I am frequently asked this question, or a derivative thereof. I often hesitate to answer it for fear of backlash from answering without knowledge. Nonetheless I’d like to share what goes though my mind when I am asked this question. Note these are my thoughts, not a cut and paste answer.

The question is rooted in the desire to find this salafee utopia. I’ve been Muslim for a while now and in the beginning I used to be one of those who envisioned this utopia where everyone is a part hive minded collective calling themselves “salafee”, everyone in town is sitting with an approved Shaykh, there are abundant good paying jobs, nice clean streets, no racism, and modern technology.

This is the realization that people have to come to: It does not exist. NO PLACE IS PERFECT.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. Not only is it a Muslim country, but it is one that prides itself for preserving the sunnah, applying the Sharia, and encouraging and making readily available Islamic knowledge. Saudi is also a tribal country and you will have tribes with various people in them. You will have to search hard to find a tribe, village, neighborhood, or family, where all members have the same level of eemaan, taqwa, knowledge, and everyday application of Islam. I doubt you can find a single salafee family or tribe here, how likely will you find a salafee community? As a matter of fact the majority of the religious people here weren’t always religious and have rediscovered their deen. This may not be for the scholars, because most of them were raised to upon sound Islamic Tarbiyah.

When I’m asked about where the salafees are, the first thing I think is why ask me a foreigner? Sure it’s because I’m who you have access to, but really a question like that could never be answered by someone who does not know the country like the locals. Now ask a local and they will look at you like you are crazy. Why? Because to them if you are not rafaadee (they have their communities) then you are sunni/salafee. The common Saudi will not know exactly what you mean by that and will point out the nearest Mutawwa. To them Mutawwa = Salafee. The more savvy Saudi will note the difference between the Muttawa with the iqal on his shammaq/ghutra and the one without. Depending on what you believe a salafee is and what they believe a salafee is –  you will be led to believe different things about the ones who wear the iqal and don’t. 

Unless of course, one is referring to salafiyyah in a Western Muslim mentality of some clique and not salafiyyah as in the true and correct Islam with all its implications. I say this, because I had the privilege to be invited to a Western Salafee Eid gathering one year. About five families from Riyadh came to the gathering. One of the sisters, informed me that she would “only vouch for the salafiyyah” of two of the other sisters there. She explained to me that Riyadh had many families claiming salafiyyah but they were not ‘clear salafees and that as far as she was concerned there were only three salafee families in Riyadh. Later, she mentioned a friend of mine who lives in Jeddah and told me that “She’s a hizbi and I hate her for the sake of Allah!” When I told her that my friend claims to be salafee and even studies with one of the Shaykhs that she takes from, she insisted that this was not true. She told me that there were only three salafee families in all of Jeddah and that she knew all of the families that sat in the Shaykh’s talk and that my friend was NOT one. I told her that she may be aware of all the English speakers that sat in the small translated halaqa but that my friend and her children sat with the Arabic speakers and that surely there were more than 3 salafee families in Jeddah and Riyadh. We disagreed on this point. Her last words on the matter being that if my friend wanted to claim salafiyyah then she needed to speak to her first and clear herself. So when someone ask me who and where the salafees are, they are asking the wrong person and should ask this sister instead and according to her there are 3 in Jeddah and 3 in Riyadh, so I wouldn’t exactly call that a community.

Before my husband became Muslim, he was given dawah by a Saudi. Shortly after moving here, my husband was visited by an American Salafee. This Saudi who gave him dawah took him and the American Salafee out one day. One of the trips was to a bookshop. The American Brother purchased several books and tapes by Shaykh Rabee. He showed them to the Saudi brother. The Saudi asked him why was he focusing on the works of that one Shaykh which were over his head, considering he couldn’t even speak Arabic. The brother starting arguing with him via my husband who had to translate everything! Later the brother went back to Riyadh and spread the word that my husband is friends with a hizbi who hates the Salafees and the Mashaykh! My husband informed the Saudi of this who said nothing of it. Later he called my husband and asked him to accompany him on a trip to Riyadh. There he took my husband to meet many of the Ulema. He met the Grand Muftee, Shaykh Fawzan, and went to the home of Shaykh Ibn Jibreen (who some salafee brothers called an ‘idiot’ to my husband). The Saudi man is well known with the Shayook and has a binder full of Shahadah’s, Tazkiyah’s, and Ijazah’s from the most prominant of them such as Shaykh Bin Baz and Shaykh Uthameen. He writes many books but uses a pen name because he refutes those such as the rafadees and he lives in the Eastern Province which has a huge Rafadee community. While sitting with Shaykh Fawzan, he mentioned to him that some American brothers were warning against him and calling him a Hizbi. Shaykh Fawzaan shook his head, laughed told the brother that his work is good and beneficial, to continue and to put icing on the cake, told the brother to give him the manuscript of the book that he had written and earlier shown the Shaykh because he wanted to write the forward for it! So according to this American Salafee brother, the Saudi da’ee is a Hizbi, but according to the many Ulema who he is well known amongst, he is praiseworthy.

Bottom line is that this is a moot point. IMHO it should be a mute point! Why? Because once you have made it over here, you will realise the the main concern is looking out for your family. You are already surrounded by Muslims. Find a location to live that is good for your family. The people and students of knowledge are abundant here and you will not have to look far to seek knowledge. If you limit yourself to the handful of students recommended by the Shaykhs who were recommended by the mouth pieces of the Western Muslim communities, you will be at a lost that’s if you want to study, everybody can’t be a student). The schools and masajid here are not established and founded upon who is on the manhaj and who isn’t. I have heard of brothers not praying in their local Masjid, because the there is no salafee masjid in their area, so they travel on Jumuah to attend the nearest salafee masjid. This is ridiculous! The masajid here are all government ran and all of the Imams are Government appointed. To be able to speak at the masjid after the prayer, it must be approved. Some of the ‘known’ (by Westerners but Saudies don’t know who you are talking about) Salafee Shayook have been reduced to doing the same things as some of the ‘hizbi’ Shaykhs and that is to grab the mic after the prayer without permission in hopes of doing a quick talk before being kicked out. Others are Imams of their neighborhood masjid and others have talks in their home or are invited to speak at gatherings. I’ve also been told of sisters being boycotted for going to a Quran school in Riyadh that is connected to a masjid with an Imaam that they do not approve of!

My advice is not to concern yourself with where the salafees are in KSA. After all this is the Land of Tawheed, you are not coming here for a Salafee community. If that’s your number one priority move to Philly. More than likely, what you mean by Salafee anyway, will be few and far between and there is no community based on that. Simply find a good job and if you have several options choose the one that is best for your deen and your dunyah. After that choose your companions wisely based on the Book and the Sunnah, work on your deen, be kind to your neighbors, keep the ties of your family that you left behind, establish an Islamic home for your family and fear Allah in all that you do.

Salafiyyah (Islam) is a way of life a Muslim should try to aspire to and not a cultish members only movement where people can expel who they want. This is why the concept of this question would be lost of most people in Saudi Arabia. They don’t look at Salafiyyah as a movement or cult as Westerners do. Salafiyyah includes raising your children properly, working and providing for one’s family, being neighborly and all of these things even if the people are not saying the word “salafee” at all. It is a natural thing and not a robotic cult.