What is your view of those who differentiate between the Salafis and Ahl al-Sunnah, and who regard the Salafis as a more specific group than Ahl al-Sunnah, and they that the principles of this group are based on the opinions of the group’s shaykhs?
This is not correct, because the Ahl al-Sunnah are those who follow the Sahaabah and the path of the Salaf (the early generations of Islam). These are not two distinct groups, and the Salafis are not a more specific group!
According to the terminology that is well known, the Salaf are the Sahaabah and those who follow their path, and the Ahl al-Sunnah are those who follow the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). They are the ones concerning whom the hadeeth was reported: “Whoever follows the same path as me and my Companions” (The hadeeth about the saved group).
Stirring up disputes and conflict on the grounds of names alone is not permissible. Allaah has commanded the believers to be united and has forbidden them to be divided and warned them against that.
The individual’s aim must be to seek the truth, and when he speaks he should say what is fair and just, and not hate individuals in such a way that his hatred makes him reject the truth that the person is saying, or look for faults in him. He should not come up with things that are ambiguous or far-fetched for that purpose. This is not the way of Ahl al-Sunnah, and the Muslim has to like for his brother what he likes for himself. He must be sincere towards him, and hold love and sincerity in his heart.