Umar Lee on the Salafi Decline

Umar Lee has recently begun an informative series on the history and decline of the salafi movement in the United States. The series is ongoing and currently he has the first 7-parts out on his blog.

I came into Islam after 9/11 and spent much of my first two years in Islam learning by myself about the deen. And I think it would be hard for most Muslims irrespective of their own ideological background in the US to ignore the influence that the often sincere yet not without mistakes salafi dawah has had on the American Muslim community.

I have seen much good and much excess in the salafi movement and did not have a good grasp on how the movement began, flourished, and developed into the state in which I first encountered it. I had done some research into it but Umar Lee’s series has increased my understanding and filled in some gaps and erased some misconceptions that I had about the salafi movement.

The seven posts thus far have been a good quick read and shouldn’t take most people more than 20-30 minutes to get through all of the posts. I highly recommend it.

Umar Lee: The Rise and Fall of the Salafi Dawah in the US


  1. I have been reading it, and have found it very interesting. Actually, I was INvolved in it probably even before Br. Umar … I knew many of the brothers via the net when I was running MSA-UH’s website, and the University of Essex MSA’s website was run by Br. Waheed (SPUBS now)… and I remember when TROID was starting up and we were in touch as well. It was all very pleasant… Chapter 7 of the article series had not started yet.

    My only “problem” with the series is the name itself. It wasn’t the decline of the dawah, rather it was the decline in unity and the break-away of portion of it (TROID/SPUBS/QSS included)…

  2. It’s been a while, so I just had to stop by and tell you that you’re the coolest apple I know. 🙂

  3. Asalamu alaykum,

    Amad: Nah, number seven is up on his blog. I think the harm caused by the disunity and its offshoots has harmed the dawah and a lot of good that was happening.

    Sahrun: Where have you been all this time (I know the question should be where have I been), we need to hang out. I tried a new pizza place a couple of weeks ago and was like Sahrun would probably like this. In sha Allah, carpooling to Arabic class next weekend.

  4. Oil Money > Books published > preachers trained > power struggle between them, while being played as pawns in the hands of other powers > disunity > disintegration > a movement without firm basis and lack of principles > a soulless movement = salafi da’wah.

  5. I think what he meant is that the salafi dawah, as a stand alone, is not and can not decline because it’s true principles is simply Islam. The movement/the hizb that was being pimped and played by many in the West has declined and soon inshallah will die a quiet death because like Umar lee has pointed out the movement burnt all of its ties.

  6. Nuqtah: In Umar’s series now up to 8 posts one point that he emphasized was that a lot of the grassroots work was done by brothers and sisters working hard and using their own money. There were organizations that received money from overseas but that was not the reality for much of the movement.

  7. Musleemah95: Yes, I agree that the principles of salafism are not in decline rather the direction the movement had taken in the Western context is on its way out not only was there not a firm foundation of knowledge and emaan from some of those that rose to prominence but also due to its excesses.

  8. btw br. amad even if you dont agree; one fact you cannot dispute is- if there was no oil money, there would be no madinah uni…no madinah uni wuldve meant ‘no madinah graduates’ aka architects of salafi dawah.

  9. MR: I don’t think the intrinsic principles of salafism are on the wane but I do think some of its byproducts in the western experience have declined and are on the way out. It’s unfortunate that a lot of good people have been harmed in the process.

    By the way, Umar has the ninth and penultimate post in the series now up on his blog.

  10. What I find strange about the posts, is this whole “Bubble” issue, and the “high level of Iman” that’s associated with the bubble alone. I understand what he means, but I wonder if this level of Iman is only by entering that bubble that we shouldn’t enter ?

    On the whole, I do like the series. And I hope these problems within the da’wa will fade in sha’ Allah.

  11. TS…I’m conflicted with the bubble issue. I personally believe that Muslims do not and should not expose themselves to too much unnecessary dunyah. At the same time if you live in the west you have a responsibility to do dawah and you can’t do that if your bubble is so small you never give your neighbors their rights. Coming from the west and living in the Muslim world, I hate to see that all of the vices were imported from the West and the beneficial things that should be taken from the West were left behind.

    I definitely want my kids to be in a bubble as long as possible. I am not as bad as my dh who doesn’t want them to know anything outside of Islam. If they find something unislamic out than I make it a learning experience. My dh had a problem with them hearing about pigs and Christmas, but I explained it to them. We don’t have a satellite dish but we have a VCR so I do go to the Islamic bookstroe and get them so-called Islamic tapes (cartoons with no music). Recently while shopping on Amazon, I saw some Litle House on The Prairie tapes and were thinking how nice it would be if they could watch that, as I loved it growing up. My dh talked me out of it, just because I saw it and enjoyed it doesn’t mean they had too. However, I liked the values learned in the series and jumped on the opportunity to teach the about the ole days when my friend sold me the whole series in books for a discounted price. Last night my daughter had me read 4 chapters to her and wanted more but I was tired. I knew she would enjoy the books, but with the books I have avoided bringing unnecessary images, music, and other vices in the home that I would have gotten in the tapes.

    Like I said, I like my bubble to an extent. I personally have busted my bubble when I started blogging and am conflicted about that as well. it does make me question my eemaan.

  12. Apple,

    hmmmm. I am not sure about the title, “The rise and Fall . . .” because the dawah itself cannot ascend or descend, because it is the haqq. I think the real issue a juxtoposition of cultural, social economics and the deen. This is about culturalization of Islam. This is evident with any ethnic group, indo-pak, african, arab and the list goes on. For some reason the salafi dawah has had a major drawl with African Americans from urban centers. And if you enter the masjids that propagate the dawah, you will see mostly people are of color. And with it comes culture. I am not sure the history, or a history of it’s propagation in the WEST is beneficial. PEOPLE, who cannot not bring life, death, create the earth, bring down nations should never come between you and your religion. Whether a person supports Ali Timimi or Jafar Idris should not determine his or her closeness to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of HIS Messenger (Alaihi Salaam), because these matters are irrelevant. Because Allah is the disposer of all affairs, HE will deal with them justly. And this religion is not about these Callers, because when they and we return to Allah they will be forgotten by the next generations of believers, but unlike the works of the people of Hadeeth, they will be remembered, because these Shaykhs are like mountains! So don’t worry about these social issues, these are the affairs of the Dunya and getting caught up in all this arrogance and kibr will lead to transgression. I sent you an email, please reply. Barak Allahu Fiki, your sister in Islam

  13. Hey man, what’s up with love notes in NY? Are we on? I hear seats are almost finished, so should I go ahead and pay the registration fee? Lemme know! 🙂

  14. Asalamu alaykum,

    Travelling Stranger: Not to question the sincerity of anyone’s iman yet true iman is closely associated with following the footsteps of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and one issue that some salafis have become known with is their lack of knowledge in deen and their lack of proper akhlaaq and adab.

    Umm Adam: I think a bubble of a certain size is not a problem. Everyone knows their own weaknesses and fitna and wanting to protect yourself or your children is a good thing. The penchant among some salafis to denigrate many speakers and people of knowledge eschewing them for the “real scholars” is disturbing.

  15. Asalamu alaykum,

    Umm Binat: While the basic principles of the dawah may not ascend or descend, it is the actions of those that claim adherence to salafism that is most at issue in the posts by Umar Lee.

    I was once speaking to a person that claimed to be salafi and mentioned several well-known shuyukh and speakers that I had benefited from immensely only to be told by this layperson that did not speak Arabic nor know much Quran nor much hadeeth and did not have manners reflective of the light of Prophetic guidance all while claiming to be on the haqq and to have a connection with the scholars that these people were deviant. The arrogance, poor adab, speaking without knowledge, etc was astounding.

    I replied to your email.

  16. Sahrun: In sha Allah, I’ll make a decision by Thursday, is that ok? Email me.

    Amatullah: Alhamdulillah, awesome news the last time Shaykh Waleed was in town he offered to pray the janazah for a sister I knew that had passed away whose family never accepted her Islam.

  17. I agree, Apple.

    Manners are so important and yet so underrated by some of our brethren. Especially in matters of religion, when everyone gets all tense and defensive, we should remember to uphold our manners and not lose ourselves, and we should talk about these issues with great care and delicacy even.

  18. Sh. Waleed’s coming is indeed great news… he is a close friend and one of the two Shayookh who I consider as my most influential teachers.

  19. I read the series, and I must commend the brother-it was written very well mashaAllah. And I think I read nearly every comment (yes, all 90 of them), my eyes hurt lol, but i’m glad I did walhamdulillah.

    I can say that i’ve personally experienced sisters telling me that different shuyook were misguided and I never truly understood where the whole labeling people started. I would say, ‘sister, you should listen to this lecture/read this book by so-and-so’ and she would make a face and say, ‘…the scholars have spoken out about him, he is among the misguided’. Truly sad, wa ayadubillah. I can now understand where it all started.

    I thank Allah azza wa jal for protecting us from this fitnah, and I ask Him ta’ala to strengthen the faith of those who endured it, and to make us among steadfast and among those whom He Guides. ameen

    Apple, I also wanted to ask you, do you agree with the comments about converts? Of course I cannot relate, but I’d love to know what you think bi’ithnillah.

  20. SubhanAllah, here we go again with the ‘why does AlMaghrib cost so much?! Do you know how much money that will add up too?!” argument…:/ wa Allahul Musta’an.

  21. Asalamu alaykum,

    Yes, I know it never ends, in sha Allah, I’m going to write a post addressing that issue but about the convert issue, what exactly did you want to know? Whether or not we feel our issues are being adequately addressed or something else?

  22. Yes basically, because in his series and comments he was mentioning how Almaghrib/TDC and other organizations, even masajid do not really cater to converts–according to him, they don’t feel invovled or like they’re in a different crowd. He mentioned Dar-us-Salaam not really connecting with converts as well, again I can’t really say if they do or don’t but there are a lot of converts there; specifically many african american sisters (maybe they’re many in my mind).
    and of course there is always the ‘white brothers always work at the sooq’ joke. I don’t know if that’s much of an argument though haha.

    But I guess there is a difference with how many converts there are in the community vs. how they fit in and how their needs are catered too.

    wa Allahu ‘alam, just wondering what your take on it is.

  23. One small, but inshallah important step for increased inclusion of converts @ AlMaghrib/TDC… Sister, since you are in that area, pls spread the word…

    A total of 15 scholarships are being offered for converts only for the next two classes in NJ & MD. Please see the following for the announcement:

    AlMaghrib Scholarships for Converts

    We can all thank Umar for sparking many ideas and thoughts in many different areas.

  24. In sha Allah ta ala, I’ll publicize this information. It’s a nice gesture. I have a lot of thoughts on the issue of convert inclusion but I’ll have that for a proper post.

  25. Assalamu alaikum,
    I had gotten involved with the salafi da’wa in the mid-90s. SubhanAllah, reading this ‘rise & fall of salafi da’wa’ article really hit the spot. As a matter of fact it really hurt, because everything the brother said was true (Allah knows best). The sad thing is, though, that the factors that lead to the decline of this da’wa in the U.S. (and the U.K.) still exist among the brothers. Brothers still have not woken up. I still hear brothers arguing about issues like al-Ma’ribi, who is/isn’t on the min-HAAJ, who are the ‘REAL’ salafi ulamaa’…

    It makes one wonder, why did this happen? Is it because the intentions of alot of brothers weren’t sincere? I mean this is a call to REAL Islam…the Islam of the Prophet (S.A.W.)and his companions. How could this happen.
    (I also noticed all the sufis, deobandis, tablighis, etc sitting on the sidelines laughing theirs ***** off (in joy) at all of this!)

    Muslim Apple: El Detroity check out my House Rules before you comment next time.

  26. Asalamu alaykum,

    El-Detroity: Personally, I think there was a serious lack of knowledge which in turn lead to weakness of emaan and incorrect intentions in the ranks of some of those that call themselves salafi.

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