Fitnah . . . now that’s a word you must have heard on many occasions in the past. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam predicted the appearance of many fitan (plural of fitnah) before the Day of Qiyaamah. He also predicted that with the passing of time they would appear more and more frequently and that every fitnah will be worse than the previous fitan.  
بَادِرُوا بِالأَعْمَالِ فِتَنًا كَقِطَعِ اللَّيْلِ الْمُظْلِمِ
يُصْبِحُ الرَّجُلُ مُؤْمِنًا وَيُمْسِى كَافِرًا أَوْ يُمْسِى مُؤْمِنًا وَيُصْبِحُ كَافِرًا يَبِيعُ دِينَهُ بِعَرَضٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا
Hasten towards good actions before the appearance of fitan like the parts of a dark night. A man will be a believer in the morning and an unbeliever by the evening. Alternately, he will be a believer in the evening and an unbeliever in the morning. He will sell his deen for worldly commodities.   
By comparing these fitan to the parts of a dark night, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam meant that just as the night gets darker as it progresses – 10pm is darker than 9pm and 11pm is darker than 10pm – these fitan will only get worse with the passing of time. Describing the quick succession with which they will appear, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam also compared them to the beads of a broken necklace.  When the necklace is broken, the beads fall one after the other, with immediate succession. That is exactly how these fitan would appear, one after the other. People will hardly get over one fitnah and they will have to face another.
What is Fitnah?
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لا يُفْتَنُونَ
Do the people think that they would be left alone for saying we believe and that they would not be tested? 
Fitnah is translated as a test and a trial. (In the above aayah, the word yuftanoon is derived from the word fitnah.) It is a test of one’s imaan, sincerity and steadfastness. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam spoke of many of the fitan that will appear in the course of time. Hudhaifa radiallahu anhu narrated that one day, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam told them of every fitnah that will appear until the Day of Qiyaamah.  “By Allah, I do not know whether my friends have forgotten or they pretend to have forgotten. By Allah, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam did not omit the name of the leader of a single fitnah until the end of the world whose followers will equal three hundred or more except that he told us his name, his father’s name and the name of his tribe.”

Shah Waliullah rahimahullah was the first person to introduce the six canonical hadith works into the curriculum in the Indian subcontinent. A revolutionary thinker and prolific writer, he analysed the various ahaadith concerning the topic and concluded that there are a number of different types of fitan.  
The Individual
The first type of fitnah affects the individual. Its consequences are laziness in fulfilling the commands of Allah and deprivation of enjoyment in ‘ibaadah (worship). All Muslims acknowledge the compulsion of the five daily salawaat, yet so few of them actually fulfill this most important injunction of Islam. Why, what holds them back? Some perform the five salawaat, but haphazardly, void of feeling and spirituality. The same applies to all other ‘ibaadaat (acts of worship), saum and hajj included. Once again, we ask ‘why?’ Yes, you are correct. The answer is fitnah.  
The Family Unit
Going beyond the individual, the second type of fitnah affects the family unit. The spiraling rate of talaaq, the never-ending mother-in-law daughter-in-law squabbles, ill-treatment of parents and the growing number of elderly people who spend their last days in old-age homes are all symptoms of this type of fitnah.
The Community
Put a number of families together and you have a community, town or city. That is the target of the third type of fitnah. Put differently, the cause of discord in the community is fitnah. Vociferous campaigning for leadership and the appointment of undeserving people to such posts and civil strife, like what is happening in Syria and Iraq, are aspects of this type of fitnah. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said, “When leadership is entrusted to undeserving people, await the Final Hour.”  
A Few Other Fitan
Other types of fitan include:
1.    Rising insecurity – Crime, murder and rape seem to be a way of life for many.  Add to this the drone attacks in Pakistan and certain parts of Africa. What about the growing insecurity of Muslims living in Western countries like the US and the UK? All of these are among the fitan forewarned by Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. He said, “Time will become short (as we say, there will be no barakah in time), knowledge will be taken away, fitan will appear, there will be greed and excessive haraj.” The Sahaabah radiallahu anhum enquired the meaning of haraj and he sallallahu alaihi wasallam said that it is murder. 
2.    Rising immorality – Same-sex marriages, prostitution, abortion and even incest . . . Do we need to expound?
3.    Natural calamities – Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, cyclones, fire . . . Again, there is no need for elucidation.
4.    Prevalence of music – Under the pretext of education, entertainment or simply unwinding, music has permeated every sphere of modern life. In our homes, cars, classrooms, offices, departmental stores, supermarkets . . . and some anaasheed, music is everywhere. So many people these days do not believe that music is impermissible. Is this not a fitnah?
5.    Widespread alcoholism – The huge number of Muslims addicted to narcotics demonstrate the extent this fitnah is ravaging the ummah.
6.    Widespread dishonesty and misuse of trust – Explaining the extent trust will be exploited, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said, “. . . Hardly anybody will discharge his trusts. It will be said there is a trustworthy man in such-and-such tribe.”  
7.    The appearance of deviant sects – In this regard the hadith of seventy-three sects is all too famous.
8.    Criticism of the Salaf – The Salaf are the earliest Muslim generations, especially the Sahaabah radiallahu anhum.
    We have been commanded in the Qur’aan to make du’aa for the Sahaabah radiallahu anhum.
وَالَّذِينَ جَاءُوا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلا لِلَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ
Those who come after them say O Rabb, forgive us and our brethren who brought imaan before us and do not place in our hearts ill feeling for those who have imaan. Certainly, you are most compassionate and merciful.
    Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam forbade us from criticizing his Sahaabah radiallahu anhum. “Do not speak badly of my Sahaabah because if one of you has to spend gold equivalent to Mount Uhud, he will not reach the mudd of one of them.  In fact, he won’t even reach half of that.”  Many other ahaadith extol the merits of the Sahaabah radiallahu anhum.
    The Sahaabah radiallahu anhum are the bridge between Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam and the rest of the ummah. Who else but the Sahaabah radiallahu anhum conveyed the Qur’aan to the rest of the ummah? Hence, by casting aspersions on their integrity, the Qur’aan becomes extremely doubtful. How reliable is the Qur’aan if its transmitters are unreliable?
Criticising the Sahaabah radiallahu anhum is therefore a serious fitnah. 
9.    Rejection of hadith – Interpretation of the Qur’aan was one of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam’s primary functions.
وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ
We revealed The Reminder to you so that you may expound for the people what was revealed to them.
Thus, the Qur’aan mentions broad principles but the finer details are clarified by Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
    The Qur’aan commands us to perform salaah but it does not explain the method of salaah and how many rak’aat should be performed in each salaah. It instructs us to perform salaah but it does not inform us that there are two rak’aat in fajr, four in dhuhr and three in maghrib. All these details are explained in the hadith.
    The Qur’aan instructs us to discharge zakaat but it does not tell us how much zakaat we have to pay, two and half percent, five percent or . . . Similarly, it does not inform us whether zakaat is payable on all our possessions including household items or whether it is only compulsory on certain categories of wealth. Once again, these details were explained by Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
    Likewise, we are commanded in the Qur’aan to make tawaaf of the ka’bah, but nowhere in the Qur’aan are we told that one tawaaf comprises of seven rounds. This too came to us from Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
These are just a few examples. Nevertheless, they are sufficient to prove that the role of hadith in understanding the Qur’aan and implementing its laws in indispensable. Rejection of hadith is therefore another evil fitnah. Based on what we have explained, it attacks the core and essence of Islam. Can you imagine someone saying ‘Qur’aan does not specify the number of rak’aat for salaah. Hence, I will perform how many rak’aat I wish’? Thus, he performs three rak’aat in fajr, six in dhuhr and seven and maghrib. To many people, this may sound laughable. However, it is a reality. Misguided by Shaytaan and his friends, there are people who argue in this manner. Imagine! If they continue arguing like this, what will be left of Islam?

May Allah Ta’aala safeguard our imaan and protect us from all forms of fitan, aameen.

Abu Hudhaifa Muhammed Karolia
23 Rajab 1434 / 3 June 2013
Al-Jaami’ah Al-Mahmoodiah
Persida, Springs