Are all the companions just?
Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.”
That was a nation which has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do. (Qur’an 2:133-134)
Or do you say that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants were Jews or Christians? Say, “Are you more knowing or is Allah ?” And who is more unjust than one who conceals a testimony he has from Allah? And Allah is not unaware of what you do That is a nation that has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do. Those are people who have passed away; theirs is that which they earned and yours that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do. (Qur’an 2:140-141)
It is very obvious that these two texts of the Qur’an were revealed in the time of the Blessed Messenger (saw) therefore they couldn’t be speaking about the current people.
Do notice that it says, ‘you will not be asked about what they used to do.’ In other words, we are not beholden to them. That is a very important point that everyone misses. We are not beholden to them.
It is not a litmus test for us to testify that everyone who went before us was righteous. In fact, the whole narrative of the Qur’an is one that is replete with examples of previous people’s going astray and dividing after the truth had come to them.
I used to think the passages above said, “It will have the good that it earned.” However, it simply says, “It will have what it earned.” So this could mean paradise or hellfire.
Then notice it turns to the present audience in the time of the Blessed Messenger (saw).
“and you will have what you have earned.”
This means there is a possibility that the present generation (companions) will earn either heaven/hellfire.
So Allah (swt) warns the generation at the time of the Blessed Messenger (saw) thus,
“Many similar ways have passed away before you, so travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who disbelieved. This is a clear speech to mankind, guidance, and instruction to those who fear Allah. So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair for you will overcome if you are believers” (Qur’an 3:137-139)
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not personal inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Qur’an 4:135)
Notice that these words are not directed towards the Blessed Messenger (saw). That is because the Blessed Messenger (saw) is inherently just.
These words of the Qur’an are directed at people (the companions) who have the ability/possibility to swerve from justice. There is not a single companion that is inherently just.
In connection with this, we have the following interesting hadith.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (saw), at Al-Ji’ranah from Hunayn and there was some silver in the pocket of Bilal. The Messenger of Allah took a handful from it and distributed it among the people. The man said to him, “O Muhammed, be just!” The Prophet said, “Woe to you! Who will be just if I am not just? You would fail and lose if I were not just.” Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “O Messenger of Allah, let me kill this hypocrite!” The Prophet said, “I seek refuge in Allah that the people would say I am killing my companions. Verily, this man and his companions will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats. They will leave Islam just as an arrow passes through its target.”
In another narration, the Prophet said, “Leave him alone, lest people say Muhammed is killing his companions.”
Source: (Sahih Muslim 1063)
This very hadith itself has the Blessed Messenger (saw) that a companion said to the Blessed Messenger (saw) to ‘be just‘. Which itself is an unjust statement. The Prophet (saw) also acknowledged that this man was:
a) a companion
b) someone who will eventually leave Islam.
“And if two groups among the believers should fight, then make a settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinances of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly.” (Qur’an 49:9)
If the believers are people who by default just, it is not possible for one of them to oppress the other. Allah (swt) commands us to fight against the group that does oppression.
BEST NATION FOR MANKIND? CONTEXT.
“O you who have believed, if you obey a party of those who were given the Scripture, they would turn you back, after your belief, to be unbelievers. And how could you disbelieve while to you are being recited the verses of Allah and among you is His Messenger? And whoever holds firmly to Allah has indeed been guided to a straight path. O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims. And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided. And let there be arising from you a nation inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be successful. And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment. On that Day some faces will turn white and some faces will turn black. As for those whose faces turn black, “Did you disbelieve after your belief? Then taste the punishment for what you used to reject.” But as for those whose faces will turn white, within the mercy of Allah. They will abide therein eternally. These are the verses of Allah. We recite them to you,, in truth; and Allah wants no injustice to the worlds. To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And to Allah will all matters be returned. You are the best nation produced for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient. (Qur’an 3:100-110)
It is very clear from the context of the above verses that the ‘best nation‘ produced for mankind is contingent upon them enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong and believing in Allah (swt).
That those who became divided after clear proofs came to them they will have a great punishment. That these people will be asked, “did you disbelieve after belief?”
Notwithstanding the fact that “you are the best nation” can be translated as “you are good community”….
Meaning you are a good community because you enjoin the right and forbid the wrong.
If they were ‘the best’ it would not be conceivable to replace them.
Also, the following are very strong admonition from Allah (swt).
“O you who believe, if anyone from you turns back from his Faith, then Allah will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble toward the believers, hard on the disbelievers, who fight in the way of Allah and are not afraid of the reproach of any critic. That is the grace of Allah. He confers it on whom He wills. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.” (Qur’an 5:54)
“Here you are – those invited to spend in the cause of Allah – but among you are those who withhold out of greed, And whoever withholds only withholds benefit from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you (Qur’an 47:38)
“And the vanguard among (min’al) the emigrants and the helpers, and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them forever; that is the mighty achievement.” And among (min’al) those around you of the Bedouins are hypocrites, and also from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You do not know them, We know them. We will punish them twice, once in this world; then they will be returned to a great punishment.” (Qur’an 9:100-101)
So when we look at this verse in Arabic and in context we realize a few important points.
This verse starts off with words of praise and reward for the vanguard among the emigrants and the helpers as well as anyone ‘those‘ who followed them in goodness. They are the subject of Allah’s grace and promise.
So the first part of the verse is not all the companions who emigrated to Madinah. However, the following verse also makes the first verse clear. ‘And among the Bedouins and people of Madinah.’
So is the second verse saying that all the Bedouins are hypocrites?
Is the second verse saying that all the people of Madinah are hypocrites?
So when we consider that the Bedouins are people who could have migrated with the Blessed Messenger (saw) they could be among the Muhajirun.
When we consider that the Ansar are from Madinah they could be from among those in Madinah. However, even after these clear points are presented.
Let us say for the sake of argument that we agreed with our brothers from ‘Ahl Sunnah‘ on their traditional understanding of this text. Even then this would only vindicate the companions from the Ansar and the Muhajirin. It would not vindicate the companions in total.
“Indeed, those who came with falsehood are a group among you. Do not think it bad for you; rather it is good for you. For every person among them is what punishment he has earned from the sin, and he who took upon himself the greater portion thereof – for him is a great punishment. Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, “This is an obvious falsehood”? Why did they who slandered not produce for it, four witnesses? And when they do not produce the witnesses, then it is they, in the sight of Allah, who are the liars. And if it had not been for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy in this world and the Hereafter, you would have been touched for that lie in which you were involved by a great punishment. When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah, tremendous. And why, when you heard it, did you not say, “It is not for us to speak of this. Exalted are You, O Allah; this is a great slander”? Allah warns you against returning to the likes of this conduct, ever, if you should be believers. (Qur’an 24:11-17)
Now we know that this incident was in regard to vile slander against the mother of the believers, Aisha (r.a). If this would have been from among people who were not believers Allah (swt) would not have said ‘do not return to this conduct if you are believers‘.
That they are ‘a group from among you‘ -meaning the companions. When we read the occasion of the revelation we can see from the hadith literature that this whole incident had vexed the Blessed Messenger (saw).
Ibn Kathir in (al Bidayah al Nihaya, Volume 4 page 160)writes the following:
“Then he (prophet) went to the people and addressed and then recited what Allah revealed in the Qur’an, then he ordered that Mastah bin Uthatha, Hasan bin Thabit, Hamna bint Jahsh to be punished because they were among those who spread the allegation of adultery.”
Hasan bin Thabit and Hamna bint Jahsh are both companions, and both were the cause for serious grief for the Blessed Messenger (saw) and his wife (r.a) and yet, they both are still used in the transmission of hadith!
Does anyone think that what they did was just? Is causing grief to the Blessed Messenger (saw) or to his noble wife (r.a) among the acts of just people?
Is anyone going to say that Ibn Kathir (raheemullah) is a sinner for exposing the sins of these companions?
The bedouins say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not yet believed; but say instead, (aslamna) ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an 49:14)
The Prophet sent Khalid bin Al-Walid to the tribe of Jadhima and Khalid invited them to Islam but they could not express themselves by saying, “Aslamna (i.e. we have embraced Islam),” but they started saying “Saba’na! Saba’na (i.e. we have come out of one religion to another).” Khalid kept on killing (some of) them and taking (some of)… them as captives and gave every one of us his Captive. When there came the day then Khalid ordered that each man (i.e. Muslim soldier) should kill his captive, I said, “By Allah, I will not kill my captive, and none of my companions will kill his captive.” When we reached the Prophet, we mentioned to him the whole story. On that, the Prophet raised both his hands and said twice, “O Allah! I am free from what Khalid has done.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:628)
Does the above hadith indicate that the blessed Messenger (saw) thinks that what Khalid bin Al-Walid did was just?
Usamah bin Zaid reported:
Messenger of Allah (saw) sent us to Huraqat, a tribe of Juhainah. We attacked that tribe early in the morning and defeated them, (then) a man from the Ansar and I caught hold of a man (of the defeated tribe). When we overcame him, he said: ‘La ilaha illallah (There is no true god except Allah).’ At that moment, the Ansari spared him, but I attacked him with my spear and killed him. By the time we went back to Al-Madinah, news had already reached Messenger of Allah (saw). He said to me, “O Usamah, did you kill him after he professed La ilaha illallah (There is no true god except Allah)?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! He professed it only to save his life.” Messenger of Allah (saw) repeated, “Did you kill him after he had professed La ilaha illallah?” He went on repeating this to me until I wished I had not embraced Islam before that day (so that I would have not committed this sin). Source: (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Another narration is: Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Did you kill him in spite of his professing La ilaha illallah?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! He said out of fear of our arms.” He (saw) said, “Why did you not cut his heart open to find out whether he had done so sincerely or not?” He continued repeating it until I wished that I had embraced Islam only that day.
Arabic English book reference Book 1, Hadith 393
Does the above hadith indicate that the blessed Messenger (saw) thinks that what Usamah bin Zaid did was just?
“The Prophet (saw) said, “While I was sleeping, a group (of my followers were brought close to me), and when I recognized them, a man (an angel) came out from among (us) me and them, he said (to them), ‘Come along.’ I asked, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘To the (Hell) Fire, by Allah’ I asked, ‘what is wrong with them’ He said, ‘They turned apostate as renegades after you left.’ Then behold! (Another) group (of my followers) were brought close to me, and when I recognized them, a man (an angel) came out from (me and them) he said (to them); Come along.’ I asked, “Where?’ He said, ‘To the (Hell) Fire, by Allah.’ I asked, What is wrong with them?’ He said, ‘They turned apostate as renegades after you left. So I did not see anyone of them.”
Source: (Sahih al-Bukhari 6587 Book 81, Hadith 175 Vol. 8, Book 76, Hadith 587)
The companion al-Walid b ‘Uqbah b Abi Mu’ayt the companion and governor of Kufah who was whipped for leading the prayer while intoxicated.
Hudain b. al-Mundhir Abu Sasan reported:
I saw that Walid was brought to Uthmin b. ‘Affan as he had prayed two rak’ahs of the dawn prayer, and then he said: I make an increase for you. And two men bore witness against him. One of them was Humran who said that he had drunk wine. The second one gave witness that he had seen him vomiting. Uthman said: He would not have vomited (wine) unless he had drunk it. He said: ‘Ali, stand up and lash him. ‘Ali said: Hasan, stand up and lash him. Thereupon Hasan said: Let him suffer the heat (of Caliphate) who has enjoyed its coolness. (‘Ali felt annoyed at this remark) and he said: ‘Abdullah b. Ja’far, stand up and flog him, and he began to flog him, and ‘Ali counted the stripes until these were forty. He (Hadrat ‘Ali) said: Stop now and then said: Allah’s Apostle (saw) gave forty stripes, and Abu Bakr also gave forty stripes, and Umar gave eighty stripes, and all these falls under the category of the Sunnab, but this one (forty stripes) is dearer to me.
Ultimately one has to ask in all these battles and conflicts among the companions why didn’t they bring up all these verses about them all being just? None of them used such verses in any difference that they had.
Why didn’t they quote these ahadith of the 10 promised paradise?
Conclusion: There is absolutely not a single verse in the Qur’an anywhere that vindicates the companions as people who were all just and righteous. We do not have a single shred of evidence of that from the Sunnah for this position either.
Dr. Jonathan Brown (May Allah have mercy on him) said it best when he says,
“That the collective impunity of the Companions was a later construct of the Sunni worldview is evident when one finds occasional minor Companions listed in early books of weak hadith transmitters.”
Source: ( Hadith: Muhammed’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World’ by Dr. Jonathan Brown page 88)
In fact, I do not know why our brothers from ‘Ahl Sunnah‘ cling to this doctrine especially in light of their debates with our brothers from the Shi’a.
It would be better for them to say they no longer hold this belief and instead they will examine each allegation against a companion based upon the chain of narrators and the text.
As regards our respected learned people in the Ibadi tradition they have advised us to hold our tongues concerning the companions. Yet at the same time, we have been advised to tell the history and the facts as it is. This as per Allah (swt) commands:
“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.” (Qur’an 2:42)
That was a nation which has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do. (Qur’an 2:133-134)
Which means we are not beholden to them period. If they earned good we earn good insh’Allah we will see each other in paradise. If they earned evil and we earn evil then no one can save us from our impending doom.
“And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.” (Quran 59:10)
The best and most neutral du’a that one can make in regards to them is to ask Allah (swt) to send his peace and blessings upon the Prophet (saw), his family, and all the believers up until the present times.
In fact, there is only one that Allah (swt) called the ‘praised one‘ or ‘the praiseworthy‘ There is only one whom Allah (swt) said, is an example for us. He didn’t say it about any of the companions.
There is only one who is a mercy unto all beings. That is our beloved, our master, our example, our beacon, and our guide, the Blessed Messenger and Noble Prophet Muhammed (saw).
“We have not sent thee, save as a mercy unto all beings.” (Qur’an 21:107)