Salafism is a movement dedicated to adhering to what the earliest Muslims, the salaf (“ancestors”) did. Thus is a movement devoted to restoring Islamic purity and strict adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Will Barack Obama send John Kerry over to Saudi Arabia to explain to Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani how he is misunderstanding Islam?
“Senior Saudi Salafi Cleric: ‘ISIS Is A True Product Of Salafism,'” MEMRI, November 4, 2014:
“ISIS is a true product of Salafism, and we must deal with it with full transparency.” This statement was made not by liberal Muslim elements, who regularly criticize Salafism, but by Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and a Salafi himself, hence its importance. Al-Kalbani is not the first Salafi to come out against ISIS – other Saudis have condemned the organization’s conduct and operations – but Al-Kalbani has gone farther in his criticism: he has come out against the principles of the Salafi perception from which ISIS and its ilk draw, and has called for a rationalistic approach to Islam’s distant past and what it means for Islam today instead of a blind reenactment of it.
In two articles in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, Al-Kalbani criticized elements in the Salafi stream for appropriating the truth and Islam and for permitting the killing of their opponents, and likewise criticized clerics and society that dared not come out against them. He stated that the call to blindly reenact the path of the Prophet Muhammad and of the forefathers of Islam stems from a faulty grasp of the essence of this path, and that Muhammad himself had rejected blind adoption of the perceptions of the past and blind following of the path of his predecessors, choosing instead a rationalistic approach appropriate for a changing reality. Al-Kalbani stated that clerics must take their heads out of the sand and move with the spirit of the times instead of rejecting and condemning any new idea.
This is not the first time that Al-Kalbani has challenged the mainstream Saudi clerics. He has harshly attacked suicide bombings,  published a fatwa permitting poetry, and called for allowing women to drive cars.
The following are translated excerpts from his two recent articles in Al-Riyadh:
Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani (source: Assabile.com)
“ISIS Is A True Product Of Salafism And We Must Deal With It With Full Transparency”
On August 15, 2014, Sheikh Al-Kalbani tweeted (@abuabdelelah): “ISIS is a true product of Salafism and we must deal with it with full transparency.”
This statement sparked reactions across the social networks, and 10 days later, on August 24, Al-Kalbani wrote in an Al-Riyadh article titled “Is Terrorism A Salafi Product?”: “Every time we see the fitna network sweeping up young people from among our sons… [and pitching them into] to a very deep abyss from which they will emerge only by means of idioms that drip blood, our conscience torments us and we wonder: From whence has this come upon us? How have they fallen into this? As if we could not do a thing before then.
“But the opposite is true: The main reason for their deviation is our neglect – and by ‘our’ neglect I mean the [neglect of the] generation of the parents, and of the honorable members of society among the clerics, teachers, preachers, jurisprudents, and sociologists who are linked directly to that society. The words, the books, the sermons, the dramas, and all the artistic creativity and the essential link [to the audience] that these people present in all the media, whether print, radio, or television, [allow them] to monitor the ideas of the young people and to participate in balancing them. I exclude [of course] that tiniest of minorities whose throat is parched from warning about the extremism of the Salafis.
“Yes, this is the plant that has sprouted in the garbage dump of those who excessively pass judgment on others and pretend to represent Salafism. How gravely they have accused others of apostasy, of deviating from the right path, of heresy, and of licentiousness – as if the arena lies open before them and there is nobody to condemn them and no judge to punish them. Furthermore, they are received with feigned respect and admiration, and opportunities have been opened to them to plant in the minds of our young people that this one has gone astray and that one is an infidel and the other one is lax in religion. Even the greatest of clerics, past and present, are not spared their arrows. They spread the principles of Islam in a twisted manner that makes them incomprehensible or distorted, and preserve things that negate Islam. They measure the judge, the educated, and the student, and even the simple folk by what they [i.e. these extremists] have learned by heart [but] do not understand, and think that they are entitled to rule that the above mentioned are apostates and to call down upon them the punishments of Allah that are no longer implemented and [by so doing, they think that they will] restore the glory and splendor of monotheism.
“This group thinks that no one but itself and its supporters are the source of good and the defenders of monotheism – because [its members] imbibed with their mothers’ milk [the view] that all Muslims worldwide do not understand [monotheism] and that they are not worshipping only Allah but are polytheists who worship graves… and that there are no just clerics besides their own clerics and their disciples. [They think that] only a cleric whom they love, whom they heed and obey, and on whose say they reject or validate [others] – only he holds the truth and acts in accordance with the ways of [Islam’s] just forefathers… They spread out and multiply, and publicly call for following in the footsteps of some sheikh and for accepting his words in full. They have begun to classify people, preachers, and clerics – [for example,] this sheikh shouldn’t be listened to because he is more loathsome than the Jews and the Christians, and that fatwa deviates [from the right path], so it is forbidden to pray behind anyone who adopts it, or to sit with him, eat with him or respect him. They have begun… to separate the young people from the clerics who understand the result of [this activity by them] and what difficulties they are going to cause the nation.
“Actually, there is no connection between the path of these extremists and the [true] path of the Salafis – which is tolerance, compassion, and gentleness, and in which there is no place for extremism and [religious] fanaticism. [Salafism] is a path that spreads love, brotherhood, and acceptance of the other among Muslims and coexistence with non-Muslims. But the thing is to understand it and to implement it – and not [just to] pretend [to do so] – in a way that is compatible with the deep roots of the past and with the demands of the present.
“[However,] what is needed is a perception for reforming ideas, not admonitions, reproof, reactions and word-sparing that deal with the symptom and ignore the disease! There is still enough time to rehabilitate [these ideas], ideologically and practically, and to prevent society from splitting into sects and groups that throng after dignitaries who are enveloped in an aura of immunity [to sin and error] and sanctity, with each group thinking that it has the right to guide the nation and recruit its young people.
“A plant is always like its roots. If we want a good, fruitful plant, it is incumbent upon everyone to care for its roots, its water sources, the spread of its branches, and the fertility of the earth [from which it grows], and to protect it from ideas and viruses that turn its fruit and seeds to poison from which the generations sip and on which the young people grow up; from [these seeds] sprouts a plant that has in it no place for compassion and to whom love and friendship are totally alien.”…