The Salafi movement or Salafist movement or Salafism is an ultra-conservative reform branch or movement within Sunni Islam that developed in Arabia in the first half of the 18th century. It advocated a return to the traditions of the salaf, who are the first three generations of scholars after the Prophet Muhammad.
The Salafist doctrine is centered around the concept of looking back to a prior historical period in an effort to understand how the contemporary world should be ordered. They reject religious innovation or bid'ah, and support the implementation of sharia (Islamic law)." The movement is often divided into three categories: the largest group are the purists (or quietists), who avoid politics; the second largest group are the activists, who get involved in politics; the smallest group are jihadists, who form a minority. In legal matters, Salafis 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.
The majority of the Salafis in the Gulf states reside in Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 46.87% of Qataris and 44.8% of Emiratis are Salafis. 5.7% of Bahrainis are Salafis and 2.17% of Kuwaitis are Salafis. Salafis are the "dominant minority" in Saudi Arabia. There are 4 million Saudi Salafis since 22.9% of Saudis are Salafis (concentrated in Najd). Salafi literalist creed has also gained some acceptance in Turkey.
The Salafi movement is often described as synonymous with Wahhabism, but Salafists consider the term "Wahhabi" derogatory. At other times, Salafism has been deemed a hybrid of Wahhabism and other post-1960s movements. Salafism has become associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam – and, particularly in the West, with the Salafi Jihadis who espouse violent jihad 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." However some contemporary Salafis follow "literal, traditional ... injunctions of the sacred texts", looking to Ibn Taymiyyah or his disciple Ibn Kathir rather than the "somewhat freewheeling interpretation" of 19th century figures Muhammad Abduh, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Rashid Rida.