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How Companions (R.A.) of Prophet (S.A.W.) seek guidance

The Way Of The Believers

Are the Traditions (Sunnah) mandatory, conclusive and binding? Or, can a Muslim ignore or reject them? To make clear that adherence to the path of the believers is obligatory, the Quran itself says:

" And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell - what an evil destination." (Surah An-Nisa 4:115)

This warning to those who follow a way other than the " believers" way is indeed stern. They have been condemned as deserving of the penalty of Fire. What then is the believers' way?

Are the sayings and deeds of the Prophet (saws) (i.e. the Sunnah and the Traditions) to be considered conclusive as a source of law and regarded as the guiding principles of life or not?

When we turn to Islamic history and tradition to find out how the earliest Muslims conducted themselves in this regard the following incidents stand out.

Abu Bakr’s (R.A.) Believe in Quran and Hadith: 

It is stated in Taareekh al-Khulafaa that whenever a dispute came up before Abu Bakr (R.A.) he, first of all, looked into the Quran and decided the case accordingly, if he found it there. But if he did not find it in the Quran, he referred to his knowledge of the practice of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and decided the case accordingly. If he failed to find it there also, he inquired from other Companions (R.A.) about it. In some instances, many Companions (R.A.) came forward and informed him of the Prophet's (S.A.W.) decision in a similar case. On such an occasion, Abu Bakr (R.A.) would exclaim: 

"Praise be to Allah Who hath created among us men who remember the sayings of the Prophet (S.A.W.)."

Companions (R.A.) Decision to Choose Abu Bakr as Successor of Prophet (S.A.W.):

The first and most perplexing problem to arise after the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.) was that of succession. The Companions (R.A.) sought the solution for this also in the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.).

In books like Tabaqaat of Ibn Saad and Taareekh al-Khulafaa, Ali ibn Talib (R.A.) is reported to have said that:

"On the Prophet's (S.A.W.) death, we deliberated over the matter (i.e. the question of succession) and felt that in his lifetime, the Prophet (S.A.W.) had appointed Abu Bakr to lead the prayer service (i.e. to function as Imam). Hence, we chose for our world whom the Prophet (S.A.W.) had chosen for our faith and made Abu Bakr his successor." (at-Tabaqaat 3:183)

It is further related in Taareekh al-Khulafaa, on the authority of Ibn Masood (R.A.), that on the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.), the Ansaar were heard to say that:

"There should be one Ameer (i.e. leader) from among us (i.e. Ansaar) and another from among you (i.e. the Muhaajireen or emigrants of Makkah)." 

Upon it, Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) went to the Ansaar and said: 

"O Ansaar! Don't you know that the Prophet (S.A.W.) had appointed Abu Bakr (R.A.) to lead in Salaah (Prayer)? If you do, tell me who has the heart to take precedence over Abu Bakr." 

On hearing it, the eyes of the Ansaar opened and they cried out passionately: 

"We seek refuge in Allah against taking precedence over Abu Bakr." (Taareekh al-Khulafaa)

In other words, when the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.) was brought to the knowledge of the Ansaar, they were satisfied and accepted it wholeheartedly.

Burial Place of Prophet (S.A.W.):

Another problem that arose on the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.) concerned his burial. There was disagreement over where his body should be laid to rest, and that too was settled in accordance with the Traditions.

In the history already cited, as well as in some others such as Taareekh al-Kaamil, it is stated that when the dispute arose, Abu Bakr (R.A.) related that he had heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) say that:

"A Prophet is buried at the same place where he breathes his last.” 

So his (S.A.W.) bed was lifted and he was buried there. (Ref. al-Kaamil, Vol. 2, p225). 

All differences disappeared immediately after this and the Prophet (S.A.W.) was buried, by general consent, in the sacred ground of the room in which he had died.

Compilation of Quran:

A most important event in the history of Islam is that of the compilation of the Quran. When Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) suggested to Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.) that the whole of the Quran should be put together and preserved between the covers of a single volume, the latter initially hesitated and said. 

"How can I undertake a task", he would say again and again, "which the Prophet (S.A.W.) himself did not take in hand?" 

Later, when Abu Bakr (R.A.) was convinced, he wanted to assign the work to Zayd ibn Thaabit (R.A.). But Zayd (R.A.) too was hesitant for the same reason. When, however, Allah caused his heart to open and brought certainty to his mind on the correctness of the stand taken by the two Shaykhs (i.e. Abu Bakr and Umar), he consented. (Ref: Sahih Al-Bukhari: 4986)

The object of narrating this incident here is to underline the fact that the Companions (R.A.) habitually sought guidance from the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.).

Grandson’s Share in Property:

It is stated in Imam Malik's al-Muwatta that once the grandmother of a person who had died came to Abu Bakr (R.A.) and claimed her share in the property left by him. Abu Bakr (R.A.) said to her: 

"Your claim is not established by the Quran and I am not aware of anything in the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.) to support your claim. You should, therefore, go back at present so that I may inquire from other people."

Afterwards, when Abu Bakr (R.A.) made the enquiry, he was told by Mughira ibn Shuba (R.A.) that the Prophet (S.A.W.) had, in his presence, awarded one-sixth of the property of a deceased man to his grandmother. Abu Bakr (R.A.) then asked him to bring a witness to support him in his narration, and Muhammad ibn Maslamah (R.A.) supported Mughira (R.A.). Abu Bakr (R.A.), thereupon, accepted the Hadith and allotted one-sixth of the legacy to the woman (Ref: al-Muwatta, Meeraath al-Jaddah).

Imposition of Jizyah from Zoroastrians:

When the land of the Zoroastrians (the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran) was added to the Islamic state, Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) had to decide whether or not Jizyah (yearly tax levied on non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim country) could be levied on them [It is mentioned in the Quran (Surah At-Tauba 9:26) that Jizyah should be realized from the People of the Scripture alone, which, in its terminology, applied only to the Jews and the Christians). It was only after Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (R.A.) had testified that the Prophet (S.A.W.) had realised Jizyah from the fire-worshippers of Hajr that Umar (R.A.) imposed it on the Zoroastrians (Ref.: Tirmidhi 1587).

Iddah/Iddat Period for Widow:

It is mentioned in Sunan An-Nasai (Hadith # 3511) that once a person inquired from Ibn Abbas (R.A.) if a woman gave birth to a child only forty days after the death of her husband, would her Iddah (waiting period) be deemed to have expired with it. Ibn Abbas (R.A.) replied that the period of waiting will terminate at childbirth or completion of four months and ten days, whichever is later. Abu Salmah bin Abdur-Rahman (R.A.) and Abu Hurairah (R.A.) were also present at that time. On hearing the decision of Ibn Abbas (R.A.), Abu Salmah (R.A.) pointed out that it was set forth in the Quran that:

" And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth." (Surah At-Talaq: 65:4) 

What Abu Salmah (R.A.) intended to signify was that in the case at hand the period of waiting (Iddah) had ended. Abu Hurairah (R.A.) too said that he agreed with the view of his nephew, Abu Salmah (R.A.). Ibn Abbas (R.A.) then sent his servant, Kurayb, to Umm Salmah who, on learning about the nature of the case, recalled that Subayah al-Aslamiyah was expecting when her husband was martyred. Forty days after that, her child was born and offers of marriage began to come to her. The Prophet, (S.A.W.) thereupon, saw her married (An-Nasai: 3519).

Commenting on this, Haafiz Ibn Hajar writes: 

"It is said that Ibn Abbas (R.A.) changed his opinion as a result of it, and it is also supported by the fact that the statement of his disciples is in accord with the view of the general body of the Muslims."

The practice of the Companions (R.A.) having recourse to the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in the event of a difference of opinion or an apparent contradiction between two verses of the Quran, is borne out clearly by this incident.

About Breaking War Treaties: 

Hostilities had been suspended, for a certain period of time, following an agreement with the Roman Empire. However, Mu’awiyah began to march his army towards the enemy territory with the intention that he would not restart the war during the suspension but be close enough to the enemy to launch a sudden attack at the end of the stipulated period. One day, Mu'awiyah saw a rider coming towards him, calling out loudly: "Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! The covenant is to be kept, not broken!" The rider was a Companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.) named Amr bin Abasah. Mu'awiyah asked him what the matter was. He replied: "I have heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) say that when anyone entered into a covenant with a community he should not make an alteration in it till its time has expired or advance information has been given to the other party." Mu'awiyah thereupon returned to the capital with his troops (Ref: Tirmidhi: 1580).

About Epidemics: 

Once Umar (R.A.) set out for Syria from Madinah. On reaching the place called Sargh, he was informed by the commanders of the army that a plague had broken out violently in that country. Umar (R.A.), then, held consultations with the Muhajireen (emigrants of Makkah) and the Ansaar (residents of Madinah) accompanying him but differing views were expressed. Some were in favour of returning while others felt it was out of the question for they had embarked on the journey in the cause of Allah. On seeing the disagreement, Umar (R.A.) asked them to leave and called for those Muhajireen of the Quraysh Tribe who were participants in the conquest of Makkah. When they came, they unanimously supported the idea to go back. Umar (R.A.), consequently, decided to return but Abu Ubayda (R.A.) disagreed. Umar (R.A.) and the others were in this dilemma when Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (R.A.) turned up. He had not participated in the consultation and was, therefore, unaware of the problem. On learning of it, he observed: "I know a thing in this regard." "You are reliable and trustworthy. Tell us what you know," said 'Umar (R.A.). Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (R.A.) said that he heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) say: 

"When you come to know that an epidemic is raging at some place, do not go there. But if the epidemic breaks out at a place you live, do not move out of it with the intention of fleeing" (Ref. Al-Kaamil, Vol. 2, P: 392).

The disagreement was at once resolved and Umar (R.A.) returned to Madinah.

Selection of Uthman (R.A.) as Third Caliph: 

In Taereekh al-Kaamil, Taareekh al-Khulafaa and all other history books it is stated that on the death of Umar (R.A.), Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (R.A.) and the rest of the Companions (R.A.) chose Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.) as the Caliph and took the vow of allegiance to him in these words: 

"We take the oath of allegiance at your hand on the condition that you will act in accordance with the Scripture (i.e. the Quran), the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and the practice of the two earlier Caliphs" (al-Kaamil, Vol. 3, p37).

These ten examples are in truth only a small and specimen handful. We could have given many more but these do indeed suffice. For, taking them into account, no fair-minded person can deny that the earliest Muslims sought guidance from the Sunnah and the Traditions in all aspects of life.

Source: http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/Believers.htm

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