How do we combine between the (two) narrations of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم: “Whoever says la ilaha illa Allah will enter paradise,” and the Hadeeth: “my nation will divide into seventy three groups all of them in the fire except one?”
Answer: there is no contradictions between these two narrations. (the Hadeeth), “whoever says la ilaha illa Allah“ is not merely saying it with the tongue only, rather the one who says it sincerely from his heart and disbelieves in what is worshipped other than Allah as mentioned in another narration. “whoever says la ilaha illa Allah and disbelieved in all things worshipped other than Allah...” and this is restricted by this other narration. Also (the other narration) “whoever says it sincerely from his heart...” This is from one angle (there is no contradiction) From another angle (regarding) the narration of the nations splitting, does not mean the seventy two groups that are in the fire are disbelievers, even if they have some oppositions. They may enter from the angle of promise (of punishment) and then exit from it afterwards. They will enter the fire depending on their on their crimes and oppositions and they will not remain in the fire. And entering paradise does not mean they will enter at the beginning right away. They maybe delayed from entering and punished in the fire, even if they said la ilaha illa Allah. As it is known the sinners from the people of tawheed (those who worship Allah alone) will either be pardoned by Allah or punished in accordance to their sins. So there is no contradiction between these two narrations and all praise belongs to Allah.
Translated by Abu Anas Atif Hasan