Ijma` – The Meaning of Al-Sawad al-A`zham

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Certain other ahadith and sayings that relate to the scarcity of the People of the Sunna are sometimes misinterpreted as meaning that the Jama`a and the Sawad al-a`zham do not mean the largest group on the sole strength of Ibn al-Mubarak’s saying reported by Tirmidhi (see introductory section above). This is a weak opinion, as the scarcity in the said sayings refer in fact to the major Companions, major Tabi`in, great scholars, and great saints such as the Imams, Abdal (Substitutes), and Renewers of religion which are few and far in-between. The Sawad al-a`zam is not only formed by them but by those who follow them also. Its lexical meaning of “massive gathering of human beings” is ascertained by the hadith in Tirmidhi (hasan sahih):

Ibn `Abbas narrated:

When the Prophet was taken up to heaven he passed by Prophets followed by their nations and he passed by Prophets followed by their groups and he passed by Prophets followed by no one until he saw a tremendous throng of people (sawad `azim) so he said: “Who are these?” and the answer was: “These are Musa and his nation, but raise your head and look up,” whereupon the Prophet said: “(I raised my head and saw) a tremendous throng (sawad `azim) that had blocked up the entire firmament from this side and that!” And it was said: “These are your Nation…”


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