What to do when there is too much fitnah and division

Question:

Are these the times which are referred to in the hadith of the Messenger ﷺ, according to which when one of the Sahabah asked him, “What should I do when there is too much fitnah and division?”, he replied, “Keep away from the people, and sit in your house”? In Al-Sahih, in Kitab Al-Fitan, Bab Kayf Al-Hal idha lam yakun khalifah, there is a hadith which says that the Prophet ﷺ told them to withdraw from people when calamities strike, and he said, “… even if you have to bite onto the root of a tree.” Please explain this hadeeth and tell us what the scholars said about it.

Answer:

In Al-Sahihayn and elsewhere – and this version was narrated by Al-Bukhari – it is reported from Abu Idris Al-Khawlani that he heard Hudhayfah ibn Al-Yaman say: “The people used to ask the Messenger of Allah ﷺ about good things, but I used to ask him about bad things, fearing that I would live to see such things. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, we were in a state of ignorance (jahiliyyah) and evil, then Allah sent us this good (i.e., Islam). Will there be any evil after this good?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Will there by any good after that evil?’ He said, ‘Yes, but it will be tainted.’ I said, ‘How will it be tainted?’ He said, ‘(There will be) some people who will guide others in a way that is not according to my guidance. You will approve of some of their deeds and disapprove of others.’ I said, ‘Will there be any evil after that good?’ He said, ‘Yes, there will be people calling at the gates of Hell, and whoever responds to their call, they will throw them into it (the Fire).’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us.’ He said, ‘They will be from among our people, speaking our language.’ I said, ‘What do you command me to do if I live to see such a thing?’ He said, ‘Adhere to the jama’ah (group, community) of the Muslims and their imam (leader).’ I asked, ‘What if there is no jama’ah and no leader?’ He said, ‘Then keep away from all those groups, even if you have to bite (eat) the roots of a tree until death overtakes you whilst you are in that state.’”

The time does not refer to this particular period we are living in; it is a general idea which may refer to any time and place, from the time of the fitnah and rebellion against ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) at the time of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them all), onwards.

What is meant by keeping away or withdrawing from people at the time of division is what was mentioned by Al-Hafidh ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) in Al-Fath, narrating from Al-Tabari, who said: when the people do not have an imam (leader) and they split into sects and parties, do not follow any of these groups; keep away from all of them if possible, lest one fall into evil. When there is a jama’ah that is truly following the Straight Path, then you have to join them and help to increase their numbers, and cooperate with them in truth, because in that case this group constitutes the jamaa’ah of the Muslims for that man in that place. And Allah is the source of strength.

May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family and Companions