PhD Islamic & Arabic Studies Exeter University. Areas of specialization include Islamic law, Middle Eastern History, Islamic pedagogical methods, Arabic language and culture.
The legacy of the Albanian Islamic scholar Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī (d. 1999) is a unique brand of Salafism, a movement whose adherents promote as establishing an eternal model of proper Muslim creed, practice, exegesis, and conduct that stands in stark contrast to madhhab Traditionalism. With secular law replacing the madhhabs in the post-Ottoman era, debates over the madhhabs’ role in understanding religion have been taking place in mosques, coffee shops, online, and in social gatherings. Albānī’s brand of Salafism bypasses the madhhabs in order to interpret the texts anew. Madhhab Traditionalists understand scripture through the scholarly class, while Salafis believe scripture is clear and “speaks for itself.” Through a detailed reconstruction of the dynamicly heated debates between Albānī and his Madhhab Traditionalist interlocoturs, I analyze the context of the scripturally charged rhetoric against and in defense of particular hermenutical methods to explain the appeal and authority of modern Salafism. I contend that unlike Traditionalists who find authority in scholarly institutions, Albānī’s brand of Salafism finds its authority in its simplistic teachings, as well its removing the human element from the interpretive process by insisting that the texts must speak for themselves. This study demonstrates that the authority of Albānī’s Salafism lies in its anti-hierarchical and individually empowering hermeneutics, and portraying itself as pure and others in need or purification.