Sahaba

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A still image from the movie The Message, depicting companions of the Prophet during the Battle of Badr.

Sahaba (Arabic: صحابة‎; singular: Sahabi), literally meaning companions, in Islamic vocabulary generally refers to the companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Though there is a high regard for the companions of the Prophet within the Qur'an and Hadith, the term companion cannot be generalized with a positive connotation on every individual who merely saw or accompanied the Prophet, be it for many years. The implications of the term deem an individual trustworthy and reliable, whereas history depicts that not all companions behaved in this manner, particularly after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad. Understanding the actions and lives of the companions is critical in understanding Islamic history and jurisprudence since narrations of the Prophet are transmitted through the Sahaba.

In general, the Shi'a are devoted to all companions of the Prophet who were loyal to his teachings in his life and remained so after his death. Therefore, they do not believe in the universal integrity of all companions, but rather examine the history of each to discover his/her adherence to the Prophetic message.[1] On the contrary, Sunnis have refrained from criticizing the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and have deemed them all worthy of respect, undermining many of their improper actions. Different views on the companions have been a major cause of dispute amongst different school of thoughts in Islam.

Contents

Definition and Status

The word Sahāba is derived from the verb صَحِبَ, which means to accompany or to associate with. Variations of the term have been used in the Qur'an under different contexts; such as when Prophet Yusuf refers to his polytheist prison mates as his companions[2] and when Allah (swt) refers to the army of Abraha as companions of the elephant.[3]

The general definition of a companion within Islamic history and jurisprudence is anyone who had met the Prophet, believed in him, and died upon Islam.[4] In order to get a clearer picture of Islamic history and as well as study jurisprudence, it is essential to learn about the lives of the companions. The companions of the Prophet have been praised in the Qur'an and Hadith, however the Shiite view states that not all companions fall into the same exalted category. Being fallible individuals, the companions were able to err and commit sins and this was apparent by many during the life of the Prophet and particularly after his demise.

While no companion is praised or condemned without a valid reason regardless of their origin, race or color; neither blood relation, friendship, companionship, monetary status, nor social status play a role in their credibility as a source of emulation and a sign of their nearness to Allah.[5] Thus, the Shi'a in particular have categorized the companions into loyal followers of the Prophet versus those who were hypocrites. The Qur'an itself has mentioned these categories of companions as it mentions the existence of companions who were hypocrites [6] as well as companions who were believers.[7] There were also companions who committed sins without intending to defy Allah, and Allah promised them forgiveness.[8]

The Shi'a view insists that the companions who remained steadfast on the religion are deserving of praise and respect. Imam Zain al-Abideen in one of his supplications regarding the companions of the Prophet mentions the following:

O God, and as for the Companions of Muhammad specifically, those who did well in companionship, who stood the good test in helping him, responded to him when he made them hear his messages' argument, separated from mates and children in manifesting his word, fought against fathers and sons in strengthening his prophecy, and through him gained victory; those who were wrapped in affection for him, hoping for a commerce that comes not to naught in love for him; those who were left by their clans when they clung to his handhold and denied by their kinsfolk when they rested in the shadow of his kinship; forget not, O God, what they abandoned for Thee and in Thee, and make them pleased with Thy good pleasure for the sake of the creatures they drove to Thee while they were with Thy Messenger, summoners to Thee for Thee. Show gratitude to them for leaving the abodes of their people for Thy sake and going out from a plentiful livelihood to a narrow one, and [show gratitude to] those of them who became objects of wrongdoing and whom Thou multiplied in exalting Thy religion. [9]

Furthermore, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib is reported to have said the following about the respected companions of the Prophet:

I have seen the companions of the Prophet but I do not find anyone resembling them. They began the day with dust on the hair and face (in hardship of life) and passed the night in prostration and standing in prayers. Sometimes they put down their foreheads and sometimes their cheeks. With the recollection of their resurrection it seemed as though they stood on live coal. It seemed that in between their eyes there were signs like knees of goats, resulting from long prostrations. When Allah was mentioned their eyes flowed freely till their shirt collars were drenched. They trembled for fear of punishment and hope of reward as the tree trembles on the day of stormy wind.[10]

On the contrary, there were companions of the Prophet who behaved in a manner that was contradictory to his teachings. The Prophet himself has made mention of this as it is illustrated within narrations, even amongst Sunni books as follows:

Narrated Asma:
The Prophet said, "I will be at my Lake-Fount (Kauthar) waiting for whoever will come to me. Then some people will be taken away from me whereupon I will say, 'My followers!' It will be said, 'You do not know they turned Apostates as renegades (deserted their religion).'" (Ibn Abi Mulaika said, "Allah, we seek refuge with You from turning on our heels from the (Islamic) religion and from being put to trial").[11]

Ibn Uthaymeen, a Salafi scholar, further agrees that there is no doubting that some of the companions stole, drank alcohol, launched charges against chaste women, performed adultery while being married and performed adultery while being single.[12] Numerous incidents after the demise of the Prophet also demonstrate that many of the companions failed to live up to the teachings and instructions of the Prophet. The Ahlul Bayt were oppressed and the leadership position of Imam Ali was usurped, while many conspiracies and atrocities were waged against the family of the Prophet. The companions fought wars amongst themselves as numerous companions killed each other for various reasons; many of the companions who carried out such atrocities were motivated by greed for power. Thus, according to the Shi'a, it is not logical for all companions to be praised and be placed beyond any form of criticism.

References

  1. Were All Companions Just and Truthful?
  2. Qur'an 12:39
  3. Qur'an 105:1
  4. Al-Riaayah fee ilm Al-Diraayah, by Shaykh Zayn ud-Din (Shaheed Thaani); page 339
  5. Companions of the Prophet by Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini
  6. Qur'an 63:1-3
  7. Qur'an 48:29
  8. Qur'an 9:102
  9. Blessing upon the Attesters to the Messengers
  10. Sermon #96 Admonishing his own companions, Nahj ul-Balagha
  11. Afflictions and the End of the World, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 88, Number 172
  12. Sharh al-Aqeedat Al-Waasittiyah - شرح العقيدة الواسطية, by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Uthaymeen, volume 2, page 292
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