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The Saved Sect

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Al-Firqat al-Nājiya (Arabic: الفرقة الناجية, literally: the saved sect, or the sect that received salvation) is a term appearing in Hadith al-Iftiraq (or Hadith of Division), which is interpreted as referring to the Imami Shia. According to a hadith attributed to the Prophet (s), the Islamic nation after him would divide into diverse sects, only one of which would be saved or would attain salvation. There are remarks transmitted from the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a) to the effect that the saved sect is the Shia of Imam 'Ali (a). There are works written about instances and characters of the saved sect.

The Significance of the Saved Sect

The “saved sect” in the sense of the sect or group that attains salvation on the day of resurrection is a term used in a hadith attributed to the Prophet (s) as the Hadith of Division. On this hadith, the Prophet (s) predicts that his nation would divide into 73 sects, only one of which will be saved. Each Islamic sect has tried to offer criteria on which it counts as the instance of the saved sect.

The Validity of Hadith al-Iftiraq

There are controversies over the validity or authenticity of the Hadith of Division. Some researchers of Islamic sects, such as Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri (d. 456/1063) held that the hadith is unreliable and Ibn Wazir believed that the last part of the hadith (i.e. "72 of which are in the Hell") is fabricated. However, some Shiite and Sunni books of hadiths and some early sources of sects and creeds (al-milal wa l-nihal) as well as more recent researchers of Islamic sects have cited the hadith. Thus, contrary to the first group, there is another group of scholars who believe that Hadith al-Iftiraq is not only well-known, but also mutawatir. It is said that since this hadith is an instance of khabar al-wahid (a hadith that is not frequently transmitted), it cannot be relied on in the case of beliefs and determination of the saved sect. However, according to Ja'far Subhani, weakness of its chain of transmission is compensated by its being mustafid (being transmitted by many people, although falling short of being frequent) and its widespread citation in Shiite and Sunni sources of hadiths. In fact, its transmission through different, albeit non-frequent, chains of transmission ensures its authenticity.

Which Sect is Saved?

There are disagreements over the instance of the saved sect among scholars of various Islamic denominations. They often tend to specify their own denomination as the saved sect and the other 72 sects as being in the Hell. Jamal al-Din al-Razi, an Imami scholar, in his Tabsirat al-ʿawamm, Ja'far b. Mansur al-Yaman, an Isma'ilist scholar, in his Saraʾir wa asrar al-nutaqaʾ, and Shahristani, a Sunni scholar, in his al-Milal wa-l-nihal, refer to their respective denominations as the saved sect.

To identify the saved sect, sometimes various versions of the hadith of 73 sects are adduced, where each sect chooses a version which confirms its salvation. On ʿAli Aqa Nuri’s research, there are fifteen versions of this hadith in which the saved sect can be specified, eight of which are concerned with the imamate of Imam 'Ali (a) or compliance with the Prophet's Household (a) or the Shia (followers) of Imam ʿAli (a), although there are versions of the hadith in which no criteria for salvation are mentioned.

The Shiite Point of View

The well-known Shiite scholar of hadith in the fourth/tenth century, al-Shaykh al-Saduq, appeals to Hadith al-Thaqalayn in his Kamal al-din wa tamam al-ni'ma to demonstrate that the saved sect is the one that makes resort to the Quran and the Prophet’s Household (a). Moreover, al-'Allama al-Majlisi cites a hadith from Imam ʿAli (a) in his Bihar al-anwar to the effect that the Imam’s followers (Shia) will attain salvation. al-'Allama al-Hilli cites certain hadiths on which he identifies the saved sect as followers of the Twelve Imams, and then he brings evidence for the rightfulness of Shiism. Furthermore, Hadith al-Safina has been adduced by those who identify the saved sect as the followers of the Prophet’s Household (a), since it says that those who follow Ahl al-Bayt (a) will be saved.

Nevertheless, there are other hadiths cited by Sunni scholars to the effect that the saved sect is the community or majority or followers of Rashidun Caliphs.

There is a version of Hadith al-Iftiraq to the effect that all Islamic sects, except Zindiqs, will attain salvation.

Bibliography

There are works written about the saved sect. In his al-Dhari'a, Aqa Buzurg Tihrani mentions some of the Shiite works on the saved sect:

  • This book establishes the idea that the saved sect is the Twelver Shia. It contains about 25000 verses of poetry. The book is admired by Shiite scholars, and al-'Allama al-Majlisi refers to it as one of the best works on the matter. It is also titled al-Sawarim al-madiya li-radd al-firqat al-hadiya wa-tahqiq al-firqat al-najiya.
  • In this book, the author tries to identify the saved sect as well as the other 72 sects.

See Also

References