The Muslim majority embellishes itself with all kinds of titles like Ahl al-Sunnah, Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaat.
Ahl al-Jamaat or People of the Assembly / Majority in particular is widely employed to show that they are on the correct religion, since the Jamaat has been shown in traditions to be the salvaged group.
We will go on to show that the Ahl al-Jamaat is not necessarily the People of Majority. Jamaat DOES NOT mean Majority. There is altogether another definition of Jamaat in the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
First let us see the tradition that leads the Muslim majority to mistakenly conclude that they are from the Ahl al-Jamaat.
1. Islam will be divided in sects
2. Salvation is only for one sect, but which one?
3. So-called majority is destined for the Fire
4. What is the real meaning of جَمَاعَة?
5. Ahle Tasannun believe that Sunnah & Jamaat is inseparable from Aal Muhammad (a.s.)
Back to Top1. Islam will be divided in sects
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prophesied – Surely the Bani Israel were divided in 71 sects after Esa (a.s.), then 70 sects were deviated and one sect was rescued from deviation. My nation will be divided in 72 sects, then 71 sects will be deviated and one sect will be rescued from deviation.
The Muslims asked – Which is the sect (to see salvation)?
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said – الْجَمَاعَةُ الْجَمَاعَةُ or The Assembly, the Assembly!
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 28 p. 3 from Al-Khesaal
This tradition along with its variants is quoted widely by both sects.
The operative part of the tradition is the emphasis of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on الْجَمَاعَةُ.
The Muslims take this as a cue that the majority sect is the one to find salvation because الْجَمَاعَةُ supposedly means majority. And since they are in majority they are on salvation and since the Shias are in minority they are deviated.
But is it so?
Back to Top2. Salvation is only for one sect, but which one?
The aforementioned tradition has many variants and referring to them makes it very clear which is the salvaged party and which is the deviated one.
Let’s review one of these traditions:
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said – My nation will be visited with the same trend as the Bani Israel, who divided in 72 sects and soon my nation will be divided in 73 sects. All, excepting one, will be relegated to the Fire.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was asked – And which is the sect (to find salvation)?
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied – The one we belong to, I and my Ahle Bait (a.s.).
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 28 p. 4
Likewise Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) in a debate with the Jewish rabbi lays down the guideline for who was deviated and who was salvaged from the Jews, Christians and Muslims.
He (a.s.) says – …the Jews were divided in 71 sects, 70 of them were relegated to the Fire and one was rescued, the one that followed the leadership of Yusha Ibn Noon, the Christians were divided in 72 sects, 71 of them were relegated to the Fire and one was rescued, the one that followed the leadership of Shamoon, the successor of Esa (a.s.), this nation will divide in 73 sects, 72 sects will be relegated to the Fire and one will be in Paradise, the one that follows the leadership of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) successor and struck his hand on his chest…
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 28 p. 5 from Al-Ehtejaaj vol. 1 p. 140-141
In another tradition, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) declares – Surely this nation will divide in 73 sects and by the One who controls my soul, surely all the sects are deviated except for the one that follows my leadership and those are my Shias.
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 28 p. 11 from Al-Amaali of Shaikh Mufeed (r.a.) p. 132
Back to Top3. So-called majority is destined for the Fire
Obviously the Muslim majority will not find it easy to digest these traditions as they go against their fundamental beliefs and their definition of Jamaat, i.e. majority. For them, the majority rejects Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and aligns itself to Abu Bakr and Umar and hence this majority is the salvaged sect.
If this is true then we would like to ask the majority why they, along with the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), will find themselves in the Fire according to these traditions:
While informing about the Day of Resurrection, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said: Some men from my people will be brought and taken to the left (towards the Fire). I will say: ‘O my Lord! My companions!’
It will be said: You do not know what evil they introduced after you…
- Sahih al-Bukhari while commenting on Surah Maidah (5) Chapter of ‘O Apostle! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from Your Lord… (Verse 67). Also commenting on Surah Anbiya (21)
Variants of the tradition have been recorded by the Ahle Tasannun in:
- Sahih al-Bukhari ‘Book of invocations’, Chapter of ‘At the Pool’
- Ibn Maajah, ‘Book of Al-Manaasik’ Chapter on ‘The Speech on the Day of Sacrifice’, tradition 5,830.
- Musnad Ahmad vol 1 p. 453, vol. 3 p. 28, vol. 5 p. 48
- Sahih al-Muslim under the Chapter of Virtues of Companions
Surprisingly, this tradition has been recorded by Sahih al-Muslim under the Chapter of ‘Virtues of Companions’! If being driven to the Fire is from the virtues, only Allah knows what qualifies as evil!
Back to Top4. What is the real meaning of جَمَاعَة?
For the Muslims who take comfort in their majority, we have some bad news.
The Jamaat neither means the majority nor is it proven by the majority.
The truth (haqq), is the cause of the Jamaat. The Jamaat is NOT the cause of the truth.
The truth or Haqq is obedience to the Holy Quran, Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Sunnah and accepting the leadership of his chosen successors (a.s.). One who is on this becomes the Jamaat, even if he is a single person.
According to the tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) one believer (momin) is sufficient for the Jamaat.
الْمُؤْمِنُ وَحْدَهُ حُجَّةٌ وَ الْمُؤْمِنُ وَحْدَهُ جَمَاعَة
A single believer is sufficient as Proof and a single believer is sufficient for the Jamaat.
- Man laa Yahzorohu al-Faqih vol. 1 p. 376
- Al-Khesaal vol. 2 p. 584
- Al-Waafi vol. 8 p. 1,172
- Wasaail al-Shia vol. 8 p. 297
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 28 p. 3
Much like a single believer is sufficient for a congregational prayer (Al-Salaat al-Jamaat), a single believer is sufficient for the Jamaat.
We find instances of this even in the Noble Quran when Allah calls Ibrahim (a.s.) as a nation.
إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً
Abraham was indeed a (model) nation… (Surah Nahl (16): 120)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has said – Allah will raise on the Day of Judgement an individual as a nation. There will be no damage to this individual on truth nor any reduction in his grade, if the people are divided over him nor any increase in his grade if the people are united over him.
- Sharh al-Akhbaar fi Fazail al-Aimmah al-Athaar (a.s.) p. 126
What is true for Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) being a single nation is even true for Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), rather it is even more true. Ibrahim (a.s.) after all is the Shia of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) according to Surah Saffaat (37): 83
وَ إِنَ مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْراهِيمَ
- Al-Fazail of Ibn Shazaan (r.a.) p. 158
- Kashf al-Muhajjah p. 236
- Ithbaat al-Hodaat vol. 2 p. 240
- Madinah al-Maajiz vol. 3 p. 365, vol. 4 p. 38
- Al-Insaaf p. 478-480
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 36 p. 151
- Mustadrak al-Wasail vol. 4 p. 187, 399
Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was not just the nation personified, rather the salvation of all Muslims depended on him. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) repeatedly informed the Muslims as evidenced by such reports:
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed Ammar Ibn Yasir – Soon there will be confusion after me in my nation till swords are drawn out and some are killed by others and a group does tabarra from another group. When you witness this, then it is mandatory for you to hold on to this bald one on my right i.e. Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.). If all the people venture into a valley and Ali (a.s.) ventures into another valley, then you must head for the valley of Ali (a.s.) and abandon the people…
- Kashf al-Yaqeen p. 161
- Bashaarah al-Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) vol. 2 p. 146
- Al-Umdah p. 451
Back to Top5. Ahle Tasannun believe that Sunnah & Jamaat is inseparable from Aal Muhammad (a.s.)
Renowned scholars from the Ahle Tasannun have documented the importance of love of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) as a fundamental criterion for ‘membership’ of the Sunnah and Jamaat.
Under the Quranic verse:
لا أسألكم عليه من أجر الا المودة في القربى,
We find a lengthy tradition on the importance of love of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) – we reproduce the most relevant portion:
‘And one who dies on the love of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) dies on the Sunnah and the Jamaat.’
- Al-Kashf wa al-Bayaan of Tha’labi under the verse of Surah Shura (42) : Verse 23
- Tafseer al-Kashhaf of Zamakhshari v 3 p 467
- Tafseer al-Kabeer of Fakhre Raazi v 27 p 168
- Tafseer al-Qurtubbi v 16 p 16
- Faraid al-Simtain v 2 p 255
- Sawaiq al-Muhreqah p 348
It is not possible to make any sweeping conclusion on the Jamaat by linking it to majority in the face of such irrefutable evidence from the Noble Quran and Sunnah.
The Jamaat is not defined based on the actions of the majority. It is defined based on divine guidelines which gives prime position to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his successors led by Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.). They are the Jamaat and those who take them as leaders are the Ahl al-Jamaat eve if they are few in number.