The Prophet's Companions
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Introduction to Prophet’s Companions

The most widely accepted definition of a companion of Prophet Muhammad is someone who met the Prophet, believed in him and died as a Muslim.  The Arabic translation of the word companion is sahabi, thus companions (plural) become sahaba.  As with all Arabic words there are many shades and levels of meaning.  The root of the word is sa-hi-ba and means physical nearness or to sit with, thus a sahabi is generally considered someone to have been close to Prophet Muhammad; someone who spent considerable time in his company or presence.  The companions, men, women and children loved Prophet Muhammad dearly and anyone of them would have given their lives in his life. The companions are considered the best generation of the Islamic nation, both then and now.  We learn about their etiquettes and manners, we read their stories and marvel at their exploits; we admire their religious zeal and their utter devotion to God and His Messenger.  However, we often lack a holistic understanding of their lives.  Who were these men, women and children? What were their lives like before the advent of Islam? What sort of people were they before they chose to love and follow Prophet Muhammad? And in addition to this what was it about Prophet Muhammad that produced such complete devotion? 

 

The Best of the Companions

We should note that the best of the Ummah, after the Prophet   (peace be upon him) were Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman, then ‘Ali. As far as the Caliphate is concerned, Ibn Taymeeyah has said that anyone who “objects against anyone of these regarding this order of caliphate, he will be regarded misguided.”

 

The First Caliph, Abu Bakr (632-634 A.C.)

 

Abu Bakr's Life

Abu Bakr ('The Owner of Camels') was not his real name. He acquired this name later in life because of his great interest in raising camels. His real name was Abdul Ka'aba ('Slave of Ka'aba'), which Muhammad (peace be on him) later changed to Abdullah ('Slave of God'). The Prophet also gave him the title of 'Siddiq' - 'The Testifier to the Truth.'

 

Abu Bakr was a fairly wealthy merchant, and before he embraced Islam, was a respected citizen of Mecca. He was three years younger than Muhammad (peace be on him) and some natural affinity drew them together from earliest child hood. He remained the closest Companion of the Prophet all through the Prophet's life. When Muhammad first invited his closest friends and relatives to Islam, Abu Bakr was among the earliest to accept it. He also persuaded Uthman and Bilal to accept Islam. In the early days of the Prophet's mission, when the handful of Muslims were subjected to relentless persecution and torture, Abu Bakr bore his full share of hardship. Finally when God's permission came to emigrate from Mecca, he was the one chosen by the Prophet to accompany him on the dangerous journey to Medina. In the numerous battles which took place during the life of the Prophet, Abu Bakr was always by his side. Once, he brought all his belongings to the Prophet, who was raising money for the defence of Medina.

 

Abu-Bakr's Caliphate

Such, then, was the man upon whom the burden of leadership fell at the most sensitive period in the history of the Muslims.

 

As the news of the Prophet's death spread, a number of tribes rebelled and refused to pay Zakat (poor-due), saying that this was due only to the Prophet (peace be on him). At the same time a number of impostors claimed that the prophethood had passed to them after Muhammad and they raised the standard of revolt. To add to all this, two powerful empires, the Eastern Roman and the Persian, also threatened the new-born Islamic state at Medina.

 

Khalid bin Waleed had been chosen by the Prophet (peace be on him) on several occasions to lead Muslim armies. A man of supreme courage and a born leader, his military genius came to full flower during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Throughout Abu Bakr's reign Khalid led his troops from one victory to another against the attacking Romans.

 

Another contribution of Abu Bakr to the cause of Islam was the collection and compilation of the verses of the Qur'an.

 

Abu Bakr died on 21 Jamadi-al Akhir, 13 A.H. (23 August 634 A.C.), at the age of sixty-three, and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). His caliphate had been of a mere twenty-seven months duration. In this brief span, however, Abu Bakr had managed, by the Grace of God, to strengthen and consolidate his community and the state, and to secure the Muslims against the perils which had threatened their existence.

 

The Second Caliph, Umar (634-644 A.C.)

 

Umar's Life

During his last illness Abu Bakr had conferred with his people, particularly the more eminent among them. After this meeting they chose 'Umar as his successor. 'Umar was born into a respected Quraish family thirteen years after the birth of Muhammad (peace be on him). Umar's family was known for its extensive knowledge of genealogy. When he grew up, 'Umar was proficient in this branch of knowledge as well as in swordsmanship, wrestling and the art of speaking. He also learned to read and write while still a child, a very rare thing in Mecca at that time. 'mar earned his living as a merchant. His trade took him to many foreign lands and he met all kinds of people. This experience gave him an insight into the affairs and problems of men. 'Umar's personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straight forward. He always spoke whatever was in his mind even if it displeased others.

 

Umar was twenty-seven when the Prophet () proclaimed his mission. The story of his embracing Islam is an interesting one. One day, full of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him. A friend met him on the way. When 'Umar told him what he planned to do, his friend informed him that 'Umar's own sister, Fatima, and her husband had also accepted Islam. 'Umar went straight to his sister's house where he found her reading from pages of the Qur'an. He fell upon her and beat her mercilessly. Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, "Umar, you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam." These words produced a strange effect upon 'Umar. He went straight to the house where the Prophet was staying and vowed allegiance to him.

 

During the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, 'Umar was his closest assistant and adviser. When Abu Bakr died, all the people of Medina swore allegiance to 'Umar, and on 23 Jamadi-al-Akhir, 13 A.H., he was proclaimed Caliph.

 

Umar's Caliphate

After taking charge of his office, 'Umar spoke to the Muslims of Medina:

"...O people, you have some rights on me which you can always claim. One of your rights is that if anyone of you comes to me with a claim, he should leave satisfied. Another of your rights is that you can demand that I take nothing unjustly from the revenues of the State. You can also demand that... I fortify your frontiers and do not put you into danger. It is also your right that if you go to battle I should look after your families as a father would while you are away. "O people, remain conscious of God, forgive me my faults and help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by God..."

 

The most notable feature of Umar's caliphate was the vast expansion of Islam. Apart from Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Iran also came under the protection of the Islamic government. But the greatness of Umar himself lies in the quality of his rule.

 

Once a woman brought a claim against the Caliph Umar. When Umar appeared on trial before the judge, the judge stood up as a sign of respect toward him. Umar reprimanded him, saying, "This is the first act of injustice you did to this woman!"

 

He insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and be accessible to the people at all times, and he himself set the example for them. Many times foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish which man was the Caliph. He spent many a watchful night going about the streets of Medina to see whether anyone needed help or assistance.

 

Umar gave his government an administrative structure. Departments of treasury, army and public revenues were established. Regular salaries were set up for soldiers. A population census was held. Elaborate land surveys were conducted to assess equitable taxes. New cities were founded. The areas which came under his rule were divided into provinces and governors were appointed. New roads were laid, canals were lug and wayside hotels were built. Provision was made for the support of the poor and the needy from public funds. He defined, by precept and by example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims, an example of which is the following contract with the Christians of Jerusalem:

 

Umar's Death

In 23 A.H., when Umar returned to Medina from Hajj and Umar died in the first week of Muharram, 24 A.H., and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him).

 

The Third Caliph, Uthman (644-656 A.C)

 

Uthman's Election

When 'Umar fell under the assassin's dagger, before he died the people asked him to nominate his successor. 'Umar appointed a committee consisting of six of the ten companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) about whom the Prophet had said, "They are the people of Heaven" - Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman, Sa'ad, Al-Zubayr and Talha - to select the next Caliph from among themselves. He also outlined the procedure to be followed if any differences of opinion should arise. Abdul Rahman withdrew his name. He was then authorized by the committee to nominate the Caliph. After two days of discussion among the candidates and after the opinions of the Muslims in Medina had been ascertained, the choice was finally limited to Uthman and Ali. Abdul Rahman came to the mosque together with other Muslims, and after a brief speech and questioning of the two men, swore allegiance to Uthman. All those present did the same, and Uthman became the third Caliph of Islam in the month of Muharram, 24 A.H.

 

Uthman's Life

Uthman bin Affan was born seven years after the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). He belonged to the Omayyad branch of the Quraish tribe. He learned to read and write at an early age, and as a young man became a successful merchant. Even before Islam Uthman had been noted for his truthfulness and integrity. He and Abu Bakr were close friends, and it was Abu Bakr who brought him to Islam when he was thirty-four years of age. Some years later he married the Prophet's second daughter, Ruqayya. In spite of his wealth and position, his relatives subjected him to torture because he had embraced Islam, and he was forced to immigrate to Abyssinia that is why he came to be known as 'Ghani' meaning 'Generous.'

 

Uthman's wife, Ruqayya was seriously ill just before the Battle of Badr and he was excused by the Prophet (peace be on him) from participating in the battle.Uthman participated in the Battles of Uhud and the Trench. After the encounter of the Trench, the Prophet (peace be on him) determined to perform Hajj and sent Uthman as his emissary to the Quraish in Mecca, who detained him. The episode ended in a treaty with the Meccans known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya.

 

Uthman was of an unassuming, honest, mild, generous and very kindly man, noted especially for his modesty and his piety. He often spent part of the night in prayer, fasted every second or third day, performed hajj every year, and looked after the needy of the whole community. In spite of his wealth, he lived very simply and slept on bare sand in the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque. Uthman knew the Qur'an from memory and had an intimate knowledge of the context and circumstances relating to each verse.

 

Uthman's Caliphate

During Uthman's rule the characteristics of Abu Bakr's and Umar's caliphates - impartial justice for all, mild and humane policies, striving in the path of God, and the expansion of Islam - continued. Uthman's realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to Afghanistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate a navy was organized, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed. Uthman sent prominent Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people.

 

Uthman's most notable contribution to the religion of God was the compilation of a complete and authoritative text of the Qur'an. A large number of copies of this text were made and distributed all over the Muslim world.

 

Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquillity, but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose. The Jews and the Magians, taking advantage of dissatisfaction among the people, began conspiring against Uthman, and by publicly airing their complaints and grievances, gained so much sympathy that it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

 

It may seem surprising that a ruler of such vast territories, whose armies were matchless, was unable to deal with these rebels. If Uthman had wished, the rebellion could have been crushed at the very moment it began. But he was reluctant to be the first to shed the blood of Muslims, however rebellious they might be. He preferred to reason with them, to persuade them with kindness and generosity. He well remembered hearing the Prophet (peace be on him) say, "Once the sword is unsheathed among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day."

 

The rebels demanded that he abdicate and some of the Companions advised him to do so. He would gladly have followed this course of action, but again he was bound by a solemn pledge he had given to the Prophet. "Perhaps God will clothe you with a shirt, Uthman" the Prophet had told him once, "and if the people want you to take it off, do not take it off for them." Uthman said to a well-wisher on a day when his house was surrounded by the rebels, "God's Messenger made a covenant with me and I shall show endurance in adhering to it."

 

After a long siege, the rebels broke into Uthman's house and murdered him. When the first assassin's sword struck Uthman, he was reciting the verse:

"Verily, God sufficed thee; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing" [Qur'an 2:137]

Uthman breathed his last on the afternoon of Friday, 17 Dhul Hijja, 35 A.H. (June. (656 A.C.). He was eighty-four years old.

 

The Fourth Caliph, Ali (656-661 A.C.)

 

Ali's Election

After Uthman's martyrdom, the office of the caliphate remained unfilled for two or three days. Many people insisted that Ali should take up the office, but he was embarrassed by the fact that the people who pressed him hardest were the rebels, and he therefore declined at first. When the notable Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) urged him, however, he finally agreed.

 

Ali's Life

Ali bin Abi Talib was the first cousin of the Prophet (peace be on him). More than that, he had grown up in the Prophet's own household, later married his youngest daughter, Fatima, and remained in closest association with him for nearly thirty years.

 

Ali was ten years old when the Divine Message came to Muhammad (peace be on him). One night he saw the Prophet and his wife Khadijah bowing and prostrating. He asked the Prophet about the meaning of their actions. The Prophet told him that they were praying to God Most High and that Ali too should accept Islam. Ali said that he would first like to ask his father about it. He spent a sleepless night, and in the morning he went to the Prophet and said, "When God created me He did not consult my father, so why should I consult my father in order to serve God?" and he accepted the truth of Muhammad's message.

But during the difficult wars in Mecca, Ali stood by these words and faced all the hardships to which the Muslims were subjected. He slept in the bed of the Prophet when the Quraish planned to murder Muhammad.

 

Apart from the expedition of Tabuk, Ali fought in all the early battles of Islam with great distinction, particularly in the expedition of Khaybar. It is said that in the Battle of Uhud he received more than sixteen wounds.

The Prophet (peace be on him) loved Ali dearly and called him by many fond names. Once the Prophet found him sleeping in the dust. He brushed off Ali's clothes and said fondly, "Wake up, Abu Turab (Father of Dust)." The Prophet also gave him the title of 'Asadullah' ('Lion of God').

 

Ali's Caliphate

As mentioned previously, Ali accepted the caliphate very reluctantly. Uthman's murder and the events surrounding it were a symptom, and also became a cause, of civil strife on a large scale. Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to inept governors. He therefore dismissed all the governors who had been appointed by Uthman and appointed new ones. All the governors excepting Muawiya, the governor of Syria, submitted to his orders. Muawiya declined to obey until Uthman's blood was avenged. The Prophet's widow Aisha also took the position that Ali should first bring the murderers to trial. Due to the chaotic conditions during the last days of Uthman it was very difficult to establish the identity of the murderers, and Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not lawfully proved. Thus a battle between the army of Ali and the supporters of Aisha took place. Aisha later realized her error of judgment and never forgave herself for it.

 

The situation in Hijaz (the part of Arabia in which Mecca and Medina are located) became so troubled that Ali moved his capital to Iraq. Muawiya now openly rebelled against Ali and a fierce battle was fought between their armies. This battle was inconclusive, and Ali had to accept the de facto government of Muawiya in Syria.

 

However, even though the era of Ali's caliphate was marred by civil strife, he nevertheless introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and collecting of revenues.

It was the fortieth year of Hijra. A fanatical group called Kharijites, consisting of people who had broken away from Ali due to his compromise with Muawiya, claimed that neither Ali, the Caliph, nor Muawiya, the ruler of Syria, nor Amr bin al-Aas, the ruler of Egypt, were worthy of rule. In fact, they went so far as to say that the true caliphate came to an end with 'Umar and that Muslims should live without any ruler over them except God. They vowed to kill all three rulers, and assassins were dispatched in three directions.

 

The assassins who were deputed to kill Muawiya and Amr did not succeed and were captured and executed, but Ibn-e-Muljim, the assassin who was commissioned to kill Ali, accomplished his task. One morning when Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Ibn-e-Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword. On the 20th of Ramadan, 40 A.H. died the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam. May God Most High be pleased with them and grant to them His eternal reward.

 

List of Ten Promised Sahaba who will go to Heaven:

According to the narrations of Sahi Al bukhari and Muslims following are the names of ten companions who were promisedParadisewhile living by Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)

  • Abu Bakr As-Siddiq
  • Umar bin Al-Khattab
  • Uthman ibn Affan
  • Ali ibn Abi Talib
  • Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah
  • Zubayr ibn al-Awwam
  • Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf
  • Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas
  • Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah
  • Said ibn Zayd

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