Can You Please Elaborate on What Defines a Sect per Classical Islamic Understanding

Categories'Aqaid [183]

Fatwa ID: 05669

 

Answered by: Maulana Syed Johir Miah

 

Question:

 

The word ‘sect’ is being used frequently without a real understanding of the classical Islamic definition.

Can you please elaborate on what defines a sect per classical Islamic understanding?

 

 

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

 

Answer:

 

The word ‘sect’ in Arabic is called فِرْقَة (Firqah).

 

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah( رضى الله عنه ) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

افْتَرَقَتِ اليَهُودُ عَلى إحْدى أوْ ثِنْتَيْنِ وسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً، وتَفَرَّقَتِ النَّصارى عَلى إحْدى أوْ ثِنْتَيْنِ وسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً، وتَفْتَرِقُ أُمَّتِي عَلى ثَلاثٍ وسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً

 

The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects, and the Christians were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects, and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.[1]

 

In it is the evidence of the virtue of holding fast to the Sunnah and adhering to it, especially when there are many innovations and the emergence of misguided desires on this issue.[2]

 

Sayyiduna Abdullah Ibn Amr( رضى الله عنهما ) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also described them in the following terms:

 

لَيَأْتِيَنَّ عَلى أُمَّتِي ما أتى عَلى بني إسرائيل حَذْوَ النَّعْلِ بِالنَّعْلِ، حَتّى إنْ كانَ مِنهُمْ مَن أتى أُمَّهُ عَلاَنِيَةً لَكانَ فِي أُمَّتِي مَن يَصْنَعُ ذَلِكَ، وإنَّ بني إسرائيل تَفَرَّقَتْ عَلى ثِنْتَيْنِ وسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً، وتَفْتَرِقُ أُمَّتِي عَلى ثَلاَثٍ وسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً، كُلُّهُمْ فِي النّارِ إلاَّ مِلَّةً واحِدَةً، قالُوا: ومَن هِيَ يا رَسُولَ اللهِ؟ قالَ: ما أنا عَلَيْهِ وأصْحابِي.

 

“What befell the children of Israil will befall my Ummah, step by step, such that if there was one who had intercourse with his mother in the open, then there would be someone from my Ummah who would do that. Indeed the children of Israil split into seventy-two sects, and my Ummah will split into seventy-three sects. All of them are in the Fire except one sect.” He said: “And which is it O Messenger(صلى الله عليه وسلم) of Allah?” He(صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “What I am upon and my Companions”.[3]

 

That is, Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah.[4]

 

A sect. It was said: The sect was originally what Allah prescribed for his servants of religion, then it expanded and was used in false sects. It was said that infidelity is one sect, and the meaning is that they separate into groups that each of them worships in contrast to what the other is religiously committed to, so he called their path a sect metaphorically.[5]

 

As for those who differ from that and follow the ways of the Mu‘tazilah, Shi‘ah, Murji’ah, Khawarij, Mushabbihah, Jismiyyah, Jabriyyah or other sects and followers of temptations and desires, these are the ones who has gone against Ahlus-Sunnah and is included among the blameworthy sects.[6]

 

Likewise, in this Hadith, there is commandment when there is separation and disagreement to adhere to his(صلى الله عليه وسلم) Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after him(صلى الله عليه وسلم), and the Sunnah is the way to be followed.

 

And the Sunnah: It is the path to be followed, and this includes adherence to what he(صلى الله عليه وسلم) and his rightly-guided caliphs were upon in terms of beliefs, actions and sayings, and this is the complete Sunnah, and that is why the early predecessors did not use the name “Sunnah” except for what includes all of that.[7]

 

His (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying: (And it is the congregation) means: That sect is called the Jamaa’ah because they are united on the word of truth and what the Muslims who are on guidance have unanimously agreed upon.[8]

 

 

Only Allah knows best.

Written by Maulana Syed Johir Miah

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

 

 

 

 

[1] Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 4596, 197/4, Al-Maktabatul Asriyyah, Beirut, Lebanon.

Sunan Tirmizi, (Bashshar) Hadith 2640, 322/4, Darul Gharbil Islami, Beirut, 1998.

 

[2]وفيه دليل على فضيلة الاعتصام بالسنة والتمسك بها، لا سيما عند كثرة البدع وظهور الأهواء المضلة في هذِه المسألة

Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud, Ibn Raslaan, 80/18, Darul Falah, Egypt, 1437 H.

 

[3] Sunan Tirmizi, (Bashshar) Hadith 2641, 322/4, Darul Gharbil Islami, Beirut, 1998.

 

[4]أي وهي أهل السنة والجماعة.

Bazlul Majhood, 7/13, Markazush Shaykh Abul Hasan An-Nadwee, 1427 H.

 

[5]فرقة قيل: الملة في الأصل ما شرع الله لعباده من الدين، ثم اتسعت فاستعملت في الملل الباطلة، فقيل الكفر ملة واحدة والمعنى أنهم يفترقون فرقًا يتدين كل واحد منهم بخلاف ما تتدين به الأخرى، فسمى طريقهم ملة مجازًا.

Fathul Wadood Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud, Sindee, 412/4, Maktabah Adhwa Al-Manar, Madina Munawwarah, Saudi Arabia, 1431 H.

 

[6]واعْلَمْ أنَّ أُصُولَ البِدَعِ كَما نُقِلَ فِي المَواقِفِ ثَمانِيَةٌ: المُعْتَزِلَةُ القائِلُونَ بِأنَّ العِبادَ خالِقُو أعْمالِهِمْ وبِنَفْيِ الرُّؤْيَةِ وبِوُجُوبِ الثَّوابِ والعِقابِ وهُمْ عِشْرُونَ فِرْقَةً، والشِّيعَةُ المُفْرِطُونَ فِي مَحَبَّةِ عَلِيٍّ كَرَّمَ اللَّهُ وجْهَهُ، وهُمُ اثْنانِ وعِشْرُونَ فِرْقَةً، والخَوارِجُ المُفْرِطَةُ المُكَفِّرَةُ لَهُ – ﵁ – ومَنأذْنَبَكَبِيرَةًوهُمْعِشْرُونَفِرْقَةً،والمُرْجِئَةُالقائِلَةُبِأنَّهُلايَضُرُّمَعَالإيمانِمَعْصِيَةٌ،كَمالايَنْفَعُمَعَ الكُفْرِ طاعَةٌ، وهِيَ خَمْسُ فِرَقٍ، والنَّجّارِيَّةُ المُوافِقَةُ لِأهْلِ السُّنَّةِ فِي خَلْقِ الأفْعالِ، والمُعْتَزِلَةُ فِي نَفْيِ الصِّفاتِ وحُدُوثِ الكَلامِ، وهُمْ ثَلاثُ فِرَقٍ، والجَبْرِيَّةُ القائِلَةُ بِسَلْبِ الِاخْتِيارِ عَنِ العِبادِ فِرْقَةٌ واحِدَةٌ، والمُشَبِّهَةُ الَّذِينَ يُشَبِّهُونَ الحَقَّ بِالخَلْقِ فِي الجِسْمِيَّةِ والحُلُولِ فِرْقَةٌ أيْضًا فَتِلْكَ اثْنانِ وسَبْعُونَ فِرْقَةً كُلُّهُمْ فِي النّارِ، والفِرْقَةُ النّاجِيَةُ هُمْ أهْلُ السُّنَّةِ البَيْضاءِ المُحَمَّدِيَّةِ والطَّرِيقَةِ النَّقِيَّةِ الأحْمَدِيَّةِ

Mirqatul Mafatih, Mulla Ali Qari, 259/1, Darul Fikr, Beirut, Lebanon, 1422 H.

 

[7]وكذلك في هذا الحديث أمر عندَ الافتراق والاختلاف بالتمسُّك بسنَّته وسنَّةِ الخلفاء الرّاشدين من بعده، والسُّنة: هي الطريقة المسلوكةُ، فيشمل ذلك التمسُّك بما كان عليه هو وخلفاؤه الرّاشدونَ مِنَ الاعتقادات والأعمال والأقوال، وهذه هي السُّنةُ الكاملةُ، ولهذا كان السلف قديمًا لا يُطلقون اسم السُّنَّةِ إلا على ما يشمل ذلك كلَّه، ورُوي معنى ذلك عن الحسن والأوزاعي والفُضيل بن عياض.

Jamiul ilm Wal Hikam, Ibn Rajab, 772/2, (Fahl), Darus Salam, 1424 H.

 

[8]قوله: (وهي الجماعة) أي: تلك الفرقة مسماة بالجماعة لكونهم مجتمعين على كلمة الحق وما أجمع عليه المسلمون الذين هم على الهدى

Lamatut Tanqeeh Sharh Mishkaatul Masabih, Abdul Haqq Dihlawi, 495/1, Darun Nawadir.

 

 

 

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