germany and Bavaria. The brochure also addresses the radicalization of young Salafists. Important for parents, teachers and other professionals: How do you recognize the beginning of radicalization? How should you react - and where can you find advice and help? The brochure also introduces the Bavarian network for prevention and deradicalization against Salafism. The brochure was published by the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior.

Brochure "Salafism - Prevention through Information"

Continue reading