From ‘Amr bin Salamah (رضي الله عنه):
We were sitting by the door of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (رضي الله عنه) before lunch, so that if he came out, we could walk with him to the Masjid. Abu Musa al-Ashari (رضي الله عنه) came and said: “Has Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman come out yet?” We said: “No.”
So, he sat down with us, waiting for him to come out, and when we came out, we all gathered towards him, and Abu Musa (رضي الله عنه) said:
“O Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman! Previously I saw something in the Masjid which I disliked. But, Alhamdulillah, what I saw, was nothing but good.”
He said: “What was it?”
Abu Musa (رضي الله عنه) said: “If you live, you will see it.”
Then Abu Musa said: “I saw a group of people, sitting in circles waiting for the prayer. In every circle there was a man and in their hands were small stones and he would say: ‘Say Allahu-Akbar 100 times’ and they would say Allahu Akbar 100 times. Then, he would say: ‘Say la ilaha illAllah 100 times’ and they would say la ilaha illAllah 100 times and he would say: ‘Say SubhanAllah 100 times’ and they would say SubhanAllah 100 times.”
‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (رضي الله عنه) said: “So what did you say to them?”
He said: “I did not say anything to them, rather I was waiting for your opinion [or command].”
He said: “Why did you not command them to count their bad deeds [i.e. seek forgiveness from your deeds] and guarantee them that their good deeds would not be lost?!”
Then he walked and we walked with him until he reached one of those circles and he stood there and said: “What is this that I see you doing?”
They said: “O Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman! These are nothing but small stones with which we are counting, saying Allahu-Akbar, la ilaha illAllah and SubhanAllah.”
He said: “Count your sins! I guarantee that you will not lose anything of your good deeds! Beware, O Ummah of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)! How quick you race to your destruction! Here we are, the Companions of your Prophet – abundant, everywhere and here is his clothing which has not been [wasted away] and his utensils have not been broken. I swear by Him in Whose Hand is my soul, either you are an Ummah more rightly-guided than the Ummah of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or you are opening the door of misguidance.”
They said: “We swear by Allah, O Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman, we did not intend anything but good.”
He said: “How many people intend good but never achieve it. Verily the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) narrated to us:
“Indeed there will be a people who read the Qur’an but it doesn’t pass beyond their throats.”
I swear by Allah, I do not know. Perhaps most of them are from amongst you.”
Then he went away. ‘Amr bin Salamah (رضي الله عنه) said: “We saw some of those sitting in those circles fighting on the Day of Nahrawan, along with the Khawarij.”
Narrated by ad-Darimi in his Sunan.
Shaykh al-Albani (rahimahullah) mentions in the Takhrij (research) of the above narration:
THE CONSEQUENCE OF INNOVATING AND EXTREMISM IN THE DIN
Indeed there is a lesson to be learnt from this narration, for those who follow Sufi Paths and Dhikr gatherings which are against the Sunnah. When someone forbids an evil action they perform they accuse him of forbidding Dhikr from its very foundation! This is Kufr which no Muslim in this world should fall into. The evil action which they adhere to, from those forms of Dhikr and gatherings which, were not legislated at the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), otherwise why would Ibn Mas’ud (رضي الله عنه) disapprove of those who were sitting in their gatherings? Is it not, a gathering done on a specific day, and doing an amount of Dhikr which is not indicated by the Shari’ah but is listed by the “shaykh” of the gathering, and he commands them with the amount of Dhikr that they should do from himself, as if he is a legislator on behalf of Allah, the Most High!
“Or do they have partners with Allah, who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed.”
Surat ash-Shura: 21.
To add to this, the Sunnah which is established by the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) verbally and practically is to perform the Tasbih (remembrance of Allah) on your fingertips, as it is clear in “The refutation against al-Habashi” and in other places.
From the benefits which can be reaped from the hadith and this story is that the importance is not of performing a large amount of worship, but rather: “Is it according to the Sunnah and far away from Bid’ah?” Ibn Masood (رضي الله عنه) also indicated to this point in his saying:
“Sticking to the Sunnah is better than striving in Bid’ah”
And another benefit is: That a small Bid’ah leads to a greater Bid’ah. Do you not see that those people from these gatherings afterwards became from the Khawarij who were killed by the rightly guided Khalifah ‘Ali bin Abi Talib? So is there anyone who will take heed?!
Silsilah Ahadith as-Sahihah of Shaykh al-Albani, vol. 5/2005.
Source: The ‘Religious’ Insurgency of the Khawarij – The Khawarij and Their Characteristics, Compiled and Translated by ‘Abbas Abu Yahya, Salafi Publications, pp.40-44.