1. The leader of the truthful, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “There will constantly be a group from my Umma holding fast to the matter of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who abandon them, nor by those who oppose them. This will remain their condition until the decree of Allah arrives” (Bukhari, Muslim).
The “matter of Allah” refers to matters of religion, including preservation of His Book, knowledge of the Sunna, deriving juridical rulings from them [for issues that arise], fighting in His path [to protect the faith], acting in sincerity towards his creation, and, in general, preserving His every command. “Decree of Allah” implies their death and departure from this world or, according to some commentators the Last Day (Mirqat al-mafatih 10:653). Regarding the actual identity of the “group,” there are a number of opinions. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal states, “If these are not scholars of hadith then I do not know who they are.” However, the more inclusive opinion is that the hadith does not refer to any one group in particular, but, as Imam Nawawi states, a host of individuals from every religious activity and group–scholars of hadith, commentators of the Qur’an, teachers of sacred knowledge, fighters in the path of Allah, worshipers, ascetics, etc. He states that all these individual could exist throughout the world or a few from them in some parts of the world. It is also possible that only some remain in one part of the world until a time comes when none will remain, and it is then that the “decree of Allah” [i.e., the Last Day] will come (Fath al-Bari 3:3271). [A] Such groups of people will always remain in this world in order to preserve the various teachings and practices of Islam until it is the will of Allah. “But Allah will complete His light, even though the unbelievers may detest (it)” (Qur’an 61:8).
(Shaykh `Ashiq Ilahi al-Bulandshehri, Zad al-Talibin, translation & commentary by `Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf and published by White Thread Press, as Provisions for the Seekers, p.114)