Recognising Afflictions and Fitan, and how to Protect Oneself from them in this Age ―The Manhaj of the Salaf

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All praise is due to Allah to whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. To Him is due all praise and He is the All-Wise the All-Knowing. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone without partners. He created death and life to see which of you is best in deeds and He is the Almighty, All-Wise. I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, the bringer of glad tidings and a warner from destruction; a shining bright lamp – may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his family, his Companions and all who truly follow him. To proceed:

To be saved from destruction one is obligated to hold fast to Straight Path. Abdullāh Ibn Mas’ood (رضي الله عنه) said that Allah’s Messenger (عليه الصلاة و السلام) drew for us a straight line and said: “This is Allah’s Straight Path.” Then he drew lines to the right and to left and said: “These are divergent paths. At the head of each of these paths is a devil calling to it.” Then he (عليه الصلاة و السلام) recited:

وَأَنَّ هَٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not other paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious.” (Al-An`ām: 153)

So beware of tribulations that steer you away from from following the Book and Sunnah and take heed of the saying of Allah:


أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

“Alif-Lam-Mim. Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried? We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” (Al-‘Ankaboot: 1-3)

Fitan (sing. fitnah) are tribulations, trials and tests that Allah puts His servants through to distinguish between the truthful, devoted, steadfast believer and the hypocritical liar and deceiver― and to discern the one strong in īmān from the weak-hearted believer. So when the fitan appear, then from the people are those who make apparent their hypocrisy and the absence of faith, or at least their terrible weakness [1]. Allah stated regarding the hypocrites:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

يُخَادِعُونَ اللَّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلَّا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ

“And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they are not believers. They think to deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive it not.” (Al-Baqarah: 8-9)

Muslims should know that a person is tested in accordance to his adherence. And those who are tried and afflicted the most are Prophets of Allah, then those who resemble them the most as occurs in the hadeeth:

عَنْ مُصْعَبِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاَءً قَالَ ‏  الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ فَيُبْتَلَى الرَّجُلُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ دِينُهُ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاَؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاَءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ مَا عَلَيْهِ خَطِيئَةٌ

Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr narrated from his father that a man said: “O Messenger of Allah, which of the people is tried most severely?” He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The Prophets, then those most resembling them, then those most resembling them. A man is tried according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, then his trials are more severe, and if he is frail in his religion, then he is tried according to the strength of his religion. The servant shall continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sins.” (At-Tirmidhi, no 2398)

So, those who are most like the Prophets are those who proceed upon their methodology in calling to Allah and in calling to what they called to, and they receive harm due to that. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “No one has ever been harmed like I was harmed in the way of Allah.” (Hasan, reported by Ad-Daylamee, 4/51. See As-Silsilah, 2222)

The two types of Fitnah

Fitan (trials) are of two types: (1): The trials that cause doubts (shubuhāt) to enter the souls and (2), the trials that lead the souls to follow their desires (shahawāt) and fall into sins such as fornication, usury, theft, lying and backbiting.

So, sins are combatted through obedience, repentance and sincere worship. The doubts are combatted through knowledge of the creed and the methodology of the early Salaf, and being certain upon that and clinging to that steadfastly.

The afflictions of the doubts (shubuhāt) are the onslaughts against the beliefs (aqeedah) and methodology (manhaj) of Salafiyyah such as the innovations in the Names and Attributes of Allah, and giving precedence to the intellect over the revelation, denial of the questioning in the grave, its punishment and its rewards and other matters related to the Creed. Shaytan (and his followers from mankind and jinn) throw these doubts in order to lead people into unbelief (kufr) and polytheism (shirk) such as the trials (fitan) that have gripped the grave-worshippers who went to extremes with the dead whom they took as saints, calling upon them with supplications (du’ā), seeking their intercession and help ― and how many have fallen into this evil among the nations, past and present. And likewise, the doubts that have afflicted the rest of Ahlul-Bid’ah such as the Jahmiyyah, Mu’tazilah, Ashā’irah and others among Ahlul-Kalām (people of theological rhetoric) as well as the devil’s deception upon the Sufiyyah, Shi’ah, Khawārij and the modern-day sects such as Ikhwānul-Muslimoon, Jamā’atut-Tableegh, Deobandiyyah, Al-Qutbiyyah, Al-Qaedah, Ad-Daesh, the modernists and others.

Falling into fitan is made easy when the people abandon the way of the early Salaf, and they abandon righteous scholars of Sunnah and follow those who call to doubts and innovations in belief and methodology. So, people fall into tribulations until they see innovations to be Sunnah and Sunnah to be innovations! So a person who calls to Sunnah and to the way of the Salaf, who opposes deviations, refutes Ahlul-Bid’ah is accused of “causing fitnah” and “opposing the Religion”!

In this regard, Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (رضي الله عنه) said: “How will you be when you are enveloped by fitan (tribulations) ― a time when the child will become old and the elderly will become decrepit ― such that when one avoids tribulations (innovations and misguidance), it will be said, ‘The Sunnah has been abandoned.'”

It was said: “When will that happen O father of ‘Abdur-Rahmān?” Ibn Mas’ood replied: “When your scholars pass away, your ignorant are numerous, your reciters are many, your scholars are few, your leaders are numerous, the trustworthy amongst you are few and the world is sought by the deeds of the Hereafter ― and religious understanding is sought for other than the Religion.” 

(Saheeh; reported by ad-Dārimee, 191-192; Shaikh Al-Albānee said in Qiyām Ramadān (p.3): “It is authentic as the statement of Ibn Mas`ood and in its ruling, it is elevated to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).”)

To exit these deviations and affliction, one is obligated to return back to the early affair of Religion as it was in the time of the Prophet and his Companions. Abu Wāqid al-Laithi (رضي الله عنه) said: “Whilst we were sitting with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) on a rug spread out, he said: ‘Indeed there will be fitnah!’ It was said: “How should we behave O Allah’s Messenger?” So he took firm hold of the rug and said: ‘You will behave like this!’” In another narration from Mu’ādh Ibn Jabal (رضي الله عنه), Allah’s Messenger said: ‘Indeed there will be fitnah!’ But the people were not listening, so Mu’ādh said: ‘Did you not hear what Allah’s Messenger said?’ They asked: ‘What did he say?’ He said: ‘Indeed there will be fitnah.’ So they asked: ‘How should we conduct ourselves O Messenger of Allah?’ He replied: ‘You must return back to the affairs as they were in the beginning.'” 

(Saheeh; reported by at-Tabarānee in al-Kabeer, 3307; and al-Awsat, 8679; See as-Saheehah, 3165)

There are those from the Scholars constantly protecting and preserving this religion seeking only the Face of Allah and Allah raises such individuals in every age. Ibrāheem Ibn ‘Abdir-Rahmān al-‘Adhari (rahimahullāh) said that Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

يَحْمِلُ هَذَا الْعِلْمَ مِنْ كُلِّ خَلَفٍ عُدُولُهُ ، يَنْفُونَ عَنْهُ تَحْرِيفَ الْغَالِينَ ، وَانْتِحَالِ الْمُبْطِلِينَ ، وَتَأْوِيلِ الْجَاهِلِينَ

“This knowledge will be carried by the trustworthy ones of every generation. They will expel from it the distortions of the extremists, the fabrications of the liars and the interpretations of the ignorant.” 

(Hasan; Reported by Ibn Qutaibah in `Ayoonul-Akhbār, 2/118; al-Bayhaqee in Sunan al-Kubrā, 10/209; al-Ājurree in Ash-Sharee`ah, 1-2; See Mishkāt al-Masābeeh, 248.)

Sideeq Hasan Khan (rahimahullah) stated in Ad-Deen al-Khālis (3/261-263) in explanation of this narration (abridged): Meaning: the knowledge of the Book and Sunnah ― this knowledge will be carried by every group of people that comes after the Salaf, the trustworthy ones from amongst them and narrators of it. “They will expel from it the distortions of those who go beyond the limits,” meaning: those who change the affairs of religion by going beyond its limits. Tahreef means to replace the truth with falsehood by changing the words or changing the meanings. “The fabrications of the liars,” meaning: they ward off the lies of the people of falsehood. Intihāl is to claim something for oneself falsely such as poetry or speech or other than that ― so it is a substitute term for kadhib (lying). “The interpretations of the ignorant,” meaning: they protect [the religion] from their interpretations wherein they interpret the verses and narrations without knowledge and without understanding ― and they alter them from their apparent meanings.

This hadeeth is a clear proof of the praise of the People of Hadeeth (Ahlul-Hadeeth) upon the tongue of the Messenger of the Ummah and the Prophet of mercy (صلى الله عليه وسلم) ― so this is an excellence and an honour for them. There is no equivalent to it in terms of virtues ― however this excellence is conditional upon the qualities mentioned in this hadeeth.

These qualities are found amongst a band of the people of hadeeth and a group of muhadditheen, past and present, and all praise is for Allah. This hadeeth gathers together the qualities of the people of hadeeth and they are particularised with these qualities. And these particular qualities are not found in a complete manner except with the people of pure Sunnah!

Those who enter into this hadeeth is every person who knows hadeeth and knows the Book and has these [fine] characteristics.

And likewise, anyone for whom it is attested that he is an extremist, or a fabricator or an ignoramus ― then such a person enters into those mentioned as the ones who are opposed [and rebuked].

So from the extremists and those who go beyond bounds, those who go over-board (ghāleen) are the group that claims the oneness of all existence (Allah being one with His creation, wahdatul-wujood) ― those who claim they have extrapolated this understanding from the Qur’an and hadeeth! So this extrapolation of their’s from the Book and Sunnah is distortion (tahreef) because the Book and Sunnah have judged with unbelief the one who speaks with these words with evidence from the texts and which is indicated by the Book and Sunnah. From them also are the Rāfidah [Shi`ah] who proclaim love for the household of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) ― and their fitnah is the most severe of fitan upon the rest of Islam.

And from them also are the Khawārij who went to extremes with the Book of Allah, they negated the hadeeth and negated using them as proof. And from them are the Mu`tazilah, the Jahmiyyah, the Qadariyyah, the Muriji’ah, the Jabriyyah and those who are like them from their offshoots and other than them.

As for the falsifiers (al-Mubtiloon), then they are the philosophers amongst the Muslim ranks, and the sages of this religion who assign to themselves the religion of the Greeks and their principles, and their sayings that are present in their ancient and later books ― they speak using these writings about the legislations of the Sharī`ah and they establish principles of logic and they are proud of this description (that they are philosophers). They vie with one another regarding these sayings that are mere hearsay. So they, in reality, are the enemies of Islam. They falsify the religion of the best of creation (the Prophet) ― they teach this religion of the Greeks and they falsify the Religion of Muhammad (عليه الصلاة و السلام).

As for the ignorant (jāhiloon), then from them are the blind followers of the madhhabs; they are ignorant of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger. They take the sayings of the noble Imāms and make a religion from it, and a methodology that they traverse upon, and a Sharī`ah that they follow. If they come across a clearcut verse or an established Sunnah or a legislated obligation that opposes their madhhab, they proceed to explain away these texts upon other than their actual explanations. They distort them from their apparent explanations so as to affirm and fit in with their madhhabs… (Abridged)

Starting point

Al-Allāmah Al-Albānī (rahimahullāh) stated: “Without any doubt, we must begin [our da’ wah] with tasfiyah (purification) and tarbiyah (cultivation). And any movement that is not established upon this foundation there will be absolutely no benefit in it.”

He (rahimahullah) said: “Firstly, the purification of the Islamic ‘aqeedah from that which is foreign to it such as shirk and the denial of the Divine Attributes and explaining them away [with false ta’weel]. One must return to authentic narrations and connect them to belief (i.e. ‘aqeedah) and so on.

Secondly: Purification of the Islamic Fiqh from erroneous conclusions (ijtihāds) that run contrary to the Book and Sunnah.

Thirdly: Purification of the books of Tafseer, Fiqh, and writings that are intended to soften the hearts, etc, from weak and fabricated narrations and false stories of the People of Book. And this is what I have done in this Silsilah series and in other works such as Da`eef Abī Dāwood, Da`eef Al-Jāmi` as-Sagheer and Da`eef At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb.”

(Abridged, see As-Silsilah Ad-Da`eefah, introduction, p. 2.)

[1] To this point taken from Shaikh Al-Fawzān’s Khutub al-Minbariiyyah.

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