Difference Between Sunni and Salafi

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    Sunni vs Salafi

    Sunni and Salafi are two sects of Islam and Salafi are also known as ahle hadith. During the British rule in the Indian sub continent many major differences emerged in the Muslims which led to the intra-Muslim rivalry. It was in this period that many sects came into view such as deobandi, brailvi and ahle hadith or Salafi. Salafi emerged as a separate sect or maslak in a gradual process in the sub continent of India. The Salafis are a fundamentalist group that seeks to imitate the behavior of early Muslims.

    The real difference between Sunni and Salafi is that Sunnis believe Prophet Muhammad is Nur or enlightened soul to guide the Muslims whereas the Salafis believe he is a normal human being like me and you. Sunni and Salafi both have separate mosques and madrasas or schools. The Salafi rely solely upon the Quran and the hadith or Sunah of the prophet narrated by his companions.

    The Sunnis believe in the four imams and their school of thought whereas ahle hadith do not believe in taqleed or associationism. The Orthodox Sunnis have rigid beliefs in compliance with the four schools of thoughts of Sunni jurisprudence whereas Salafis follow only when their ruling is supported by Quran and Sunnah.They have aggressive attitude towards the Sunni beliefs and they openly oppose the customs of Sunnis.

    Salafi also do not believe in the cults of the saints and emphasize upon the obliteration of bida`h or wrongful innovation in Islam. Many Sunnis kneel before graves or prostrate that is strongly opposed by the Salafis. Sunnis believe in the intercession of the last Prophet and saints whether they are living or dead whereas the Salafi strictly oppose the arbitration and do not believe in the saints.

    Many Sunni see the Salafi as a hidden front of the Wahabis. Sunnis emphasize upon the adoration of the Prophet and the saints whereas Salafis fiercely oppose and have antagonistic attitude towards taqlid. Taqlid is a popular custom of Sunnis. Sunnis believe in the mysticism and ‘kalam.’ Sunnis celebrate the birthday of the holy Prophet and saints. They also commemorate Urs or the day of the death of saints. Salafis denounce these practices and despise the kalam or poetry of various saints and scholars in Islam because they believe that these innovations are only spreading misguidance and misleading the Muslims. Salafis place great emphasis on rituals and make religion a part of everyday activity. Many of them are careful to always follow the example of Muhammad and the companions. Much of the Salafi literature focuses on the intricate details of ritual practices and beliefs. Much of their publications teach the ‘correct’ methods of praying as well as rules and regulations related to dress, food or marriage etc to attack rival Muslim including Sunnis and other groups.


    1.Salafi emerged as a separate sect and minority in the Indian subcontinent during the British reign and have separate mosques and institutions than that of Sunnis.
    2.Sunni are the majority group and almost 90% of Muslim community belongs to Sunni sect.
    3.Salafi have fundamentalist beliefs and they condemn Sunni rituals and customs.
    4.Sunni believe in the intercession, prostration and arbitration by the saints whereas Salafis call these practices as bida`h or wrongful innovations in Islam.
    5.Salafi despise taqleed or associationalism and do not believe in saints or mysticism. They believe that Holy Prophet is just an ordinary human being whereas Sunnis believe that he is Nur sent to Earth in the form of a human being.

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