Assalamualaikum, as we all know, all companions of the Prophet PBUH are just and honest, in the aspect that their narrations are automatically accepted. However, I’m perplexed, if this is so then why does there is a narration which state that there are among the Companions who committed major sins such as fornication? While the attribute of just and honest is someone who did not commit major sins and are not in continuous minor sins? Hope for an explanation.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The Honour of the Companions R.ANhum
The companions of the Prophet PBUH are the best of generations for they lived during the time of the Prophet PBUH and they were taught by the Prophet PBUH himself. This is acknowledged by the Prophet PBUH through his statement:
خَيْرُ النَّاسِ قَرْنِي، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ
"The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them (the next generation), and then those who will come after them (i.e. the next generation),”
Sahih al-Bukhari (3651)
Besides, in the Quran, it is stated that Allah SWT blessed the Companions and promised them a place in Paradise where rivers flow beneath them:
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“And the first forerunners [in the faith] 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, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.”
Surah al-Taubah (100)
Allah SWT also states:
لَّقَدْ رَضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ يُبَايِعُونَكَ تَحْتَ الشَّجَرَةِ فَعَلِمَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ فَأَنزَلَ السَّكِينَةَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَثَابَهُمْ فَتْحًا قَرِيبًا
“Certainly, was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquillity upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest.”
Surah al-Fath (18)
Moreover, the Prophet PBUH prohibited any insult or degradation on his companions as stated in a narration by Abu Said al-Khudri RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي، فَلَوْ أَنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ أَنْفَقَ مِثْلَ أُحُدٍ، ذَهَبًا مَا بَلَغَ مُدَّ أَحَدِهِمْ، وَلاَ نَصِيفَهُ
"Do not abuse my companions for if any one of you spent gold equal to Uhud (in Allah's Cause) it would not be equal to a Mud or even a half Mud spent by one of them."
Sahih al-Bukhari (3673)
The just and honesty of the companions of the Prophet PBUH are agreed by scholars and it is only contradicted by groups other than Ahlussunnah such as Syiah and Muktazilah. (Refer Ma’rifah al-Thiqat by Imam Abu al-Hasan al-‘Ijli 1/93). The statement always made by scholars are:
الصَّحَابَةَ كُلَّهُمْ عُدُولٌ مَرْضِيُّونَ ثِقَاتٌ
All the Companions R.Anhum are just, blessed by Allah SWT and thiqah (trustworthy). (Refer Al-Ba’ith al-Hathith fi Ikhtisar ‘Ulum al-Hadith by Imam Ibn Kathir 1/49; Al-Istizkar by Imam al-Qurtubi 3/301 and Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari by Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani 9/633)
Just in Narration and Just in Terms of Suluk / Conduct
In this issue, a question arises; if all the Companions are just, then why are there narrations which mentioned that some of the Companions committed sins and transgressions, that some of them were even punished with hudud? For example, Ma’iz bin Malik RA confesses that he had committed fornication as narrated by Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas R.Anhuma:
لَمَّا أَتَى مَاعِزُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لَهُ " لَعَلَّكَ قَبَّلْتَ أَوْ غَمَزْتَ أَوْ نَظَرْتَ ". قَالَ لاَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. قَالَ " أَنِكْتَهَا ". لاَ يَكْنِي. قَالَ فَعِنْدَ ذَلِكَ أَمَرَ بِرَجْمِهِ
“When Ma'iz bin Malik came to the Prophet (in order to confess), the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, "Probably you have only kissed (the lady), or winked, or looked at her?" He said, "No, O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)!" The Prophet said, using no euphemism, "Did you have sexual intercourse with her?" The narrator added: At that, (i.e. after his confession) the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered that he be stoned (to death).”
Sahih al-Bukhari (6824)
A researcher of contemporary sirah, Dr Muhammad bin al-Mukhtar al-Syanqiti explained that there is a misunderstanding in differentiating between two terminologies:
- ‘adalah al-riwayah which means just and honesty as well as meticulous attitude in narrating hadith
- ‘adalah al-suluk which is the attitude of avoiding major sins and rarely ever committing minor sins as well as avoiding mubah (permissible) that can taint one’s dignity and honour.
According to him, ‘adalah al-sohabah (the justness of Companions) meant by scholars especially in the field of hadith refers to ‘adalah al-riwayah, in other words they are known to never lie on the name of the Prophet PBUH. The reason is the matter of lying on the name of the Prophet PBUH is considered as a grave transgression in the generation of the Companions, however, the generations that followed are indifferent, thus, a stricter set of conditions are needed in determining the authenticity of a certain hadith.
Dr Syanqiti cited the opinion of Imam Solahuddin al-‘Ala’i (العلائي),
ليس المعنى بعدالة كل واحد من الصحابة رضي الله عنهم أن العصمة له ثابتة والمعصية عليه مستحيلة. ولكن المعنى بهذا أن روايته مقبولة وقوله مصدق ولا يحتاج إلى تزكية كما يحتاج غيره إليها
“The justness of the Companions R.Anhum does not mean that it is thabit that they are free from transgressions and it is impossible for them to commit sins. However, the real meaning is that their narrations are accepted, their words are true and there is no need for it to be deliberated like the statement of others.” (Refer Tahqiq Munif al-Rutbah li Man Thabata Lahu Syarf al-Suhbah, pg. 86)
Furthermore, he also cited the opinion of Syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah who clearly states:
وَأَصْحَابُ النَّبِيِّ - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ -[وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ] (6) . - مِنْ أَصْدَقِ النَّاسِ حَدِيثًا عَنْهُ، لَا يُعْرَفُ فِيهِمْ مَنْ تَعَمَّدَ عَلَيْهِ كَذِبًا
“All the Companions – R.Anhum – are people whose words are the truest and it is not known that any of them would purposely lie on the Prophet PBUH’s name.” (Refer Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah 2/456) (Refer Al-Khilafat al-Siyasiyyah baina al-Sohabah, pg. 176)
However, one should be heedful that although some of the companions would slip and commit a sin, they have the advantage where Allah SWT firms their hearts to immediately repent to Him for they are blessed because they are the companions of the Prophet PBUH. (Refer Mirqat al-Mafatih Syarh Misykat al-Masabih 4/1314)
In short, we would like to state that the meaning of all the companions of the Prophet PBUH are just is in terms of their narration, in other words, they would never lie or deceive on the name of the Prophet PBUH and they are from the most truthful and honest of people.
The Companions R.Anhum are not free from committing sins, however, their mistakes and sins do not affect their honour and standing as the best of generation for this ummah. Furthermore, it does not abrogate their justness for their sins and mistakes are immediately followed by repentance to Allah SWT. The reason is their status are clearly guaranteed by Allah SWT in numerous verses of the Quran and thabit through the acknowledgement of the Prophet PBUH himself.