Who are the Saved Sect?

How to Identify the Path of Muslim Orthodoxy [1]

 Who is the saved sect? How can we identify who they are and understand what they follow, and how can we be from amongst them? The following decisive factor will answer this very question, and give the common believer certainty in the path of truth inshaAllah.

 The Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam did not leave this world without giving us an all important advice as to who they are and the creed they are upon. The Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah [more commonly referred to as Sunnis] are the people who adhere to the creed of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wassallam and the consensus of the most classical scholars i.e. the Salaf, i.e. the first three generations radiyAllahu anhum.

 The terms Sunnah and Jamaa’ah are terms that the Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam spoke in the Athaar when referring to his way. Therefore, this is a divine proof demonstrating that the name for the saved sect is Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. This can be seen from the following Ahaadeeth in which the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam utilized the terms Sunnah and Jamaa’ah. Regarding the Sunnah he said:

 “Adhere to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafaah [2] that come after me. Bite upon it with your molar teeth [nawaakhidh] and beware of newly invented matters [in creed, and actions] for certainly every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is a misguidance” [3]

 Although the word Sunnah holds multiple meanings, Sunnah in the above mentioned Hadeeth strictly refers to the creed of the Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam and his Companions radiy Allahu anhum. For this reason, Imaams such as Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Imaam Abu Dawud, Imaam Barbahaari, and Imaam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani radiy Allahu anhum  have all written or compiled fundamental books on the subject of creed using the terminology Sunnah as part of the title.

 For example we have the Usul us-Sunnah of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Kitaab as-Sunnah from Sunan Abu Dawud, Sharh us-Sunnah by Imaam Barbahaari, and Kitaab as-Sunnah by Imaam, Ibn Hajar al-Asqaalani from his commentary on Saheeh al-Bukaahri entitled Fath ul-Baari. This demonstrates that according to the understanding of these traditional scholars, the word Sunnah is used synonymously to refer to the creed that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam and his Companions are upon radiy Allahu anhum.

 The Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah are the people who declare the absolute transcendence of Allah, Uniqueness and Oneness, in that He is above being described by any knowledge that the limited human mind can fathom, Allah is free from His creation and its imperfections. They accept all of His Names and Attributes, consigning complete and absolute knowledge of the Mutashaabihah Attributes to Allah as only Allah know their true interpretation.[4]

They believe that the Qur’an is the uncreated speech of Allah,[5] and believe in the Qadr, the Divine Decree, [6] the seeing of Allah on Yawm ul-Qiyaamah,[7] Imaan as being a testimony of heart, affirmation of the tongue, and the action of the limbs, [8] they believe in the excellence of the Sahaabah radiy Allahu anhum in their respective order,[9] we believe in the innocence and the purity of the mothers of the believers radiy Allahu anhunna, [10] the obedience to Muslim authority, [11]and so forth. They do not deny one particle from the Sunnah, therefore they are from the Ahl us-Sunnah, i.e. the people of the Sunnah. 

 The word Jamaa’ah refers to the consensus of the most classical scholars who are in agreement regarding the Sunnah and other matters relating to the religion, such as creed and also fiqh issues. The word Jamaa’ah can be seen from the following Ahaadeeth in which Mu’aawiyah Bin Abu Sufyaan radiy Allahu anhu narrated that the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam said:

 “Those people of the book who came before you split into seventy-two sects, and soon this religion [Islam] will split into seventy-three sects. Seventy-two of them will be in the fire and one will be in Paradise, and that is the Jamaa’ah” [12]

 In a hadeeth of similar import, the Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam was asked who are the saved sect? The Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam responded saying:

“Those who are upon that which me and my companions are upon today” [13]

Q. But, how do we know for sure what the Prophet and His companions are upon with so many differences and wolves in sheep’s clothing? How do we know the correct path?

We are implicitly told in the following hadeeth that the consensus of the most classical scholars is a sign of divine protection which cannot be corrupted by misguidance as the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam said:

 “It is an obligation to stick with the Jamaa’ah for indeed Allah will not unite the Ummah of Muhammad upon misguidance” [14]

 The verb “la yajtim’u” [meaning “He will not unite”] comes from the same root as the word Jamaa’ah, thus the Jamaa’ah can only refer to the collective who have agreed upon a matter. This is echoed in another hadeeth which clearly demonstrates that the Jamaa’ah will be the largest gathering of scholars from amongst the Muslims of the first three generations and thereafter, throughout the history of Islam up until Yawm ul-Qiyaamah, the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam said:

 “My Ummah shall never agree upon misguidance, so when you see differences, then it is an obligation upon you to stick to the as-Sawaad al-Azam” [15]

 We also see from this hadeeth that the term as-Sawaad al-Azam, i.e. the greatest gathering, is synonymous with the term Jamaa’ah.  Imaam Tirmidhi rahimahullah informs us that:

 “According to the people of knowledge, the Jamaa’ah refers to the people of jurisprudence, learning and hadeeth[16]

 As seen from the given evidences, the followers of the correct methodology are the people who adhere to the binding obligation to stick to the Sunnah and the Jamaa’ah, and therefore are the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, in which the singular active participle “Sunni” is derived, and the Sunni path is the one true way for the rightly guided Muslims. May Allah the absolute Transcendent make us people of this path, ameen.

 How to know the people of Muslim Orthodoxy [17]

Now we know who they are by definition, the question that now faces us how do we know who are the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah by reality? How do we actually know with full certainty that we are of them? The following golden advice will indeed equip a believer with the right criterion to judge between the real gold and false gold, and walk the true Sunni path with certainty, knowing what they believe and why they believe.

 In this day of age there is much confusion amongst the Muslim community in terms of creed, groups and various practices. Both new and born Muslims have noticed a lot of various differences, and many sectarian fights in which this group labels that group as misguided deviants and that group labels this group as being misguided deviants. Yet the most confusing thing of all about this is – that most of them all lay claim to be from the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. How is one to know how we can find the path of truth amongst so much confusion?Again, for such guidance we have to refer back to the advice of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam and its correct understanding.

 It has been pointed out clearly in the Ahaadeeth that the best of people to follow in the matters of the deen are the first three generations, i.e. the Salaf. We know this from the hadeeth of RasulAllah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam in which he said:

 “The best of generations is my generation, then the one after that, then the one after that. After them will appear untrustworthy people” [18]

 This hadeeth demonstrates that the Salaf, i.e. the first three generations, are the bedrock and the authority in which our understanding is derived. Our understanding of the Qur’an and the Sunnah should be based upon their very understanding. We should follow tawheed and believe in Allah as they believed and follow not an invented understanding or any new teachings that have no foundation in the Salaf. We should practice the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the Salaf understood the Qur’an and the Sunnah and shun any modern-day interpretations that contradict the very understanding of the first three generations. They are the bedrock of understanding and only key to understanding the revelations as they should be understood.

 The fisrt three generations are, all of the Sahhabah, wives of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam, the Students of the Sahaabah, Imaam Abu Hamifah, Imaam Maliki Imaam ash-Shaafi’ and the most knowledgeable of all Imaams, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal. After them, we are told that there would arise untrustworthy people, however, Allah has indeed promised to preserve this deen by sending a reviver of the religion at the head of each century. We know this from the following Ahaadeeth in which the Messenger of Allah said:

 “This knowledge will be carried by the trustworthy ones of every generation – they will expel from it the alterations made by those going beyond bounds, the false claims of the liars, and the false interpretations of the ignorant” [19]

 The Holy Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam also said:

 “At the head of every one hundred years, Allah will send to this nation one who will revive for it its Religion. [20]

 There are two things that should be understood from this hadeeth. 

 a. How to know the revivers, the people of truth and

b. The importance of Isnaad and the preservation of knowledge

 You must understand that Allah has no left any generation since the time of our beloved Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam without guidance. In fact, as the hadeeth demonstrates, after the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam, the Sahaabah and the rest of the Salaf, Allah has sent a reviver for each generation by which Allah re-establishes the sunnah and makes the bid’ah know to the people so that they may avoid it. This reviver will no doubt be upon the truth and fight for the truth as the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam said:

 There will always be a group from my ummah fighting for the truth until the hour is established[21]

 It is also related from `Imran ibn Hussain from the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who said:

“There will always be a group from my Ummah, fighting for the truth until the last of them fights the False Messiah.” It has also been related from Jabir ibn Samura from the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, “There will never cease to be a group of Muslims fighting for the establishment of this religion until the coming of the Hour.” Muslim has related from `Uqbah ibn `Aamir who said that he heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, saying, “There will always be a group from my Ummah fighting for the truth, victorious over their enemies. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the Hour is established and they are upon that way.”[22]

 Also the reviver will revive the Sunnah, call people back to the sunnah and remind them of what they have forgotten and warn them of the evil innovations. [23] This is the key to knowing the truth between the matters that the people debate about today. If something is debated, all we have to do is examine what the scholars enjoined and forbade throughout each generation, for there will be a continuity of the righteous message that has been passed down plus a continuity of warning from certain innovations.

 Anything new in the ummah that the Muslims deemed beneficial, we will find that the revivers never forbade. Such as the linguistic innovations that already rooted in the Shari’ah, and also having their proofs from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the most classical understanding. One example is Milaad un-Nabi. No scholar, reviver ever forbade it in the history of Islam. It was only a known innovator in the 11th century that deemed it haraam and called the people to his self-proclaimed ijtihaad. The scholars of his time deemed him a false prophet due to the fact he did not have the blessing of isnaad, and yet he was calling to a religion upon the understanding of other than the Qur’an, Sunnah and the most classical understanding of the first three generations.

 [1] The term Muslim Orthodoxy is the preferred translation of Sidi Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali for the terminology Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. I too prefer this meaning, although it is not a precise word for word translation of the word, but a dynamic rendering the power of the term.

 [2] The four rightly guided leaders after the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam passed away. In order they are Abu Bakr as-Sideeq, Umar bin al-Khattab, Uthmaan Ibn Afaan, and Ali ibn Abi Taalib radiy Allahu anhum

 [3] Musnad of Imaam Ahmad narrated by al-‘Irbaad Bin Saariyah, hadeeth no. 17145, Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitaab us-Sunnah, hadeeth no. 4607 Imaam Nawawi’s Forty Hadeeth, hadeeth no. 28; Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad al-Hadi ila Sabeel ur-Rashaad by Shaykh ul-Islam, Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi under the chapter of following the Sunnah and forsaking the Bid’ah, and is classified as a Saheeh hadeeth.]

 [4] Although scholars from the Salaf and the Khalaf have made permissible taweel based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah and their knowledge of the ‘Arabic language how it is commonly understood

 [5] The Jahmiyyah and the Mu’tazilah have innovated the creed that the Qur’an was created by Allah. The position of Sunni Islam is that the Qur’an is the Kalaam of Allah and His Kalaam is an Eternal Attribute

 [6] The Qaddiriyah are those that say Allah only knows after His servant have committed the action. They deny that Allah’s knowledge is pre-eternal, knowing all that was and will be in His infinite Knowledge. They also deny that Allah created our actions, and wrote the divine decree knowing all that we are going to do. They are the promoters of complete free will whereas our free will is limited to the decreed of Allah.

 [7] The Shi’a, the Qaddiriyyah, Mu’tazilah and the Jahmiyyah all deny the seeing of Allah on yawm ul-Qiyaamah

 [8] The Murji’ah believes that one does not have to affirm the kalimah by tongue to become a Muslim, but only believe it by heart. They deny the obligatory of Salah and other obligations of the Shari’ahand hold the belief that as long as you say the kalimah by heart, you are saved, however this is not the position of Sunni Islam.

 [9] The Shi’a say that Ali should have been the first Khalifah. This belief takes them out of the fold of the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, but not Islam. Those that only hold this difference as an issue are still Muslims, but not Sunnis.

 [10] Some of the Shi’a accuse Aisha radiy Allah anhaa of adultery, and by doing so they have denied the very Qur’anic ayah’s that Allah sent down in defence of the integrity of Aisha radiy Allahu anhaa. Such Shi’a that believe this false notion are disbelievers in Allah

 [11] The Khawaarij are those who rebelled against any valid Muslim authority, deeming them to be sinful, or even disbelievers, permitting the killing of Muslims, looting their property, whether it was in the time of ‘Ali or the time of the Ottoman Khalifate, or in present age we live today

[12] Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitaab us Sunnah hadeeth no. 4597

[13] Tirmidhi hadeeth no. 2129

[14] Ibn Maajah, hadeeth no. 3950

 [15] Imaam Abu Bakr al-Aajuri’s Kitaab ash-Shari’ah, vol. 2, p. 130

 [16] Tirmidhi, hadeeth no. 2256

 [17] The term Muslim Orthodoxy is the preferred translation of Sidi Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali for the terminology Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah. I too prefer this meaning, although it is not a precise word for word translation of the word, but a dynamic rendering the power of the term.

[18] Saheeh al-Bukhaari, The book of the Merits of the companions of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam, Volume 5, hadeeth no. 2 and 3, also of similar import in Saheeh al-Bukhari, The Book of Witnesses, Volume 3, Number 820; Volume 8, The Book of ar-Riqaaq, Number 437 and more.

 [19] Mishkaat ul-Masaabeeh, hadeeth no.  248 and classified as authentic

[20] Sunan Abu Dawuud, Kitaab ul-Malaaham, hadeeth no. 4291 and even the Wahhabi scholar Albaani has classified this hadeeth as Saheeh in his Silsilah as-Saheehah 2/148, hadeeth no. 599. These two Ahaadeeth and the following Ahaadeeth about the reviver that Allah will send every century and the right group that will always be in every century fly in the face of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab’s claim that Islam was lost for 600 years before him and a further 400 years before Ibn Taymiyyah.

[21] Commenting upon this hadeeth, Ibn Taymiyyah said: It is this Ummah just as the prophet Saw has informed that he said, thee will always be in it a group that is aided, manifest with knowledge and the sword. And he will not test it by what those before it from the Children of Israel were tested with those and others besides them when they were triumphed over by the enemies. And if there is one group that is defeated in a far away land, there is another land a group that is manifest and aided. And they will never be ruled over by an enemy who will take all of them from outside their ranks, but there will be some disagreement among them and some tribulations. Muslim Orthodoxy is the way that is manifest and clear and its’ people are so until the Day of Resurrection. They are those whom the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said of the, there will always be a group from my Ummah. End of statement. Ibn Taymiyyah said in his al-Aqeedah ul-Wastiyyah

 [22] These Ahadeeth again refute the claim of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab that Islam has been lost for 600 years before him and a further 400 years before Ibn Taymiyyah. His own brother Shaykh ul-Islam, Sulaymaan Ibn Abdul Wahhab wasted not time in refuting this false notion saying: “Out of the 73 sects is one guided sect and they are the Saved Sect. This represents Muslim Orthodoxy from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to the end of time and it is that Sect which will always be established on the truth, Allah suffice us to be their followers by His Strength and Power. See as-Sawaa’iq al-Ilahiyyah, the Divine Lightning divine lightening p. 148 

 [23] Even the Wahhabi scholar Yasir Qadhi admits to this view when he wrote: “A Mujaaddid is one who guides the people back to Islam after they have deviated from it. So he calls them to return to the beliefs of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam and Companions radiy Allahu anhum, and warns them against innovation.” See footnote 3 of his translation of Muhammad Ibn ‘abd ul-Wahhab’s work al-Qawaa’id al-Arbah – An explanation of the Four Principles of Shirk, p. 10 Yasir Qadhi further butters his False Prophet Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd ul-Wahhab with the title of being a Mujaaddid when he discusses the alleged “rampant shirk in ‘Arabia” boldly claiming “Such was the situation in which Allah sent a reviver, a mujaaddid, who called the people back once again to the pristine Islam and the pure monotheism that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam came with… this man was Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab” p. 10

3 thoughts on “Who are the Saved Sect?

    • Wa alaykum as-Salam

      I am really not qualified to discuss their differences. I respect Imaam Raza Khan Barelwi, he is more dearer to me than any Deobandi scholar I can think of, yet this does not mean I am taking sides.

      I only understand English and somewhat Arabic. I converted to Islam 10 years ago and live within the UK. Whatever happened in the subcontinent really does not involve me, and I should not be expected by my fellow Muslim brothers to join any of the two sides until I have seen the facts strictly from 1st hand sources. Until I have learned Urdu, I am not going to touch the topic.

      Wa alaykum as-Salaam

  1. AssalamualaikumwaRehmatullah dear brother,

    Excellent article. Can you please clarify the source for footnote #19 please? I would greatly appreciate it if you knew the hadeeth scholars who narrated it, as well as any statements by great ulema who spoke about the hadeeth.

    Keep up the great work and may Allah shower you with His Blessings and Mercy!


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