All the Praises are for Allaah and Salutation is for the Messenger 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 Islaam in their lives with Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the son of 'Abdullaah, 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 in the world, are also the most divided. This division was predicted by the Messenger, 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 Hadith above, yet it is not approved by Islaam. On the contrary, Allaah had commanded the Muslims to unite, He said: "Hold fast all together to the rope of Allaah and be not divided." [al-Qur'aan 3:103]
The division of this Ummah started very early after the death of the Messenger of Allaah. After Islaam 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 Islaam by introducing new concepts that were alien to the Islaam brought by Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi 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 Deen. The vast majority of Muslims are now totally lost and their understanding of Islaam was very much diluted with deviant ideas which allowed anyone who wanted to capitalize 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 Deen. Therefore, instead of referring matters of belief ('Aqeedah) to the Qur'aan and the Sunnah they turned to the books of philosophy which, although written by Muslims, were all affected by the Greek, Persian and other prevalent thoughts of that time.
Issues of fiqh on the other hand were completely restricted to the four Imaams. And so as time went by the people became totally fanatical about their Madhab (school of thought). This caused the noble Imaams 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 Qur'aan or an authentic saying of the Messenger was brought as an argument against what the Imaam said, their followers left what Allaah or the Messenger said and followed their Imaams. This dangerous state of affair led to blind following (Taqleed) of humans at the expense of revelation. Blind following of other than Allaah and His Messenger along with widespread ignorance was definitely the major sources of all the division that occurred in the Deen. This was now what Islaam became to the people. And this attitude closed the doors of Ijtihad. Proofs were no longer looked into to understand anything in the Islaam and the Qur'aan and the Sunnah of the Messenger 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 Fatawas (Legislative rulings in Islaam) and also say anything he felt like saying about Islaam because there was no threat that anyone would ask for proof from the Qur'aan 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 Islaamic law. This condition of ignorance and blind following was also predicted by the Messenger, who said:
"Verily, Allaah 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 Fatawas without knowledge, falling into misguidance and misguiding others."[Muslim]. (6/1999: This is a reality today, and within the last few months there were about 6 or 7 deaths of scholars throughout the world.)The Solution
The Messenger of Allaah said: "O mankind, I am leaving two things with you, if you cling to them you will never go astray. The Book of Allaah and my Sunnah (way of life)." [Al-Haakim and Al-Baihaaqi]. This Hadith is laying the basis 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 Qur'aan and the Sunnah So how can anyone determine whose claim is correct?
The Messenger of Allaah 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 Hadith he explained for us what it is. He 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 Allaah?" He said: "They are those who are on the like of what I and my companions are upon." (in another narration: "Those who are on the like of what I and my companions are upon this day"). And in another Hadith, he said: "The best people is my generation then those that follow them, then those who follow them." In the above Hadith the prophet is telling us the way to understand the Qur'aan and the Sunnah is the way the Sahabaahs understood and practiced it. If the understanding of the Qur'aan 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 Hadith.
The saying of Allaah further emphasizes 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-Qur'aan 4:115]
Who were the believers during the time the Qur'aan was being revealed? Were they not only the Messenger and the first generation of believers? So Allaah is also making it very clear that there is only one way i.e. the way of the Messenger and his companions.
"So if they (i.e. the people) believe in the like of what you all believe, (only) then they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, they are only in opposition. So Allaah will suffice for you against them. And He is the all-Hearer, the all-Knower." [al-Qur'aan 2:137]
Who are the people Allaah refers to, as "...in the like of what you all believe.", during the time of this verse being revealed, were they not the first generation of believers who witnessed the revelation. So once again Allaah makes it clear that there is only one way i.e. the way of the Messenger and his companions. The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam has also stated:
"Whoever introduces something (new) into this matter of ours (i.e. Islaam), will have it rejected." [Bukhaaree] "Whoever does an act which we have not commanded, it will be rejected" [Muslim]My brothers and sisters, life is short so we must make sure that before we die we secure the key that will take us to Al-Jannah (Heaven). Let us not follow Allaah's religion based on customs and based on our desires but let us keep an open mind and beg Allaah to guide us to the Truth that was left very clear for us by Him and His Messenger.
"And do not follow (blindly) any information of which you have no (direct) knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception, you must verify it for yourself. In the Court of your Lord, you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning.” [Qu'ran 17:36]