Understanding the Concept of Groups in the Quran

A Thematic Interpretation of the Quran - 4

The major theme we are going to talk about is the theme of groups, or parties. The Quran uses a number of words for this theme; the terms “ta’ifah” and “firqah”, “hizb”, “fi’ah”…

The Quran uses groups of people to be described with a word that means a party or group. This is a word in the Quran that has authority because that description gives certain attributes for these parties, who they are, and how can we describe them.

Most of the time, the Quran doesn’t give names to parties, except for the parties that we need to know by name, because they’re part of history that is significant.

This for example is like the people of Ad, the people of Thamud, the people of Makkah or Madinah… But the Quran generally doesn’t give specific names of parties.

General Groups in Quran

The companions for example are mentioned of three parties: the muhajirun, the Ansar, and those who followed them in good terms. The Quran describes them as “alladhina” meaning “those who…” and then a verb comes after, like “those who have been given the Book” “those who have believed”, “those who have rejected the belief”… etc.

The word “Al-ladhina” makes the Quran general in its terms, it doesn’t give particular names of tribes or parties or groups that are known for certain names.


In order to keep the definition of the party general. When Allah (SWT) says:

Be heedful of Allah and be with those who are honest. (9:119)

“Those who are honest” is a party that we don’t have to define in terms of names of the companions that the Quran is talking about in a particular incident, but the incident is meant to be an example for a more general definition of the party of those who are honest.

The same applies to those who are patient, those who struggle in the way of Allah, those who spend in the way of Allah, those who are standing for the truth…

When Allah (SWT) mentions a party, He mentions a number of attributes related to that party. The rulers or commanders in the Quran, for example, are not mentioned to include any commander. They are mentioned with particular attributes that the commanders have to watch, have to observe, and have to abide by in order for them to have the authority that we are talking about as concepts.

Group of Rulers

Not any commander is a good commander or is a legitimate commander for that matter. And therefore, Allah mentions about the commanders, for example, they are not corrupt:

And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful]. (2:188)

Therefore, that is a definition that defines that legitimacy of these people. So when you talk about rulers, you have to tell me whether they have the attributes that the Quran is giving for this party, or they have the attributes of the other party that are “the tyrants.”

Both are rulers, but there is a difference between the Pharaoh and the just king that Allah (SWT) talked about in chapter Yusuf. Both were from Egypt, but the Pharaoh is different. He was part of the party of corrupt leaders, while the other king was part of the party of good leaders.

Group of Scholars

When you talk about scholars, what do you mean by that?

Is this a kind of theological description that an institution gives to people according to a certain certificate? Or is this tied to a way of dressing?

The party of scholars are those who fear Allah alone, those who say the truth whatever it is. They are those who practice any kind of knowledge that takes them closer to Allah.

You could be a scientist in a lab, and you are part of the scholars, if your study of biology or medicine takes you closer to Allah. That is the party of scholars in the Quran, not just a title that people give you based on a certain interest.

Yes, you could be a scholar and you work with a certain government, in a particular capacity for a particular cause. But there are differences between scholars who are loyal only to the Ummah, and scholars who are loyal to the authorities.

So even if the authorities tell them to say something against their values, principles, and the best interest of the community, they refuse.

When you have this group of rulers, scholars, or mujahideen… there are certain descriptions in the Quran that do not allow the mujahideen for example to be terrorists. But when you talk about terrorists, what do you mean by that party?

If you mean those who are unjust, who harm innocent people and compromise human life, I agree with that concept of terrorism and the group of terrorists. But that same group of terrorists must also include anybody who harms innocent civilians, not just particular groups that are labeled politically.

Group of Muslims

Those who are followers of the Prophets, are they true followers?

Who are those who are Muslims? The word Islam is not just the deen of Muhammad (peace be upon him). It’s the deen of Adam, Moses, Jesus… It’s the deen of all the Prophets and the followers of the Prophets are called Muslims. That is the Quranic definition of that particular

party; it is not based on a race or a geographical location, or a country where the majority are Muslims. Muslims are the followers of Allah’s Prophets.

Yes, some followers of the Prophets deviated from the original message of the Prophets, corrupted their books…etc. The Quran also teaches us about that. But every follower of the Prophets, including Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is part of that Muslim Ummah, that party that the Quran is teaching us about.

The Party of Hypocrites

There is a party that is very important which the Quran is talking about, that we don’t use in our day-to-day language: the party of hypocrites. They are those who say they believe, but inside they are not believers. Allah (SWT) says:

And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” but they are not believers. (2:8)

The party of hypocrites is also an important party by which we can describe part of our reality.

So, this is a theme in the Quran describing the groups and this is part of that framework or that network or web of meanings that we talked about that.

It is very important to internalize this theme in the intellect and in the heart of the believer so that the believer has the right conception of reality based on the right concepts and the right objectives of the revealed word of Allah (SWT).

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About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.