Determining the Right Way
When people enter into Islām, they sometimes become confused by the numerous Islamic parties, groups and sects, find which one is upon the clear white path which Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) left us upon.
My brothers and sisters, life is short so we must make sure that before we die we serure the key that will take us to al-Jannah (Heaven).
All the Praises are for Allāh and Salutation is for the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and his family and all those that follow him doing good works until the Day of Resurrection.
The very first generation of Muslims that lived and established Islãm in their lives with Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), the son of ʿAbdullāh, had glory and triumph that no nation that existed before them or any that came after them achieved. This is a reality which no one denies.
Thus we find that every conscious Muslim dreams about this reality and so in his own way tries to work for this glory to return within his life and the life of those around him. However, to dream is one thing and the reality is another. The Muslims although they are now the fastest growing nation, are also the most divided. This division was predicted by the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), who said: The Jews were divided into seventy one (71) groups and the Christians were divided into seventy two (72) any my ummah (nation) will divide into seventy three (73), each of which would be in the Fire except one...
Although this prediction is established in the Ḥadīth above, yet it is not approved by Islãm. On the contrary, Allāh had commanded the Muslims to unite, He said: Hold fast all together to the rope of Allāh and be not divided.. [al-Qurʾãn 3:103]
The division of this ummah started very early after the death of the messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). After Islãm became strong and its enemies found that they could not defeat it physically they started to attack it by undermining the faith of the common people and those newly converted to Islãm by introducing new concepts that were alien to the Islãm brought by Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). This wave of attack brought about an almost total standstill to the quest for sound knowledge and facilitated the easy spread of deviant concepts and new innovations in this dīn. The vast majority of Muslims are now totally lost and their understanding of Islãm was very much diluted with deviant ideas which allowed anyone who wanted to captialize on the ignorant to do so with ease. People now lost the correct way and so they did not know what method to use to understand this dīn. Therefore, instead of referring matters of belief (ʿAqīdah) to the Qurʾān and the Sunnah they turned to the books of philosophy which, although written by Muslims, were all affected by the Greek, Persian and other prevelant thoughts of that time.
Issues of fiqh on the other hand were completely restricted to the four Imãms. And so as time went by the people became totally fanatical about their Madh‘hab (school of thought). This caused the noble Imãms to be treated by their followers as the prophets ought to be treated (i.e. as if they were protected from errors). Whatever any of them said was taken as totally correct by those who followed them (as if it were revelation). Even if a verse from the Qurʾān or an authentic saying of the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) was brought as an argument against what the Imãm said, their followers left what Allāh or the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said and followed their Imãms. This dangerous state of affair led to blind following (Taqlīd) of humans at the expense of revelation.
Blind following of other than Allāh and His messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) along with widespread ignorance was definitely the major sources of all the division that occurred in the Dīn. This was now what Islãm became to the people. And this attitude closed the doors of Ijtihad. Proof were no longer looked into to understand anything in the Islãm and the Qurʾān and the sunnah of the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) which must be used for our guidance now became means for the Muslim of acquiring blessings (Barakah).
This further led to the state where anyone could now give Fatāwás (Legislative rulings in Islãm) and also say anything he felt like saying about Islãm because there was no threat that anyone would ask for proof from the Qurʾān or the Sunnah. On the other hand the people who were listening to him had no basis to determine whether what they are hearing is correct or not because they themselves have lost any attachment to sources of Islãmic law.
This condition of ignorance and blind following was also predicted by the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), who said: Verily, Allāh does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people, but (this is done) by causing (the death) of the scholars until none of them is left alive. People would then appoint ignorant leaders for themselves who would be consulted in matters of religion and they would give Fatāwás without knowledge, falling into misguidance and misguiding others. [Muslim].
The messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: O mankind, I am leaving two things with you, if you cling to them you will never go astray. The Book of Allāh and my way of life. [Al-Hãkim and al-Bayḥaqi]. This ḥadīth is laying the bases for the Muslim if he does not want to go astray. It follows, therefore, that if at anytime some one finds himself going astray, then he is not holding on to one or both of these sources. The problem we face, however, is that every Muslim stand by this claim that they are holding on to the Qurʾān and the Sunnah So how can anyone determine whose claim is correct?
The messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) left this way very clear for us as he said: I am leaving you on a clear way, its night is like its day and none turns away from it except that he would be destroyed.
He told us that the way he left is very clear and then in the following Aḥadīth he explained for us what it is. He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: The Jews were divided into seventy one groups and the Christians were divided into seventy-two and my ummah will be divided into seventy three and each of them will be in the fire except one. The companions asked: "Who are they, O messenger of Allāh?" He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: They are those who are on the like of what I and my companions are on. And in another Ḥadīth, he (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said: The best people is my generation then those that follow them, then those who follow them.
In the above ḥadīth the prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) is telling us the way to understand the Qurʾān and the Sunnah is the way the Ṣaḥābahs understood and practised it.
If the understanding of the Qurʾān and the sunnah of any group coincides with the understanding of the Companions in all issues, then that group would be the one that is on the truth.
It must also be very clear that only one group of all the groups that are existing is on the correct way as is explained in the ḥadīth.
The saying of Allāh further emphasises that there is only one way. He said: Whoever opposes the messenger after the guidance has been clearly shown to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in hell, and what an evil destination. [al-Qurʾãn 4:115]
Who were the believers during the time the Qurʾān was being revealed? Were they not only the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and the first generation of believers? So Allāh is also making it very clear that there is only one way i.e. the way of the messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and his companions. My brothers and sisters, life is short so we must make sure that before we die we serure the key that will take us to al-Jannah (Heaven). Let us not follow Allāh's religion based on customs and based on our desires but let us keep an open mind and beg Allāh to guide us to the Truth that was left very clear for us by Him and His messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). May Allāh guide us all to the straight way of Islãm. Amīn!