The interest and enthusiasm shown by yourself and your companions is praiseworthy and congratulatory. However, my advice is that you change this interest of yours from discussions and debates to learning and teaching Deen.
Devote your time and energies to the practical implementation of the Deen. You should make an effort to adopt the lifestyle of our beloved Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and likewise turn the attention of others in that direction.
This suggestion of mine is based on two reasons. Discussions and debates hamper the ability of a person to carry out (good) actions. It is reported in Musnad-e-Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Mustadrak Haakim that Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) said:
“That nation is not led astray after the guidance has been brought to them, except when they are given to arguments.”
Hence no good abodes for that nation that indulges in arguments and debates. Another point is that by having too many discussions and debates, generally, people‟s enthusiasm to understand is plagued, and they are more desirous of having their views and opinions accepted. Also, that person who is not very well learned in the Shariah, tends to get carried away and does not pay heed and give due consideration to the limits of the Shariah. At times it may happen that a thing may be false and incorrect (in terms of the Shariah) and this person will endeavour to prove it to be true and Haqq. At times in such discussions a person may slur and revile an accepted servant of Allah Ta`ala‟s, hence blackening his Book of Deeds. A combination of all these factors, not only deprives one of the virtue of good actions, in fact, one‟s mental ability and tendency to accept the Haqq decreases gradually.
Therefore, it is my humble and sincere advice to all of you that each one of you follow and place your trust on that Aalim, whom you envisage and consider as being on Haqq, whom you deem is an Aalim-e-Muhaqqiq, and who is conveying the Message of Allaah Ta`ala and the Sunnah of Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) to the people
for the Pleasure of Allaah Ta`ala. Practice according to this person‟s advice and teachings and continue with your daily routine. Instead of all this vain discussions and debates, you should all rather spend your time more constructively and engage in Thikr, Tilaawat, Durood Shareef or some other beneficial Deeni work.
Your first question, albeit very concise and short in words, nevertheless, its answer requires an in-depth answer that would extend into a voluminous Kitaab. This useless writer does not have the ability or the opportunity to render such a detailed answer, such that I may fulfil the rights of this subject. However, in order to fulfil your request we will write a few lines. If this proves to be beneficial to yourself and your companions then this will be a means of the salvation and good fortune for this worthless writer.
First of all, it is necessary to know and understand what the true “Deen-e-Haqq” is. This will be our starting point and our basis for establishing which group is on the Haqq and Straight Path, or which is the closest to the Haqq. I, you and every Muslim is fully aware that the “Deen-e-Haqq” is that Divine Message which was revealed to us through our Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). This is what Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and his (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam)‟s Companions practiced upon. And this is also (that Deen) which Allaah Ta`ala had promised to safeguard until Qiyaamah. Allaah Ta`ala has safeguarded this Deen through the Qur`aan Majeed, the statements and actions of Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), the practice of the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) and the explanations and interpretations of the Aimmah-e-Mujtahiddeen. Alhamdulillah, until today all these things are just and safely and securely protected in the Ummat. It is as though this Deen has been revealed for this time and era.
Another point which is necessary to understand is that in this Ummat there are two types of differences (Ikhtilaafs).
Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) has notified the Ummat with regard to these differences and he has also guided
the Ummat with regard to both of them.
The first type of difference is with regard to the Ijtihaadi Masaa`il (Interpretations of law points), which occurred between the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum), the Tabieen and the Aimmah-e-Mujtahiddeen. A reflection of this evident in the Hanafi, Shaafi, Maaliki and Hambali Math-habs which are well known as an Ikhtilaaf. This type of difference also occurred, at times, during the blessed era of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). For example, once, Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) instructed the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) on the occasion of arriving at the tribe of Banu Quraidha: None of you should read his Asr Salaat except at (arrival at) Banu Quraidha. It so transpired that the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) were delayed in reaching there and the time of Asr Salaat was about to terminate. The Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) made mashwera as to what they should do. The mashwera resulted in two groups. The one group opined that since Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) gave a clear -cut instruction that Asr Salaat only be read at arrival at Banu Quraidha, how is it possible for them to perform their Salaat now on the way. Therefore, even though the Salaat may become Qadha, they felt that it was necessary to follow the instructions of Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). The second group felt that the import and intention of Nabi.s (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) instruction was that they reach Banu Quraidha before the expiry of Asr Salaat time, and upon reaching there they were to perform the Asr Salaat. Therefore, they felt that since the time for sunset was drawing close, and they would not reach there before sunset, there was no question about making the Asr Salaat Qadha. They felt that it did not mean that if they were delayed in reaching there then they had to make the Asr Salaat Qadha. They felt that this would worsen their shortcomings.
Nevertheless, the first group decided to make the Salaat Qadha, thereby fulfilling the explicit instructions of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), whilst the second group alighted from their conveyances and performed the Salaat opining that they were fulfilling and carrying out the intention the desire of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam). When news of this incident reached Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), he did not rebuke either of the two groups, in fact he regarded both of them as being correct, since both of them had completed and carried out his intention and desire. There are many other such examples beside this one. In conclusion, we have ascertained that one such difference is this type, which is called an Ijtihaadi Ikhtilaaf.
This type of difference is not merely a natural, inevitable or indispensable difference, in fact, Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had termed such a difference a Rahmat (mercy). And for that person whom Allaah Ta`ala had imbued with even the slightest bit of insight, will immediately discern why such differences are termed as a Rahmat. Due to a lack of opportunity, I should have shed much more light on this topic. In conclusion, this type of difference is completely correct and in order. The ruling for the general masses (regarding such differences) is that they follow with conviction whichever Imaam-e-Mujtahid they have trust and confidence in, whilst keeping in mind and granting due respect and honour to the other pious personalities. All these personalities were of a very high level of intelligence and experts in Deen and they were also spiritually very elevated. Their was and is not a single person from amongst those who followed them who could even match their knowledge. There is also none who came after them that can be equal to them in piety and Noor-e-Ma`rifat (recognition of Allaah Ta`ala). This is precisely the reason why great great personalities and Auliyaah — the likes of Hadhrat Peer-o-Murshid Sheikh Abdul Qaadir Jilaani, Sayidud Taa`ifah Hadhrat Junaid Baghdaadi, Sheikh Muhyuddin Ibn Arabi, Khwajah Ali Hijoori, Ganj Bakhash Baba Fareedud Deen Shakar Ganj, Mujaddid Alf-e-Thaani (rahmatullahi alaihim ajmaeen) — were all the followers of these Aimmah-e-Mujtahiddeen.
The second type of difference is known as ¡°Nazaryaati Ikhtilaaf¡± (Theoretical differences). This is the subject matter of your question. Our Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had also foretold and predicted such differences. This type of difference is also the basis and differentiation between Haqq and Baatil. Hence, Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) said: ¡°The Bani Israeel were separated into 72 sects and my Ummat will be slit into 73 sects. All of them, besides one, will be in the Fire.¡± It was asked: ¡°O Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam)! Which will be this successful sect?¡± Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) replied: ¡°Those that will remain on that path which I and my Sahaabah are on.¡±
It is reported in another Hadith that 72 sects will go to Jahannum and one to Jannat . and this is the ¡°Al-Jamaat¡± . i.e. that group which will be on Haqq. And some people will abscond from this Jamaat, their desires and false opinions will lead them astray just as the bite of a rabid dog makes a person ill, such that not a joint, vein or fibre of his remains except that this illness penetrates it.
It is reported in another Hadith: ¡°Any person remains alive after me will see many differences in the Ummat. Therefore he should hold on fast to my way and the way of the Khulafaa-e-Raashideen. He must hold on to it with his teeth. Take Heed! Stay away from all new innovations (that will spring up), because all such innovations (which are regarded as being part of Deen) are a Bid`ah and every Bid`ah is astray.¡±
It is reported in another Hadith that Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) once drew a line and said that this is (symbolises) the Road of Allaah Ta`ala. He then drew some small lines on either side of this line and said that these are those paths upon which one shaitaan sits at each one and tends to lead man astray by tempting him towards it. (indicating to the first line) Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) said: ¡°This is the correct path.¡± Saying this, Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) recited the following Aayat: ¡°This is My Straight Path, hence tread upon it.¡±
All these Ahaadith are reported in Mishkaat Shareef.
Regarding this subject there are many other Ahaadith, the compiling of which I am presently unable. There is also no need for it (at this juncture). From these statements, the following points become clear:
a). Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had forewarned the Ummat regarding Nazaryaati Ikhtilaafs.
b). He displayed an aversion for this type of differences and with the exception of one sect, he warned all the others with the Fire.
c). Such Ikhtilaafs are the basis for leading people on Haqq or Baatil. Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had clearly said that whoever treads the path and follows the way chalked out by him and follow his Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum), will be on Haqq. Whoever goes astray of this path is on Baatil. The path of Haqq and the distinguishing factor is the way of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and his Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum). The Qur`aan Majeed had also in many instances, stated this as the basis of the Haqq. In one Aayat it is stated: ¡°And he who opposes the Rasool after guidance had come to him, and he treads (a path) other than the path of the believers, We will take to him (in the direction) to where he is going, and We will fling him into Jahannum, an evil abode.¡±In this Aayat, the ¡°path of the believers¡± refers to the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum).
d). Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had labelled any innovation which was to come after him, in the name of the Deen, as ¡°Bid`ah¡±.
e). Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had also outlined the reason and contributory factor of Bid`ah and deviation, as being incorrect desires. This is such an illness that destroys one.s heart and mind. Just as the poison in the bite of a rabid dog seeps into the system of the victim, which renders a normal person into displaying bestial tendencies. In that same way a person who is inflicted with the poison of false and incorrect opinions, his every vein and fibre is seeped with self-opinion. Then, besides his own opinions he disregards every other view.
f). Rasulullaah (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had also guided the Ummat in that at such a time when all such differences rear their ugly heads in the Ummat, then they should hold on fast to his Sunnah and that of his Khulafaa-e-Raashideen. There is absolutely no doubt or qualm about this being the road of true guidance. Muslims must hold on fast to this path, with their teeth. There may come a multitude of new innovations and differing views and opinions, but the Ummat must hold on fast to this path of guidance and not leave it.
g). Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) has also indicated that this is the Path of (to) Allaah Ta`ala, which he had demonstrated and upon which the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) had treaded. This Path will remain so until Qiyaamah. Besides this “Path of Allaah Ta`ala”, there are many other „side-streets‟ upon which a shaitaan is sitting and waiting to lead man astray by temptation. However, the Ummat must be vigilant and wary. They must know that the Road leading to Allaah Ta`ala is (only) the one which Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had showed. That is also the Road upon which the Sahaabah (radhiAllaahu anhum) and the Khulafaa-e-Raashideen (radhiAllaahu anhum) had treaded, and which all the Salf-e-Saaliheen (pious predecessors) and Auliyaa had followed. Besides this ONE road all the others are the inventions of shaitaan. Whoever calls to any of these roads is the agent of shaitaan, in fact, he is the personification of shaitaan. Whosoever, deviates from the Path of Allaah Ta`ala and ventures into one of the other roads, must know that he has entered a cave and into the mouth of a large snake. Or that he has ventured into some dangerous jungle and has become prey to a wild animal.
If one keeps in mind these principles and guidelines set out by the Qur`aan Majeed and the Ahaadith, and one understand them well, then it will not be difficult for one to discern and recognise which of all the groups mentioned in your question is the one which is on Haqq. It will also not then be necessary for me to analyse each one of them. However, for your ease and benefit, I will analyse and dilate briefly on each one of them.