Muslims should beware of all routes and channels that may lead to divisions, differences and conflicts among them. They should abide by the Qur’an and Sunnah, which are the assured means of salvation. Almighty Allah says: “And hold fast, all of you together, by the covenant of Allah and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.” (Aal-`Imran: 103)
There are many hadiths which refer to those Muslims sticking to the straight path of Islam. For example, `Imran ibn Husayn (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A group of my Ummah will continue fighting for the truth, and will prevail over those who oppose them, until the last of them will kill al-Maseekh al-Dajjaal (the Liar or Anti-Christ).”
In another narration, Mu`awiyah and `Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A group of my ummah will continue victoriously adhering to the truth until the Last Hour begins.”
From these hadiths we may understand the following:
(1) The Prophet’s words “A group of my ummah will continue . . .” indicate that this is a section of the ummah, not the entire ummah. This also indicates that there will be other groups and sects.
(2) His words “those who oppose them will not harm them” indicate that there will be other groups who oppose the victorious group in the way they practice the religion. This also concurs with the hadeeth which describes the ummah being divided into seventy-two groups or sects who oppose the one group that is following the truth.
(3) Both hadiths offer glad tidings to the people who are following the truth. The hadith that speaks of the victorious group speaks of their victory in this world.
(4) The words “until the decree of Allah reaches them” refer to the wind or breeze that will come and take the soul of every believing man and woman. This does not contradict the hadith “A group of my ummah will remain victoriously supporting the truth until the Day of Resurrection,” because that hadith means that they will continue to follow the truth until that gentle breeze takes their souls just before the Day of Resurrection, when many other Signs of the Last Hour have already manifested themselves.
The characteristics of the victorious group from the hadiths quoted above, and other reports, we can derive the following characteristics of the victorious group:
(1) They follow the truth. They are described variously as “following the truth,” “following the commandments of Allah,” “following the true religion,” etc.
All of these phrases indicate that they are adhering to the true religion with which Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent.
(2) They obey the commandments of Allah, which means:
(a) They are distinguished from the rest of mankind by carrying the banner of Da’wah towards Allah.
(b) They undertake the mission of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil.
(3) They will be victorious until the Last Hour.
The hadiths say that “they will be victorious until the decree of Allah comes,” “they victoriously support the truth,” or “they will be victorious over those who oppose them.”
Who are the people of the victorious sect?
Al-Nawawi said: “It is possible that this group is scattered among all types of believers. Some may be brave fighters, or fuqahaa’, or scholars of hadith, or ascetics, or people who enjoin good and forbid evil, and other types of good people.”
Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, explained the matter as follows: “They do not have to all be in one city; they could be gathered in one country or dispersed across the world. They may be gathered in one city or in a part of it. It is possible that one group may exist, then disappear, then be replaced by another group, and so on, until the Day of Judgment, when all will disappear except for one group in one city, who will disappear when the breeze decreed by Allah comes.”
The scholars’ discussion of this group does not specify one type of people, or one city or country.
It has become clear now that there will remain a committed group of Muslims who will stick to the path of Allah until the Day of Judgment. Their characteristics are explained in the above fatwa. As clarified by Imam An-Nawawi, it is possible that this group is scattered among all types of believers. Our role as Muslims is to work for Islam and to help fight our evil inclinations to become good and religiously committed Muslims.