If there is one narration of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that is oft quoted and employed in the defense of certain historical personalities it is:
My Companions are like stars, follow any one and you will be guided.
This narration has seen much discussion among Muslims about status of companions with some even claiming a degree of infallibility for them since the narration suggests that accepting any one of the companions leads to guidance.
How far is this correct? Or is there a different interpretation to this narration of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) which has been ignored by the Muslim majority.
The following report clarifies the position on the companions compared to stars by the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – rather we learn who definitely do not qualify as companions.
Narrator: I asked Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) about what the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) meant when he (s.a.w.a.) said:
‘My companions are like the stars. Whoever you follow you will be guided.’
Then I asked Imam (a.s.) about the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) narration:
‘Leave my companions to me.’
Imam (a.s.) replied: Companions in these traditions refer to those who did not themselves change after the Prophet (by abandoning Ahle Bait) or did not innovate in religion.
I asked: How can we conclude that they changed after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or innovated in religion like you say?
Imam (a.s.): This is because the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself said – Some of my companions will be forbidden from approaching my Pool on the Resurrection Day, just as people push others’ camels away from drinking water. I will say: O Lord! They are from my companions! My companions! I will be told: Don’t you know what they did after you?
They will be grabbed and directed away. They will be told: This is due to the lies which you ascribed (to Prophet).’
Then Imam (a.s.) added: Are they not those who changed (their beliefs after the Prophet) or innovated in religion?
- Uyoon al-Akhbar v 2 p 87 trad 33
- Behar al-Anwar v 28 p 19
Clearly, the companions compared to stars by the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are not those who haughtily claimed companionship after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) martyrdom to establish their superiority over others.
It is because these companions changed after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) by abandoning the Ahle Bait (a.s.) or they changed religious laws through innovation.
If Muslims consider these companions as stars that lead to guidance, then they will be exposed to confusion in religion as observed here:
Famous Shia scholar, Razi al-Deen Hafiz Rajab Ibn Muhammad Ibn Rajab al-Bursi al-Hilli (r.a.) writes:
Surely by companions the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) meant only his Ahle Bait (a.s.). Otherwise, there would be contradiction (in religion) for how can deviated ones, who will arrive at the Pool with blackened faces^, ever be like stars so that Muslims seek guidance from them?!
Certainly the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has declared:
Likeness of my Ahle Bait in this nation is like the stars of the skies, when one disappears another one will rise and this will continue till Day of Resurrection. (Al-Kafi v 1 p 338)
^Sahih al-Bukhari book 81, trad 170-174
- Al-Mashariq p 321
Who are the companions equated with stars that will guide the community after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?
Reports like this one clearly identify this group of companions who are like stars in the nation which the Muslims are expected to follow for guidance.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed:
Likeness of my companions amongst you is like the stars. Accept any companion and you will be guided.
He (s.a.w.a.) was asked: Who are your companions?
He (s.a.w.a.): My Ahle Bait.
- Ithbat al-Hodat v 2 p 189
- Maani al-Akhbar p 156-157
- Basair al-Darajaat v 1 p 11
- Behar al-Anwar v 22 p 307
The Ahle Bait (a.s.) given their infallibility, as announced in Surah Ahzab (33): 33, are the ones qualified to lead the Muslims from darkness to light like stars. With their infallibility, they alone can assure the Muslims of guidance, wisdom, light, mercy and divine grace. This cannot be assured nor even expected from those covered with impurities, darkness, corruption and misguidance.