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The term aṣ-ṣaḥābah (Arabic: الصحابة meaning "the companions", from the verb صَحِبَ meaning "accompany", "keep company with", "associate with") refers to the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This form is definite plural; the indefinite singular is masculine sahabi (ṣaḥābī), feminine sahabia (ṣaḥābīyat).
Later scholars accepted their testimony of the words and deeds of Muhammad, the occasions on which the Quran was revealed and various important matters of Islamic history and practice. The testimony of the companions, as it was passed down through trusted chains of narrators (isnads), was the basis of the developing Islamic tradition. From the traditions (hadith) of the life of Muhammad and his companions are drawn the Muslim way of life (sunnah), the code of conduct (sharia) it requires, and the jurisprudence (fiqh) by which Muslim communities should be regulated. The two largest Islamic denominations, the Sunni and Shia, take different approaches in weighing the value of the companions' testimony, have different hadith collections and, as a result, have different views about the Sahabah. (The next generation of Muslims after the Sahabah — who were born after Muhammad died but knew personally at least one Sahabah — are called Tabi‘un, and the generation after them (who knew at least one Tabi‘un) are called Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in. The three generations make up the salaf of Islam.)
The most widespread definition of a companion is someone who met Muhammad, believed in him and died as a Muslim. The Sunni scholar Al-Hâfidh Ibn Hajar (d.852H) said: “The most correct of what I have come across is that a Sahâbî (Companion) is one who met the Prophet Muhammad - sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam - whilst believing in him, and died as a Muslim. So, that includes the one who remained with him for a long or a short time, and those who narrated from him and those who did not, and those who saw him but did not sit with him and those who could not see him due to blindness".
Anyone who died after rejecting Islam and becoming an apostate is not considered as a companion. Those who saw him but held off believing in him until after his passing are not considered Sahaba but Tabi`in. Shia Muslims make no distinction between these as regards their trustworthiness.
However, scholars like Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and Amin Ahsan Islahi state that not every individual who met or had accidentally seen Muhammad can be considered as a Companion. In their view, the Quran has outlined a high level of faith as one of the distinctive qualities of the Sahabah. Hence, they admit to this list only those individuals who had substantial contact with Muhammad, lived with him, and took part in his campaigns and efforts at proselytizing. This view has implications in Islamic law since narrations of Muhammad transmitted through the Sahabah acquire a greater status of authenticity.
Lists of prominent companions usually run to 50 or 60 names, being the people most closely associated with Muhammad. However, there were clearly many others who had some contact with Muhammad, and their names and biographies were recorded in religious reference texts such as Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi's (Muḥammad ibn Sa'd) early Kitāb at-Tabāqat al-Kabīr (The Book of the Major Classes). The book entitled Istî'âb fî ma'rifat-il-Ashâb by Hafidh Yusuf bin Muhammad bin Qurtubi (died 1071) consists of 2,770 biographies of male and 381 biographies of female Sahabah. According to an observation in the book entitled Mawâhib-i-ladunniyya, an untold number of persons had already converted to Islam by the time Muhammad died. There were 10,000 by the time Mecca was conquered and 70,000 during the Battle of Tabouk in 630. Some Muslims assert that they were more than 200,000 in number: it is believed that 124,000 witnessed the Farewell Sermon Muhammad delivered after making his last pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca.
Two important groups among the companions are called the Muhajirun or "exiles"—those who had faith in Muhammad when he began to preach in Mecca who fled with him when he was persecuted there—and the Ansar—people of Medina who welcomed Muhammad and his companions and stood as their protectors. Chapter (sura) 9 of the Quran ("Repentance" (At-Tawba)), verse (ayah) 100 says;
The vanguard (of Islam)—the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds—well-pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.
Allah has already forgiven the Prophet and the Muhajireen and the Ansar who followed him in the hour of difficulty after the hearts of a party of them had almost inclined [to doubt], and then He forgave them. Indeed, He was to them Kind and Merciful.
In the Quran
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In Islam, there are three types of Sahabah:
As Sabiqoon Al Awaloon (Badriyans)
The people who were Muslims at the time of Badr. They are further classified into two:
- Muhajreen (immigrants from Mecca)
- Ansar (helpers—inhabitants of Medina (previously known as Yathrib)) They are ideals for the other Muslims because "well-pleased is Allah with them" (Arabic: رضي الله عنه raḍiyu l-Lāhu ‘anhu)
Indeed, those who have believed and emigrated and fought with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided - they are allies of one another. But those who believed and did not emigrate - for you there is no guardianship of them until they emigrate. And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help, except against a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty. And Allah is Seeing of what you do.Quran, sura 8 (Al-Anfal), ayah 72
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.— Quran, sura 3 (Al Imran), ayah 103
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah ; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration. That is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers—so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward.— Quran, sura 48 (Al-Fath), ayah 29
Major Sahabah (Kibaar)
The people who were Muslims before victory at Mecca and went into exile and fought for God's cause in most of the wars.
They are also high in degree, especially those who were present at Hudabiyah.
Released people (Ashaab at-tulaqa'a)
They were non-Muslim at the time of victory of Mecca; after that, they were forgiven by Muhammad, then they became Muslims.
According to Sunni scholars, Muslims of the past should be considered companions if they had any contact with Muhammad, and they were not liars or opposed to him and his teachings. If they saw him, heard him, or were in his presence even briefly, they are companions. All companions are assumed to be just (udul) unless they are proven otherwise; that is, Sunni scholars do not believe that companions would lie or fabricate hadith unless they are proven liars, untrustworthy or opposed to Islam. "Whom God is pleased with" (Arabic: رضي الله عنه raḍiyu l-Lāhu ‘anhu) is usually mentioned by Sunnis after the names of the Sahaba.
Allah has promised you much booty that you will take [in the future] and has hastened for you this [victory] and withheld the hands of people from you - that it may be a sign for the believers and [that] He may guide you to a straight path.— Quran, sura 48 (Al-Fath), ayah 20
While sura 8 ("The Spoils" (Al-Anfal)), ayat 74–75 reads:
But those who have believed and emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided - it is they who are the believers, truly. For them is forgiveness and noble provision.And those who believed after [the initial emigration] and emigrated and fought with you - they are of you. But those of [blood] relationship are more entitled [to inheritance] in the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Knowing of all things.
In another place the Quran distinguishes between the community in honour:
And why do you not spend in the cause of Allah while to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth? Not equal among you are those who spent before the conquest [of Makkah] and fought [and those who did so after it]. Those are greater in degree than they who spent afterwards and fought. But to all Allah has promised the best [reward]. And Allah , with what you do, is Acquainted.— Quran, sura 57 (Al-Hadid), ayah 10
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 punishmentWhen 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"?— Quran, sura 24 (An-Nur), ayat 11–16)
And among those around you of the bedouins are hypocrites, and [also] from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You, [O Muhammad], do not know them, [but] We know them. We will punish them twice [in this world]; then they will be returned to a great punishment.
In view of such admonitions Shias have different views on each Sahabi, depending on what he or she accomplished. They do not accept that the testimony of nearly all Sahabah is an authenticated part of the chain of narrators in a hadith and that not all the Sahaba were righteous just because they saw or were with Muhammad. Shias further argue that the righteousness of Sahabah can be assessed by their loyalty towards Muhammad's family after his death and they accept hadith from the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt, believing them to be cleansed from sin through their interpretation of the Quran, surah 33 (Al-Ahzab), verse 33 and the hadith of the Cloak.
All of Muhammad's wives are called the "mothers of the believers":
The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers. Blood-relations among each other have closer personal ties, in the Decree of Allah. Than (the Brotherhood of) Believers and Muhajirs: nevertheless do ye what is just to your closest friends: such is the writing in the Decree (of Allah).
Another verse states:
O Consorts of the Prophet!...God only wishes to remove all abomination from you, you members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless.(*It's not complete verse from shi'as)
O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah , then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech. And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance. And establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet's] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification. (*This one is the complete verse)
Shias support their argument that one must discriminate between the virtues of the companions by verses relating to Muhammad's wives:
O Consorts of the Prophet! If any of you were guilty of evident unseemly conduct, the Punishment would be doubled to her, and that is easy for Allah.
But any of you that is devout in the service of Allah and His Messenger, and works righteousness—to her shall We grant her reward twice: and We have prepared for her a generous Sustenance.
The Sunnis regard them as the Mothers of the Believers (Arabic: أمهات المؤمنين Ummahaat Al-Mu'minin). The title is frequently used by scholars of the different Sunni schools of thought.
Because the hadith were not properly written down until many years after the death of Muhammad, although there were many individual written copies, the isnads, or chains of transmission, always have several links. The first link is preferably a companion, who had direct contact with Muhammad. The companion then related the tradition to a Tabi‘un, the companion of the companion. Tabi‘un had no direct contact with Muhammad, but did have direct contact with the Sahabah. The tradition then would have been passed from the Tabi‘un to the Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in, the third link.
The second and third links in the chain of transmission were also of great interest to Muslim scholars, who treated of them in biographical dictionaries and evaluated them for bias and reliability. Sunni and Shia apply different metrics.
Regard for the companions is evident from the hadith:
The Prophet said, "The people of my generation are the best, then those who follow them, and then whose who follow the latter.
Sunni Muslim scholars classified companions into many categories, based on a number of criteria. The hadith quoted above shows the rank of ṣaḥābah, tābi‘īn, and tābi‘ at-tābi‘īn. Al-Suyuti recognized eleven levels of companionship. Shia do not have a ranking system dependent on when the Sahabi embraced Islam but according to what they did during their life. If a Sahabi made Muhammad angry or questioned his decision several times then he is viewed as unreliable. Shias consider that any hadith where Muhammad is claimed to have absolved all Sahabah from sin is a false report by those who opposed the Ahl al-Bayt.
The Shia claim that after the death of Muhammad, the majority of the sahabah turned aside from true Islam and deviated from Muhammad's family, instead electing the caliph by themselves at a place called Bani Saqeefa, they did this by a majority vote and elected Abu Bakr as the first caliph. Shias allege that although some of the sahabah repented later, only a few of the early Muslims held fast to Ali, whom Shia Muslims claim as the rightful successor to Muhammad. Shia scholars therefore deprecate hadith believed to have been transmitted from alleged unjust companions, and place much more reliance on hadith believed to have been related by Muhammad's family members and companions who supported Ali. The Shia claim that Muhammad announced his succession during his lifetime at Dawat Zul Asheera then many times during his prophethood and finally at Ghadeer e Khum.
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- Quran 48:18–29
- Muhammad ibn Ahmad (died 1622), also known as "Nişancızâde", Mir’ât-i-kâinât (in Turkish):
"Once a male or female Muslim has seen Muhammad only for a short time, no matter whether he/she is a child or an adult, he/she is called a Sahaba with the proviso of dying with as a believer; the same rule applies to blind Muslims who have talked with the Prophet at least once. If a disbeliever sees Muhammad and then joins the Believers after the demise of Muhammad, he is not a Sahaba; nor is a person called a Sahaba if he converted to Islam afterwards although he had seen Muhammad as a Muslim. A person who converts to Islam after being a Sahaba and then becomes a Believer again after the demise of Muhammad, is a Sahaba.
- "Sharh al-`Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyyah", by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tahawi, p.526-528
- "Al-I`tiqad `ala Madhhab al-Salaf Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a", by Al-Bayhaqi, pg.109–113
- "Al-Tajrid fi Asma' al-Sahaba", by Al-Dhahabi, pg.57
- Word Games With Verse 33:33, By: Ibn al-Hashimi
- Mothers of the Believers, By: Ibn al-Hashimi
- Al-Ifk: Quran Defends Aisha, By: Ibn al-Hashimi
- Quran 48:10
- Quran 8:74–75
- Quran 57:10
- Quran 24:12–15
- Quran 9:101
- Quran 33:33
- Quran 33:6
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- Sahih Muslim, 31:6150
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- Osman, Amr, Companions, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014.
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