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Is Differing a Mercy – How Do We Unite the Ummah?

Shaykh Abū Khadījah

The topic is related to the unity of the Muslims, the issue of ikhtilāf – differing and splitting. There is not a single Muslim alive today who has anything to do with the dīn or religion of Allāh (subhānahu wa-taʿāla) except that he recognizes the fact that Muslims are divided and they have split and they are torn apart and that they are in fractions. No Muslim can fail to recognize this, anyone who is involved in daʿwah, anyone who is involved in mainstream islam will recognize this.

There are groups that attack other groups, groups that have split away from other groups. There are Islamic organizations calling to a methodology, another organization calling to a different methodology, there is also a difference in focus of various islamic groups. Muslims are fairly united upon the recognition of the fact that the ummah of Muḥammad (ﷺ)- meaning the Islamic nation today is in a state of distress, it is in a state of torment, it is in a state of weakness. Every Muslim or most Muslim organizations have their own idea and methodology with regard to rectification and with regard to the revival of the Islamic Ummah.

Certain Islamic organizations believe that the best way to revive the Islamic Ummah is by returning to a spiritual past, or to a spiritual esoteric form of Islām. Other Muslims believe the way to change the Islamic Ummah and bring it back to its former glory is by way of entering into politics and liberal democracy. Other Muslims believe that there is no future in recognizing the Islamic world or giving it any form of recognition, rather all of it must be pulled down like a house is demolished then rebuilt upon its foundations. Other Muslims believe that they should go out and give daʿwah, by leaving their homes and travelling around the world for years giving daʿwah. All of these inclinations exist within the Muslims and yet each of these groups, some say they are Hanafi, Shāfiʿī, Ḥanbali, Maliki, etc, each of them having their own way and method of performing the ritual acts of worship within Islām.

The first thing to understand is that Allāh (Subḥānahu wa-Taʿālah) in the Qurʾān commands us with unity. He condemns and forbids disunity and separation. Allāh mentions,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ ‎﴿١٠٢﴾‏

“O you who believe fear Allāh as He should be feared, and don’t die except that you die as Muslims”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:102].

Then Allāh continues in the next āyah, Allāh mentions,

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ‎﴿١٠٣﴾‏

“And hold on to the rope of Allāh all of you united together, and do not be separated and do not divide, and remember the blessings of Allāh upon you when you were enemies one to another, and Allāh brought your hearts together, and that you became by the mercy of Allāh and by the grace of Allāh and by the bounty of Allāh you became brothers one to another, and you were upon the edge of the pit of the hellfire and Allāh saved you from that, and likewise Allāh clarifies His signs and His verses and His ayāt so that you may become guided”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:103].

Allāh mentions,

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ‎﴿١٠٤﴾‏

“Let there rise from you amongst you a party that calls to all that is good, and it enjoins the good and they forbid the evil, and they are the ones who are the successful”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:104].

Allāh mentions,

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ تَفَرَّقُوا وَاخْتَلَفُوا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ ‎﴿١٠٥﴾‏

“And do not be like those who divided and those who differed after it came to them the clear evidence, and for them is a great and immense torment and punishment”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:105].

In this series of ayāt the first condemnation of splitting is mentioned. We were commanded to hold on to the rope of Allāh (the Book and the Sunnah) and Allāh mentioned, “…do not divide, and do not separate”, this is a command from Allāh (Subḥānahu wa-Taʿālah) then Allāh reminds you of the favour He bestowed upon you. You were individuals that hated one another due to e.g. racism, you were from different tribes, etc. which reminds you of the bounty and the mercy of Allāh upon you. You were enemies one to another and Allāh brought your hearts together. We love each other for the sake of Allāh and come close to each other for the sake of Allāh.

Some of the Ṣaḥābah before entering into Islām used to bury their daughters alive; they used to worship 360 idols around the ka’bah. The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) for 21 out of 23 years of his messengership had to tolerate the worship of idols in the sacred site of Islām, more sacred than any other site upon the face of this earth. The Ṣaḥābah were involved in fornication, drinking, stealing etc. before Allāh (Subḥānahu wa-Taʿālah) guided them to Islām. Allāh guided them to such a degree that Allāh mentions with regard to them in the Qurʾān and āyah in the Book of Allāh that will be in the Book of Allāh up until yawmul-qiyamaah.

Allāh mentions,

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ ‎﴿١٠٤﴾‏

“let there rise from amongst you a group that calls to all that is good”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:104].

Is this a license to set up groups and parties? Many Muslims of modern times have taken this verse and say we’ve set up a group or organization because Allāh mentions, “let there rise from amongst you a group that calls to all that is good and forbid from all that is evil and they are the ones that are successful”. So they say see we got a license and permission from Allāh to set up groups and organizations and parties! Not understanding that this wasn’t the intent of Allāh (Subḥānahu wa-Taʿālah) because in the āyah that follows immediately after destroys that concept from the mind of anybody. In the verse right after Allāh mentions,

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ تَفَرَّقُوا وَاخْتَلَفُوا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ ‎﴿١٠٥﴾‏

“and do not be from those who separated and that they differed after it has come to them clear evidence for indeed for them is a severe punishment”
[Sūrah Āli ʿImrān, 3:105].

There is no contraḍīction between the two verses. Since if the understanding was that Allāh has given you the permission to set up groups and parties, then we would find examples of groups and organizations being set up at the time of the Ṣaḥābahs. The Ṣaḥābah would have been the first to set up jama’aat, e.g. the jamāʿah of Abū Hurayrah, of ʿUmar, of Āʿishah etc. all of them would have raced to set up groups and organizations and jama’aat if they understood from the verse that Allāh intended the permissibility of setting up groups and parties. Yet none of the Ṣaḥābah set up any jamāʿah, they stuck to one jamāʿah and that was the jamāʿah of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ).

The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said in a narration when asked about the one sect that is saved among the many that are destroyed, he said, “it is the jamāʿah”. In another narration when he was asked who are they he said, “that which I and my companions are upon today”. So the Ṣaḥābah understood that the term jamāʿah referred to a united body of individuals that were upon the truth. Therefore they were the first ones to understand this severe forbiddance of Allāh. Were Allāh gives them such a warning not to divide, not to split, not to separate, and Allāh promises them and Allāh threatens them that they are the ones who will receive a severe punishment. Those whom Allāh has mentioned, “do not be of those who divide, do not be of those who split, do not be of those who differ”. The Ṣaḥābah did not differ. So “let their rise from you a group”, meaning let us be from the ummah of Muḥammad (ﷺ) groups of individuals that are giving daʿwah. Groups because Allāh mentions, “let there arise from amongst you groups that give daʿwah to all that is good”. They give daʿwah to all that is good and enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Did Abū Bakr not fulfil that? Did ʿUmar (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) not fulfil that? ʿUthmān and ʿAlī (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhuma)? Did any of them fail to fulfil this calling to good and forbidding the evil? Ofcourse they fulfilled it. At the death of the Prophet (ﷺ) there were over 114,000 Companions yet not a single one of them set up a jamāʿah separate from the rest of the Ṣaḥābah. Not one of them set up a jamāʿah in their ʿaqīdah, methodology, in the belief separate from the rest of the Ṣaḥābah. Even when the differences occured between the Ṣaḥābah (even when they were strong differences) they still regarded themselves to be a single jamāʿah, a singular united body.

Allāh has clearly and utterly forbidden differing and splitting; however, it is something that is inevitable. Idol worshipping is also inevitable, but none of this is an evidence to say that we love it because it is from the decree of Allāh. It is from the universal decree of Allāh, it is the will of Allāh and it does not necessitate that Allāh loves it. Allāh does not love murder, or the worship of idols etc. but it is written with Allāh that it will occur. Allāh knew that the people were going to do this. Likewise with the separation and splitting within the ranks of the Muslims, that yes it will occur and it is an inevitability. The prophet (ﷺ) mentioned that it will occur, it is a reality that will occur.

Allāh has commanded you to stick to the way of the Ṣaḥābah, be from the people of sunnah, to be ahlus sunnah wal jamāʿah – the people of the sunnah and the people of the jamāʿah. Be the people of ḥadīth, be the people who stick to the way of the Salaf (the Companions and those who followed them in goodness) and then you will be from those individuals who will not fall into the ḥadīth of separation (i.e. fall into the hellfire). Stick to the people of truth, which means sticking to the Sunnah and sticking to the Ṣaḥābah and leaving everything else to one side.


  1. Is it the case that every difference of opinion necessitates that that person has fallen into evil?
  2. What do you say to those individuals who say that the ummah should unite upon common grounds and leave differences  aside, when these differences comprise of issues of manhaj?
  3. Regarding your explanation that there should not be any groups in the Ummah, can you please explain who are ashaab as-suffa which used to live in masjid An-Nabawee were they not a jamāʿah?
  4. Will the followers of the 72 sects destined for the Hellfire be in there forever or will they leave after a while?
  5. What should be the response when asked was the Prophet Muḥammad (ﷺ) himself Salafī or Muslim?
Published: June 12, 2013
Edited: March 12, 2023

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