The Protest of Ali (a.s.) And the Theory of the Justice of the Companions

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Some say that Ameerul Mo’meneen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) has raised an objection in Nahjul Balagha against a few companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and that he (a.s.) was deprived of his right to caliphate. On the other hand, since the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were just, it is not possible that a sermon of this tenor, found in Nahjul Balagah, be attributed to Imam Ali (a.s.).

However, we can silence this objection by establishing the corrupt and hypocritical nature of some companions through irrefutable proofs and clear evidences.

Firstly: ‘Sohbah’ means to spend some time with someone, be it for a short while or for a longer duration.

All Islamic sects are unanimous in their view that the word ‘Sahaabah’ in common parlance includes all those who converted to Islam, or at least apparently exhibited Islam.

A majority of the Ahle Sunnat, on the basis of this broad definition, claim that all the companions are just (عادل). However, some Muslims do not share this view. This is simply because there is no conclusive proof which automatically establishes that all companions were just.

Rather, amongst the other communities of the world, as also similar to the companions of the previous Prophets (a.s.), those individuals who loved the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) included both the good and the evil, the pious and the irreverent, the virtuous, the hypocrites and the corrupt.

Almighty Allah has drawn our attention to all three groups in the Holy Quran. In fact, amongst the chapters of the Holy Quran, one chapter was revealed with the name of The Hypocrites (سورة المنافقون).

On this basis, the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) can be divided into three groups (the just, the corrupt and the hypocrites).

The view that “all companions were just” is incorrect for the following reasons:

  1. This view is against the Holy Quran as also it is in disagreement with its verses. A few examples are given below:

The First Example

Allah says in the Holy Quran,

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَْنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى اللَْهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَى إِلَى الْإِسْلَامِ وَاللَْهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَْالِمِينَ

“And who is more unjust than he who forges a lie against Allah and he is invited to Islam, and Allah does not guide the unjust people”. [1]

This verse was revealed with reference to Abdullah Ibn Ubayy (who was later elevated to the post of Governor of Egypt by Usman — the third Caliph). He is the one who had accused and vilified Allah. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had made his blood permissible for the Muslims. He (s.a.w.a.) had said that his blood is permissible even if he may be clutching the cloth of the Holy Kaabah.

The compiler of Seerah Halabiyyah (Chapter of Fateh Makkah, Conquest of Mecca) writes that on the day of the triumph of Makkah, Usman brought him to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and sought immunity for him. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) remained silent for some time, perhaps that someone would kill him during that interval, as he himself said later — but nobody killed him. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) considered it as the will of Allah and granted him immunity.

The Second Example

Allah, The Almighty says in the Holy Quran,

وَمِنْهُم مَْنْ عَاهَدَ اللْهَ لَئِنْ آتَانَا مِن فَضْلِهِ لَنَصَْدَْقَنَْ وَلَنَكُونَنَْ مِنَ الصَْالِحِينَ فَلَمَْا آتَاهُم مِْن فَضْلِهِ بَخِلُواْ بِهِ وَتَوَلَْواْ وَْهُم مُْعْرِضُونَ فَأَعْقَبَهُمْ نِفَاقًا فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ يَلْقَوْنَهُ بِمَا أَخْلَفُواْ اللْهَ مَا وَعَدُوهُ وَبِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْذِبُونَ

“And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He gives us out of His grace, we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the good. But when He gave them out of His grace, they became niggardly of it and they turned back and they withdrew. So He made hypocrisy to follow as a consequence into their hearts till the day when they shall meet Him because they failed to perform towards Allah what they had promised with Him and because they told lies.”[2]

This verse of Surah Taubah is a reminder towards the incident of Thaalabah Ibn Hateb who approached the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with a plea that he (s.a.w.a.) should seek wealth for him from Allah. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said, “O Thalabah! Woe be upon you! It is better to express gratitude for less wealth. Perhaps, you may not have the strength to thank for more wealth.” Thalabah responded, “I promise by Allah Who sent you — if Allah grants me wealth, I will definitely, most definitely fulfil the right of those who have a right upon me.”

After this, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) supplicated and sought wealth for him. Allah granted him substantial wealth and he prospered. When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) asked him to offer Zakat on his wealth, he refused and behaved miserly. He retorted, “This is some kind of tax or Jiziya, I am a Muslim and will not pay Jiziya.” Saying this, he refused to pay Zakat on his wealth. (Subsequently, a verse of the Majestic Quran was revealed and he was informed about the same). It is written that after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he sent in an amount to Abu Bakr as Zakat, who refused to accept it. During the era of Umar, he sent in an amount once again but Umar returned it. Finally, he died during the period of Usman.[3]

The Third Example

Allah questions in the Holy Quran,

أَفَمَن كَانَ مُؤْمِنًا ÙƒÙŽÙ…ÙŽÙ† كَانَ فَاسِقًا لَْا يَسْتَوُونَ

“Is he then who is a believer like him who is a transgressor? They are not equal. [4]”

Shiah and Sunni traditionalists and commentators are unanimous in their opinion that the word “Mo’men” in the above verse refers to Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (as), while the word “Faasiq” refers to Waleed Ibn Uqba (the same corrupt Waleed who was appointed as the governor of Kufa by Usman. After him, he was appointed as the governor of Medina by Moawiyah)[5].

(The event concerning him is as follows — There was an argument about some point between Imam Ali (a.s.) and Waleed. Waleed said to Imam Ali (a.s.), “My tongue is more eloquent than yours; my sword is sharper than yours and my strength to fight is firmer than yours.” To his arrogance, Imam Ali (a.s.) retorted thus, “Silence, O transgressor (Faasiq)!” Subsequently, the above verse was revealed clearly indicating that a believer and a transgressor cannot be at par.)

So, is the view that all the companions were just still acceptable to us while in the first example, it is sufficiently established that Abdullah Ibn Ubayy was the most oppressive and repulsive amongst all creatures and it is difficult to accept that he would have been guided. This is because Allah does not guide the oppressors.

The second example was that of Thaalabah who was a miser and a miser can never be close to Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

The third example is of Waleed, a transgressor and amongst the dwellers of Hell. There is no path to salvation for him (he is such a vile creature that during his governorship in Kufa, he recited four rakats of Namaze’ Subh in an inebriated state and then remarked, if you wish we can recite even more…).

However, despite these undeniable truths, members of the Ahle Sunnat maintain that these three — Abdullah Ibn Ubayy, Thaalabah Ibn Haatib and Waleed Ibn Uqbah — as ‘just’ simply because they enjoyed the position of companionship and maintain that it is incorrect to deny or decry them. They assert that the three were without a blemish, are from the dwellers of Paradise and none sof them will enter Hell.

Isn’t the Command of Allah more punishable if it is not accepted or spite and blind following? For instance:

  1. “Zul Thadiyyah” was a companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) apparently known as a worshipper and counted amongst the devout. People were amazed and astonished by the degree of his worship. This is a prime example of how the view that “all companions were just” contradicts the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.). This is because, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to remark that he is such a fiend that the signs of the devil are apparent on his face. Ibn Hajar Athqalani reports in volume 1, page 439 of “Kitab al-Esatato Fee Tafseeril Ashaab” that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had sent Abu Bakr with instructions to kill hm. However when Abu Bakr saw him in the condition of prayer, he returned without completing the order. Thereafter the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) summoned Umar to kill him, but he too failed to carry out the order of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Subsequently, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) despatched Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) for the task. However, Imam Ali (a.s.) could not find Zul Thadiyyah since he had left the mosque.

Question: Is it possible that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) make a comment (about his just companion) that the signs of the devil are visible on his face and order that he should be killed?

Nevertheless, this Zu al-thadiyyah was the same companion who ultimately turned out to be a severe enemy of Ameerul Mo’meneen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and was the leader of the accursed Khawaarij. He was killed in the battle of Naharwan [as was prophesised to Imam Ali (a.s.) by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)].

  1. Ahmed Ibn Shoaib Nesaai narrates from Abu Saeed on page 238 of his book “Khasaaes-e-Ameeril Mo’meneen” (chapter 59, tradition 179) as follows, “We were sitting in the presence of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He was distributing the spoils of war when a person related to Bani Tameem, “Zu Akhweesarah” entered and said: “O Prophet! Treat us with justice!” The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied, “If I don’t do justice, who will? If I don’t do justice, it will be an evil act and I will be amongst the losers.” Umar rose and sought permission from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to kill this person. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) declined and said, “He is the companion of a group of people, (implying that his friends are such), that you will consider your prayer inferior to their prayers and fasting. This group recites the Quran but its recitation does not descend beneath their throat. These people will go out of the fold of Islam in the same manner as an arrow leaves the bow for a prey and strikes its target, without any hesitation. If an archer tries to observe them with the point of the arrow, he will not succeed in seeing through them. A sign of these black-faced people is that on one of their hands, there is a piece of breast-like flesh that keeps moving (like Dhu al-thadiyyah). They will revolt against the best of creatures.”

Abu Saeed remarks, “I bear witness that I heard this tradition from the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). I bear witness that Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) fought with them and I fought alongside him. During the war, he called out and found him amongst the dead. The people searched for him and brought him to Ali (a.s.). I looked closely at him and found him in the same way as was described by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

  1. The book of Seerat by Ibn Heshaam, narrates a tradition in volume 3, page 235 that a group of companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had gathered in a house and were preventing others from meeting the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Therefore the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ordered the house to be burned down.
  2. Muttaqi Hindi writes in Kanzul Ummal — Hakam Ibn Aas Ibn Umayyah was the uncle of Usman Ibn Affaan and the father of Marwaan Ibn Hakam. He was cursed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), who also cursed his forefathers and his descendants. He (s.a.w.a.) said, “Woe be upon those of my community who are found in the loins of Hakam Ibn Aas.”

A tradition reports that the Mother of the Believers, Ayesha said to Marwaan, “I bear witness that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) cursed your father and you while you were yet in his loins.”

Hakam Ibn Aas was exiled by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from Madinah al-Munawwarah to ‘Marj’ near Taef. He was forbidden to enter Madinah. After the death of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Usman Ibn Affaan came to Abu Bakr to recommend the case of his uncle Hakam Ibn Aas. He sought Abu Bakr‘s permission to allow his uncle to return to Madinah who declined. He approached Umar as well with the same request, but was once again refused permission. However, when he ascended the seat of caliphate himself, (in complete contravention of the order of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the two preceding caliphs), he accorded permission to his uncle Hakam Ibn Aas and with great respect brought him back to Madinah. In addition, he also gifted him a hundred thousand dirhams and appointed his son Marwaan as the advisor to the caliph. It was this very Marwaan, who on accord of his deeds paved the way for the assassination of the caliph. He became famous amongst the people as “Nahjul Batil” — the Peak of Wrongdoing. It was none other than this Marwaan who seized the throne in Damascus and titled himself as the “Caliph of the Muslims.”

  1. The Seerah of Ibn Heshaam reports that during the era of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), there were twelve companions who were hypocrites. With an intention to create a rift in the community, they laid the foundation of a mosque — “Masjid al-Zeraar.” They propagated the idea that this mosque was being built for the sake of the pleasure of Allah and to seek goodness from Him. However, by the order of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), this conspiracy against Islam and Muslims was quelled.

All the above examples are from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), and there are several others documented in history, which essentially negate the view that “all companions were just.” This is because those people whom the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) pronounced a death penalty, or the house which the Holy Prophet ordered to be destroyed or burnt, surely cannot be counted amongst the just. Similarly, those individuals who in line with the explicit verses of the Holy Quran construct a mosque, albeit with the intention to create a rift amongst the Muslims, while they are hypocrites, how is it possible that they can be considered as just? For such people, their “equitable and just” personalities are in direct contravention to the custom of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.).

Let us ask ourselves — which of these should we accept:

  1. The customs and traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
  2. The blind following of those who were blind and prejudiced themselves.

To conclude, the above discussion makes it clear that the argument that “all companions were just” is invalid. Along with this conclusion, the objections and doubts raised with regard to Nahjul Balagha are void as well. Thus, none can find fault and object that, on the basis of specific circumstances, Ameerul Mo’meneen Ali (a.s.) raised his voice in protest against some companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.); that he condemned their evil actions and was displeased with their despicable behaviour.

And along with this objection, Imam Ali (a.s.) also praised the faithful and self-sacrificing companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and remembered them in high esteem. He said, “I witnessed the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in a state that in the mornings, their faces were covered in dust; their nights passed in prostration, in standing and in worship; they worshipped in a manner that sometimes they rubbed their foreheads and sometimes their cheeks on the ground before their Lord; they were in a state of fear and unease concerning the Day of Judgement and Return as if one were made to stand on fire; their foreheads bore such marks of prostration as the sores on the knees of an animal; they wept much on hearing the name of their Lord such that their chests would be wet with their tears; they trembled with the fear of Allah as the shaking of a tree in the midst of a fierce storm. Yet, they were hopeful or reward from their Lord.”

[1] Surah Saff, verse 7

[2] Surah Taubah, verses 75-77

[3] Tafseer-e-Fathul Qadeer, Shoukani, volume 2, page 185. Also Tafseer-e-Ibn-e-Katheer, printed in Damascus, volume 2, page 273, Tafseer-e-Khan, volume 2, page 125. Also in Tafseer-e-Baghdadi and Tafseer-e-Tabari, volume 2, page 131

[4] Surah Sajdah: Verse 18

[5] Shawaahed al-Tanzeel by Haakem Haskaani-e-Hanafi, pages 443-445, 610-626 and Manaaqebul Maghaazeli, pages 324, 370, 371. Also in Al-Kashhaaf of Jaarullah Zamakshari, volume 3, page 514

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