In recent years, the Salafi methodology has come to be associated with the jihad of extremist groups that advocate the killing of innocent civilians.
The European Parliament, in a report commissioned in 2013 claimed that Wahhabi and Salafi groups are involved, mainly via Saudi charities, in the support and supply of arms to rebel groups around the world.
Salafis may be influenced by the Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali or the Hanafi schools of Sunni fiqh.
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." the "Companions" (Sahabah), the "Followers" (Tabi‘un), and the "Followers of the Followers" (Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in).
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.
Salafis view the Salaf as an eternal model for all succeeding Muslim generations in their beliefs, exegesis, method of worship, mannerisms, morality, piety and conduct: the Islam they practiced is seen as pure, unadulterated and, therefore, the ultimate authority for the interpretation of the Sunnah.
The Salafi da'wa is a methodology, but it is not a madh'hab in fiqh (jurisprudence) as is commonly misunderstood.