The Delusion of Large Numbers

A little over a month ago I came across a news headline that read: “Muslims more numerous than Catholics: Vatican.”

The headline alone brought me great joy. It gave me a sense of pride to know that Islam was moving up to the top due to our large numbers. The article mentioned that “Islam had overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world.” It further went on to say that the main reason for that is due to the fact that Muslims have higher birth rates than others. That, along with the fact that more people are accepting Islam than any other religion in the world, gives truth to the phrase we so often hear: “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.”

However, after contemplating a Hadeeth that I recently came across, I realized that perhaps it was better not to rejoice. The Hadeeth is narrated by Thawban who was one of the servants of the Prophet (SAW). In it the Messenger of Allah (SAW) prophecized that this day would come. The Hadeeth goes as follows:

“The people will soon summon one another to attack you, as people when eating invite others to share their dish.” Someone asked: “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied: “No, rather you will be numerous at that time, but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last Wahn (enervation) into your hearts.” Someone asked: “What is Wahn (enervation), O Messenger of Allah!” He replied: “Love of the Dunya and dislike of death.” [Abu Dawud]

This Hadeeth really strikes home the reality we live in today. We have a large quantity with little to no quality. It goes to show us that we should not be deluded by our large numbers, for our strength is not measured by our numbers but rather by how steadfast we are upon our Deen. The sad reality of our Ummah today is that although we are large in numbers, only few are remaining steadfast upon the truth. This is further supported by the answer the Prophet (SAW) gave when asked about the Ghuraba’ (strangers):

“A righteous people who are small in number, among evil people who are large in number, those who disobey them outnumber those who obey them.” [At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb]

In the story of Talut (Saul) and Jalut (Goliath), Allah mentions the fear that overcame the followers of Talut when they saw that they were outnumbered by Jalut and his army:

“So when he had crossed it (the river), along with those who believed with him, they said: “We have no power this day against Jalut and his soldiers.” But those who were certain that they would meet Allah said: “How often a small group overcame a mighty host by Allah's permission. And Allah is with the patient.”” [Al-Baqarah 2:249]

And so they defeated Jalut and his army, and from this we saw how a few steadfast believers were able to defeat an army that far outnumbered them. Then history repeated itself during the time of the Prophet (SAW). In the battle of Badr the Muslims numbered approximately 300 compared to the disbelievers who amounted to 1,000, and in the battle of the trench or Al-Ahzab the Muslims were roughly 3,000 compared to the disbelievers who amounted to 10,000. And in both battles the Muslims came out victorious.

The sad reality we face today, is that most Muslims have become deluded by large numbers. They look at the success of a group or organization based on how big of a crowd it can attract. Little do they realize that attracting a large crowd is not evidence of success, rather it is a catastrophe if it is not based upon guidance from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger (SAW). What proves this is that in the Qur'an Allah describes His Straight Path as being one, as for the other paths He uses the plural form to describe them. Hence, proving that the deviant paths are many in quantity compared to the one Straight Path of Allah:

“And verily, this is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not other paths, for they will separate you away from His Path.” [Al-An’am 6:153]

And we further see that Allah dispraises large numbers in various parts of the Qur'an, He says:

“And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the Path of Allah.” [Al-An’am 6:116]

And He says:

“And most of them believe not in Allah except while they associate others with Him.” [Yusuf 12:106]

And He describes small numbers in a praiseworthy manner, He says:

“But none had believed with him (Nuh) except a few.” [Hud 11:40]

And He says:

“But few of My slaves are grateful.” [As-Saba’ 34:13]

This is how the truth and its people have always been, few in number, but firm and steadfast in what they believe in. So who is more unjust than one who treats the Muslims equally, between those upon the Straight Path of Allah and those upon the paths of Shaitan?

“Shall We then treat the Muslims like the criminals? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?” [Al-Qalam 68:35]

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
10th of Jumada Al-Awwal 1429