Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

Blameworthy Kalam (2)

al-salamu `alaykum

A few days back, a sister asked about the following quote:

Imam ath-Thahabi said: "It is authentically related from ad-Daraqutni (a scholar from approximately 1,000 years ago) that he said: There is nothing more despised by me than 'ilmul-kalaam (innovated speech and rhetoric). Then he said: No person should ever enter into 'ilmul-kalaam, nor argumentation (i.e. Philosophy)[7]... Rather, he should be Salafi (a follower of the Salaf)."[8]
[The associated footnotes:]
[7] This statement does not come from the standpoint of being narrow-minded. [...]
[8] Siyar A'laamun-Nubalaa' (16/457) of Ath-Thahabi

This quote comes from an article on the Wahhabi Myth site. The article's URL is: <http://www.thewahhabimyth.com/salafism.htm>.

In my response I wrote that I doubted that al-Darqutni said that someone should be “a salafi”, which the above translation suggests. Here is what Imam al-Dhahabi actually wrote:

æÕÍ Úä ÇáÏÇÑÞØäí Ãäå ÞÇá : ãÇ ÔÆ ÃÈÛÖ Åáí ãä Úáã ÇáßáÇã. ÞáÊ: áã íÏÎá ÇáÑÌá ÃÈÏÇ Ýí Úáã ÇáßáÇã æáÇ ÇáÌÏÇá¡ æáÇ ÎÇÖ Ýí Ðáß¡ Èá ßÇä ÓáÝíÇ¡ ÓãÚ åÐÇ ÇáÞæá ãäå ÃÈæ ÚÈÏ ÇáÑÍãä ÇáÓáãí.

One brother offered a better translation of Imam al-Dhahabi's statement:

It has been authentically related that al-Daraqutni said: 'There is nothing I despise more [musa: or: more despicable to me...] than `Ilm al-Kalam'.
I (al-Dhahabi) say: The man [musa: al-Daraqutni] never ever entered into `Ilm al-Kalam nor into argumentation [regarding theological matters], nor did he get involved in those matters. Rather, he was a Salafi [translate this as you wish]. Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Sullami heard this statement from him.

This brother's re-translation of the passage shows that it was not al-Daraquti who said that someone should be a salafi, rather it was al-Dhahabi who said that someone (al-Daraqutni) was a salafi.

I personally find the Wahhabi Myth translation objectionable for two reasons. First: it is too easy to understand from their that al-Daraqutni was the one who used the term salafi. Second: their mistranslating that someone was a salafi as someone should be a salafi.

A sister added another comment to regarding my doubts about the original translation:

You are correct, and I wish more people would just type "follower of the salaf." Because no living person can be "salafi" (a person from the far past), if one is to  use correct Arabic grammar. The translation is very misleading. However, it is correct that the translation said "follower of the past generations").

A good point. Perhaps the better term would be mutasallif from the pattern mutafa``il. One of the many common meanings for this pattern is that of false ascription. If false sufis are known as mutsawwif, false salafis should be called mustasallif.

By the way: The word “salafan” (accusative; mansub) appears in Siyar `Ala al-Nubala six times, while “salafi” appears twice.

wa al-salamu `alaykum
--musa