The Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet According to the Qur’an
The major difference between the Shia and Sunni schools of Islam is their view of the Prophet’s companions. The Shia believe that the companions (sahaba) were mostly problematic as present in the Qur’anic narrative. The Sunni on the other hand believe that all companions were just and faithful even if they made mistakes.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! The people who surrounded the Prophet (s) consisted of many people. They included his direct enemies, and among his companions, were honest and sincere friends and helpers. Not all his companions were good as a number of them were hypocrites at heart.
The general term that encompasses the concept of a companion in Arabic is sahabi (pl. sahaba). In this lesson, we’re going to briefly look at the meaning of the term as well as the role it plays in differentiating the two major sects of Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.
BODY OF TEXT
Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful. (Chapter 3, verse 144 of the Holy Qur’an)
In another verse, it is said:
O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah , you adhere heavily to the earth? Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little.
If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment and will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent. (Chapter 9, verses 38-39 of the Holy Qur’an)
The word companion in Arabic and Islam is sahabi, and its plural is sahaba. Historically speaking, we are aware that the Prophet (s) had good companions. In the Qur’an, a good companion is called a “follower of the Prophet” or muttabiʿ. However, as in the verses that were just read out from the Qur’an, we see that God is quite critical of the Prophet's companions.
The verses show that some of these companions were reluctant, or all together rejected defending the Prophet. It also sheds doubt on their long-term loyalty.
This is not an entirely new concept in Islam. According to the Qur’an, this had happened many times before with previous Prophets. For example, the Qur’an states:
"Has not the time yet come for those who believe that their hearts should be submissive for the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And (that) they should not be like those who were given the book before, but the time became prolonged to them, so their hearts hardened, and most of them are transgressors.” (Chapter 57, verse 16 of the Holy Qur’an)
It also states:
“Let there arise out of you a nation, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong, and these it is that shall be successful. And be not like those who became divided and disagreed after receiving clear signs and these it is that shall have a grievous chastisement.
On the day, some faces will be white (lit up) and some faces will be black (in the gloom), to those whose faces will be black (will be said): Did you reject the faith after accepting it? Taste then the chastisement for rejecting the faith. But those whose faces will be white, they will be in Allah's mercy, therein to dwell" (Chapter 3, verses 106-107 of the Holy Qur’an)
We all know that many of the companions of the Prophet Musa (as) (Moses) had left his religion after he left his community for 40 days. Most of his companions left monotheism altogether and began worshiping a golden calf they made out of jewelry. The idea of the unfaithful companion is therefore nothing new to the Qur’an, in fact, it seems to be the majority description of the Prophet's companions.
The Qur’an says:
And the people of Moses made, after [his departure], from their ornaments a calf - an image having a lowing sound. Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor guide them to a way? They took it [for worship], and they were wrongdoers. And when regret overcame them and they saw that they had gone astray, they said, "If our Lord does not have mercy upon us and forgive us, we will surely be among the losers."
And when Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said, "How wretched is that by which you have replaced me after [my departure]. Were you impatient over the matter of your Lord?" And he threw down the tablets and seized his brother by [the hair of] his head, pulling him toward him. [Aaron] said, "O son of my mother, indeed the people oppressed me and were about to kill me, so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people." (Chapter 7, verses 148-150 of the Holy Qur’an)
The story is a clear cut example of a whole community going astray after the departure of a Prophet. Yet one of the major disagreements between the two largest sects of Islam, the Shia and the Sunni, is precisely the status of the companions. For most Sunnis, being a companion of the Prophet (s) automatically makes a person good, faithful and just. This was the opinion of many Sunni scholars of hadith, including Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 890), the great 10th century Sunni scholar of ilm al-rijal (ilm al-rijal is the science of assessing hadith transmitters).
For others, as the argument goes, the companions may have had flaws, but in general, their flaws were the outcome of mistakes in their understanding of Islam and not ill intent.
For the Shia however, this narrative of the companion contradicts the Qur’an. The Qur’an, the Shia believe, and like the numerous verses we read so far, attests that the companions of the Prophet can not only be unjust, but they can also be hypocrites and enemies of Islam. This doesn't mean that they are all bad, but it just suggests that being a companion of the Prophet doesn't automatically make a person good.
We leave it to our listeners and readers to determine what position is right.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
companion of the prophet (s)
companions of the prophet (s)
obedient and faithful follower of the Prophet (s)
According to the Qur’an, are all sahaba good?
No, the Qur’an is critical of many of the Prophet’s companions and casts doubt on their long term loyalty to Islam and monotheism.
Did previous Prophets according to the Qur’an have their companions betray them and apostate from religion?
Yes, a good example are the companions of Musa (as) who worshiped a calf after he went away for 40 days.
What is the distinction between sahabi and muttabiʿ?
A sahabi is a companion, a muttabiʿ is a faithful follower of the Prophet (s). A companion can be good or bad, but a muttabiʿ is always good.
Why did some companions turn bad?
Because they either converted to Islam based on the belief they would get worldly gains, or because they were spies for the enemies of Islam.
Did the majority of the Prophet’s companions turn his back on him, like Musa (as), after he died?
salvation in Islam
companions of the prophet
abu hatim al-razi