Lecture 2 in the series: UNVEILING THE LESSER KNOWN COMPANIONS OF THE PROPHET (SAWA)
By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 22 September 2017 (Muharram 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran, in verse 100 of Surah Tawba (chapter 9):
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“And (as for) the foremost, the first of the Muhajirs and the Ansars, 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 for ever; that is the mighty achievement.”
In the light of this verse and the 2 verses which follow, we started a very important and interesting discussion in the previous lecture about the companions of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). We presented the opinion of our respected Sunni brothers regarding the companions (Sahaba).
This issue has become very controversial and we, followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) or Shia, are incorrectly accused of being anti-Sahaba and of those who insult and supposedly have no regard for the companions of Rasulullah (SAWA). Is this view of Shia true? Lecture 1 in this series answers this question and will go into deeper detail in this lecture.
WHO WERE THE SAHABA?
We started with the definition of Sahabi from numerous scholars of the Sunni position. We also discussed the theory which became part of the articles of faith, known as the “Theory of the Justice of Companions”.
They believe that all the Sahaba, without any exception, are just and beyond reproach. To be critical of them is completely unacceptable. This issue was dissected in Lecture 1 and then we presented the position of us followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) or Shia regarding Sahaba.
In principle, we agreed that the companions of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) played a significant, influential role in the history of Islam. Their sacrifices and struggles are indeed most beautiful contributions to Islam, and this point is unanimous amongst all Muslims. There is no debate about this.
The Holy Quran praises them and so does Rasulullah (SAWA). Again, no doubt! All Muslims agree!
Furthermore, the Sahaba were the channels through which we received the teachings of Islam and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). These are the true realities of the history.
SHIA POSITION ON SAHABA
The point of difference between Sunni and Shia on Sahaba is that we Shia do not believe that the great virtue of being a companion of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) makes them beyond reproach, because they were human beings. They were not infallibles and therefore open to mistakes.
The opinion of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is a very logical and balanced approach, based upon rationality and common sense together with a sound understanding of history before and after Islam. We discussed some examples in this regard.
Similarly, our approach to Sahaba is based upon the Holy Quran! Indeed, the Holy Quran praises them and acknowledges their role and contribution, but the Holy Quran also reprimands them and is critical of them. Therefore, according to the Holy Quran, they do not have blanket amnesty, or a status which cannot be questioned.
This is the point where Sunni and Shia disagree. I want to emphasise though, that there is absolutely no reason to sow sectarian strife and hate based on this disagreement. This is the opinion of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) which should not be the cause of disunity and divisions amongst fellow Muslims.
SAHABA WERE PRONE TO ERROR AND MADE MISTAKES
The next chapter in this discussion is about Apostasy. We Shia are INCORRECTLY ACCUSED of believing that all the Sahaba became Murtad (except a handful), and turned their backs on Islam after the demise of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). So, accordingly, how can we even think of unity with Shia if this is what they believe?? This is one of the strong arguments against all the sincere efforts of unity between Sunni and Shia.
Like many other accusations, this one also is completely baseless and has no merit.
They cite a handful of Hadith in Shia resources to base this ill-founded opinion on. The opinion of Shia is that Sahaba were great people, who sacrificed tirelessly for the progress of Islam, but were human beings at the end of the day and therefore prone to error.
This happened in the history of the early Prophets, and similarly happened in the time of our Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
The history after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is testament to the fact that they did not all agree with each other, to the point where their disagreement led to violent conflicts, resulting in killing and bloodshed. This tells us that something was very clearly wrong!
We cannot say that they were all great and pure, while they were cursing each other in the weekly Jumuah and ready to kill each other! This does not reconcile…
We Shia are saying they were normal human beings, subjected to up and downs impacting us all. The same as we experience with different revolutions throughout history. After victory is achieved through tireless struggle, cracks start appearing and diversions and deviations take place. The history of Islam is no exception. The Sahaba were human beings and part of this system which we witness.
Remember that Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted us Free Will and the result of this may lead to such situations. It is not exceptional.
APOSTASY OF SAHABA FROM SHIA RESOURCES
Tonight we want to unpack this accusation against Shia of apostasy of Sahaba.
Let me categorically state, that the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s), scholars and theologians of this school DO NOT believe that Sahaba are Murtad. Sahaba as a whole did not abandon Islam after the demise of Rasulullah (SAWA). They were not infallible, and therefore made mistakes like any human being. Among them were great people who went astray. But in totality they did not.
These few narrations in Shia resources which claim apostasy of Sahaba are extremely weak, when one evaluates its authenticity.
Let us for a moment assume these narrations are authentic, for whatever it is worth. When one looks carefully at the content of these narrations, we see that it is not at all acceptable. These weak Hadith are saying that all Sahaba abandoned Islam, except 4 or 5. That is certainly not the Shia opinion. If you count at least the closest people to Imam Ali (a.s) they number more than 4!!
The number of Sahaba mentioned is more than 100,000 but those mentioned by name are recorded as perhaps 10,000 or slightly more. Therefore, how is it possible to determine that the majority, who are not named, actually abandoned Islam if we don’t even know them?
At the same time there are many more people who are the lesser known companions of Rasulullah (SAWA) who were on the right path. They were unwavering in their commitment but we hardly hear about them. We as Shia believe that they were indeed the great companions of Rasulullah (SAWA).
WHAT DID THE IMAMS OF AHLUL BAIT (AS) SAY ABOUT SAHABA?
How is it possible that on the one hand we say that all Sahaba abandoned Islam except 4 or 5, but then when we open the great compilation of Imam Ali (a.s) called Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence) we read the heaps of praise he conveys on Sahaba in Khutbah 97?
In other places of Nahjul Balagha we read how Imam Ali (a.s) describes the virtues of the Ansar and Muhajirin. These are Sahaba right?
Furthermore, if you want to know what Shia believe about Sahaba, then one should read Dua 4 of Sahifah Sajjadiyya, the great treasure of the 4th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s). Here you will find how he praises Sahaba and how he acknowledges and explains their sacrifices and rich contribution towards the mission of Islam.
Similarly, we find praise of Sahaba along the same lines in the narrations from other Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s), like Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) and Imam Ali Ridha (a.s) to name a couple.
How is it possible that we have so many narrations praising Sahaba from the teachings of the Imams Ahlul Bait (a.s), but then on the other hand we have a few weak Hadith presented from some dark corner saying that they all became apostates?? That is clearly impossible to accept.
The number of high profile Sahaba who were committed to the Imamate of Imam Ali (a.s) far exceeds 5. This reference to only 5 remaining committed to Islam is therefore laughable at best.
APOSTASY OF SAHABA FROM SUNNI RESOURCES
Ayatollah Jafar Subhani says very beautifully that those who are accusing us Shia based on this handful of weak Hadith of apostasy of Sahaba, should be the ones replying about the narrations of apostasy of Sahaba in Sunni compilations of Hadith too!!!
Al-Bidaya wa’l-Nihaya is a famous book by Ibn Kathir, and he narrates that Ummul Mu’mineen Aisha said that ALL Arabs became Murtad after Rasulullah (SAWA) passed away and hypocrisy became common!!! How does one explain this?
You see, there is plenty of ammunition available on both sides (Sunni and Shia) if you want to use recorded texts and scriptures to stoke the fire of hate for repugnant sectarian strife. What is your intention? Is it to loosely cherry pick text to promote hate and divisions or promoting love and understanding through evaluating the context and chain of narrators?
There are more than 25 Hadith in Bukhari and Muslim and other compilations of Hadith known as Hadith of the Pool where Rasulullah (SAWA) is reported to have said that on the Day of Judgement his companions will come close to him at the Pool of Kauthar, but the Mala’ika (angels) will not allow them to come. This is recorded in Sahih Bukhari, vol 4, page 208.
They will be stopped by the angels! According to this Hadith, Rasulullah (SAWA) will ask the angels why they do not allow the companions to pass through, to which they will respond to Rasulullah (SAWA) explaining the innovations that these companions introduced to Islam and how some of them turned back on Islam.
There are 25 Hadith narrations like this in Sunni resources!
Another Hadith is recorded by Abu Huraira that on the Day of Judgement certain people will be escorted to the Hellfire because they abandoned the religion of Islam. The Hadith continues that there will be another group of companions who will also be escorted to the Hellfire for the same reason. The wording in this narration from Abu Huraira is that they turned pack to their pre-Islamic Jahiliyya practices.
As narrated in this compilation of 25 Hadith, Rasulullah (SAWA) will analyse this mess of group after group of companions being directed towards the Hellfire. He explains that very few will be saved, similar to a few cows getting lost in the herd of cattle who move in a certain direction.
All commentators of Sahih Bukhari and other Hadith compilations explain from this example, that Rasulullah (SAWA) wants to say that very few will be saved from the Hellfire.
Now, after this lengthy discussion, who is saying that Sahaba are Murtad? Is it fair to label this accusation on Shia when Sunni resources have the same claims?
WHAT IS MEANT BY APOSTASY IN THE CONTEXT OF THESE NARRATIONS?
Does it really refer to those Sahaba who abandoned Islam? Not at all! Ulema of Ahlul Bait (a.s) explain that what is referred to here is the level of deviation which unfortunately took place after the passing away of Rasulullah (SAWA). This is a fact of history which nobody can deny. Else we would not be sitting with so many different ideologies within Islam today, with each group claiming that they are correct!
Why did this happen? It all happened as a result of deviation! We as Shia believe that Rasulullah (SAWA) established the system of Imamat of Ahlul Bait (a.s) to succeed him. Unfortunately, a large number of people did not follow these guidelines.
We will speak about those lesser known companions of Rasulullah (SAWA), one by one, and we will see where apostasy is and what do we as Shia mean. You will then also see more or less its relation to these Hadith from Sunni resources noted above.
It does not mean that those Sahaba became Kaafir (disbelievers).
This issue of deviation is a fact in history! Someone told a Sahabi that he was indeed privileged to have been a companion of Rasulullah (SAWA) and also given his pledge of allegiance (bay’ah) under a tree. This Sahabi responded that you don’t want to know what innovation they introduced after Rasulullah’s (SAWA) demise!
BLANKET AMNESTY OF SAHABA HAD A POLITICAL AGENDA
The point I am taking to you is that this blanket amnesty for Sahaba, that they are beyond reproach and therefore any criticism of them should be summarily dismissed (even forcefully), DID NOT EXIST in the early history of Islam!!
This hyper-sensitivity toward Sahaba did not exist in Aqeedah back then. They were critical of each other and it was allowed! This freedom of expression amongst them gradually developed a political agenda whereby this hyper-sensitivity towards Sahaba BECAME like an article of faith.
In all honesty, clear evidence is there that this sensitivity towards Sahaba was not out of sympathy for the Caliphs. Today it has turned out that way because we Shia are critical of Sahaba, and therefore the defence of Sahaba is affirmed very strongly.
This blanket amnesty for Sahaba developed a political agenda by those who came in later and did the worst of acts but shut out any dissenting voices through claiming their status as Sahabi!
Here I do not hesitate to talk frankly, that this is Bani Umayyah! They justified their criminality with this logic. They were nowhere to be found in the early days of Islam! The reality of history, and particularly the branch of Abu Sufyan, became Muslim after the conquest of Mecca.
Rasulullah (SAWA) died in the year 11AH, and Imam Hussain (a.s) was killed in the year 61AH. Long before 61AH we see that the children of Abu Sufyan were in control of the Muslim Peninsula. These were the same people who embraced Islam in the final year of Rasulullah’s (SAWA) life. They managed to turn everything upside down in the space of 30 – 40 years after his demise. This is the historical reality!
Bani Umayyah fabricated this blanket amnesty for Sahaba and this was their tool to justify all the evil barbarity and atrocities which they committed, when they took control of the whole Muslim Peninsula.
THE UGLY HISTORY OF ISLAM UNDER BANI UMAYYAH
Bani Umayyah brought the worst of people into power. One such individual was Muslim ibn Aqaba! This is a most dangerous criminal and terrorist who attacked Madina when Madina refused to pay allegiance to the cursed Yazid. He was first one of the generals of Muawiya and then was a general with Yazid. He came to Madina demanding that the people of this city pay allegiance, not only to the leadership of Yazid (l.a) but also as his slaves! The people refused and as a result he declared everything Halaal for 3 days.
Do you know what Muslim ibn Aqaba did in these 3 days? He firstly killed all the remaining soldiers of Rasulullah (SAWA) in the victory of the Battle of Badr! This was the first battle of Islam. Who can be more pure Sahaba than those who participated in the first battle of Islam? But this cursed Muslim ibn Aqaba killed them all. Why is there no sensitivity about this?
More than 700 Ansar who are praised in the Holy Quran were also killed in this same 3 day attack! Were these not Sahaba who were brutally massacred?
What still about the more than 1000 unmarried women who became pregnant from this 3 day attack?
This is all recorded in the books of history! Why the silence over this merciless criminal by the name of Muslim ibn Aqaba, the general in Yazid’s rule?! Actually, he is also referred to in the definition of Sahabi, even though he was very young in the time of Rasulullah (SAWA)! So does the blanket amnesty make sense of ALL Sahaba being just?
Another example is Busr ibn abi Artat. He was one of the first terrorists who was so committed to Mu’awiya and as a result filled with hate for Imam Ali (a.s), so much so that he slaughtered 2 children of Ubaydallah ibn Abbas (a Sahabi and cousin of Rasulullah (SAWA) in front of him and his wife (the mother of these 2 children)!!! The mother went crazy after witnessing this!
Then there were others, and the list goes on and on, including a Sahabi who killed 7000 people at once in Basra!
Now we understand why this philosophy of blanket amnesty for Sahaba was pushed so hard, that they are beyond reproach, to conceal the vicious criminality of Bani Umayyah! It was a highly politically driven agenda. This is an excuse used to create division in the Ummah.
We do not believe in apostasy of the Sahaba. What we have discussed is the history and reality to clarify the misconception.
What we are saying this Muharram with our theme is – do not be selective. Read about those jewels of Sahaba who are lost in the corners of history. Let us reflect on their amazing contribution, sacrifices and struggles. People like Bilal and others!
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