Authority of Sunnah Part-3: Status of Sahaba (Companions)

Authority of Sunnah
Part 1
| Part 2 | Part 3  | Part 4

Umm Reem continues her series on the authority of Sunnah with Part 3 of 5.

Every nation exalts her protagonist ancestors.
Every nation looks up to those who sacrificed in defense of that nation.
Every nation reveres those who stood firm when the entire world stood against them.

But what happened to Muslims?

Have we become so blind with our contemporary values and existing “role models” that we are now finding flaws in those whom Allah has preferred over us?

With the recent phenomenon of ‘modernizing’ Islam, there have been some who, in their effort to harmonize all the textual evidence with the ‘spirit’ of Islam, have gone to the extent of belittling the companions of the Prophet (S), to justify why some ahadeeth may be defective and misogynistic. This, unfortunately, is not limited to the blog world but even some recent books have expressed the same view, especially the ones written by women.

Like this?
Get more of our great articles.

Consider for instance, The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam by Jennifer Heath who fell into the error of attacking the Companions (RD), while trying to prove the strength of Muslim women. One of the sisters, writing a book review on her blog, gave a scathing critique:

“Heath has the gall to slander these four shining stars [Khulafai Rashideen] as women haters and other things (the woman hating thing comes up a lot, especially in relation to ‘Umar…)” “Heath has Fatimah thinking that her own husband is ‘unsympathetic’ to women, sometimes even mean…”

Yet another writer, Fatema Mernissi in her book, The Veil and the Male Elite, classifies a number of ahadeeth apocryphal by certain Companions (RD) based on her accusation of them being misogynist especially Abu Hurairah (RD).

Reza Aslan in his book No god but God accuses Umar (RD) of being a misogynistic man who purposely ‘invented’ laws to make women’s life difficult by confining them to their homes, not allowing them to attend prayers, and implementing the law of segregation, whereas according to Aslan, men and women used to pray side by side during the Prophet’s time!

Help me understand, how can anyone have the audacity to belittle those whom Allah praised in the Quran, as seen here:

For the poor emigrants (muhajireen), who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking Bounties from Allah and to please Him. And helping Allah and His Messenger Such are indeed the truthful. And those who, before them, had homes (in Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given, and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful. [Qur’an 59:8-9]

The article will touch on the following companions and topics:

  • Defense of commonly defamed companions: Umar Ibn-Khattab & Abu Hurairah
  • Feeble-minded Women and Domineering Sahaba?
  • Warning Against Reviling the Companions

Defense of Routinely Defamed Companions

Umar Ibn-Khattab:

From among those mentioned in this verse was Umar (RD), whose conversion was the response to the Prophet’s prayer to bring honor to Islam through him and history has witnessed that, indeed, Allah brought ‘honor’ (izzah) to Islam through him.

Islam stands out for its justice and fairness. Allah loves those who are just and establish justice, so how can Islam be honored by a man who was supposedly ‘unfair’ to women? If he had this major flaw in his character, then why did the Prophet (S) say,

If there was a prophet after me, it would have been Umar. [Tirmidhi]

Didn’t he know about Umar’s drastic weakness? And even more so, (iyyadhubillah) didn’t Allah know about this flaw in Umar?! On the contrary, Allah praised him (as an immigrant):

The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah, they are the people who will achieve (salvation). Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him and approval and of gardens for them wherein is enduring pleasure… [Qur’an 9:20-22]

Umar & Hijab-Oppression or Gheerah?

Additionally, Umar is also held responsible for wishing and asking for the ordainment of Hijab. This is often cited to show how “oppressive-minded” he was and if it wasn’t for his suggestion, Muslim women would have been free of the “oppression” of Hijab! Was it Umar’s misogynistic mind that desired to see Muslim women in Hijab, or was it his “gheer” (don’t know how to translate this exactly) to safeguard and honor his Muslim sisters?

Most importantly, we see that Allah honored his wish, which not only proves Umar (RD)‘s suggestion being “just” but it also shows his level of knowledge and wisdom, for Allah does not enjoin injustice:

 

Verily Allah enjoins al-adl (justice) and al-ihsaan [Qur’an 16:90]

Pause for a second and think to what this implies? Are people saying that Allah answered an ‘unjust’ call to the level that He made it an obligation in Islamic law?!! Who are they accusing of being unjust? Is it Umar or is it Allah Himself (iyyadhubillah)!

Abu Hurairah:

When it comes to the ahadeeth narrated by Abu Hurairah, it is easily asserted that he was a misogynistic man and he fabricated all the ahadeeth containing ‘negative’ overtones against women. He is being accused of fabricating ahadeeth, iyyadhubillah, when the Prophet has said:

Whoever lies upon me intentionally, then let him find his seat in the Hellfire. [Bukhari]

Do they realize that by accusing Abu Hurairah (RD) of this heinous sin they are implying that he will be destined to Hellfire?

On the contrary, we find the Prophet (S) making du’a for Abu Hurairah and his mother:

O Allah! Make these servants of Yours beloved to the believers and make the believers beloved to them. [Muslim]

From this hadeeth, we see that every true believer loves Abu Hurairah and his mother. Indeed, those who belittle and degrade Abu Hurairah should try to understand the implications of this hadeeth. We pray that Allah makes us among those who love Abu Hurairah, and owe our gratitude to him for spending four years of his days and nights memorizing and learning from the Prophet (S).

If Abu Hurairah was really a misogynistic man who belittled women and considered them the “dwellers of hellfire”, he would have never treated his mother with the utmost respect and kindness as shown in his life, and wouldn’t have thanked her by saying: “May Allah have mercy on you as you cared for me when I was small…”

More about his noble character can be read here & here.

As for the allegations against Abu Hurairah’s fight with Aisha and Umar, (RD)a, penalizing him for fabrications, these are false stories with no basis, and a detailed clarification of this matter can be read here:

In all honesty, I cannot do justice to the Companions (RD) in just one article, for their noble character and their love of justice for all, including women. (More on the virtues of sahaba)

Feeble-minded Women and Domineering Sahaba?

Were these men chauvinistic and ill-intentioned towards women? Did they look down upon females because they considered them the ‘dwellers of the hellfire’ or a ‘fitna‘ or equated them with ‘black dogs’?

The dealings in their society seem very different from this tainted picture. We hardly ever find women complaining to the Prophet (S) for being mistreated or abused by their men folk! Those women were not the type who would take someone’s injustice upon themselves and live as a ‘men’s prey’. This point is often misunderstood about them. When Allah says in Qur’an:

And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh ­hearted, they would have broken away from about you… [Qur’an 3:159]

Muhammad AlShareef quoted Shaykh Ja’far Idris explaining this verse that it is often mentioned to show the great character of Prophet (S) (and indeed it does), but it also praises the sahabas showing that they were courageous men and women who would not stand for anyone to subjugate them. Those women, in their high character, didn’t have the ‘victimized-mentality’ to be oppressed by their men.

Take the story of Abdullah ibn Rawaha as an example. He was sleeping with his wife and in the middle of the night he wanted to visit his concubine. So he quietly sneaked out of his bed and left. His wife woke up and upon finding him missing in bed, she suspected that he must have gone to be intimate with his concubine (obviously he wasn’t doing anything haraam and it was common to have concubines back then).

Let’s imagine a ‘misogynistic’ society. What were the chances of the wife being able to complain and express her jealousy? None! She would have tossed and turned and cried until her pillow was wet and her eyes sore.

Instead, Abdullah ibn Rawaha’s wife got up and grabbed a knife, and started walking towards the concubine’s room. It just so happened that Abdullah was coming out of the room. He saw his wife and she pulled the knife at him and asked, “You were with her, were you not?”

If these men were truly chauvinistic, he should have been exasperated and thought, “How dare she ‘investigate’ me and pull a knife at me! Let me teach her a lesson since I am ‘superior’ and she is a ‘dweller of hellfire’!” This sounds like a reasonable misogynistic reaction, doesn’t it?

But lo and behold, in fear of upsetting his wife, he said, “No!” (Keep in mind that this is one of the three situations in which lying is allowed, to avoid a fight between a husband and wife- according to the hadeeth in Muslim).

She didn’t believe him and demanded a ‘proof’ so she asked him to recite some Quran. (The Quran cannot be recited in a state of ‘janabah‘ (sexual impurity) so she was basically ‘testing’ him like a lie detector!)

Abdullah started reciting some poetry in the same tone as if he was reading Quran. His wife thought they were verses she hadn’t heard yet. So she let him go. The next day, Abdullah went to the Prophet (S) and told him what had happened and the Prophet smiled to the point where his back molar could be seen. (Reported in Darulqutni)

A man once came to Umar (RD) to complain about his wife but he heard Umar’s wife shouting just like his own, so he turned back thinking Umar suffers through the same problem, but Umar stopped him and reminded him that he tolerated the excesses of his wife for she had certain rights against him. He said,

Is it not true that she prepares food for me, washes clothes for me and suckles my children, thus saving me the expense of employing a cook, a washer man and a nurse, though she is not legally obliged in any way to do any of these things? Besides, I enjoy peace of mind because of her and am kept away from indecent acts on account of her. I therefore tolerate all her excesses on account of these benefits. It is right that you should also adopt the same attitude.

Does this sound like a misogynistic, woman-hater?

Warning Against Reviling the Companions:

Our Prophet (S) praised his companions as the ‘best’:

The best of my nation is my generation then those who follow them and then those who follow them. [Bukhari]

A generation whom the Prophet called the best can only be free from such inadequacies; otherwise the men around the Messenger (S) were simply not the best men. Let us be mindful before speaking about the Companions, for the Prophet (S) said:

Allah has selected me and picked me out my companions. From among my Companions, I have ministers, helpers, and relatives by marriage. Thereby, whoever disparages them entails the curse of Allah, His angels, and all the people. Allah will not accept their deeds on the Day of Judgment. [Abu Dawud]

Allah! Allah! (Keep the thought of Allah) Concerning my companions. Do not take them as a target (for your obscenity or charges) after me. He who loves them, loves me but he who hates them, hates me, and he who offends them, offends me and in turn offends Allah and he who offends Allah, Allah almost takes him. [As-Suyuti attributed it to At-Tabarani in Jami’Al-Adhkar]

Do not revile my companions… [Bukhari]

Muslims’ irreverence towards these companions will only be to their own loss and misguidance. Let’s not forget that if we try to cut off our own roots then our tree will collapse, no matter how much air, water, and sun we may be getting from ‘others’! Remember they were those whom Allah was pleased with:

And the first forerunners among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him… [Qur’an 9:100]

See Also:

20 / View Comments

20 responses to “Authority of Sunnah Part-3: Status of Sahaba (Companions)”

  1. H says:

    Apparently, Abu Fadl is not a big Abu Hurayrah (RD) fan and

    donates three pages to Abu Hurayrah, the original transmitter of the traditions which according to Abou El Fadl “denigrate the moral status of women.” He gives several reasons why Abu Hurayrah’s transmitted ahadith should be scrutinized by “thinking beings who carry the burden of free will, accountability and God’s trust” …by asking “to what extent did the prophet really play a role in the authorial enterprise that produced this tradition? Can I, consistently with my faith and understanding of God and God’s message, believe that God’s prophet is primarily responsible for this tradition?” (pg 213).

    He is this sister’s hero for his denigration of Abu Hurayrah. I would be ashamed to have any association with him.

  2. Charles says:

    One thing that I’m curious about with respect to Abu Hurairah are two hadiths:

    From Bukhari (3:540):
    …One day the Prophet said, “Whoever spreads his sheet till I finish this statement of mine and then gathers it on his chest, will never forget anything of my statement.” So, I spread my covering sheet which was the only garment I had, till the Prophet finished his statement and then I gathered it over my chest. By Him Who had sent him (i.e. Allah’s Messenger) with the truth, since then I did not forget even a single word of that statement of his, until this day of mine. …

    From Zarabozo’s “The Authority and Importance of the sunnah” (page 182):

    Amr ibn Umayya said, “I narrated a hadith in the presence of Abu Hurairah and he rejected the hadith. I said, ‘I heard the hadith from you.’ He said, ‘If you had heard that hadith from me you will find it recorded in my books.’ He took me by the hand to his house and I saw many books of the Prophet’s hadith and [in one of them] I found the hadith in question.”

    Perhaps you can comment on the word “never” and its meaning in Arabic. Is there some linguistic explanation here. If not, how is it possible that Abu Hurairah forgot a hadith that he himself had stated when Prophet Muhammad had said “never”?

  3. “Whoever spreads his sheet till I finish this statement of mine and then gathers it on his chest, will never forget anything of my statement.”

    “If not, how is it possible that Abu Hurairah forgot a hadith that he himself had stated when Prophet Muhammad had said “never”?”

    I hope someone more learned will answer this question of yours, but it seems to me that Prophet’s promise referred only to that particular statement. At the end of the hadith, Abu Hurairah says: “since then I did not forget even a single word of that statement of his…”. So he was talking about that particular statement, not in general…

  4. Charles says:

    That’s a possibility. That’s why the Arabic needs to be checked out. For instance, here’s another translation, which seems to make it more general:

    The Messenger of Allaah (Sallalahu Alayhee Was-Sallam) loved Abu Hurairah a great deal. Once the Messenger of Allaah (Sallalahu Alayhee Was-Sallam) said to Abu Hurairah, “Ask me for something from the wealth.” Abu Hurairah replied, “Of Messenger of Allaah (Sallalahu Alayhee Was-Sallam) I only ask you to teach me some of the knowledge Allaah granted to you. So the Messenger of Allaah (Sallalahu Alayhee Was-Sallam) spread the shawl of Abu Hurairah on the ground and began to recite something over it. When he had finished he said, “Take your shawl and keep it with you.” Abu Hurairah said, “From that day I did not even forget one letter of the hadeeth.” (Tadhkirratul-Huffaadh, the meaning of this is also narrated in Bukhaari, Muslim, Nasaa’ee and others and Hilyatul-Awliyaa (1/381).

  5. Charles says:

    And here’s one more:

    Narrated Hadhrat Abu Hurairah Rady Allahu Anhu: I said to Allah’s Apostle Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam, “I hear many narrations (ahaadith) from you but I forget them”. Allah’s Apostle Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam said, “Spread your Rida (garment).” I did accordingly and then he moved his hands as if filling them with something (and emptied them in my Rida) and then said, “Take and wrap this sheet over your body”. I did it and after that I never forgot anything. (Bukhari)

    I’m getting these off the Internet and I’m guessing they are in parallel hadith, which could account for the different wording. So, the different parallel accounts would need to be checked. But it does seem that some of them are speaking in general.

  6. […] the task of compiling hadiths for us.  Have we, as humans, not then given all of these people the status of prophethood?  I have to ask how it was acceptable at one point in time to go through the process of deeming […]

  7. Charles,

    The hadith you quoted in your first post can only be interpreted to apply to that specific situation.

    The two ahadith you quoted from Abu Hurairah can only be used to point to a contradiction in his (Abu Hurairah’s) own words (his claims that he never forgot a hadith and the fact that he was actually able to forget ahadith), because the two ahadith in question do not mention any sort of promise from the Prophet saws with regards to infallibility of Abu Hurairah’s memory.
    The final words of Abu Hurairah in the last hadith you quoted (“I did it and after that I never forgot anything”) seem to refer to his general memory, not only his memory of Prophet’s (saws) words, which again seems to point to the fact that he didn’t literally mean “never”, and that Prophet (saws) prayed for Abu Hurairah’s memory to be strengthened, not made photographic.

  8. Umm A says:

    I cannot believe people have the nerve to disprespect the companions. I read the article Samaha wrote and I am amazed how easily people point thier fingers at the companions. SubhanAllah they were those whom Allah was pleased with….

    I truly believe that those who are doing this are unaware of thier own faults…astaghfirullah

  9. Amad says:

    Sister Umm A, with all due respect to Sister Samaha, her words (as would be my own opinions) have no real academic value in these matters since she is not qualified in the hadith sciences. Abul Fadl has some knowledge, but his opinions are outweighed by the vast majority of muhaditheen of our Ummah.

    Does anyone mean to tell me that Bukhari, Muslim just messed up, and didn’t quite know Abu Hurayrah (RD)?? That seems not only arrogant but ignorant.

    I’ll make another few points, please read:

    1) We have already discussed in length why hadith is revelation in its status, similar to Qur’an So, both have to have been preserved by Allah.

    2) BOTH hadith and Quran were preserved, transmitted and recorded by the SAME companions. So, if we cast doubt on one preservation, logically we cannot “save” the other.

    3) If someone told you something where your life depended on it… how likely are you in these situations to not record the info, or to just mess up? Unlikely! Do you think the sahaba would take their hereafter so lightly as not to be stubbornly meticulous about memorizing and/or writing Prophet (S)’s words, knowing the consequences of not being careful? Consider further that they have the burden of passing on the knowledge of deen and that the Prophet (S) made dua for their memory? What are the chances that because they are “children of Adam”, they’ll just forget this critical info!

    Sometimes, when a person doesn’t have knowledge about matters, it is better to remain quiet than to cause confusion and to avoid the dangerous area of casting doubts on the Sahabah (the best generation of Muslims).

  10. Amad says:

    to Br. Charles, here is some info from Shaykh Haitham:

    1) The narration of Amr bin Umayyah is not reliable. It was narrated by alHakim in his Mustadrak with a chain containing ibn Lahee’ah, an agreed upon weak narrator.
    Such a narration does not stand in the face of a narration documented in both Bukhari and Muslim.

    2) Even if we were to accept this narration, it is possible that Abu Hurairah RAA was not the one who wrote the Hadeeths in these books. Some of his companions used to document Hadeeths they heard in the same books. Wallahu A’lam.

  11. Charles says:

    Give my thanks to Sh. Haitham for his response. I suppose my problem remains with the preservation of the Sunnah. That’s why the differing hadith from Abu Hurairah caught my eye. But they are not the only ones. Here are two hadiths from Bukhari:

    Volume 1, Book 4, Number 159:
    Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
    The Prophet performed ablution by washing the body parts only once.

    Volume 1, Book 4, Number 160:
    Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Zaid:
    The Prophet performed ablution by washing the body parts twice.

    It would be helpful to know the Arabic, but “only once” never equals “twice” in English. Yet both are authentic hadith.

    The problem with preservation of hadiths is the limitations on preservation of memory. It can’t be done over centuries without error. Bartlett, a psychologist was perhaps the first to show this. From Wikipedia:

    One of his most famous studies cast considerable light on the formation of memory. He composed a short fable called The War of the Ghosts, which comprised a sequence of events which were ostensibly logical but subtly illogical, and there were several discreet non-sequiturs. He would recite this story to subjects, then later (sometimes much later) ask them to recall as much of it as possible. He discovered that most people found it extremely difficult to recall the story exactly, even after repeated readings, and hypothesised that, where the elements of the story failed to fit into the schemata of the listener, these elements were omitted from the recollection, or transformed into more familiar forms.

    And research in psychology has confirmed these findings time and time again that people reconstruct what they see and hear in ways that conform to what they already know and practice. That the early scholars went to great lengths to determine the authenticity of hadiths, I can accept. But that they were immune to normal biological processes of memory is unlikely. And that’s why I find it difficult to accept that Allah aided in the preservation of hadiths. If He had, we would see no variation among hadiths. That we do see variation indicates, at least to me, that He did not aid in the preservation of hadiths. And if He did not, then although they are useful in understanding Islam and the sunnah of the Prophet, they cannot be used to determine binding rules for Islamic practice.

    Of course, if I were to study hadith literature and Arabic for 10 years, I would come to a better understanding and perhaps to a different conclusion. That’s why, although the traditional position on preservation of hadiths is difficult for me to accept, I recognize my limitations.

    Allah knows best.

  12. Umm Reem says:

    Br. Charles, these different narrations of abulition and of other things show the number of ways one action can be performed.
    It is not showing any contradiction, just different ways i.e. we can wash our limbs once, or twice or even thrice.
    Just like there are different ways of performing witr etc.

    As for the memory, in all honesty I don’t think we can fully grasp the strength of their memory. They were simple people and their minds were not tempered with television, radio, movies, or even books….completely empty brains and that’s why they used to remember what they used to see and hear. It makes a huge difference…

    • sabirah says:

      old post but still- mashaAllah! I was wondering about some of these aspects for quite a while, in particular about Umar (r)

  13. Manas Shaikh says:

    As Salamu Alaikum

    The companions really were very inspired and inspiring people. Allah (SWT) was pleased with them so much, that He even praised them in the Qur’an. An amazing feat!

    And indeed, even the prophet (SAW) said that they were the best of people in a Hadith mentioned in the post.

    I agree that efforts to malign and revile the companions are deplorable. Some unfair allegations have been made against them.

    Excellent they were, but they were not perfect. Nobody is perfect except Allah (SWT). The greatness of the sahaba was in their love and obedience to Allah (SWT), and in their sincere struggle (and success over many) against shortcomings

    However, when I first read this post, out of context (I have not read the blog posts you refer to- Allah has saved me), it gave me the impression that this article is an attack on anyone who acknowledges that the Sahaba were fallible human beings, like us; that they were better- best actually- but not infallible.

    I was a bit disappointed; but then, with some help, I realized where you are coming from. It indeed pains to see the companions reviled.

    These are difficult times. People are reviling against the Sahaba(R), the Prophet (SAW) and even Allah (SWT)!

    We must remain patient, and hold anger. If we patiently persevere, all these will go away, Insha’Allah.

  14. Amad says:

    Br. Charles, here is Sh. Haitham’s response. If you would like to contact him for more help, then email us at info at muslimmatters //dot org, and we’ll put you in touch with him.

    – There is no contradiction between the two hadeeths which brother Charles sited. Sometimes, the Prophet ASWS would wash the a part once, others twice and others three times. This is abundant in the Sunnah.

    – The Sunnah contains no contradictions. After being a Hadeeth scholar for many decades, Imam ibn Khuzaymah said: I do not know of two contradicting Hadeeths which are authentic. If anyone finds such Hadeeths, let him present them to me so that I demonstrate to him that they are reconcilable.

    Ibn Khuzaimah (d. 311 H) presented this challenge at a time when enemies of the Sunnah were abundant, and the eagerness to present such a contradiction was high. Nevertheless, no one was able to present him with two contradicting authentic Hadeeths.

    – Since brother Charles recognizes his limitations, I suggest that he begin his 10 year journey ASAP. May Allah SWT aid and guide him. If he has any more concerns he is welcome to call or email me.

  15. Umm Reem says:

    Br. Charles: To add to Sh. Haitam’s response, you should realize that you will even find these “contradictions” (which are not really contradictions) even in Quranic verses.

    For instance if someone reads Quran and is not familiar with ‘nasikh/manshookh’ then he will be very confused with the verses where khamr (alcohol) is not entirely forbidden but only at the time of prayer!

    The rules that apply to understand the Quran are also same for understanding ahadeeth.

    One subject that I would suggest you should study is “Usul-ul-Fiqh”. It really helped me. It explains in detail the whole concept of general vs. specific, or absolute & qualified (mutlaq muqayyad) etc. and how to recognize them in text etc. It helped me understand that there is not “contradiction” in text, both Quran and ahadeeth, rather the contradiction is in our understanding.
    Once we become familiar (and trust me it wouldn’t need a 10 years of study, inshaAllah) with usul-ul-fiqh then those “contradictions” resolve very easily inshaAllah.

    If you decide to take this class, i strongly suggest that you take it onsite and not online because you would need a teacher to explain .

  16. Joyhamza says:

    excellent post. Jazaakillahu khairaan

  17. […] of Sunnah Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3  | Part […]

  18. […] said all this, I must remind those who doubt the Authority of the Sunnah, position of the Companions, and prefer to put their logical reasoning over textual proof that it is not upon us to bend Islam […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *