Skip to main content

Two Reasons for the Occurrence of Innovation and Division in the Muslim Ummah

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah

An explanation on how ignorance and corrupt intentions have led to widespread innovation and the division of the Muslim Ummah into seventy-three sects.

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) said:

The Prophet (ﷺ) characterised this ummah as being divided into seventy-three sects and then said: ‘All of them are in the Fire save for one,’1 and in another narration: ‘[they are] those who have adopted the likeness of what I and my companions have adopted on this day.’ 2

He has, therefore, clarified that the vast majority of those who oppose [the Qurʾān and the Sunnah] are among the destroyed except for one party among them; they are Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamāʿah.

The First Reason: Corrupt Intentions

The reason for this blameworthy opposition is sometimes related to corrupt intentions. For a person may house within himself hatred, jealousy, and a desire for a station of authority over others. [These characteristics] will drive him to love defaming the opinion of others, or their actions, or to overcome [their opinions] with the goal of gaining distinction over them. Furthermore, he may love the opinion of those who are in agreement with him simply due to the kinship they share, or because they belong to the same madh`hab, or share nationality, or friendship or other similar justifications. All this only because of the honour and authority that comes with their opinion gaining victory. How frequent is this the case among the Children of Ādam! This is unadulterated oppression.

The Second Reason: Ignorance

The other reason [for this blameworthy opposition] is sometimes ignorance on the part of the opposer [to the Qurʾān and the Sunnah] of the true essence of the matter being discussed. Or ignorance of the opposition’s evidence. It may also be due to the opposer’s ignorance regarding the truth that his opposition holds [driving him to simply oppose him outrightly without consideration]. This truth may be either in his interpretation of the evidence or his resultant judicial ruling. Despite the fact that [the opposing party] may also hold some of the truth in ruling or evidence.

Ignorance [as in the second instance] and oppression [as in the first] is the root of all evil, the Exalted said:

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا

‘Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.’
[Al-Aḥzāb 33:72]


1. Authentic: Narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 4597, al-Ḥākim: 443. Graded authentic by Ibn Taymiyyah in ‘Majmūʿ al-Fatāwà’ 3: 345, al-Shāṭibī in ‘al-Iʿtiṣām’ 1: 430, and al-ʿIrāqī in ‘Takhrīj al-Iḥyāʾ’ 3:199.
2. Ḥasan: Narrated by al-Tirmidhī: 2641 and graded Ḥasan by al-Albānī in ‘Ṣaḥīh al-Tirmidhī’ (under the same number), Ibn al-ʿArabī in ‘Aḥkām al-Qurʾān’ 3: 432, and al-ʿIrāqī in ‘Takhrīj al-Iḥyāʾ’ 3:284.

Source: Iqtiḍāʾ al-Ṣirāṭ al-Mustaqīm: 131-2
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: January 23, 2023
Edited: April 13, 2023

Events & Activities