From the characteristics of the people of the Days of Ignorance is that they would view the majority as proof that something was true and the minority as proof hat something was false. So according to them, whatever the majority of the people was upon, that was the truth. And whatever the minority was upon, that was not the truth. In their eyes, this was the balance used to determine truth from falsehood.
However, this is wrong, for Allah says: And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s path. They follow nothing but conjecture, and they do nothing but lie. [Surah Al-An’aam, ayah 116]
And He says: But most of mankind doesn’t know. [Surah Al-A’raaf, ayah 187]
And He says: And most of them We found to be not true to their covenant, but most of them We found indeed to be evil sinners. [Surah Al-A’raaf, ayah 102]
So the balance is not the majority and the minority. Rather, the balance is the truth. So whoever is upon the truth – even if he is by himself – he is the one who is correct and deserves to be emulated. And if the majority of the people are upon falsehood, then it is obligatory to reject them and not be deceived by them. So consideration is given to the truth. This is why the scholars say: “Truth is not known by way of men, but rather men are known by way of the truth.” So whoever is upon the truth, then he is the one we must follow and emulate.
In Allaah’s stories about the prior nations, He informs us that it is always the minority that is upon the truth, as Allah says: And no one believed with him except for a few. [Surah Hood, ayah 40]
And in a hadeeth in which the nations were presented to the Prophet, he (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that he saw a prophet who had a small group of followers with him, and a Prophet who had a man or two men following him, and another Prophet who had no one with him. (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
So consideration is not given to which opinion or view has the most followers. Rather, consideration is given to its being either true or false. So whatever is true, even though a minority of the people or no one is upon it – so long as it is the truth – it must be adhered to, for indeed it is salvation. Falsehood is not aided by the fact that it has a majority of people following it – ever. This is a determining measure that the Muslim must always abide by.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Islam began strange and it will return back to being strange as it began.” (Saheeh Muslim)
This will occur at the time when evil, calamities and misguidance increase. So no one will remain upon the truth except for the strange ones amongst the people and those who extract themselves from their tribes (for the sake of their religion). They will become strangers in their society.
The Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sent while the whole world was submersed in disbelief and misguidance. And when he called the people, only one or two answered his call. It was only until later on that they grew to be many. The tribe of Quraish, not to mention the whole of the Arabian Peninsula and the whole world, was upon misguidance. And the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the only one calling the people. So those who followed him were few with respect to the entire world.
So consideration is not given to the majority. Consideration is only given to what is correct and to achieving the truth. Yes, if the majority of the people are upon correctness, then that is good. However, the way of Allaah is that the majority of the people is always upon falsehood.
And most of mankind will not believe even if you desire it eagerly. [Surah Yoosuf, ayah 103]
And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s path. They follow nothing but conjecture, and they do nothing but lie. [Surah Al-An’aam, ayah 116]
* [In his sharh (explanation) of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhab’s (rahimahullaah) statement: From the greatest of their principles was that they would be deluded by the majority, using that to determine the correctness of a matter. They would also determine the falsehood of something if it was strange and that its adherents were few. So Allaah brought them the opposite of that, clarifying this in many places of the Qur`an.]
Source: Sharh Masaa’il-ul-Jaahiliyyah (pg. 60-62) of Shaikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhab (rahimahullaah), via al-Ibaanah.