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The Seventy-Three Sects: Are the Majority of Muslims Innovators?

The Seventy-Three Sects: Are the Majority of Muslims Innovators?

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Published by Faheem Lea
A very well-written treatise about the subject of who the Saved Sect is in Islam. A popular notion is that it is restricted to a small group who claim to follow the way of the Salaf, but by their small numbers alone is what disqualifies them. Read on...
A very well-written treatise about the subject of who the Saved Sect is in Islam. A popular notion is that it is restricted to a small group who claim to follow the way of the Salaf, but by their small numbers alone is what disqualifies them. Read on...

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Published by: Faheem Lea on Mar 23, 2013
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THE SEVENTY-THREE SECTS
 Are the Majority of Muslims Innovators?
 Jawziyyah Institute:Creative Commons Licence, 2012
he Qur’an goes to great lengths to stress the importance, necessity and obligation of comprehensive Muslim unity. For instance, it says:
And hold fast, altogether, to the Rope of Allah and be not divided.
(3:102)
It also insists:
And be not of the idolaters. Those who split up their religion and become sects, each party rejoicing in what it has.
(30:31-2)
Elsewhere:
 T
‘My nation will split-up into seventy-three sects, all of them in the Firesave one: that which I and my Companions are upon.’ [Hadith]
Surkheel Sharif
 
And dispute not with one another lest you lose heart and your strength departs 
.
(8:46)
It further ordains:
The believers are but brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren.
(49:10)
Given such verses, and given the numerous exhortations in the Prophet’s
Sunnah,
peace be upon him, about the obligation of Muslims unity (andthe virtues, rank and honour of the Muslim nation or
ummah 
), the hadithsthat speak about the
ummah 
splitting into seventy-odd sects, all save onedestined for Hell, seem to contradict the spirit of what has just preceded.It is understandable, then, why some scholars deemed such hadiths to be‘problematic’, struggling to fit it into the overall ethos of excellence thatthis
ummah 
is described with in the sacred texts. For what merit is therein a nation so riddled with divisions and schism and where, seemingly, thegreat bulkof its followers are heading for the Fire?The paper is divided into ten sections so as to aid the flow of theology andthought: the
ummah’s 
 virtues; the actual hadiths; their authenticities; themeaning of splitting-up; are most Muslims innovators?; confusion aboutthe
 jamå‘ah;
mark of the saved sect; the
salaf 
and
salaf•s;
salafism today;and lastly, the saved-sectsyndrome.
I.the ummah’s merits and virtues
The Qur’an states that the Muslim
ummah 
- that is to say, those who haveresponded to the call of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, andhave faith (
•mån 
) in what he was sent with - is the best of all nations:
You are the best nation ever raised for mankind; you enjoin the good, forbid the evil and believe in Allah.
(3:110)
The same notion can be heard reverberating in the words of the Prophet,peace be upon him, such as when he said: ‘You are the last of seventy-nations; you are the best of them and the most honoured of them in thesight of Allah.’
1
 Jawziyyah Institute:Creative Commons Licence, 2012
www.jawziyyah.comThe Seventy-Three Sects
2
 
One hadith informs us: ‘We are the last, but will be the first on the Day of  Judgement; for we shall be the first to enter Paradise.’
2
 Another hadith offers this glad-tiding: ‘The people of Paradise compriseof one hundred and twenty ranks; eighty of them are from this
ummah,
and forty from the other nations.’
3
Thus, more than half the inhabitantsof the blissful Garden - two-thirds, in fact - are from this blessed nation.Ibn Kath•r, the hadith master, historian and Shåfi‘• exegesist, wrote:
This
ummah 
only achieved such pre-eminence due to its ProphetMuhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. For heis the noblest of all Allah’s creation and the most honoured of HisMessengers.
4
Something of the size and magnitude of this
ummah 
can be gauged by thefollowing hadith. Ibn ‘Abbås relates that the Prophet, peace be upon him,said: ‘Nations were presented to me and I saw a prophet with one or twofollowers; another prophet who had a few followers; and yet another withno followers. I then saw a huge multitude of people filling the horizon,and hoped that this was my nation. But it was said to me that this is Mosesand his people. I was then told to look, and I saw another great multitudeof people filling the horizon. I was told to look here, and here as well, and[again] I saw huge multitudes who filled the horizon. It was then said tome: These are your nation. Along with them, seventy-thousand will enterParadise without reckoning or punishment.’
5
Zooming in with the theologian’s lens, we pick-up a further detail. For inone addition to this hadith the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘I askedmy Lord for increase, so He increased it. Thus with every thousand there would be another seventy-thousand.’
6
Hence the numbers that will enterParadise from this
ummah,
 without reckoning, is enormous (a literal takeon this hadith puts the number at 70 x 70,000
=
4,900,000) ; whilst those
www.jawziyyah.comThe Seventy-Three Sects
 Jawziyyah Institute:Creative Commons Licence, 2012
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