Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 40, Number 4579

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Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 40, Number 4579 says

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy one or seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.[1]

Islamic Commentary


Abdullah bin Amarra relates that the Holy Prophet (SA) said ‘Surely things will happen to my people as happened earlier to Israelites, they will resemble each other like one shoe in a pair resembles the other to the extent that if anyone among the Israelites has openly committed adultery to his mother there will be some who will do this in my Ummah as well, verily the Israelites were divided into 72 sects but my people will be divided into 73 sects, all of them will be in the fire except one.' The companions asked. 'Who are they O Messenger of Allah,' Holy Prophet (pbuh) said. `They are those who will be like me and my companions.’[2]

In this Hadith there are quite a few things to be noted. Firstly, it mentions the resemblance of the Muslim Ummah with the Israelites (i.e. Jews). In another Hadith[3] this resemblance is mentioned in the words that as among the Jews a prophet was raised in every century, among Muslims a reformer/Mujaddid will be raised and as among the Jews at the end of the chain of prophets a Messiah was raised a Messiah will be raised among the Muslims. Among Jews there were 12 tribes each divided into six sects making a total of 72 sects at the time when the Messiah Jesus (as) was sent to the Israelites. After the appearance of the Messiah among Jewish people the list of sects increased considerably. So while talking about 73 divisions among Muslims and taking into account the resemblance of the Muslim Ummah to the Jewish people mentioned in both of the above traditions, it appears that these two Ahadith relate to the time of the Messiah.

Authenticity of the Hadith

Other than Tirmidhi & Abu Daud, Ibn-e-Maja[4] gives three independent narration of the same Hadith. Talking about the authenticity of this Hadith, Abu Mansur Abd al-Kahir ibn-Tahir Al-Baghdadi says there are many independent testimonies for the tradition dealing with the division of the community. A number of following companions have handed it down as coming from the Prophet (pbuh): Anas ibn-Malik, Abu-Hurairah, Abu-l-Darda, Jabir, Abu-Sa'id al-Khidri, Ubai ibn-Ka'b, Abd-Allah ibn-Amr ibn-al-'As, abu-Imamah, Wathilah ibn-al-Aska' and others. It is also handed down that the pious Caliphs mentioned that the community would be divided after them, that one sect only would save itself, and the rest of them would be given to error in this world, and to destruction in the next.

Noahide Commentary

Noahide Islam.jpg

This may be a reference to the Seventy Nations.


  1. USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
  2. Tirmidhi - Kitabul Eeman
  3. Abu Daud - Vol.2, pg. 241
  4. Vol.1, pg.163