Introduction

According to a differently worded version, transmitted by `Urwa on the authority of his father, it is reported that `Abdu’llah ibn `Umar (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) once heard Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

Allah (Exalted is He) will not remove knowledge by snatching it directly away from the people at large, but He will take knowledge away by taking away the learned scholars. Eventually, when there is not a single learned scholar left, the people will accept ignorant men as their leaders. When they are asked to give advice [on questions of Islamic religious law], they will issue pronouncements [aftaw] without knowledge, so they will be in error themselves and they will also lead others astray.

This next report has been handed down to us from Kathir ibn `Abdi’llah ibn `Awf, on the authority of his father, who stated that his grandfather attributed the following words to Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace):

The religion will surely wriggle back home to the Hijaz, just as a snake wriggles home to its lair. Within the Hijaz, the religion will then most certainly take refuge in the inaccessible stronghold at the peak of Mount Arwiya. The religion first appeared as a stranger in exile [gharib], and it will go back to being a stranger in exile once again, so may blessings abound for the strangers in exile [fa-tuba li’l-ghuraba’]!

When someone asked: “Who are the strangers in exile?” he responded by saying (Allah bless him and give him peace):

Those who will repair the damage done to my exemplary practice [sunnati] by those who come after me.

In a report that has been handed down to us on the authority of `Ikrima, Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) is quoted as having said: “Never will there come a period of time in which people do not kill off a traditional practice [sunna] and bring an heretical innovation [bid`a] to life.”

We learn from a report transmitted by al-Harith that `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be well pleased with him) once said: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) had been speaking about disruptive temptations [fitan], so we asked him: ‘What is the way of escape from them, O Messenger of Allah?’ To this Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied:

The Book of Allah is the Wise Remembrance [adh-Dhikr al-Hakim]. It is the Straight Path [as-Sirat al-Mustaqim]. It is that which tongues do not become confused about. It is that about which the jinn did not stop saying, once they had heard it: “We have indeed heard a marvelous Qur’an!”(72.1). If a person makes it the basis of the doctrine he chooses to profess, that person will be professing the truth, and if a person makes it the basis on which he rests his judgment, that person will be acting justly.'”

In a report from `Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Umar, al-`Irbad ibn Sariya (may Allah be well pleased with him) is quoted as having said:

“Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) had performed the dawn prayer [salat as-subh] with us, then he had treated us to an eloquent exhortation [maw’iza], which affected us so powerfully that tears streamed from our eyes, our hearts trembled, and our hides were scorched. We felt so moved by it that we said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, it seems like the exhortation of one who is about to take his leave!’ He responded to this by saying (Allah bless him and give him peace):

The counsel I bequeath to you is dutiful devotion [taqwa] to Allah, and paying heed and obedience [to your leader], even if he happens to be an Abyssinian slave, for anyone who lives on after me will experience much disharmony.

You must therefore strive to follow my exemplary practice [sunnati], and the exemplary practice of the rightly guided Caliphs [sunnat al-khulafa’ ar-rashidin] after I am gone. You must hold on to it with a very tight grip, and doggedly sink your teeth into it. You must beware of novel fashions [muhdathat al-umur], for every novelty is an heretical innovation [bid`a], and every heretical innovation is a deviation from the right path.”

According to a report transmitted on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be well pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

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