Allah the High says in the Holy Quran, “And fasten unto the rope of Allah and don’t be divided.” (Surah Aale Imran (3): Verse 103)
There is no doubt that Allah the High prefers unity among the Ummah and dislikes disunity. So what measures did Allah the High and His Noble Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) take to prevent this disunity? What were the causes of this discord? Who is responsible for this disunity?
At the outset, let us see the concepts and terms used by the Holy Quran: The first term is Balaa/Ibtelaa. The second concept is al-fitnah/al-iftenaan and the third term and concept is al-imtehaan. The Holy Quran has used these terms in several places, especially the first and the second concepts. Whether these are having different applications or are they synonyms is a different issue. We have just named our topic: Test (al-Ikhtebaar). It should be known that testing the people – individually as well as collectively – is a Divine Tradition. It was done in the past, is being done presently and will continue till the Day of Judgment. As the Holy Quran says: “And you will not find any change in Allah’s tradition” (Surah Ahzab (33): Verse 62).
Of course, there are various ways and means to examine the people. Sometimes, He tests through deprivation of worldly things and calamities. As He says: “And certainly We will test you with something of fear, hunger and deficit of wealth, lives and fruits and give glad tidings to those who exercise patience.” (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 155).
At other times, this test is with comfort and opulence. “And We will test you with evils as well as goodness, as a test. And unto Us is your return.” (Surah Anbiya (21): Verse 35)
Just as Allah tests us with the aforementioned worldly things, He also examines us with the matters of religion and faith. Like He says, “Do the people think that they will be left alone if they say ‘We have believed’ and they will not be tested? And surely We have tested those before them; then certainly Allah knows those who have spoken the truth and knows the liars.” (Surah Ankbaoot (29): Verse 2)
Is it sufficient that a person claims that he is a believer and that he will not be tested? Nay! This nation will be tested as much – if not more – than the previous nations. Obviously, the spiritual test is more difficult, dangerous and significant than the worldly examination. As has come in the traditions, “A person will get up in the morning as a believer and by evening, he will be a disbeliever.” (Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 418, H. 2 Baab al-Moaareen)
Nobody should think that he is a believer now so he will remain a believer at the time of his death. Rather, he should strive for the protection of his religion from both aspects – faith as well as action – till his last breath.
Allah the High says in the Holy Quran, “And the final (good) end is only for the pious ones.” (Surah A’raaf (7): Verse 128)
And in a Hadis-e-Qudsi, He the High says, “Deeds are judged by their end.” (Ghavaali al-L’aali, p. 289)
Of course, divine tests and examinations have their own rationale. Allah the High says, “So that Allah may sieve the wretched from the pure.” (Surah Anfaal (8): Verse 37)
“…and that Allah might test what was in your chests and that He might purge what was in your hearts; and Allah knows what is in the chests” (Surah Aale Imran (3): Verse 154)
“…so that We may see how you act.” (Surah Yunus (10): Verse 14)
Now, we come to our moot discussion i.e. the test of the Muslim nation with the mastership of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).
The Holy Quran says: “And be not like those who became divided and disagreed after clear arguments had come to them, and these it is that shall have a grievous chastisement.” (Surah Aale Imran (3): Verse 105)
The above verse is addressing this nation viz. the Muslims and warns them from emulating the previous nations’ acts like division and disagreement after clear signs had come to them.
But we see that in the authentic and reliable traditions of books of both sects, it is clearly recorded that this nation will follow in the footsteps of the previous nations. In other words, whatever has happened in the previous nations will take place exactly the same in this nation. Imam Muhammad Baqir (peace be on him) informs: Surely the Jews were divided into 71 groups after Prophet Moosa (peace be on him). One group from these will go to Paradise and the remaining will go to Hell. The Christians were divided into 72 groups after Prophet Eesa (peace be on him). One group from these will go to Paradise and the remaining will go to Hell. This nation (viz. Muslims) too will be divided after their Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) into 73 sects, of which 72 will go to Hell and only one will go to Paradise.”
(Kafi, vol. 8, p. 224, H. 283)
Thus, while the Holy Quran and the Prophet of Allah (peace be on him and his progeny) have prohibited the nation from being divided, he (peace be on him and his progeny) has also prophesied that this nation will certainly be divided into factions, of which only one will go to Paradise and the rest will go to Hell.
Obviously, this order from Allah the High is tashreei’ and hence, the ultimate volition rests with man and the nation. There is no force and compulsion in religion.
Now, if disagreement is clearly prohibited, then who is responsible for its occurrence in this nation? The answer is Satan and man following his carnal desires and his love for position, power and pelf in this world. Hence, there is a famous narration from the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny): “Those who divide their religion and become in groups, they are the people of innovation. I am distanced from them and they are far from me.”
(Al-Mojam al-Sagheer by Tabaraani, vol. 1, p. 338; Hilyah al-Auliyaa by Abu Noaim Isfahani, vol. 4, p. 138)
Ameerul Momineen (peace be on him) says: “How surprising! And why should I not be surprised due to the mistake of these groups upon the differences of their arguments in their religion? They did not follow in the footsteps of the Prophet nor did they emulate the action of the successor nor did they believe in the unseen nor did they pardon the mistakes. They acted on doubts and they journeyed among the desires.”
(Kafi, vol. 8, p. 63, H. 22)
Thus, the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) informed us about the presence of hypocrites among his companions through the above prophecy. They were the ones who obeyed the insinuations of the Satan and followed their carnal desires and lust for power and pelf.