Advanced search
Last Updated: 2009/08/22
Summary of question
Considering the many verses in the Quran that praise the Sahabah, why do the Shia scold them?
Allah (swt) has praised the Sahabah in various parts of the Quran, namely:
1- “وَرَحْمَتِی وَسِعَتْ کُلَّ شَیْءٍ فَسَأَکْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِینَ یَتَّقُونَ وَیُؤْتُونَ الزَّکَاةَ وَالَّذِینَ هُمْ بِآیاتِنَا یُؤْمِنُونَ * الَّذِینَ یَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِیَّ الْأُمِّیَّ الَّذِی یَجِدُونَهُ مَکْتُوباً عِنْدَهُمْ فِی التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْأِنْجِیلِ یَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَیَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْکَرِ وَیُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّیِّبَاتِ وَیُحَرِّمُ عَلَیْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَیَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلالَ الَّتِی کَانَتْ عَلَیْهِمْ فَالَّذِینَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِی أُنْزِلَ مَعَهُ أُولَئِکَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ” (And appoint goodness for us in this world and the Hereafter, for indeed we have come back to You." Said He," I visit My punishment on whomever I wish, but My mercy embraces all things. Soon I shall appoint it for those who are God wary and give the zakat and those who believe in Our signs, those who follow the Apostle, the uninstructed prophet, whose mention they find written with them in the Torah and the Injil, who bids them to do what is right and forbids them from what is wrong, makes lawful to them all the good things and forbids them from all vicious things, and relieves them of their burdens and the shackles that were upon them those who believe in him, honor him, and help him and follow the light that has been sent down with him, they are the felicitous A’raf:156-157)
2- “الَّذِینَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِلَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا أَصَابَهُمُ الْقَرْحُ لِلَّذِینَ أَحْسَنُوا مِنْهُمْ وَاتَّقَوْا أَجْرٌ عَظِیمٌ * الَّذِینَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُوا لَکُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِیمَاناً وَقَالُوا حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَکِیلُ” Ale-Imran:172-173
3- “وَإِنْ یُرِیدُوا أَنْ یَخْدَعُوکَ فَإِنَّ حَسْبَکَ اللَّهُ هُوَ الَّذِی أَیَّدَکَ بِنَصْرِهِ وَبِالْمُؤْمِنِینَ * وَأَلَّفَ بَیْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ لَوْ أَنْفَقْتَ مَا فِی الْأَرْضِ جَمِیعاً مَا أَلَّفْتَ بَیْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَلَکِنَّ اللَّهَ أَلَّفَ بَیْنَهُمْ إِنَّهُ عَزِیزٌ حَکِیمٌ” Anfal:62-63
4- أَیُّهَا النَّبِیُّ حَسْبُکَ اللَّهُ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَکَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِینَ Anfal:64
5- کُنْتُمْ خَیْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْکَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ Ale-Imran:110
6- مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِینَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْکُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَیْنَهُمْ تَرَاهُمْ رُکَّعاً سُجَّداً یَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلاً مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَاناً سِیمَاهُمْ فِی وُجُوهِهِمْ مِنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ ذَلِکَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِی التَّوْرَاةِ وَمَثَلُهُمْ فِی الْأِنْجِیلِ کَزَرْعٍ أَخْرَجَ شَطْأَهُ فَآزَرَهُ فَاسْتَغْلَظَ فَاسْتَوَى عَلَى سُوقِهِ یُعْجِبُ الزُّرَّاعَ لِیَغِیظَ بِهِمُ الْکُفَّارَ وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِینَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْراً عَظِیماً (Muhammad, is the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in worship], seeking Allah's grace and [His] pleasure. Their mark is [visible] on their faces, from the effect of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah and their description in the Injil. Like a tillage that sends out its shoots and builds them up, and they grow stout and settle on their stalks, impressing the sowers, so that He may enrage the faithless by them [of course this description covers all Muslims, from the beginning of Islam till today]. Allah has promised those of them who have faith and do righteous deeds forgiveness and a great reward Fat’h:29)
…and many other verses that praise the Sahabah. At the same time, the Shia say that the Sahabah were believers during the prophet’s (pbuh) time and turned away after his passing! How is it possible that all of the Sahabah denounced their faiths and became apostates afterwards and why?! Unless the Shia believe that they all became apostates by making Abu Bakr khalifah. If it is so, then we ask them why all of the companions of the prophet (pbuh) pledged their allegiance to him at that time? Were they afraid of him? Or was it that they were bought off by his wealth? Abu Bakr comes from the tribe of Bani Tayyem whose number was less than the other tribes of Quraysh but more than the tribes of the Bani Hashem and Bani Abdil-Dar and Bani Makhzum whose
people were more in number and importance.
So keeping in mind that Abu Bakr didn’t have the resources to buy the Sahabah off, why would the Sahabah participate in jihad for him? No reason can be found other than the fact that he was one of the first to embrace Islam.
Concise answer

Without a doubt, the verses you have mentioned and other verses have all been revealed in praise of the true followers and companions of the prophet (pbuh), nevertheless, if one focuses more on them and the verses that sometimes scold some of the Sahabah, and if one looks into the history of previous prophets, he will reach the conclusion that if Allah (swt) ever praises a certain group or person, it doesn’t mean that they or he/she will never change for the worse and will always be immune to sin and straying from the straight path; they have to always be alert and careful not to ever become proud of their status.

With all the respect that the Shia have for the Sahabah, they believe that they have the right to criticize them if they ever commit any mistakes or stray from the straight path. They evaluate each of them individually and don’t show them the green light just because they are of the Sahabah. Therefore, they don’t believe that all of them were bad, and, at the same time, don’t believe all of them to be good and righteous. This viewpoint is neither in conflict with any of the verses you mentioned, nor with any other part of the Quran.

As for when it is said that some of the Sahabah denounced their faiths, what is meant is that they disobeyed Allah (swt) and His messenger in some of their commands, not that they returned to idol-worshipping. This disobedience not only took place after the prophet’s (pbuh) demise, but also during his lifetime. The Quran has pointed to some of these cases. One thing that should be kept in mind is that it isn't always wealth and force that misleads people, but it is sometimes deception and hiding the truth that may lead to such as well.

Detailed Answer

This question is actually five questions in one:

1- Have the Sahabah been praised in the Quran?

2- Can one say it is impossible for one who has been praised by Allah (swt) and His messenger to stray from the straight path?

3- Do the verses you referred to actually prove the infallibility of all of the Sahabah?

4- Do the Shia believe that the Sahabah denounced their faiths after the prophet (pbuh) passed away?

5- Does the bey’ah (allegiance) of the Sahabah towards Abu Bakr signify his qualification regarding the subject of caliphate and succession to the prophet (pbuh)?

We will analyze each of these matters respectively:

Regarding the praising of the companions (Sahabah) of the prophet (pbuh) by the Quran, it is accepted by us as well. Allah (swt) has praised them in many verses, some of which you pointed to and it doesn’t seem like any Shia scholars would deny such a clear fact. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that those who are praised in a certain time because of certain good acts become invulnerable to all misguidance and sin, guaranteeing their guidance and being on the straight path until the end of their lives and not being prone to any criticism by Allah (swt) or anyone else! The prophet (pbuh) himself couldn’t claim such a thing for himself, let alone the Sahabah!   The Quran says: “Had he [the prophet (pbuh)] faked any sayings in Our name, We would have surely seized him with might, and then cut off his aorta, and none of you could have held Us off from him.” The Quran goes on to say that this is a lesson for the God wary[1]. By focusing on this verse, no one can give him/herself the right to take advantage of his/her title and status, because for sure when Allah (swt) doesn’t overlook any shortcoming from His prophet (pbuh) when it comes to the people’s beliefs, he certainly won't overlook such from other than His prophet (pbuh) as well.

The same thing took place for the Bani Israel; although Allah (swt) had told them that they were His chosen ones amongst all of those in the world[2], He heavily scolded them in many cases and referred to them as cursed[3], oppressive[4], fools[5], sinners[6], etc!

Don’t you think the same could have taken place for the Muslim nation, especially when keeping mind the hadith narrated by our Sunni brothers that says everything that took place for the Bani Israel will take place for the Muslim nation as well[7]?! Do you think it would be fair for Allah (swt) to severely punish the Bani Israel for fishing on a Sabbath[8], and yet overlook the Sahabahs’ mistakes concerning much more important matters such as the caliphate and succession of the prophet (pbuh)?!

On this basis, the answer to the second question also becomes clear; when the Quran praises someone or a group, it in no way means that they are guaranteed to be good people till the end of their lives and that they are insured from all sin and misguidance.

Nevertheless, in order to give a thorough response to this question, we will analyze the verses you mentioned in confirmation of your theory:

a) In surah A’raf, if you take a precise look at the story mentioned before the verse you brought, you will see some important points regarding the progress and regression of the companions of Prophet Musa (pbuh) and this might lead you to omitting this verse from the list of verses you used to prove your claim without any need of us giving an answer to it! The story of worshipping the calf idol by Prophet Musa’s (pbuh) followers during his forty day absence has been mentioned[9].  The argument between the prophet (pbuh) and his brother Harun (pbuh) and the fact that it was only these two who passed their divine test while everyone else failed is mentioned in the verses following these[10]. Afterwards, there is another story about seventy of the followers of Musa (pbuh) that he himself chose that the Quran refers to as “fools”[11] whom Allah (swt) struck with lightning, and in the end, it is announced that only those who believe and have faith, honor and aid the prophet (pbuh) and follow the Quran’s commands are those who will reach salvation.[12]

Surely these verses haven’t been narrated just for storytelling and to entertain, but have been narrated so that the companions of the prophet (pbuh) learn a lesson and stay alert so that they won't stray and suffer from the same fate that the Bani Israel did. Unfortunately, some of the Muslims didn’t take heed; an example of such being what took place in the final moments of the prophet’s (pbuh) life in which will be explained and cited for later. Would you consider what took place then honoring the prophet (pbuh), something which the verse you cited asks the Muslims to do, or irrespect?!

b) About verses 172 and 173 of surah Ale Imran; after analyzing them we find that this verse is speaking of three stages; first when the Sahabah deserved to be scolded for fleeing from the battlefront in the battle of Uhud, but since they later obeyed the prophet (pbuh), they were praised. What is important in this verse is that it explicitly and clearly says that the blessing and reward they have earned through such can only be maintained if they keep up their righteousness and piety. This is exactly what the Shia believes; the Sahabah are good only if they maintain their righteousness and piety, and it isn't true to say that they are good no matter what they do (so their goodness is contingent upon their praiseworthy actions and isn't absolute).

c) In your argument, you mentioned that surah Anfal says that the Sahabah love each other and that if you (the prophet) were to give everything in the world to make them love each other, it still wouldn’t be possible (and it was only Allah (swt) who made such a thing possible)! This comes to show that the Sahabah had conflict amongst themselves that Allah (swt) changed to love through His grace (and that they have to be careful not to do anything to might change it back to hatred and enmity, as the Bani Israel did). In the verses that follow in surah Anfal[13], it has been stated that it is only one’s actions that determine his rise or fall. For example, at one time, one of the companions of the prophet (pbuh) was worth more than ten mushriks and kafirs in Allah’s (swt) eyes, but later on and during the prophet’s (pbuh) time, this number decreased to two mushriks and kafirs. It was also said to them that they had preferred this life over the next and that it was very close for them to be severely punished. Now, if one believes that some of the Sahabah regressed after his demise, is it true to say that this person believes in something that contradicts the Quran, or is it right to say that what this person believes in is in exact conformity with the message the abovementioned verses are conveying?!

d) As for verse 110 of surah Ale-Imran, there are a few points that need to be considered; one of them being that we have no doubt that the nation of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the highest of all nations. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prove your claim, because as we all know, conflict is something common that would take place amongst nations after their prophets would pass away and would sometimes even lead to bloodshed and war[14] to the extent that only a mere name of their religion would remain and nothing more. Although there was conflict after the prophet’s (pbuh) demise, but Islam remained as strong as before and didn’t undergo what other religions had undergone. For instance, there are many things in this religion that all of its sects agree on; the prophet (pbuh), the Quran, prayer, the Qiblah, fasting, Hajj, jihad, charity, etc. are all things that all Muslims believe in. This fact by itself is something that makes our religion higher than others. No other religion has a ritual like the Hajj in which draws millions of Muslims to Mekkah annually! Another point that this verse contains is that just after a few verses[15] these characteristics have been mentioned for the People of the Book (that they had faith and would spend the nights in worship and would enjoin good and forbid evil and …) but at the same time it can't be claimed that this is a sign of them being on the straight path. Therefore, practicing these things don’t necessarily make the path one is on, the right path. The final point is that in the aforesaid verse, some criteria have been mentioned that if met, will make the Muslims the greatest nation of all. On the other hand, if most of the Muslims don’t observe these criteria and for instance, instead of enjoining good and forbidding evil, go to battle with Imam Husein, the grandson of the prophet (pbuh), and martyr him, can this nation still be considered the highest of all nations?! Therefore, being the highest of all nations depends on how much we go by Allah’s (swt) guidelines. Also, we know that this verse doesn’t exclusively belong to the Sahabah and applies to all Muslims, and as we all know, since the advent of Islam till today, there have been battles between the Muslims themselves! The battle of Siffin is one example; on one side there was Imam Ali (as) and Ammar Yasir, while on the other side there was Mu’awiyyah and Amr ibn Aas and others; all of them being of the Sahabah! The question is: “Does the verse you mentioned apply to both sides of such battles since they were all of the Sahabah?” If so, then there is no way to distinguish between the right and wrong side; and if the answer is that there is a way and that there are criteria for distinguishing which nation is the best, that is the answer that we also believe in!

There is a dispute amongst tafsir experts regarding whether the verse is saying that Allah (swt) is the protector of the prophet (pbuh) and his companions, or if it is saying that Allah (swt) and the prophet’s (pbuh) companions are the protectors of the prophet pbuh[16]. Even if we reach the conclusion that the verse is conveying the second meaning so that it can be considered support for your claim, it says that only companions of the prophet (pbuh) who follow him are his protectors, not just any companions regardless of who they are and what characteristics they bear. A similar subject has been mentioned in another verse which has been revealed to warn some of the wives of the prophet (pbuh)[17]; it says: “If the two of you repent to Allah... for your hearts have certainly swerved, and if you back each other against him [the prophet], then [know that] Allah is indeed his guardian, and Gabriel, the righteous among the faithful, and, thereafter, the angels are his supporters”.[18]

The last verse that you pointed to was a verse from surah Fat’h in which in addition to mentioning some of the characteristics that the companions of the prophet (pbuh) must bear, gives glad tidings and vows rewards only for those who maintain their good traits and faith. In your opinion, do you think those in the battles of Hunayn and Uhud who fled from the battlefield are considered (اشداء علی الکفار) or those who revolted against Ali (as) and sparked bloody battles during his caliphate or attacked his home and didn’t keep the respect of the prophet’s (pbuh) daughter, Lady Fatimah are considered (رحماء بینهم)? Would you consider those Sahabis who collected and gathered huge masses of wealth and built themselves castles equal to those who only seeked Allah's (swt) pleasure and grace (یبتغون فضلاً من الله و رضواناً)?

What is interesting is that if one reviews some other verses of this same surah (like verses6, 11, 12 and 15) he will see that there are verses that also scold those who were only Muslim by name and on the outside.

Therefore, although we have no objection to the verses you mentioned about the Sahabah, nevertheless, we don’t believe that they [the Sahabah] were free of any negative points and that no one has the right to criticize their wrong acts if by any chance they commit any.

Also, just like how there are verses that praise the Sahabah, there are also verses that scold and criticize them at the same time. For example, the verse(s) that consider the reason for their fleeing from the battlefield the sins that some of the Sahabah had committed[19], or like the verses that disclose that amongst the Sahabah of the prophet (pbuh) there are some who are upset about the way he divides the war booty amongst the army of Islam and that how they would get upset if they weren’t granted anything[20]! Or like the verses that speak of how some of those around the prophet (pbuh) would disobey him and not run the tasks he would ask them to do[21]! It is because of factors like these that Allah (swt) doesn’t consider all of the Sahabah equal and tells the Muslims not to accept the news some of them who are sinners may give without making sure what they have said is true first.[22]

By taking into consideration all Quranic verses as a whole and also the actions of the Sahabah and their weak and strong points, the Shia have a moderate standpoint regarding them; they evaluate each of the Sahabah individually. They look at his behavior and actions and judge accordingly instead of just considering whatever any of them do in accordance with the truth, no matter how much contradiction can be seen! How can one say that this standpoint contradicts the Quran?!

As for the fourth and fifth questions, since many similar questions have been answered on this website, we invite you to refer to them[23], but generally speaking, what is meant by denouncing faith and apostasy isn't that they returned to idol-worshipping; what is meant is the disobedience of Allah's (swt) and the prophet’s (pbuh) commands, which doesn’t belong only to the time after the prophet (pbuh), but also applies to the prophet’s (pbuh) time as well and has happened many times. Fleeing from the battlefield in the battles of Uhud and Hunayn, refusing to join Usamah’s army when ordered to and disobeying the prophet (pbuh) in the final moments of his life by saying that pen and paper aren't available for recording some of his important final commands are all examples of this disobedience.[24] Wealth and force aren't the only things used to misguide people; sometimes deception and propaganda are more effective; this has taken place in previous nations as well, worshipping the calf of Bani Israel caused by the Sameriyy being one example. So it can't be said that just because one doesn’t have the resources to buy others off, there is no other way to change their minds to his/her own benefit.

[1] Haqqah:44-48.

[2] Baqarah:47 and 122.

[3] Nisa:46 and 47; Ma’idah:13 and 78…

[4] Baqarah:51.

[5] A’raf:155.

[6] A’raf:163.

[7] Sahih Tirmidi, vol. 4, pg. 135.

[8] Baqarah:65; Nisa:47 and A’raf:163.

[9] A’raf:148.

[10] A’raf:150-151.

[11] A’raf:154.

[12] A’raf:157.

[13] Anfal:65-68.

[14] Baqarah:253 and…

[15] Ale-Imran:113-114.

[16] Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Qurtubi, Al-Jame’ Li-Ihkamil-Quran, vol. 8, pg. 43.

[17] Commentators of the Quran believe that according to Umar ibn Khattab, those being addressed by the verse are Aishah and Hafsah. See: Tafsir Qurtubi, Ibid, vol. 19, pg. 189.

[18] Tahrim:4.

[19] Ale-Imran:133.

[20] Tawbah:58.

[21] Ahzab:12-13.

[22] Hujurat:6 (ان جاءکم فاسق بنبا فتبینوا...) After referring to tafsir books we see that the “fasiq” (sinner) this verse is speaking of was one of the Sahabah who later became one of Imam Ali's (as) main enemies.

[23] Concerning the apostasy of the Sahabah, you can refer to Questions: 2791 (website: 3500), 2792 (website: 3275), 1015 (website: 1167), 1589 (website:1970) and 1348 (website: 2982). Also, you can refer to question 2795 which is about the way the Sahabah pledged their allegiance to the first khalifah in order to get more answers.

[24] Sahih Bukhari, vol. 5, pp. 137-138.

Question translations in other languages
Number of comments 0
Please enter the value
Example : Yourname@YourDomane.ext
Please enter the value
Please enter the value

Thematic Category

Random questions