So the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam told us the disease, he told
us the solution to that disease, and then he went a step further. He
went a step further and told us the virus that causes that disease. He
pointed out the reason why there will be this disease. He said, “And I
caution you (I warn you) against newly invented matters." These were
matters of the religion that were not known to the early generations;
that were not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Again, “I warn you
against them, I caution you about them.” He went on: "Be careful because
every single one of these innovations is qualified as a bid'a, and
every bid'a is a misguidance, and every misguidance leads to the fire of
Hell." This is the virus that causes the disease of ikhtilaaf.
Think about it my dear brothers and sisters. Think about it. The
Sahaabaa were one, they were united. They did not differ amongst
themselves in the slightest bit with regards to this religion of Islam,
the names and attributes of Allah, the concept of destiny, and any of
the aspects of aqeedah. They did not differ. Yet we find in our time so
many different groups. What must have happened?
Historically speaking, the first group came along, the Khawaarij, and
they invented something which the Sahaabaa did not agree on. So the next
generation found two opinions – that of the Sahaabaa and that of the
Khawaarij. And then another group came, the Rafidha, and they invented a
third opinion. And then the Qadariyyah, and then the Jahmiyyah, and
then the Muht'azila and then the Asha'ira, until in our times we are
surrounded by a myriad of groups and we do not know where to turn to.
So the cause of this problem was that people kept on inventing, adding,
and appending to the religion of Islam, to the understanding of the
Sahaabaa, to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Bid'as (innovations), is how
this disunity started and this is why it is still here. As the Prophet
sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
"My Ummah will split into seventy-three groups. Every single one of them is destined for the fire of Hell except one."
In an authentic hadith of Tirmidhi, the companions asked, "Who are they, ya RasulAllah?"
The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, "The group that follows what I am upon today and my companions."
Once again, the emphasis here is put on “I and my companions.” This
infers that it is essential to look at how the Prophet lived and how the
Sahaabee understood and implemented Islam from him. This statement is
of paramount importance. We should understand that if we do not heed it,
we will be left as the majority of groups have been left; with no
standards, criterion, and judge of what is right and what is wrong.
My dear brothers and sisters, in this legacy he left us, the Prophet sal
Allaahu alayhi wa sallam shined a light on one of the most difficult
problems the Muslim Ummah faces – the problem of ikhtilaaf, of disunity.
He warned us of the divisions to come within the Ummah, but also gave
us a solution – turn back to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is the Hadith of 'Irbad ibn Sa'riya,
the legacy that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam left us upon.
He said, "I have left you upon the shining path, its night is like its
day. No one will deviate from it except that he wishes to be destroyed."
“…Its night is like its day…” meaning anyone who wants to be guided will
be guided; anyone who wants to search for the truth will find it. The
path is clear. There is no darkness. Any Muslim who sincerely wishes to
be guided, nay, any kafir, any non-Muslim who sincerely wants to be
guided, it is not possible that he will be misguided. The path is too
clear; it is a promise of Allah 'azza wa jal. The only one who will
deviate from this is the one who follows his own desires, the one who
does not want to be guided. This is the one who like the Prophet sal
Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said will go astray because he wishes to go
astray, he wishes to destroy himself.
My dear brothers and sisters, the religion of Islam is a perfect
religion. We all say this to the point that it has now become a cliché
and we don’t even understand what it really means. Going back to the
Qur’an, Allah says:
Today I have perfected your religion for you and completed my favors
upon you and I have been pleased with Islam as your way of life.
What do we understand of Islam’s perfection from this verse? It means
that the Islam of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, the Islam
that was practiced by the companions, that is the perfect Islam; there
cannot be an Islam better than that. Time or place is irrelevant; there
is no such thing as reversions or evolutions of Islam. We do not make
distinctions and say there is a Pakistani Islam, an Arab Islam, a
Lebanese Islam, or a Philistini Islam. Nor is there such a thing as an
18th century Islam and a 20th century Islam. Islam does not evolve. Our
beliefs don’t evolve. Our fiqh, the fundamentals of our fiqh do not
change. We are not talking about the minor differences that the Shari'ah
has allowed us to undertake from time to time and place to place. We
are talking about the broad general laws of Islam; they do not change
from time to time and place to place. Therefore, when we find this
differing, the solution is to take it back to that perfection as it
existed, in the time of the Sahaabaa when there was no ikhtilaaf.
My dear brothers and sisters, we find many aayaat and ahadeeth where the
importance of unity is stressed. Some of these include:
…hold on fast all of you to the rope of Allah and do not be disunited.
The believers are brothers so reconcile between them (Do not let them fight with one another).
And the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
“All of you together be brothers in worship of Allah."
We all know the importance of unity, yet we also know that the Prophet
sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam predicted that the Muslim Ummah will be
disunited. In fact, the Qur’an itself predicted it as Allah says:
Those that have split up the religions and become into parties and groups, you have nothing to do with them.
The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam also warned us against innovation. As he said in one hadith:
"Whoever innovates in it or supports an innovator, then the curse of
Allah and the curse of the angels and the curse of all of mankind will
be upon him (Allah will not except from him any good deed).”
In another hadith the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
"On the Day of Judgment I will see a group of Muslims and I will
recognize them by the signs of wudu. I will recognize them as Muslims
and I will say come to me. But the angels will come in between and they
will beat them away from me. So I will tell the angels, ‘These are my
Ummah, these are the people of my Ummah,’ and the angel will respond,
‘You do not know what they have changed after you.’” In other words you
do not know what they have innovated into the religion after you. So the
Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam will say, "Go away (be away, go
off). I have nothing to do with you if you change anything after me."
What is the basis of Muslim unity? We know we have to be unified and
that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam has cursed innovations and
rejected them. So what is the basis? How do we unify when within the
Muslim Ummah, two extremes are present.
The first extreme is that a person considers any and every difference to
be a big deal. If you differ with them about anything, then you become
a'oodhubillah, a kafir. Even the smallest difference such as whether
you say ameen out loud or silently, and immediately the conclusion is
made that this person is a deviant, and a kafir. This is the one
The other extreme is the exact opposite, which is to ignore every single
difference of opinion. Such people just want the masses to come
together. They prefer quantity over quality so they ignore every single
ikhtilaaf. It does not matter what they say about Allah, the Sahaabaa,
the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, etc. As long as someone claims
to be a Muslim, they are okay. This is the other extreme.
As usual, the true correct group of Islam and the Muslims is always in
the middle, between the two extremes. Not every single ikhtilaaf should
lead to ikhtilaaf of the hearts. Not every single difference of opinion
should lead to boycotting, leaving, or considering someone to be a
deviant or a non-Muslim.
What is the criterion then? How do we know which ikhtilaaf is important
and which one can be ignored? In reality, this is something the scholars
are qualified to do. They are the ones who in general know what is
important and what is not. But there is a simple rule of thumb that most
of us can apply. We should rely upon the scholars who follow the way of
the Qur’an and Sunnah and the early companions. Turn to them. If they
make a big deal about an issue, then make a big deal about it. And if
they trivialize it and say no big deal, do not make a big deal about it.
Let us always see if the companions disagreed about an issue or if they
were unanimous in their opinion. The Sahaabaa did differ about many
things but their differences never led to a problem of the heart. They
may have had a difference regarding a certain opinion, but they were
still brothers in Islam because these differences were trivial. If we
find that the companions were unanimous about an issue, then we too
should follow the unanimous opinion. For example, if the companions
were unanimous against a certain act, yet someone claims it to be from
the Shair’ah, then the general rule of thumb applies and we should rule
with the unanimous opinion that the act is not correct.
Take it back to the early generations of Islam; this is a simple rule of
thumb. Ask youself, “Is this understanding, this belief, this aqeedah,
this practice, shared by the Sahaabaa? Is this methodology I’m being
asked to follow, something that was implemented by the companions, by
the Tabi'oon, by the Taba Tabi'oon?” They were the ones with the correct
understanding so if they implemented it, then alhamdullilah. If not,
then it must be a newly invented matter.
A point of caution is that we must realize that unity and brotherhood is
based upon a person's eman. The stronger a person’s eman is, the
stronger your brotherhood and love must be for him. And the weaker it
is, then the weaker your brotherhood and love will be. So your
brotherhood for a Muslim who does not pray five times a day, or who does
not fast the month of Ramadan, or who is involved in a major sin, or
who is involved in a major innovation is not like the brotherhood and
unity you feel towards a Muslim who is pious, prays five times a day,
fasts the month of Ramadan, and avoids the major sins.
But it is not black and white, and this is the mistake most Muslims
make; there are shades of gray in between. You look at every single
person and you see the good in him as well as the evil, and accordingly
you love him for the good and you hate him for the evil. So the unity
will be based upon his eman.
Unity is not a slogan that we unite with every Muslim who says, “I am
Muslim.” No. Unity is based on adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah. The
closer a person adheres to the Qur’an and Sunnah, the closer our unity
is with him. And if someone disagrees with the Qur’an and Sunnah, and
the understanding of the early generations, then he is the one causing
disunity by refusing to go back to the Qur’an and Sunnah and by refusing
to go back to the understanding of the early generations, not us. This
is the person who is breaking away from us and we are not breaking away
What is so important about the salaf and the scholars of the past and
the Sahaabaa and the Tabi'oon that we have to follow them? I will quote a
few proofs to illustrate the importance of taking this ikhtilaaf back
to them. The first set of proofs is the Qur’anic proofs, the aayaat of
the Qur’an which prove the high status of the Sahaabaa. And there are
literally dozens of verses in the Qur’an discussing the status of the
Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Allah.
Allah has testified that he is pleased with the Sahaabaa. Therefore, should we not go back to them when we differ?
You are the best Ummah that has been sent to mankind.
The second set of evidences is the ahadith of the Prophet sal Allaahu
alayhi wa sallam, some of which have been quoted earlier already:
"The best of nations is my nation, and then those that come after them, and then those that come after them."
The hadith of 'Irbad ibn Sa'riya: "I command you to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifas after me."
The hadith of seventy-three groups, and when he was asked who the one
safe group was he said, “That which follows what I am following and my
The third set of evidences is the statements of the companions
themselves. When innovations spread and the Khawaarij came and then the
Shi'a and the Rafidha and so on and so forth, the companions advised
those after them to stick with the Sahaabaa of the Prophet sal Allaahu
alayhi wa sallam. Realize that in the time of the Sahaabaa, three
deviant groups came and yet, not a single Sahaabee ever went to those
groups. As Ibn Masoud said, "Follow us and don't innovate after us
because it is sufficient for you what we are upon (What we are doing is
sufficient for you, don't do more than that).”
The fourth set of proofs is the proofs from history, Islamic History.
From Islamic History we see that the Sahaabaa were united in their
beliefs and in their theology. These deviant groups that came after
them, not a single companion was amongst them. The Khawaarij, they
numbered in the thousands, and they fought the Sahaabaa in many wars.
Never did any companion leave the ranks of the companions and join the
Khawaarij. Ali radi Allahu anhu himself was alive when the Rafidha were
there and he had some of them executed. Likewise, the Qadareeya, they
too appeared when the Sahaabaa were alive. None of the companions
joined them. And the same follows for the other three generations as
well. The group of the Sunnah, Ahlul Sunnah Wal Jam’a, or the Sunni
Muslims, they were distinct and clear. There was only one Ahlul Sunnah
Wal Jam’a for over two hundred and fifty years. Any other group had
other names. Be it the Jahmeeya, the Mu'atazila, the Asha'riya, the
Qulabeeya, the Qadareeya, and others. But the Ahlul Sunnah were always
one. So for the first two hundred and fifty years, it was clear who was
following the Sunnah and who was a deviant.
The fifth set of proofs is a logical proof. Obviously, the best
generation that we should go back to for a criterion, for a reference,
is the Sahaabaa. So from a common sense point of view, we need to have a
standard, and that standard is the Sahaabaa.
And the last set of proofs is a realistic proof. This proof becomes
apparent if we examine many of the groups today. All of the groups today
claim they follow the Qur’an and Sunnah. They claim to be Sunni groups,
following the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and at the same time claim each
other to be kafir. So realistically speaking there must be something
more and we believe that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam must
have told us about it. He could not have told us the problem without
telling us the solution, and he did. Realistically speaking, the
solution is not just the Qur’an and Sunnah, which of course is the
fundamental, but the Qur’an and Sunnah based upon the understanding of
the early generations.
There is a famous slogan that we hear amongst many Muslim groups.
"Whatever we disagree about we will ignore, and whatever we agree about
we will cooperate in." This slogan is not a precise slogan, rather it
should be: "Whatever we agree about we will cooperate in, whatever we
disagree about we will take it back to the Qu’ran and the Sunnah and the
understanding of the early generations." With this slogan, we will be
My dear Muslims, unity does not come from quantity; it comes through
quality. It comes through a person's eman, taqwa, and adherence to the
Qur’an and Sunnah based upon the understanding of the early generations.
If a person does not wish to be upon that understanding, then he is the
one causing problems, he is the one breaking away, he is the one
becoming disunited and fractionalized.
Therefore, in conclusion I advise you just as the Prophet sal Allaahu
alayhi wa sallam advised the companions, to have the taqwa of Allah
'azza wa jal, and to listen and obey – to listen and obey even if your
rulers are people whom you do not like because you will see, you have
seen, and all of us have seen, a lot of ikhtilaaf. So when we see it,
let us revisit the Sunnah of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam
and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifas after him. Hold onto
this, stick with this; this is the way we will be united, this is the
way that we will be saved. And I caution you, just as Prophet sal
Allaahu alayhi wa sallam I warn you against innovations, against bid'as.
Because every single innovation into this religion is a bid'a, and
every bid'a is a misguidance, and every misguidance leads to the fire of
I pray that Allah 'azza wa jal guides us to the correct understanding of
Islam. That He makes us united as Muslims, submitting ourselves to Him.
And that He resurrects us upon eman. Ameen