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Title: Sahaba  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Eschatology, Historiography, Hadith, Jihad, Muhammad, Spirituality, Sunni Islam, Yasser Arafat, 674, 678
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"Sahabi" redirects here. For the surname, see Sahabi (name).

The Arabic term aṣ-ṣaḥābah (Arabic: الصحابة‎, "the companions"; from the verb صَحِبَ, "accompany", "keep company with", "associate with") refers to the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This form is definite plural; the indefinite singular is masculine ṣaḥābī, feminine ṣaḥābīyah.

Later scholars accepted their testimony of the words and deeds of Muhammad, the occasions on which the Qur'an was revealed and various important matters of Islamic history and practice. The testimony of the companions, as it was passed down through chains of trusted narrators (isnads), was the basis of the developing Islamic tradition. From the traditions (hadith) of the life of Muhammad and his companions are drawn the Muslim way of life (sunnah), the code of conduct (sharia) it requires and the jurisprudence (fiqh) by which Muslim communities should be regulated. The two largest Islamic denominations, the Sunni and Shi'a, take different approaches in weighing the value of the companions' testimony, have different hadith collections and, as a result, have different constructed views about the Sahabah.


The most widespread definition of a companion is someone who saw Muhammad, believed in him and died a Muslim. Anyone who died after rejecting Islam and becoming an apostate is not considered a companion. Those that saw him but held off believing in him until after his passing are not considered Sahaba but Tabi`in. Shi'a Muslims make no distinction between these as regards their trustworthiness[1]

However, scholars like Javed Ghamidi and Amin Ahsan Islahi state that not every individual who met or had accidentally seen Muhammad can be considered as a Companion. In their view, the Quran has outlined a high level of faith as one of the distinctive qualities of the Sahabah. Hence, they admit to this list only those individuals who had substantial contact with Muhammad, lived with him, and took part in his campaigns and efforts at proselytizing.[2] This view has implications in Islamic law since narrations of Muhammad transmitted through the Sahabah acquire a greater status of authenticity.

Lists of prominent companions usually run to 50 or 60 names, being the people most closely associated with Muhammad. However, there were clearly many others who had some contact with Muhammad, and their names and biographies were recorded in religious reference texts such as Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi's (Muḥammad ibn Sa'd) early Kitāb at-Tabāqat al-Kabīr (The book of The Major Classes). The book entitled Istî’âb fî ma’rifat-il-Ashâb by Hafidh Yusuf bin Muhammad bin Qurtubi (death 1071) consists of 2,770 biographies of male and 381 biographies of female Sahaba. According to an observation in the book entitled Mawâhib-i-ladunniyya, an untold number of persons had already converted to Islam by the time Muhammad died. There were 10,000 by the time Mecca was conquered and 70,000 during the Battle of Tabouk in 630. Some Muslims assert that they were more than 200,000 in number: it is believed that 124,000 witnessed The Farewell Sermon Muhammad delivered after making his last pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca.

Two important groups among the companions are called the Muhajirun or "exiles" - those who had faith in Muhammad when he began to preach in Mecca who fled with him when he was persecuted there - and the Ansar - people of Medina who welcomed Muhammad and his companions and stood as their protectors. Chapter (sura) 9 of the Qur'an ("Repentance" (at-Tawba)), verse (ayah) 100[3] says;

"The vanguard - the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and those who follow them in good deeds, &ndash well-pleased is God with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity."[4]

and continues;

(ayat 117); "God turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs, and the Ansar who followed him in a time of distress – after that the hearts of a part of them had nearly swerved but He turned to them..."

In the Qur'an


In Islam there are three types of Sahabah:

1 As Sabiqoon Al Awaloon (Badriyans)

The people who were Muslims at the time of Badar. They are further classified into two: 1. Muhajreen (Immigrants - from Mecca) 2. Ansar (Helpers - inhabitants of Madinah (previously known as Yathrib)) They are ideals for the other Muslims because they are "Whom God is pleased with" (Arabic: رضي الله عنهraḍiyu l-Lāhu ‘anhu)see ch # 9 ver # 100

"Those who believed, and went into exile and fought for God's cause with their property and their persons, as well as those who sheltered and helped them,- these shall be friends, one of another."[5]
"...and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favour on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love[6]
"those who are with him are strong against unbelievers but compassionate among themselves. You will see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer)...[7]

2 Major Sahabah (Kubbar)

The people who were Muslims before victory of Makkah and went into exile and fought for God's cause in most of the wars. They are also high in degree especially those who were present at Hudabiyah. They are also "Whom God is pleased with" (Arabic: رضي الله عنهraḍiyu l-Lāhu ‘anhu)see ch # 48 ver # 18 to 29

3 As'habuttulaqa (Forgiven people)

They were non-Muslim at the time of victory of Makkah; after that, they were forgiven by Muhammad, then they became Muslims. They are lower in degrees as compared to other two mentioned above. See ch # 57 ver # 10


According to Sunni scholars, Muslims of the past should be considered companions if they had any contact with Muhammad, and they were not liars or opposed to him and his teachings. If they saw him, heard him, or were in his presence even briefly, they are companions. All companions are assumed to be just (udul) unless they are proven otherwise; that is, Sunni scholars do not believe that companions would lie or fabricate hadith unless they are proven liars, untrustworthy or opposed to Islam.[8] "Whom God is pleased with" (Arabic: رضي الله عنهraḍiyu l-Lāhu ‘anhu) is usually mentioned by Sunnis after the names of the Sahaba.

Some Qur'anic references are important to Sunni Muslim views of the reverence due to all companions;[9][10][11][12][13][14]

"and He has restrained the hands of men from you that it may be a sign for believers",[15]

While sura 8 ("The Spoils" (al-Anfal)), ayat 74-5 reads:

"Those who believe and adopt exile and fight for the Faith in the cause of God, as well as those who give (them) asylum and aid, these are in very truth the believers: for them is the forgiveness of sins and a provision most generous.... And those who accept Faith subsequently, and adopt exile, and fight for the Faith in your company, they are of you.[16]

In another place the Qur'an distinguishes between the community in honour:

... Not equal among you are those who spent (freely) and fought, before the Victory, (with those who did so later). Those are higher in rank than those who spent (freely) and fought afterwards. But to all has Allah promised a goodly (reward)...
—Qur'an Sura 57 (al-Hadid), ayah 10[17]

It sometimes admonishes them, as when Aisha, daughter of the first Sunni caliph Abu Bakr and the wife of Muhammad, was accused of infidelity:

"Why did not the believers - men and women - when ye heard of the affair,- put the best construction on it in their own minds and say "this (charge) is an obvious lie"? .... Behold, you received it on your tongues and said out of your mouths things of which you had no knowledge, and ye thought it to be a light matter". (sura 24 ("The Light", an-Nur), ayat 11-20)[18]
"And from among those who are round about you of the dwellers of the desert there are hypocrites, and from among the people of Medina (also); they are stubborn in hypocrisy; you do not know them; We know them; We will chastise them twice then shall they be turned back to a grievous chastisement."[19]

In view of such admonitions Shias have different views on each Sahabi, depending on what he or she accomplished. They do not accept that the testimony of nearly all Sahaba is an authenticated part of the chain of narrators in a hadith and that not all the Sahaba were righteous just because they saw or were with Muhammad. Shias further argue that the righteousness of Sahaba can be assessed by their loyalty towards Muhammad's family after his death and they accept hadith from the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt, believing them to be cleansed from sin through their interpretation of the Quran Surah 33 Verse 33 and the hadith of the Cloak.

Muhammad's wives

Main article: Wives of Muhammad

All of Muhammad's wives are called the "mothers" of the believers:

"The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers. Blood-relations among each other have closer personal ties, in the Decree of Allah. Than (the Brotherhood of) Believers and Muhajirs: nevertheless do

ye what is just to your closest friends: such is the writing in the Decree (of Allah)." [20]

Another verse states:

"O Consorts of the Prophet! ...God only wishes to remove all abomination from you, you members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless."[21]

Shias support their argument that one must discriminate between the virtues of the companions by verses relating to Muhammad's wives:

"O wives of the prophet! whoever of you commits an open indecency, the punishment shall be increased to her doubly; and this is easy to Allah. And whoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Messenger and does good, We will give to her her reward

doubly, and We have prepared for her an honorable sustenance."[22]

The injunction to regard them as mothers overrules this in Sunni thought, particularly as regards Aisha, who was the daughter of Abu Bakr.


Because the hadith were not properly written down until many years after the death of Muhammad, although there were many individual written copies, the isnads, or chains of transmission, always have several links. The first link is preferably a companion, who had direct contact with Muhammad. The companion then related the tradition to a Tabi‘un, the companion of the companion. Tabi‘un had no direct contact with Muhammad, but did have direct contact with the Ṣahāba. The tradition then would have been passed from the Tabi‘un to the Tābi‘ at-Tābi‘īn, the third link.

The second and third links in the chain of transmission were also of great interest to Muslim scholars, who treated of them in biographical dictionaries and evaluated them for bias and reliability. Shi'a and Sunni apply different metrics.

Regard for the companions is evident from the hadith:
It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ud that Muhammad said: "The best of the people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them."[23]
Sunni Muslim scholars classified companions into many categories, based on a number of criteria. The hadith quoted above shows the rank of ṣaḥābah, tābi‘īn, and tābi‘ at-tābi‘īn. Al-Suyuti recognized eleven levels of companionship. Shia do not have a ranking system dependent on when the Sahabi embraced Islam but according to what they did during their life. If a Sahaba made Muhammad angry or questioned his decision several times then he is viewed as unreliable. Shias consider that any hadith where Muhammad is claimed to have absolved all Sahaba from sin is a false report by those who opposed the Ahl al-Bayt.

The Shi'a believe that after the death of Muhammad, the majority of the sahabah turned aside from true Islam and deviated from Muhammad's family, instead electing the caliph by themselves at a place called Bani Saqeefa, they did this by a majority vote and elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph. Although some of the sahabah repented later, only a few of the early Muslims held fast to Ali, whom Shi'a Muslims regard as the rightful successor to Muhammad. Shi'a scholars therefore deprecate hadith believed to have been transmitted through unjust companions, and place much more reliance on hadith believed to have been related by Muhammad's family members and companions who supported Ali. The Shi'a believe that Muhammad announced his succession during his lifetime at Dawat Zul Asheera then many times during his prophethood and finally at Ghadeer e Khum.

See also



External links

  • Reality of Abu Bakr and Umar
  • Sahaba: Companions of the Prophet
  • Male Companions of the Prophet
  • Describes the Sunni perspective
  • Describes the Shia perspective
  • Innovation with regards to the Shari`i Penalty of Cursing Sahaba by "Sipah-e-Sahaba"
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