The Core of Salafism

An Apriori Statement and Salafi’s Responses on Radicalism and Terrorism, by Riza Saputra

Abstract The city of Santri has recorded at least 29 Islamic Boarding Schools, 24 of them identify themselves as Salafi, and 5 call themselves as Modern or Khalafi. Salafis have an identical understanding that is different from modern Islamic boarding school, especially in scientific studies that focus on classical books or known as the yellow book, Arabic or Malay Arabic. This difference is closely related to the term Salafi itself, which wants to refer to the previous pious "Salāfus Ṣālih" and make the Quran and Hadith as their main foothold. However, at this time some assumption appears and states that the Salafis are radical Islamic movements, extreme, intolerant, and have an exclusive tendency with the Western world. Therefore, this research aims to refer back empirically to the Salafi Islamic boarding school alumni and teachers in the City of Santri related to this statement. Also, this research intends to find a comprehensive meaning of Salafi from alumni and teachers of Salafi understanding, besides, to see their responses to acts of terror and radicalism.

Keywords: Salafi, Radicalism, Wahabi, Terrorism


The Salafi movement often overlaps with the term used by the Islamic boarding school with manḥaj Salafiyah (Salafiyah Method). Even though, both of them use the same term Salafiyah which refers to al-Salāfus Ṣālih (the former pious people) and put the Qur‟an and Hadith as the basic and the main source of Islamic teachings. However, the Salafi Islamic boarding schools are different from the Salafi-Wahabi Movement which is pioneered by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab (1703--1794 AD) (Ubaidillah, 2014: 35-48). The use of the term Salafi by Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia is to emphasize the characteristics of their learning method, which still uses the classical learning system “ngaji duduk” (learning by sitting) (Junaidi, 2017: 95-100). However, the similarity of using the term Salafi sometimes makes people misidentify between the Salafi-Wahabi and Salafi-Traditional Islamic Boarding School.

Recently, several assumptions have emerged from the Western world, that the Salafi pioneered by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab in 1745 is radical, extreme, intolerant, and prone to violence (Al-Rashed, 2007; Rahmatullah, 2017; Nurish, 2020). This negative stigma has also made an impact on the Salafi Islamic boarding schools, which use the term Salafi as the characteristic of their educational method system (Kusmato et al., 2015: 27-50;, 2020, March 4). This traditional Islamic boarding school complains an assumption that the graduates of the Salafi Islamic boarding school tend to be radical (, 2018, May 7). However, Ubaidillah (2014) says that this radical characteristic is contradictory to the Salafi-Wahhabi movement's goal that is to call on Muslims to the correct Islamic teachings based on the Quran and hadith, and to abandon the practice of bid‟ah (heresy) and khurafat (unreasonable belief). Including to the Salafis referred to the Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia whose purpose is to maintain the tradition of Salāfus Ṣālih.

The term of Salafiyah in the realm of Islamic education is a method or teaching, while the term Salafi refers to the pesantren who apply Salafi‟s method and teaching. Salafi Islamic boarding schools have cultural characteristics in which they provide religious education without formal education (Stiawan & Tohirin, 2015: 194-209). The definition of Salafi and other cases associated with it are not well explained yet and sometimes misunderstood in general Islamic studies discussions (Haykel, 2003; Siddiq, 2019). The term Salafi is not used only by Salafi-Wahabi but also by several Islamic groups, including the Salafi Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. Thus, the definition of Salafi requires further discussion to get a comprehensive difference in terms, history, and background.

Radicalism and Islamic boarding schools are connected with the statement that Salafi Islamic boarding schools are directed at conservative religious understandings, dogmatic, and exclusive to the Western and infidels (Endang Turmudi, 2005). This understanding which then brings the statement that the Salafi Islamic boarding school may grow symptoms of radicalism and instill values of radicalism (Mursalin & Katsir, 2010: 255-90). Also, the use of the term Salafi by combining the word Jihadi to several Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia has become a polemic. The notion of Jihadi leads to generalizations of the Salafi meaning. The typology of the Salafi Jihadi in Islamic boarding schools is not understood literally as a struggle or striving for religion. but it is understood as the typology of Islamic boarding schools which has the connection with terrorism and radicalism movements, such as Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), Jamaah Ansarut Tauhid (JAT), and Jamaah Ansharut Syariah (JAS) (Mufid, 2013: 7-17). The emergence of this amalgamation typology of Salafis and Jihadis has generally made negative prejudice and stigma in many Islamic boarding schools with Salafis characteristics (Malik, 2018).

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Suggested Citation:

Saputra, Riza, The Core of Salafism: An Apriori Statement and Salafi’s Responses on Radicalism and Terrorism (September 18, 2020). Proceedings of the The 2nd ICS Universitas Mataram International Conference: Countering Radicalism & Terrorism in the Digital Era - Reshaping a Global Peace Community, Available at SSRN: or