But they [who claim to follow you] have torn their unity wide asunder,29
piece by piece, each group delighting in [but] what they themselves possess [by way of tenets].30
Cf. 21:93 .
Lit.; "in what they have [themselves]". In the first instance, this verse refers to the various religious groups as such: that is to say, to the followers of one or another of the earlier revelations who, in the course of time, consolidated themselves within different "denominations", each of them jealously guarding its own set of tenets, dogmas and rituals and intensely intolerant of all other ways of worship (manasik, see 22:67 ). In the second instance, however, the above condemnation applies to the breach of unity within each of the established religious groups; and since it applies to the followers of all the prophets, it includes the latter-day followers of Muhammad as well, and thus constitutes a prediction and condemnation of the doctrinal disunity prevailing in the world of Islam in our times -cf. the well-authenticated saying of the Prophet quoted by Ibn Hanbal, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, and Darimi: "The Jews have been split up into seventy-one sects, the Christians into seventy-two sects, whereas my community will be split up into seventy-three sects." (It should be remembered that in classical Arabic usage the number "seventy" often stands for "many" - just as "seven" stands for "several" or "various" - and does not necessarily denote an actual figure; hence, what the Prophet meant to say was that the sects and divisions among the Muslims of later days would become many, and even more numerous than those among the Jews and the Christians.