Western observers and analysts, often incorrectly associate the movement with the jihadis who espouse violent attacks against those they deem to be enemies of Islam as a legitimate expression of Islam.Academics and historians have used the term "Salafism" to denote "a school of thought which surfaced in the second half of the 19th century as a reaction to the spread of European ideas" and "sought to expose the roots of modernity within Muslim civilization".In legal matters, the Salafi are divided between those who, in the name of independent legal judgement (ijtihad), reject strict adherence (taqlid) to the four Sunni schools of law (madhahib), and others who remain faithful to these.Salafism has become associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam.The Salafi da'wa is a methodology, but it is not a madh'hab in fiqh (jurisprudence) as is commonly misunderstood.Salafis may be influenced by the Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali or the Hanafi schools of Sunni fiqh.However, the activists and jihadis have always been said to incorrectly claim to be Salafis, due to them opposing many of the foundational principles of Islam."Purists" are Salafists who focus on non-violent da'wah (preaching of Islam), education, and "purification of religious beliefs and practices".
This trend, who some call "politicos", see politics as "yet another field in which the Salafi creed has to be applied" in order to safeguard justice and "guarantee that the political rule is based upon the Shari'a".
In legal matters, Salafis are divided between those who, in the name of independent legal judgement (ijtihad), reject strict adherence (taqlid) to the four schools of law (madhahib) and others who remain faithful to these.
For followers of the Salafi movement, the "clear" (i.e.
1166), who wrote a short entry about the surname "al-Salafi" (the Salafi): "According to what I heard, this [surname indicates one's] ascription to the pious ancestors and [one's] adoption of their doctrine [madhhabihim]." The scholar Lauzière comments that, "al-Sam'ani could only list two individuals—a father and his son—who were known by it.
Plus, the entry contains blank spaces in lieu of their full names, presumably because al-Sam'ani had forgotten them or did not know them." Further, he states that "al-Sam'ani's dictionary suggests that the surname was marginal at best, and the lone quotation taken from al-Dhahabi, who wrote 200 years later, does little to prove Salafi claims." In the modern era, however, many Salafis adopt the surname "al-Salafi" and refer to the label "Salafiyya" in various circumstances to evoke a specific understanding of Islam that is supposed to differ from that of other Sunnis in terms of creed, law, morals, and behavior.