Can You Explain the Hadith About Seventy-Three Sects in Islam?

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan


I read hadith regarding the seventy-three sects in Islam, of which all will be in hell except one. I question whether that means the seventy-two sects will always remain in hell.


The hadith that reads, “My nation will be divided into seventy-three sects, all of them are in hellfire, save one,” has been the subject of much discussion by scholars.

The hadith has been transmitted with different wording from eight of the companions of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). However, all these narrations are weak because of either weak or unreliable narrators. The most reliable of them is the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him), which does not contain the phrase “all of them are in hellfire, save one.”

Due to the weakness of these narrations, Imam Bukhari and Muslim did not include or even allude to them in their authentic compilations, despite the fact that the hadith has been transmitted widely. Also, Imam Shawkani (Allah be pleased with him) stated clearly that the addition, “all of them are in hellfire, save one,” is weak and inauthentic. Similarly, ibn Hazm, though not necessarily an authority on hadith, declared the hadith weak and inauthentic.

In short, the authenticity of the hadith you quoted has been debated among scholars. A detailed study of the hadith demonstrates that it is weak, while the most reliable version does not include “all of them are in hellfire, save one.”

Nonetheless, to answer your question of whether the seventy-two groups destined for hellfire will eventually enter paradise,  this depends on their beliefs. If a sect’s belief places it outside the fold of Islam, its adherents will remain in the fire forever;  however, if its belief causes its adherents to be innovators, which makes them guilty of a crime or a sin, they will not be in hellfire forever, but will eventually enter Paradise. The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whomsoever has an atom of Iman in his heart will not enter hellfire (eternally)” [Tirmidhi; Abu Dawud; and Ibn Maja]

And Allah knows best.

[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan received ijazah ‘ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.