Lecture 1 delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 21 September 2017 in the Muharram 1439 series titled “UNVEILING THE LESSER KNOWN COMPANIONS OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA)” at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town

Once again we are in the month of Muharram which takes us to a place called Karbala, the land of love, truth, justice, sacrifice and martyrdom.

And once again our hearts beat with “Labbayka Ya Husayn” and our eyes shed tears with remembrace of our Master, our Leader, our Beloved Husayn (a.s).

Once again with the name of Imam Husayn (a.s), an open University for Education, Teaching, Training, Development, Evolvement and Reform opens in every corner of the world.

And everyone benefits from this treasure of Karbala. This huge Educational Institution of Spiritual Development and Upliftment starts with the name of Imam Husayn (a.s). The students in this class and unique University learn Tauheed, Nubuwwat, Qiyamat, Imamate, Ahklaq and such related fundamental topics because Karbala has the capacity to accommodate all these fundamental topics.

You can speak about Tauheed under the banner of Karbala in the most sublime manner.

You can speak about the Message of Prophets as we did last year as Husayn (a.s) is the “Heir of all the Prophets”.

You can speak about the mission of our own Prophet Muhammad (sawa), the last Prophet under the banner of Karbala because Husayn and Karbala is the embodiment of the whole of Islam itself.

And all major institutions are captured in Karbala with the best examples being manifested in it!!

Therefore after 14 centuries this mourning for Imam Husayn (a.s) is fresh and dynamic like it was centuries ago.

And that is how we start our new year. Not by congratulating each other and extending greetings of happiness. No – we start our new year with our commitment to Husayn (a.s) which is commitment to Islam, which is commitment to Prophet Muhammad (sawa), which is commitment to Tauheed.

We don’t start with fire crackers but by shedding tears for the grandson of the most beloved.

Yes we celebrate, but not with partying and amusement, but we celebrate this ascension of humanity with the most purest of human feelings and that is tears.

Thus Imam Husayn (a.s) says “I am the martyr of tears and no man of faith remembers me but he/she weeps.”

COMPANIONS OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA)

This year we enter a new 10 day study course on the topic of Companionship of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), and more particularly highlighting the lesser known outstanding companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

Why this topic this year you may ask?

It’s because the issue of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) has became a subject of controversy, debate and fitna against the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and we are branded as “Anti-sahaba” and “Enemies of sahaba”.

We need to thus respond to this serious accusation.

Our purpose is not to show contempt to other Schools of Thought. We share common Articles of Faith with them which extends to include “Love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) and Husayn ibn Ali (a.s)”. But at the same time these accusations have become more serious with the advent of social media and its wide reach and impact on the impressions of average people.

We would like to respond to this issue in 2 ways:

Firstly by explaining the principle position of the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) regarding Sahaba.

Secondly practically bringing examples of great companions who are less known but were prominent and played a crucial role and we love them and respect them and regard them as Allah’s most pious servants.

Examples like:

– Salman al-Farsi
– Abu Thar Gaffari
– Miqda
– Bilal
and various others will be examined.

GENERAL SUNNI DEFINITION OF SAHABA

Our Sunni brothers, most of them, if not all of them, believe that a Sahabi, based on the definition of Ibn Hajar Asqalani and others is:

whoever met Prophet Muhammad (sawa) while he was Muslim and had faith in him and died on Islam – such a person is a companion (sahabi) by definition.

In other words it does mean being in the company of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) for a certain period but even meeting him once, or seeing him, or even not seeing Prophet (sawa) like a person called ibn Maktum who was blind – all these are defined as sahabi.

A small minority of Sunni believe this does not apply to every one but those who spent a reasonable amount of time with Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and received education and training, otherwise others were regular Muslims and are considered as such.

However, the majority of Sunni Muslims make the definition much wider as referred to earlier.

Based on this, practically every one who lived at the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is a Sahabi. Thus there’s a discussion about the number of Sahaba and that it reaches over 100 000 on this basis. This includes people in Makka, Madina, villages, surrounding towns, etc at the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

But those mentioned by name are recorded as perhaps 10 000 or slightly more.

SUNNI BELIEF IN THEORY OF JUSTICE OF EVERY COMPANION

A Sunni scholar called Safahini says “it is the consensus of the Ahlul Sunnah that it is compulsory on them to purify sahaba by establishing justice for sahaba and staying away from critique of them and to praise them and have faith in their purity and that they are the best of the Ummah after the Prophet (sawa)”.

This essentially says ALL Sahaba of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) are Just and that nobody was problematic.

Of course they bring various verses of the Quran to prove this point. A very famous one is Surah Taubah Verse 100:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الاَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالاَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بإِحْسَانٍ رَضِيَ اللّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الاَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدَاً ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيم

“And the foremost, the first of 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 wherein shall they abide forever. That is the great success.”

So they say the Quran praises the Sahaba and they further say that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) praised them and warned us not to speak ill of them, etc.

They then use rational reasoning which is also important to understand when they say that our religion reached us through them….if they were not in between, then how did we become Muslims and then the whole Islam comes under question mark.

They then say that their sacrifice and services cannot be denied and that today Islam is somewhere is because of them.

VIEW OF THE SCHOOL OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S)

Our view is that firstly, in relation to Quran praising the Sahaba, we agree this is the case and that it cannot be denied! There are more than 20 verses which can be quoted which speak about the Companions and their contribution. We don’t dispute this!

Secondly in relation to the Prophet (sawa) having praised them, our view is that this is true. However, with a caveat and that is that this praise was not always in the way it is commonly quoted which gives blanket amnesty to all of them. In fact the praise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), just like the praise of Quran, was actually a CONDITIONAL praise. It is never unconditional.

Thirdly, the claim that Islam reached us through them – is this really true? Only through them?? Furthermore, the fact that they were a medium, does it make them flawless and error free and protected??

Their sacrifice is undeniable. But all these arguments do not prove that each and every one of them are just and error free and pure and that we cannot be critical of them.

SHIA CRITERIA FOR ANALYSING SAHABA

While Shia believe that Sahaba are important, it’s view of them is based on 3 criteria:
– The demands of rational reasoning (aql)
– The realities of history 
– The approach of the Quran

In relation to rational reasoning, it is irrational to believe that 100 000 people by just seeing and existing in time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) became error free – logic simply does not accept this. They were human beings with weaknesses. Some only saw him for a few minutes. How much did they learn that you give them a certificate of justice just like that? 

When reading the history of human societies, we see that the society at the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is no exception.

History of Prophets which Quran speaks about, shows no Prophet had 100 percent loyal companions.

Look at the story of Prophet Musa (a.s) and the Bani Israeel. Or the story of Prophet Eesa (a.s) and his disciples. How many of them were firm? And how many were vulnerable?

The same goes for the history of our Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

There is a hadith recorded which says that “whoever conquers Rome, all of them are forgiven”. Does this make sense? Those who entered Rome, includes Yazeed!!! Is he forgiven for being part of those who conquered Rome? So his orchestrating the murder of Imam Husayn (a.s) is suddenly forgiven?? What good name did this army leave behind for Islam?

Furthermore, can we accept the logic of one companion killing another companion and all are just?

When examining history there’s too much evidence of errors of Sahaba

Then from Quranic perspective, while praising Sahaba, does the Quran do so unconditionally? Are they praised regardless of what they do? We don’t get this logic!

So this same verse 100 very which clearly says:

وَالسَّابِقُونَ الاَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالاَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بإِحْسَانٍ رَضِيَ اللّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الاَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدَاً ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيم

“And the foremost, the first of 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 wherein shall they abide forever. That is the great success.”

This verse is a major support used for the argument to say all Sahaba are just.

But immediately the next verse 101 says:

وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُم مِنَ الاَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لا تَعْلَمُهُمْ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ سَنُعَذِّبُهُم مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ

“And among the Bedouins around you there are hypocrites, and from among the people of Medina (there are also some who) have grown bold in hypocrisy. You do not know them, (but) We know them. Soon We will punish them twice, then they will be turned back to a grievous chastisement.”

And then verse 102 describes another group:

وءَاخَرُونَ اعْتَرَفُوا بِذُنُوبِهِمْ خَلَطُوا عَمَلاً صَالِحاً وءَاخَرَ سَيِّئاً عَسَى اللّهُ أَن يَتُوبَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌرَحِيمٌ

“And (there are) others who have confessed to their sins. They have mixed a righteous deed and an evil one. Maybe Allah will turn (mercifully) to them (and accept their repentance). Verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

What’s the reality that we see when reading these 3 verses together? It tells us that there were:

– Committed group of Sahaba; or 
– Hyprocrites; or
– Those who had flaws

And thus it is never possible to say EACH ONE was just!!

The approach of Shia towards Sahaba is a rational approach. We don’t denounce them as a whole, nor do we accept them as a whole.

And we stress that you must never mix Ahlul Bait (a.s) to be the same as Sahaba! While Sahaba had certain great individuals, they were overall normal human beings.

But Ahlul Bait (a.s) are not just anybody and blood relation of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as the accursed Abu Lahab also shares blood relations with Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

Ahlul Bait are those “under the cloak” (as per the incident of the cloak), who are covered, specified, well defined and then purified by Almighty Allah Himself when He says Surah Ahzab verse 33:

اِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرّ‌ِجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهّـِرَكُمْ تَطْهِيراً

“Verily Allah intends but to keep off from you (every kind of) uncleanness, O’ you the people of the House! And purify you (with) a thorough purification.”

This is very different to the view of Sahaba in Quran.

And thus when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked by his who were the best companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), he replied with various names. Some narrations say he mentioned 19 Sahaba without having mentioned the name of Imam Ali (a.s). Out of confusion, his son asked why Imam Ali (a.s) does not feature in his list of best Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), and his reply was that Imam Ali (a.s) was not Sahabi, but was Aali Muhammad (Family of Muhammad), and no one can be compared to Ahlul Bait (a.s) i.e. the Family of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

To be continued………….

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