Do all companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) qualify for greatness?
Tags: Ahle Sunnah, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), Imamat, Sahaabah, Salafi, Shia, Wives of Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
The Muslim majority holds ALL the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the highest regard.
They claim that all the companions deserve pride of place in Islam because they first and foremost saw the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and then spent years with him, accepted Islam at his hand, fought alongside him and so on.
1. Definition of a companion
2. The only superiority for the companions
3. Over-emphasis of Muslims on ‘seeing’
4. Not seeing the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is even more virtuous than seeing him (s.a.w.a.)
5. Then why the demand for companionship, a very weak trait, if at all?
Back to TopDefinition of a companion
There is a lot to be said on the very concept of companionship in Islam. No divine religion places importance on companionship perhaps because they did not merit any in the very first place. A companion by definition can be good or bad, faithful or faithless.
This is evident from the Holy Quran, which calls the disbelieving prison mates of Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) his companions –
‘O my two companions of the prison…’
- Surah Yusuf (12): Verse 39
The Majestic Quran even calls the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) a companion of the infidels of Mecca:
‘This companion of yours is not a madman.’
- Surah Takweer (81): Verse 22
So as the divine verses show, a disbeliever can be a companion of a divine Prophet and vice-versa. Companionship is just that – spending time in each other’s company, it is no indication of the person’s belief or lack thereof.
History is replete with evidences that companions of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were known to antagonize the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), accuse his wives of adultery, flee from the battlefield, conspire to kill him (s.a.w.a.), etc.
Notwithstanding these grave lapses, why do Muslims place so much importance on companionship?
This question merits a detailed response from various aspects and is beyond the scope of this brief article. But suffice it to say that the answer lies in the question.
Mere companionship is considered important by the Muslims, but not by Islam and the Book of Allah. Islam must be judged by its own principles and not by those of the Muslims.
So what about the companions called meritorious and praiseworthy by the Holy Quran?
Since there is no contradiction in the Noble Quran, which praises companions in one place and condemns them in another, it is obvious that there is some other factor at work behind this praise and condemnation than mere companionship. Clearly, this factor as the Holy Quran itself highlights, is piety.
‘…surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you (who is) most pious…’
- Surah Hujarat (49): Verse 13
The pious companions find themselves praised by Allah the High in the Holy Quran and the impious ones find themselves condemned, much like every other human being. Piety alone is the benchmark for evaluation, not mere claims to companionship.
Back to TopThe only superiority for the companions
For all their so-called ‘superiority’, the only virtue that the companions had was they were gifted with eyes by Allah the High. For, when all is said and done, the basic ‘virtue’ of the companions boils down to just one thing – according to the Ahle Tasannun – they were fortunate to ‘see’ the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Back to TopOver-emphasis of Muslims on ‘seeing’
These Muslims have a fixation with seeing. They believe seeing the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is better than not having seen him at all. At the same time, they believe that he (s.a.w.a.) was but an ordinary mortal. Then why the obsession with seeing an ordinary mortal? Clearly, it is only to idolize the companions based on self-defined parameters, which of course are superfluous and absurd.
Likewise, this group believes that on the Day of Judgment, we will see Allah.
- Sahih Bukhari vol. 6, book 60, trad. 105; book 65, trad. 4,581
The concept of belief in the unseen seems to have no value for these Muslims.
While we observe that in the Holy Quran and traditions, belief in what you haven’t seen is particularly crucial, it is in fact the sign of faith.
The Majestic Quran announces clearly at the very beginning of Surah Baqarah:
This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who guard (against evil), those who believe in the unseen…
- Surah Baqarah (2): Verses 2-3
The biggest obstacle the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) faced with the infidels was in convincing them of the hereafter. The Meccans demanded to see the afterlife, Paradise, Hell, the process of Resurrection, as a test of his (s.a.w.a.) Prophethood.
The Muslims following in the footsteps of the infidels believe that one should see the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as a test of companionship and superiority in Islam!
Back to TopNot seeing the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is even more virtuous than seeing him (s.a.w.a.)
If the Muslims are obsessed about physically seeing the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) then they should know that not having seen the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has even more reward near Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
There are many traditions in this regard recorded by both sects. We list a few by way of illustration.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) relates: One day the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) supplicated twice in the presence of his companions: O Allah, show my brothers to me.
The nearby companions asked: Are we not your brothers, O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.)?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied: Rather, you all are my companions. My brothers would be those people at the end of the time who would believe in me without having seen me. The Almighty Allah has informed me about their and their fathers’ names before they emerge from the loins of their fathers and the wombs of their mothers. For each of them, it would be more difficult to guard their religion than walking on thorns in the darkness of the night or holding live coals; they would be lamps in darkness, the Almighty Allah would save them from every mischief and evil.
- Basaaer al-Darajaat vol. 1 p. 84
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 52 p. 123-124
We find a similar narration from Auf Ibn Malik:
One day the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) declared: If only I could see my brothers.
Abu Bakr and Umar said: Are we not your brothers having accepted faith in your Prophethood and migrated with you?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied: You accepted faith and migrated (but still do not qualify as my brothers). If only I could see my brothers.
Again they repeated their words. So the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) replied: You are my companions and my brothers would be those who come after you, who would believe in me and have affection for me, they would help me and testify in my Prophethood without having seen me. If only I could see my brothers.
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 52 p. 132
- Al-Amaali of Shaikh Mufeed (r.a.) p. 63
The Ahle Tasannun books are also replete with such traditions as we see from the following references:
Umar narrates – We were seated with the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) asked – Do you know the best of people with regards faith?
They replied – The angels?
He (s.a.w.a.) corrected them – They are the worthy ones in faith and Allah has placed them in the position in which they find themselves in, however I am referring to others.
They tried again – The Prophets? Because Allah has honoured them with Prophethood and Messengership.
He (s.a.w.a.) rectified – They are the worthy ones in faith and Allah has placed them in the position in which they find themselves in, however I am referring to others.
They said – Then who are they O Allah’s Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?
Finally, he (s.a.w.a.) informed – A nation that will come after me from the loins of the men and they will believe in my Prophethood while they have never seen me. And they will find (religion) in bound pages and they will act based on it. And they are the best ones with regards faith.
At the end of the report Haakim writes – The hadith is Saheeh with respect to the chain of narrators.
- Al-Mustadrak of Haakim tradition 6,993
- Taarikh-o-Dimishq vol. 58 p. 255
For similar traditions refer:
- Taarikh-o-Dimishq vol. 39 p. 244
- Dalaael al-Nobuwwah vol. 6 p. 538
Obviously, there are many who question the reliability of such traditions for downplaying the companions. Suffice it to say however that the father of modern day Salafism – Shaikh al-Islam Albaani has deemed them all as good (Hasan) in his tome ‘Al-Silsilah’ (tradition 3215).
Plainly evident from these and scores of other traditions as also Quranic verses is the importance of faith in the unseen.
All are examined based on the criterion of the unseen, including the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) himself as Allah says:
The Apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles.
- Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 285
So the Muslims must not insist on seeing the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) in his lifetime as a criterion for superiority in Islam.
Clearly most of the companions did not fit the bill for true faith; hence the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) expresses an intense desire to see the personalities who would meet the criteria for correct faith and certainty.
After all, how many companions could claim like Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.):
‘Even if the curtains were to be lifted, it would have no effect on my belief in Allah.’
- Manaaqib-o-Aal-e-Abi Taalib (a.s.) vol. 1 p. 317
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 4 p. 45
- Hilyah al-Abraar vol 2 p. 62
- Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah by Ibn Abi al-Hadeed vol. 10 p. 142
- Al-Sawaaeq al-Muhreqah p. 77 narrated from Sharh-o-Ehqaaq al-Haqq vol. 7 p. 605
Many companions did not even believe in the seen, leave alone the unseen. They saw the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and yet questioned his judgements, abandoned him in the battlefields leaving him to die, left him standing on the pulpit and rushed towards sport and trade, cried like babies in his presence out of grief, etc.
It is no wonder that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) reminded such companions repeatedly of another group that was far superior to them in faith and Islam.
He (s.a.w.a.) elevates these highly faithful ones as his brothers. The companions (at least a majority of them) lacked the credentials for brotherhood. Hence, they were relegated to apparent companionship. In fact, had it not been for their verbal testimony, they would not even have achieved this much.
There are many traditions in the books of the Ahle Tasannun on these lines. For instance, sample this rather interesting tradition of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) which is symbolic of the companions:
‘There will be innovations perpetrated by my companions after me (i.e. the fitnah that occurred amongst them). Allah shall forgive them due to their earlier record (of good deeds), but if a people follow them afterwards, Allah shall throw them into Hellfire.’
- Zain al-Fata fi Tafseer Surah Hal Ata of Al-Asimi
Notice how the report even though it is fabricated praises as also condemns the companions all at once. Had they not been companions they would have been relegated to Hellfire for their innovation. Most fabricated reports simply praise them, but this one was perhaps fabricated by someone with an iota of conscience!!
Back to TopThen why the demand for companionship, a very weak trait, if at all?
The answer is simple. There was nothing else to impart any degree of Islam to these personalities. To claim caliphate of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after his martyrdom, a solid case needed to be built for their superior claim. The easiest way was to claim supremacy based on companionship, especially with the Migrants (ansaar) breathing down their necks in the matter of Caliphate.
So the claim of companionship was merely a political one. It was advanced only to deceive the Muslims of the time and all times into revering the companions as the only ones worthy of ruling the nation.
For the benefit of Muslims, Imam Ali Ibn Husain Zainul Abideen (a.s.) spells out the real reason for the over-emphasis on companionship:
‘Had it been possible for the nation to seek power without associating with his (s.a.w.a.) Prophethood (through companionship), they would most certainly have turned away even from his Prophethood.’
- Kashf al-Mahajjah by Sayyed Ali Ibn Moosa Ibn Taoos (r.a.) p. 125
- Bait al-Ahzaan fi Masaaib Sayyedah al-Niswaan al-Batool al-Taherah Fatima al-Zahra (s.a.) by Shaikh Abbas al-Qummi (r.a.) p. 74