In Majalla al-Muslim: al-Ashira al-Muhammadiyya, Sayyid Abu al-Taqi Ahmad Khalil penned an article with the title: “Imam al-Shatibi: the Sufi-Salafi.” He said: “The book, al-Itisam, is one of the books the would-be Salafis consider as a reference work for their views, and they believe that imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi is one of their imams. In this book of his, imam al-Shatibi compiled some nice sections concerning Islamic Sufism, affirming that it is from the religion and not innovated. He spoke lucidly, silencing the tongues and causing the hearts and intellects to concur…”:
Many of the ignorant believe that the Sufis are lax in adherence [to the Sunna] and that they follow that which the Sharia did not bring or oblige, both in their statements and actions. They are far removed from believing or saying that. The first thing upon which they built their path is adherence to the sunna and turning away from what opposes it–so much so that their teacher, the guiardian of their way and the pillar of their path, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, said that they took the name of Sufism so as to exclude themselves from the people of innovation. He mentioned that after the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. the Muslims did not give their virtuous ones a distinct name other than “companionship” [with the prophet ﷺ], for there was no virtue above that. Those who came after them were then called the followers, and after that, the people differed and the levels [of people] became disparate. Those among the elite who possessed serious attention to the religion were called ascetics and devout worshipers. [Al-Qushayri] said that after this, innovation became manifest and every sect claimed that they were the ascetic worshipers, so the elite of ahl al-Sunnah who were vigilant with their selves and Allah and who guarded their hearts from heedlessness, took on the name of Sufism–so contemplate this well, and Allah knows best. (1)
Sources (1) Majalla al-Muslim: al-Ashira al-Muhammadiyya: Dhu al-Qida: 1373 H.