Should I Be Salafi or Hanafi?

15 January, 2017
Q There are so many different interpretations of Islam. I was raised Hanafi, but I feel I should explore other approaches to Islam. What do you think of Salafism in contrast to the Hanafi madhab in specific?


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:


Ilyas Ally: Dr. Shabir, the question we have before us is from a viewer from Kazakhstan in Central Asia. And he says, in his country that everybody follows the Hanafi madhab, or school of Islamic law.

But some people are becoming attracted to the Salafi way, especially young people. And so, he’s asking what madhab [Islamic School of thought] do you follow, and do you find the Salafi methodology to be reasonable?

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Dr. Shabir Ally: I grew up in Guyana where the Hanafi school was widely followed. I followed that as well, naturally.

But when I moved to Toronto, which is a melting pot of people from all around the world with a wide variety of approaches to the Islamic faith, I started to be aware of the variety of interpretations and adopted some of them as well.

The Salafi method began to be preached in the seventies and eighties. And that seem reasonable as well. So, I got attracted to that particular way of looking at the evidence from the Quran and the life example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

But all of these approaches have something good about them and something lacking as well. It’s good to follow the classical schools of Islamic Jurisprudence because these have a large group of scholarship backing each interpretation and approach.

There is also a validity in looking for the evidence in the Quran and the Sunnah as Salafis encourage us to do.

Ilyas Ally: So, for our questioner in Kazakhstan, would you recommend that he stick with the Hanafi madhab or should he consider the Salafis?

Dr. Shabir Ally: Well, either approach is a valid one. But the important thing is not to be dogmatic about either approach. If you’re following the Hanafi school, don’t follow it dogmatically. But look for evidence and proof.

If you’re following the Salafi school, then also don’t be dogmatic. Sometimes people think that because we’re following the Salafi school [what] we have [is] based on evidence and proof. But it’s not always so.

And a lot of the evidence has been misunderstood and misconstrued even by scholars with the best of intentions who did not look for the historical context, and try to understand things in a critical manner.

So, even then one needs to follow things, but not be dogmatic. But be circumspect and critical.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Why Follow a Madhab if we Have the Sunnah?

Sufism Vs. Wahhabism

Dr. Yadir Qadhi: On Salafi Islam (Part 1)