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Hypocrisy of Companions during and after Prophet’s Lifetime

The following is a hadith reported by al-Bukhari and others683 from Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, in which he manifests clear the hypocrisy of the Sahabah during the Prophet’s lifetime and after him.
Hudhayfah said: The contemporary hypocrites are worse than those who lived during the Prophet’s lifetime and used to conceal their truth but today they declare publicly! In another narration by al-Bukhari from him (Hudhayfah) too; who said: Verily hypocrisy was found in the time of the Prophet (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny), but today it is no more than disbelief after faith. In another narration (he said): It is in fact disbelief and faith.

Al-Bazzar reported from Abu Wa’il as saying: I said to Hudhayfah: Which is worse, the hypocrisy of today or that which was found during the time of the Messenger of Allah? He — banging his forehead by hand — said: Oh! It is today manifest, while in the time of the Messenger of Allah they used to hide it.

I support this chapter with a statement written by Dr. Taha Husayn in his book Uthman, in which he referred to the issue of fitnah (disorder) that happened during the time of Uthman, and some comments of the historians about it.

The stances of people toward the events during the days of Uthman and his role in them differed much. Some of them relieved themselves of the job saying: Most of these events were falsified and innovated, and their occurrence was not established. But they were claimed to exist by claimants, some of whom intended to hatch plots against Islam, with some others being compelled to do so, because of the severe animosity that was found among the parties. Therefore they would reject and deny most of the events, viewing those ones accepted by them to be not so perilous, but were subjected to exertion of opinion (ijtihad) by the madhhab leader (imam) that if he would be correct, two rewards will be his share but if mistaken one reward.

However, his intention of that was only good, as he could not intend but good, the opinion that was held by them (the latters) in regard of the narrations approved by them, which were exposing the antagonism that was going on between Uthman and the Prophet’s Companions. So most of these events were viewed by them to be composed and very few of them could be accepted according to the above-mentioned interpretation, i.e. they were produced as a result of ijtihad.

Most of those holding this notion, are in fact compelled to it, due to their consecration to that era of Islam, and being averse to accuse the Prophet’s Companions with charges that were usually ascribed to those caring only for the worldly lusts, out of what they harbour of readiness to rivalry and struggling on transient wishes that never suit people accompanied the Messenger of Allah, striving hard in the way of Allah and founding the State, through what they expended of money , wealth and efforts. Despite the possibility of being wrong or correct but they used to strive all the time, rushing to do good, so it was not possible for them to be involved in major sins, nor to perpetrate such minor sins that Allah forgive for His benevolent bondmen! Few of those holding this belief are impelled to hold it due to the mental inactivity that curbs them from researching, investigation and inquiry.

There being others who make it easy for themselves by denying the possibility of occurrence of such events and seditions at the hands of the Prophet’s Companions, viewing them to be conspiracies hatched by enemies of Islam, like Abd Allah ibn Saba’ and his likes from among People of the Book and other than them. It is quite obvious that we can never believe in this or that notion, as we neither like laziness nor incline towards comfort, nor exaggerate in consecrating people to that far extent, nor ascribing to the Prophet’s Companions traits which they don’t attribute to themselves. They used to consider themselves to be human beings, liable to what others are subject to, of sins and guilts, exchanging serious charges, with some of them accusing each other with infidelity and liberatinism. As an example, it is reported that Ammar ibn Yasir used to charge Uthman with impiety, deeming it lawful to kill him, calling him with the name of Na’thal. It is reported too that Ibn Mas’ud used to deem shedding the blood of Uthman to be lawful when he was in Kufah, where he used to address the people saying: The worst of things are verily their invented ones, and every invented thing is a heresy (bid’ah), and every bid’ah is dalalah (deviation), and every deviation is in fire, meaning with this Uthman and his deputy al-Walid. Further it is reported that Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf said to some of his companions, when he was in deathbed: Precipitate him (i.e. Ali), before his sovereignty exceeds the bounds.

Those who supported Uthman from among the Prophet’s Companions, were of the opinion that their opponents had renegaded religion and violated his commandment, the reason for which they deemed fighting each other as lawful. And actually so they did, as in the Battles of al-Jamal and Siffin, except in the case of Sa’d and his few companions. While the Prophet’s companions have obliged themselves toward such disagreement, reciprocating charges with major sins and fighting each other to please God! So how can our opinion of them be better than the way they viewed themselves, and we can’t hold the belief held by those denying most of the akhbar (reports) that conveyed to us the sedition and conflict occurred among them. Doing so, we would only negate the Islamic history as a whole since the mission of the Prophet, since those who narrated the reports of these seditions were the same narrators relating the news of conquest and reports of maghazi, beside conduct (sirah) of the Prophet and caliphs. Hence it is not for us to believe them when narrating that which pleases us, and belie them when reporting that which we dislike. And we should not approve of a part of history and negate its other part, for the only cause that some of it pleases us while some other part of it bothers or harms us. Also it is improper to believe whatever is narrated or belie it as a whole, as the narrators being ordinary people liable to err and be correct, and may tell the truth or falsehood. The earlier traditionists themselves realized this fact, and made ready for it, laying down certain rules and regulations for ta’dil and tajrih, and believing and refuting, beside ways of preponderation and disapproval, and suspecting that which is doubtful. So we are not to blame when adopting the same method they followed, and to add to the rules known for them the new rules recognized by recent traditionists, which they employed to verify, investigate and analyze the texts so as to comprehend their denotations.

The point that has no room for any doubt being that, the Muslims have differed in opinions regarding Uthman, and this disagreement resulted in a disorder and insurrection that created disunion and discord after which they haven’t attained unity or agreement till the present time.684

Taha Husayn concluded this chapter with some elaboration about the rules that everyone studying the Islamic history should follow and base his research on their principles, so as to employ them to verify, investigate and analyze the texts and comprehend their denotations.

He also obligated upon anyone intending to study these reports properly, to adopt a stand toward narrators of reports as that of a psychologist, viewing them as ‘ordinary people liable to err and be right, and may tell the truth or falsehood.” Further, he should seek truth and equity when investigating their narrations, believing nothing out of malignance, or denying nothing out of self desire.

If these healthy rules cited by Dr. Taha Husayn enrage some people, they undoubtedly deserve approval and confidence of ilm (knowledge), truth and religion altogether.

I conclude this chapter with a word recorded by Dr. Ahmad Amin (may God’s mercy be upon him) in his book Duha al-Islam,685 through a letter by some Zaydis, saying.

“We noticed how the Sahabah used to criticize each other, or rather curse each other, and if the Companions were at a position where no criticism or cursing be permitted, we would be able to recognize this fact through them themselves, as they are better aware of their status than common people of our present time.686 For example Talhah, al-Zubayr and A’ishah and their supporters have forsaken Ali, with Mu’awiyah and Amr ibn al-As having not fallen short of smiting him and his followers with the sword. It is also reported that Umar used to vilify and refute the narrations of Abu Hurayrah,687 standering Khalid ibn al-Walid and charging him with debauchery, accusing Amr ibn al-’As and Mu’awiyah with dishonesty and looting the spoils of war and deducting them. In fact we can rarely find among the Sahabah anyone whose tongue and hand be free from fault, beside many similar instances found in history books.

The Tabi’un used to follow this way in regard of the Sahabah, holding such belief about the rebels among them, while common people considered them as masters after that. It can be said that the Companions were only ordinary people, and should be judged and viewed in the same way of other people. Whoever of them doing any offence is to be censured, and that who does good should be extolled, having no merit over others but in sighting and accompanying the Messenger. Rather, the sins they perpetrated might be more obscene than those of others, since they have witnessed all the landmarks and miracles, therefore our guilts should be considered lighter as we are far from that time and more excused.”

After finishing talk on reliability of the Sahabah, I am going to manifest how the Ummah ulama’ were viewing the akhbar al-ahad.


683. Fath al-Bari, vol.XIII, pp.62,63.

684. Al-Fitnah al-kubra, p.17 and following pages.

685. Duha al-Islam, vol.III, pp.75,76.

686. Similar to them are the commoners of our time, though disguising among people under cloak of ulama'.

687. Refer to my book Shaykh al-mudirah.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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