The true meaning of the term of The Prophet's(pbuh&hf) Companions
The Arab historians have estimated the total number of the Sahabbah meaning 'companions or friends' of The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), is at an astonishing figure of 150,000 persons.
Their definition of a companion or a friend of The Holy Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf)
"Is any Muslim who saw him with his own eyes."
But this is a very loose definition and lacks precision
It is like stating that an person who saw the leader of his country at a political rally or even passing by in a motorcade, and waved at him. Perhaps the leader had also noticed him, and waved back at him, and this act of seeing each other or being seen by each other, makes both of them "friends" of each other.
In the case of our Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf), it is entirely possible that 150,000 Muslims saw him with their own eyes. But it should be borne in mind that many among these Muslims were youngsters, and some were even children. Many others among them were fresh converts to Islam, and since most of them were illiterate Bedouins, their knowledge of the Articles of Faith and the Principles of Islam, or of the character, personality and mission of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), was minimal.
Perhaps it didn't extend beyond their ability to repeat the Shahada, meaning the declaration that,
" God is One, and Mohammed is His Servant and Messenger!"
Still others "accepted" Islam but their sincerity in doing so, was open to question.
In fact, the sincerity of their faith was questioned, not by their contemporaries, but by The Holy Koran, The Holy Book of Allah(swt), in other words by God Himself! As we read in the following verse:
"The wandering Arabs say: We believe. Say (unto them, O Mohammad): Ye believe not, but rather say, 'we submit,' for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts. Yet, if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not withhold from you aught of (the reward of) your deeds. Lo! Allah is forgiving, Merciful."
Koran: 49 verse:14
But The Koran was not content merely with questioning the faith of the Arabs; it also had many other reservations about them, and it was unequivocal in expressing them as and when the occassion arose.
There were, for example, those Arabs who believed that by accepting Islam, they had placed, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), under an obligation to themselves. Perhaps they expected him to acknowledge his "indebtedness" to them for accepting Islam. But The Holy Koran Al-Majeed didn't agree with them, and said about them:
"They make it a favour unto thee (Mohammad) that they have surrendered (unto him). Say: Deem not your surrender a favour unto me; Nay, but Allah doth confer a favour on you, inasmuch as He hath led you to the Faith, if ye are earnest."
Koran: 49 verse: 17
Some companions of The Holy Mohammed Mustafa, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), were too easily distracted by the craze for some petty gain or amusement. They could leave him standing alone in the act of praying in the mosque for the sake of closing a business deal or for watching some passing show. About them we read in The Koran:
"But when they spy some merchansdise or pastime they break away to it and leave thee standing. Say: That which Allah hath is better than pastime and than merchandise , and Allah is the best of providers."
Koran: 62 verse: 11
The Holy Koran has also taken notice of those Muslims in Medina who loved their own lives more than they loved the life of The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf). If his life was in peril, they could desert him, perhaps without any remorse or pangs of conscience. The Koran has pointedly reminded them that:
"It is not for the townsfolk of Al-Medina and for those around them of the wandering Arabs to stay behind the Messenger of Allah and prefer their lives to his life."
Koran: 9 verse 120
One of the most important duties of the Muslims was to wage Jihad, i.e., to fight in defence of the Faith, and in defence of the Community of the Faithful. But it was a duty the zeal for which was nor shared equally by all companions of the Prophet of Islam(pbuh&hf).
Among them, there were those who were only tepidly interested in fighting against the enemies of the Faith. About them Koran says:
"Even as thy Lord caused thee (Mohammad) to go forth from thy home with the Truth, and Lo! a party of the belivers were averse (to it):"
"Disputing with thee of the Truth after it had made manifest, as if they were being driven to death visible"
Koran: 8 verses: 5 and 6
Some of the Believers disputed concerning the "truth." They did not feel sure that the course recommended, was the true and right course. They thought it would be certain destruction: they saw death almost staring them in the face.
If the companions could desert The Prophet Mohammed, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), while he was praying in the Mosque, they could also abandon him while he was fighting in the battlefield. Most of them bolted from the battlefield of Uhud just to save their own lives.
Following is the account of The Koran on their performance in the battle of Uhud:
"When ye climbed (the hill) and paid no heed to anyone, while the Messenger, in your rear, was calling you (to fight). Therefore He rewarded you grief for (his) grief, that (He might teach) you not to sorrow either for that which ye missed or for that which befell you. Allah is Informed of what ye do."
Koran: 3 verse 153
And then there were the brazen "Muslims." Their brazenness was matched only by the brazenness of the infidels. They did not flinch even from such a hideous act like making an attempt to kill The Holy Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf) himself, even though lying was their greatest benefactor.
A modern reader would find it incredible that a Muslim, no matter how depraved, would ever contemplate such a crime. And yet, those "Muslims" went beyond contemplating the crime; they actually made the attempt. Following is the testimony of The Holy Koran Al-Majeed on the subject:
"They swear by Allah that they said nothing (wrong), yet they did say the word of disbelief, and did disbelieve after their surrender (to Allah). And they purposed that which they could not attain, and they sought revenge only that Allah by His Messenger should enrich them of His bounty."
Koran: 9 verse: 74
The reference here is to a plot made by the Apostle's(pbuh&hf) enemies to kill him when he was returning from Tabuk. It was all the more dastardly in that some of the conspirators were among the men of Medina, who were enriched by the general prosperity that followed the peace and good government established through Islam in Medina.
Trade flourished, justice was firmly administered with an even hand. And the only return these men could make was a return of evil for good. That was their revenge, because Islam aimed at suppressing selfishness, stood fortherightsof the poorestand humblestandjudged worth by righteousness rather than by birth or position.
The times of The Prophet Mohammed, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), were, without a question, the best and the most blessed of times. But this does not mean that the people living in those times, were all saints and angels.
Of course, there were many saintly, angelic, pious and God fearing men and women among them.
Munafiqeen or Hypocrites
But also among them, there were the sycophants, the opportunists, the parasites, and the tuft-hunters. These latter have been designated by The Holy Koran as Munafiqeen meaning Hypocrites.
These Munafiqeen had declared themselves to be Muslims but they had done so with many mental reservations. By their duplicity and double-talk, they had earned for themselves the most stinging broadsides in The Koran, which, inevitably, had made them very conspicuous.
They were conspicuous, not only by their quality but also by their quantity.
But when The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), died, they also "disappeared" from the scene. Their disappearance synchronized with the death of The Prophet(pbuh&hf).
(M. Shibli, the Indian historian of Islam, says in his biography of Urnar Ibn Al-Khattab, the 2nd chlipha of the Muslims, that at the death of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), "Medina was then full of Munafiqeen. They were awaiting an opportune moment such as the death of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), to strike a death blow to Islam..." (AI-Farooq).)
The sinister and unwelcome presence of the Munafiqeen in Medina, was attested, repeatedly and most emphatically, by The Holy Koran, and yet their "disappearance" went totally unnoticed. It's incredible but true that it did not occur to anyone in Medina to ask where did the Munafiqeen go.
No one would suggest that the death of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf), was the signal the Munafiqeen were awaiting to become sincere and devout Muslims. Actually, they had not "disappeared." They were all present in Medina, watching the drift of events, taking stock of the new situation, and hatching plans to manipulate it.
During the lifetime of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf), the recipient of revelation from Heaven - the Munafiqeen had lived in constant fear of being mortified by The Koran, as they frequently were. About their fear we read in The Holy Koran as follows:
"The hypocrites fear least a surah should be revealed concerning them, proclaiming what is in their hearts. Say: Scoff (your fill)! Lo! Allah is disclosing what ye fear."
Koran: 9 verse: 64
But the death of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf), freed the Munafiqeen from fear of indictment by The Koran. His death "invested" them with a new sense of "security," and assurance. And since they were "pragmatic" men, they took the simple step of "blending" - quietly and imperceptibly - into the general body of Muslims.
In fact, they did better; they changed their status from Munafiqeen (Hypocrites or nominal Muslims) to Momineen meaning true believers.
The Muslim society in Medina then became a "crucible" in which all distinction was lost between the genuine and the fake Muslims, and it became impossible to identify, much less to isolate, the latter.
But the judgment of The Koran has consistently been stern and severe on the Munafiqeen (Hypocrites). Some of its verses in which it occurs, are as follows:
"Lo! the hyprocrites (will be) in the lowest deep of the fire, and thou wilt find no helper for them;"
Koran: 4 verse: 145
"Allah promiseth the hyprocrites, both men and women, and the disbelievers fire of hell for their abode. It will suffice them. Allah curseth them, and theirs is lasting torement."
Koran: 9 verse: 68
"And among those around you of the wandering Arabs there are hyprocrites, and among the townspeople of Al-Medina (there are some who) persist in hypocrisy whom thou (O Mohammad) knowest not. We, We know them, and We shall chastise them twice; then they will be relegated to a painful doom."
Koran: 9 verse 101
All these men whose portrait The Holy Koran Al-Majeed has drawn in the verses quoted in the foregoing pages, were Muslims, and they had seen The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf), not once but on countless occasions. They probably saw him many times every day.
After all, many of them gathered in the Great Mosque to say their prayers behind him five times every day.
Without a doubt, it was one of the greatest blessings and honors for a Muslim to have seen the Last and the Greatest Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf) on this earth, with his own eyes. But friendship with him called for a few other requirements also such as a Muslim's unquestioning obedience to Allah(swt), and transcendental love for Him and for The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf).
Without obedience to Allah(swt) and love for His Messenger(pbuh&hf), such a claim would only be a burlesque of friendship.
A companion or friend of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf)
Would have to be more than a mere Muslim contemporary of his:
He would have to be a man with a firm commitment to uphold the ideals of Islam, and a proven ability, or, at least, a resolve to strengthen the mission of its Prophet(pbuh&hf).
·He would also have to be ready, willing and able, to offer material sacrifices, and if necessary, to offer his own life, as well as the lives of his loved ones, as sacrifice, in the defence of Islam.
·For such a man, it would not even be necessary to have "seen" The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf) with his own eyes.
·He would qualify for the honor of the companionship of Mohammed Mustafa(pbuh&hf) even without seeing him with his own eyes.
There was such a man.
His name was Owais Qarni, and he lived in Yemen. He loved The Prophet(pbuh&hf) such as few others ever did, and he was eager to sacrifice his fortune, his limbs and his life - all for Islam. He was a bosom friend of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), and yet the two never met each other.
Conversely, mere physical propinquity with The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf) was no guarantee that a companion's faith would be invulnerable to temptations of any kind. Notwithstanding his propinquity with The Prophet Mohammed Mustafa(pbuh&hf), he could be just as liable to deviate from the prescriptions of Islam as a non-companion. But in his case, deviation would only be much more reprehensible.
It would be quite logical to assume that the crude impulses and the primitive instincts of the Arabs were sublimated in the company of The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf). It would, therefore, be just as logical to assume that they: -
The Muslim contemporaries of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) - were models of excellence, and many of them were.
But not everyone!
Among them, there were those men who lapsed from excellence. Following examples will make this point clear.
One of the Muslims claiming that he was a friend of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), was Hassan Ibin Thabit. He was the "press agent" of the Prophet(pbuh&hf), and the poet laureate" at his court in Medina. He figured very prominently in the scandal called the "incident of Ifk."
The incident of Ifk took place in December 626 AD when The Prophet(pbuh&hf) of Islam was returning to Medina from a campaign. Ayesha who was one of his wives, had accompanied him in the campaign. She was inadvertently left behind when the army marched out of its camp, and some of the Munafiqeen (hypocrites) seized the opportunity, to smudge her reputation.
One of the companions who joined the scandal-mongers in the character-assassination of Ayesha, was Hassan Ibin Thabit - the court poet of The Prophet(pbuh&hf) himself.
Later, a verse was revealed vindicating Ayesha, and Hassan Ibin Thabit had to pay the penalty of maliciously spreading gross imputations. His misdemeanor was not condoned because of his status as a companion of The Prophet(pbuh&hf).
Mohammad Husayn Haykal writes in his book, The Life of Mohammed (Cairo, 1935), that Hassan Ibin Thabit was "brought into the marketplace, and was flogged 80 stripes."
No companion or friend of The Prophet(pbuh&hf) of Islam could presume on his position. In the egalitarian society of Islam, a companion (or a non-companion) could stand or fall strictly on the merit (or lack of it) of his deeds.
Another incident showing want of restraint or lack of inhibitions in a companion of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), took place in 628 AD in Hudaybiyya. Amin Dawidar, the Egyptian historian, writes in his book, Su war Min Hayat er-Rasul (Pictures From the Life of the Prophet), (Cairo, 1953), about it, as follows:
In February 628 AD, The Holy Prophet Mohammed, the Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), signed a treaty of peace with the pagans of Mecca. The treaty had just been signed when a young Meccan, newly converted to Islam, escaped from captivity in Makkah, arrived in the Muslim camp, and sought asylum.
He was loaded in chains, and he begged The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf) to take him under his protection.
There was a heart rending scene.
The Prophet(pbuh&hf) had already given a pledge to repatriate any Muslim escaping from Makkah. If he had taken the fugitive under his protection, his position in the sight of the pagans would have been compromised.
This he could not allow. The Prophet(pbuh&hf) had no choice but to abide to the terms of the agreement. The fugitive, therefore, had to be turned away, much to the chagrin and mortification of the Muslims.
The Prophet(pbuh&hf) then left Hudaybiyya to return to Medina. He was at one or two days journey from Makkah when a new chapter of The Koran, called Surrat Al-Fath (Victory), was revealed to him from Heaven. In this chapter, the Treaty of Hudaybiyya was called "The Manifest Victory."
The Prophet Mohammed Mustafa, the Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), assembled the Muslims, and read to them the new revelation which begins with the following verse:
"Lo! We have given thee (O Mohammad) a singal victory,"
Koran: 48 verse: 1
But some of the Muslim were still in a sullen and a resentful mood. They could not see the Treaty of Hudaybiyya as "a Manifest Victory." One of them tartly observed:
"This is not a victory. We have been prevented from entering the House (Kaba), and Mohammed has turned away a believer who had sought sanctuary from him."
These remarks were brought to the attention of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), and he said:
"What a foul speech! Yes, this (the Treaty of Hudaybiyya) is the greatest of victories..."
The companion in this story, whose name has not been disclosed by Amin Dawidar, apparently believed that the Treaty of Hudaybiyya lacked such components as prudence, foresight and perspicacity.
He was disagreeing, not only with The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), but with Allah(swt) Himself Who called the Treaty of Hudaybiyya "the Manifest Victory" in His Book, which in fact it was, as events were very soon to show.
The companions of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), also had to work, like any other people, to make a living for themselves and their families.
·The Muhajireen (the Immigrants from Makkah)
who were, for the most part, traders, merchants and peddlers.
·The Ansar (the Supporters; the citizens of Medina),
who were mostly farmers.
In both groups, there were craftsmen such as:
·Carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, tailors, masons, shoemakers etc.
There were also unskilled workers such as:
·Porters and shepherds
And everyone of them found a niche for himself in the economic life of Medina.
One of the socalled companions of The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf) who was a late comer into the ranks of the Muslims, this was Abu Hurgyra.
He accepted Islam in A.D. 629 but he probably decided not to do anything to make a living. He figured that he would be more comfortable if he fed himself from the sadaqat (charity) of the Muslims. He was thus able to free himself from the anxieties and problems of earning a competence.
Once Abu Hurayra made his decision to live on welfare, he had unlimited leisure at hand. He utilized his leisure hours by spending them in the court of the Prophet of Islam(pbuh&hf)where he knew that he would always find something to eat. The Prophet(pbuh&hf), of course, never turned him or anyone else away from his door, hungry.
But Abu Hurayra was so much in the presence of The Prophet of Islam(pbuh&hf) that he made himself almost "obtrusive." The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf) was well-known for his courtesy and condescension. In some matters, he was excessively fastidious.
For example, he did not like to hurt anyone's feelings. And yet, he felt constrained to quote before Abu Hurayra, the Arabian equivalent of the English adage: Absences make the heart grow fonder.
In other words
The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), suggested to him to put some intervals between his visits. But the Prophet's remark was too subtle, and Abu Hurayra did not understand its purport.
In later times, Abu Hurayra revealed a great flair for narrating The Prophet's(pbuh&hf) Hadeeth, and became famous for his contributions to the Hadeeth literature.
He probably narrated more Hadeeth than any other companion of the Prophet(pbuh&hf). There was never an occasion when recollection did not come to him of something that the Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf) had said to him.
Gibbon, the historian, says in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayra required some corroboration.
This should also be borne in mind by the students of the early history of Islam that there was no such thing in Medina, after the death of The Prophet(pbuh&hf), as a "test" of one's faith, or, a "censor" of the personal conduct and character of the people who had seen him.
Therefore, anyone could claim that he was The Prophet's(pbuh&hf) companion or friend, without any fear of being challenged as to his "credentials" for such companionship or friendship.
After the conquest of Mecca
Too many of The Prophet's(pbuh&hf) contemporaries were candidates for that honor. Some of them, without a doubt, wished to ingratiate themselves with him.
And after his death
The only way some of them could make themselves important in the sight of others, was to claim that they were his companions.
The definition of a "companion" of The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa, the Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), as a Muslim who saw him with his own eyes, is, as we have seen, too loose, and is, therefore, unsatisfactory. We have, therefore, to find another definition of the term 46 companion of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf).
There could probably be many definitions but I think that the most logical definition of a companion of, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf), would be a man whom The Prophet(pbuh&hf) himself called his companion.
The choice of companions and friends should be left to him. Afterall, He could pick and choose them better than anyone else, surely! If he did not call a man his companion, then the latter's claim to be The Prophet's(pbuh&hf) companionship could have no meaning.
The Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf) did not call and could not call 150,000 men his companions. He probably never even saw most of them, and with many of them he had perhaps little more than a nodding acquaintance, and with still others, he perhaps did nothing more than exchange a greeting, and that too not more than once.
The True Companions of The Prophet(pbuh&hf)
But there were those men who were the companions and true friends of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf).
They were his companions and friends because:
·He chose them for the honor of his companionship and friendship.
Not only did they love him, but most importanly, he also loved them.
They were truely remarkable men, and their love for him was just as remarkable.
It was remarkable, among other things, for its consistency.
·It was love that never faltered.
They loved him because they knew that he was:
·The Perfect One
·The Infallible One
They loved him because they knew that he was:
·The loved one of Allah(swt).
It was their glorious destiny to be the members of the "team" which under his leadership, laid the foundations of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.Their sacrifices, their tenacity, their courage and their dedication to duty were to be the underpinnings of that Kingdom.
The Holy Koran Al-Majeed itself paid its tributes to them in the following verse:
"And the first to lead the way, of the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them in goodness - Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him, and He hath made ready for them Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherin they will abide forever. That is supreme triumph."
Koran: 9 verse: 100
The true companions and friends
These faithfull companions and friends of The Prophet Mohammed(pbuh&hf) had won the pleasure of Allah The All Mighty(swt).
There is not, and there cannot be a greater honor for a mortal in this world or in thehereafter:
Than to win the pleasure of:
·Allah(swt) The Creator of all life, the worlds, the Universe and all things!
Allah(swt) bestowed accolades upon them in His Book, and He was "well-pleased" with them.
But these recipients of the accolades of Heaven, were, in the nature of things, very few in number, and they belonged to the select group of the favorites of The Holy Prophet Mohammed Al-Mustafa, The Messenger of Allah(pbuh&hf).