Salaf or as-Salaf aṣ-Ṣāliḥ (السلف الصالح) can be variously translated as "(righteous) predecessors" or "(righteous) ancestors." In Islamic terminology, it is generally used to refer to the first three generations of Muslims:
Tābi‘īn: (Arabic: التابعين, "The Successors") Those who had met or had seen the ṣaḥāba while in a state of īmān (belief), and then died on that state.
Tāba‘ at-Tābi‘īn: (Arabic: تابع التابعين, "The Successors of the Successors") Those who had met or had seen the tābi`īn while in a state of īmān, and then died on that state.
In a ḥadīth (prophetic tradition), Muhammad says of the salaf, "The best people are those living in my generation, then those coming after them, and then those coming after (the second generation)." (Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī )
Following is an incomplete alphabetical list of the Salaf.
The word salaf is mentioned in the Qur'an in the following verses:
"When they angered Us, We punished them and drowned them every one. And We made them a thing past (salafan), and an example for those after." (43:55-56)
"Tell those who disbelieve that if they cease (from persecution of believers) that which is past (salafa) will be forgiven them; but if they return (thereto) then the example of the men of old hath already gone (before them, for a warning). And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for God. But if they cease, then lo! God is Seer of what they do." (8:38-39)