By collecting and analyzing all the texts of the
Hadīth you have referred to, the picture which emerges ist:
i) The prediction stated in these Āhadīth pertain to the
period just after the Prophet (sws), and relates to events within the land of
Arabia. Such Āhadīth are meant to put Muslims on guard, and are also a means to
substantiate the Prophethood of Muhammad (sws) for people of his times.
ii) The number 73 is not been used here in its literal
sense. It is used here figuratively to emphasize a point. Such a usage has
examples in every language. For example we say: ‘If Ahmad has faltered three
times you will falter four times’. This does not mean that we are counting the
number of times some one is going to falter. It only means that we are warning
our addressee that he will falter more than Ahmad and therefore he should be
iii) The word ‘firqah’ here does not imply a religious
sect. It means the various political factions and groups which do not submit to
the authority of the state and create anarchy in the society.
iv) These Āhadīth also direct Muslims to remain attached to
the ‘al-jamā‘ah’ , when such a time of anarchy comes. The word ‘al-jamā‘ah’
means ‘state authority’, and does not mean a religious faction or group.
v) It is known that many factions like the Khawārij and the
Sabā’ī created a lot of nuisance in the period after the Prophet (sws) by
rebelling against the state authority. It is groups such as these which have
been referred to in such Āhadīth. The Prophet (sws) is urging his Companions (rta)
and followers not to become part of such rebellious factions and to cling to the
authority of the state.