It is reported by Hazrat Abullah Ibn Umar that the Holy Prophet said: “Such a time, as passed over the Israelites, will surely come for my ummah also, even as the sole of a shoe is like that of the other; so much so that if anyone from amongst the Israelites had flagrantly committed incest with his mother, amongst my ummah too there will be such a man who will do this work. No doubt the Israelites were divided into 72 sects and my ummah will be divided into 73 sects all of which, save one will go to Hell." The Companions asked: "0 Apostle of Allah! Which is the sect that will go to Paradise"? He said: "That one which stuck to the path on which I and my Companions are."
How comprehensive are the Holy Prophet's teachings by which the right and the wrong and the good and the evil are quickly recognised and the fake and the genuine are distinguished. He said that his ummah would be divided into 73 sects. Now when all of them may claim to be true and to be committed to the religion of Islam, whom should the Muslims acknowledge to be in the right to follow it? For that such a sign and direction has been fixed that the ignorant and the learned, the high and the low, all can easily distinguish between which is the right one and the wrong one.
He said: "Those who stick to me and my Companions' methods are in the absolved sect."
Hence the man who does not follow the Holy Prophet's way and in whose life the Sunnah method is not conspicuous, cannot be followed, although he may be a very great religious divine or religious research scholar, for the simple reason that he is not on the Holy Prophet's and his holy Companions' path. When a man is standing on a path, all his limbs, hands and feet will be on the same path; no part of his body will be away from it. Similarly, in every aspect of life, in sitting and standing, in eating and drinking in moving and walking, in short, in each action, the prophetic pattern should be kept as a model; otherwise, if a man's religion is confirmed to prayer and fasting only, he is not on that path. Just as there may be two parallel ways and a man may set his one foot on one and the other on the other, no one can say about him that he is on the same path. He will be deemed to be on the same path only when both of his feet are on the same path. Then, the Holy Prophet's path is the path of Paradise, and the other is that of Hell and Satan. Now if one traverses the path leading to Hell and thinks that one would reach Paradise, it is simply impossible. Half-verse: -"It's a mere fancy; it's impossible, it's madness."
Everyone can understand that he will reach where he is going. Moreover, if he is walking on both the paths, with one foot on the one and the other on the other, or for some time he walks on one path and for some time on the other, it cannot be said with certainty about such a man that he will reach Paradise. It depends upon this, that before reaching, by death, the place where both the paths come to an end, if Allah gives him some sense and he repairs to the path of Paradise and his condition improves and meets his end on this very path, then it is hoped that -Allah willing - he can reach Paradise.
But if, during life, he continued to walk on both the paths, the paths of Paradise and Hell, and met his end on the path to Hell, it is obvious that then Hell alone will be his abode, for the path ended there and he will have to stop there only. Hence in this world neither anyone's claim of Islam nor the claim of Sunnah is enough unless one continuously walks on the path of the Sunnah.
It is also known from this holy Hadith that the Companions' method is also the criterion of salvation. If ‘Allah forbid!’ there had been any defect, the Holy Prophet would not have used the word "my Companions." If the life of all the Companions was not a criterion, of some it would have been; and it had not been of some, even then the Holy Prophet would not have used the word "my Companions," but would have used "some Companions" or any other word of that meaning. But it is not so. In this noble Hadith he has clearly said that "the method that is mine and my Companions,"' that alone is the way of salvation. Similarly, he has said: "My Companions are like stars; whomsoever you follow, you will have received guidance. That is, during dark nights people have to fix the direction for walking by seeing the stars and they reach their desired destination; similarly, during the dark period of deviation from the right path and error, if anyone of the Companions is made a guide and his way of life is adopted, one would be successful and reach one's destination safely.