Contemporary Puritan Salafism
A Swedish Case Study
Susanne Olsson [+–]
Susanne Olsson is a historian of religion at Stockholm University. Her research mainly concerns contemporary interpretations of Islam and her latest publication is Preaching Islamic Revival: ‘Amr Khaled, Mass Media and Social Change in Egypt.
This volume addresses issues of authority and authenticity related to contemporary interpretations of Islam in a minority setting. Salafism is a contemporary multifaceted and global phenomenon that represents a fundamentalist interpretative stance which appears to be growing among minority Muslims. This book studies a Salafi group in Sweden that is puritan in the sense of avoiding political participation and rejecting jihadism. They strive to imitate the lives of the first generations of Muslims and the prophet Muhammad within their own minority setting, surrounded by a society which in their view is characterized by immorality and capitalism. The group recommends segregation, or even emigration, as a strategy in order to enable people to live proper Muslim lives, in preparation for the Hereafter.
Series: Comparative Islamic Studies
Table of Contents
Contemporary Salafism is a multifaceted global phenomenon that seems to be growing among minority Muslims. Among Muslims living as minorities there are different strategies to preserve a Muslim identity. This relates to the question posed by many Muslims regarding how to live as a believing and practicing Muslim in rather secularized surroundings. Salafism has recently emerged as a framework from which many contemporary Muslims in Europe draw inspiration and regard as correct or authentic Islam, and it affects how many Muslims view issues of segregation and integration into majority society. This introductory chapter lays the groundwork for the case study explored in the rest of the volume.
The book connects to some on-going interrelated theoretical fields prevalent in the contemporary discipline history of religions that illuminate the group focused in this study. The most important concepts discussed in this chapter are “tradition” and “authority”, which are important tools to analyze the growth of Salafism. The concept “orthodoxy” is problematized and the chapter discusses how the Sunnah has come to the forefront of interpretative conflicts.
Salafi Islam [+–]
The chapter presents a general outline of how contemporary Salafism can be defined and what it consists of regarding basic views on theology and activities. Basic Salafi views on interpretative methodologies are outlined to distinguish Salafism from other Islamic stances, such as Wahhabism and the juridical schools. A presentation of Salafi theology and various views on the program of action is made. A discussion on the appeal of Salafism is also included in the chapter.
The local puritan group is introduced with a general overview of their activities, adherents and the main promoted views on theology and program of action. The chapter further introduces notes on gender issues, rituals and issues related to authority and knowledge within the group.
This chapter presents the group’s stance on jurisprudence, sources and interpretation. Jurisprudence is continuously present, regardless of the theme in focus of lectures. The chapter shows how imitation of the juridical schools (taqlīd) is rejected, but that there still are a lot of references to the founders of the Sunni juridical schools. The chapter illustrates in detail how the group relates to the Islamic law and the schools of law, and illuminates the view on authority and interpretation further.
Contemporary Islamic piety movements often organize as da‘wah groups, and this chapter shows how “mission” is performed and promoted. A lot of time is devoted to talk about being steadfast and to take the so-called righteous predecessors as role-models. This has an important function as a strategy to delineate the in-group and define da‘wah. Authentic Islam is presented as a way of life that should be made relevant for everything a person does in life and it has relevance considering the Hereafter.
The chapter probes into the construction of the in-group and the out-group. Salafi Purists mainly concern themselves with the purification of Islam including spreading their creed to eliminate deviant practices through education. This chapter elaborates on the topic of how “others” should be treated and it illustrates the group’s view on segregation and emigration.
The epilogue discusses the main results of the study and shows how the ideology promoted by the group results in a strategy that can be called a ‘sunnisized self-minoritization’, where the local teachers, occupying a position of sacred authority, function as intermediaries between the religious elite and revelation and the participants in the Swedish local setting. Through the local teachers, the truth is transmitted and those who want to reach a place in Heaven are motivated to comply with the program of action, thus constructing a messianic utopia.