Are all Companions of the Prophet Righteous?
The righteousness of all the companions and their worthiness of confidence are matters about which the Shi'ites and the Sunnis argue. The majority of the Sunni scholars believe that all the companions are righteous and worthy of our confidence. The Shi'ite scholars are selective.
The Sunni scholars cite Qur'anic verses for substantiating their claim:
"Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and those who are with him are firm against unbelievers, compassionate towards one another. You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking grace from God and His satisfaction ... The mark of prostration shows on their faces... Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great reward." (ch. 48. v. 29)
Thus, the Almighty described the companions of the Messenger as firm against the unbelievers, merciful among themselves; and that they bow and prostrate. The mark of their prostration shows on their foreheads; and that Allah promised those who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness and a great reward. All these descriptions substantiate the piety and virtue of the companions. The verse, however, does not include all the companions. It only includes the companions who were firm against the unbelievers, merciful among themselves.
Thus, the companions who were not firm against the unbelievers or were unmerciful to the believers would not be included by the verse. It would be only logical to say that those who shed the blood of Muslims without justification in civil wars such as Talhah, Zubayr, and Mu'awiyah are not included in this Qur'anic statement, plus all companions who joined them in their unrighteous wars against Imam Ali, and those who divided the Muslims and destroyed their unity.
Furthermore, the end of the verse clearly indicates that the praise was not to include all the companions because it declares that only those who believed in Islam and did good deeds will be entitled to forgiveness and great rewards.
One of the verses which is offered as evidence of the righteousness of all the companions of the Prophet is the following:
"And the early Muslims from the Meccan migrants and the Medinite Ansar (the helpers) and those who followed them with their good deeds, 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 dwell therein forever. That is the mighty achievement." (ch. 9, v. 100)
This verse, however, speaks of the virtue of the migrants and Medinites who adopted Islam at the early state of the Islamic era. Thus, it does not include the thousands of the companions who adopted Islam after the Hudaybiyyah truce or after the conquest of Mecca. These were not from the early Muslims. Their Islam took place about twenty years after the proclamation of Islam and about eight years after Hijrah. Another verse which is cited for the righteousness of all companions is the following:
"Allah was well pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance unto thee beneath the tree; He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down tranquility to them and rewarded them with a speedy victory..." (ch. 48, v. 18)
This verse also does not include all the companions who declared their Islam after signing the Hudaybiyyah pact which took place during the sixth year after Hijra. The declaration of the allegiance to the Prophet under the tree took place shortly before signing the pact. The companions who gave allegiance under the tree at Hudaybiyyah were about fourteen hundred. It is worthy to mention that a number of students of the companions (such as Sa'id Ibn Al-Musayyab and Al-Shi'abi and Ibn Sirin) said that the early migrants were those who prayed to the two Qiblas (Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa and Al-Ka'bah). (Abu 'Umar Yusuf Ibn Abd-Barr, Al-Isti'ab part 1, pages 2-3)
Adapted from the book: "The Shi'ites Under Attack" by: "Imam Muhammad Jawad Chirri"
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