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in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

What did the classical scholars say about groups in Islam?

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There is a very common misconception that all groups are forbidden in Islam and people regularly spread this idea throughout the Ummah. Any group that is not affiliated with the Saudi version of so-called "Salafiyyah" is immediately denounced as Hizybiyyah (partisanship) or Tafriqa (forming sects) and people are taught to not discuss with these groups, or sit with them, or associate with them.

This incorrect idea is actually a relatively recent phenomenon (late 1700s to today) and it contradicts nearly everything that the classical scholars said on the issue.

This post explains what the classical scholars said regarding the permissibility (actually, the obligation) of forming groups in Islam, including screenshots of these quotes below and an explanation of where the line is drawn between *permissible* Islamic groups and *invalid* unIslamic divisions.

Allah (swt) says in Surat Aal-Imran, verse 104: "Let there come from among you a group that calls to the Good (Islam) and orders the Ma'roof and forbids the Munkar and they are the successful ones."

There is near unanimous agreement among nearly all the Mufassireen regarding the meaning of this Ayah, as shown below:

- Tabari said in "Al-Tafsir Al-Kabeer": "Let there come from you an Ummah: meaning a Jama'ah/group"

- Suyooti said in "Al-Durr Al-Manthoor": "Let there come from among you a Qawm (people), means one or two or three people. Whatever is above that is an Ummah (group)."

- Mahalli and Suyooti said in "Tafsir Al-Jalalayn": "(Let there come) from (you): meaning a group from the whole (Tab'eedh), because what is mentioned is a Fard Kifayah"

- Shawkani said in "Al-Fath Al-Qadeer": "From you: meaning a group from the whole (Tab'eedh)...because ordering the good and forbidding the Munkar are a Fard Kifayah"

- Ibn Katheer said in "Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-'Adhim": "What is meant by this Ayah is that a Firqa/group must be tasked with these duty from among the Ummah" (yes, a "Firqa")

- Ibn Hazm said in his commentary of "Tafsir Al-Jalalayn": "From: meaning a group from the whole (Tab'eedh)...and Ummah: meaning a Jama'ah/group."

- Al-Qurtubi said in "Al-Jaami' Li Ahkaam Al-Qur'an": "From you: meaning a group from the whole....this indicates that ordering the Ma'roof and forbidding the Munkar is a Fard Kifayah"

- Al-Zamakhshari said in "Al-Kashf 'Ann Haqaa'iq Al-Tanzeel": "From: meaning a group from the whole, because ordering the Ma'roof and forbidding the Munkar is a Fard Kifayah."

Therefore it is very clear from this that forming groups to call non-Muslims to Islam and to call Muslims to implementing the Ma'roof and forbidding them from committing the Munkar, is an obligation.

As for the types of "groups" that Islam forbids, these are two types:

- The first type is a group that is dedicated to attacking other Muslims on matters that Islam allows difference of opinion on. Such groups claim to be superior in Iman or that others are deviants for disagreeing with them and . This behaviour is forbidden.

- The second type is a group that disagrees on Qat'iee (100% certain, indisputable) issues. These are groups such as those who believe that Isa (as) was crucified (such as Ahmadis), or Jibril brought Islam to the wrong person (such as the Ghuraabiyyah), or that there is a new prophet (such as Nation of Islam), or ahadith are to be rejected completely (as the so-called "Qur'anists"). These are groups that have left the fold of Islam.

Islam allows Muslims to differ on valid Ijtihadi matters, which are the Thanni. The Sahaba differed on these issues and scholars throughout history disagreed on these issues and everyone welcomed such disagreements, as long as they were within the limits of what Islam identified as permissible. The Messenger of Allah (saw) clearly stated, as narrated in Sahih Al-Bukhari: "If the judge performs Ijtihad and reaches the correct conclusion, he receives two reward and if he judges and reaches the incorrect conclusion, he receives one reward."

ibn Taymiyah made this point very clearly regarding groups (Ahzaab) in Islam, in his book Majmoo' Al-Fataawa: "As for the head of the Hizb (party), he is the head of the group that forms a party, meaning: becomes a Hizb. If they are grouped for something commanded by Allah and His Messenger, without adding or subtracting, then they are believers and for them is what is for them and upon them is what is upon them. And if they increase or decrease from it, such as becoming partisan to only those who join their group, claiming that only they are on the truth and everyone else who has not joined their group is shunned regardless of whether they are on the truth or not, then this is the Tafarruq (dividing) that Allah and His Messenger have forbidden; as Allah and His Messenger commanded us to remain a united Jama'ah and to reconcile between each other and forbade us from separating and dividing - we have been ordered to assist each other in Birr and Taqwa and are forbidden from assisting in sin and enmity."

Hence, from all this, since Islam obligates the existence of Islamic groups that call to Islam and Islam also permits difference of opinion among Muslims, it is therefore permissible for groups to disagree when it comes to how they undertake their tasks, as well as what tasks they prioritize, as long as all the groups are following a valid Ijtihad on every issue they undertake.


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