How should we evaluate the wars among the Companions (Sahaba)?

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How should we evaluate the wars among the Companions (Sahaba)?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

If a man kills a Believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (for ever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (Nisa 93)

If a person, whether he is a believer or an unbeliever, kills a believer intentionally, due to his belief, his punishment is going to Hell. He will be punished there for a long time, maybe forever because Allah has got very furious with him, has damned him and has prepared a great torture for him, not regarding him worthy of mercy.

The reason of the wars among the Companions is to find the truth. Both parties fought for the truth. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in a hadith, "The state of these two men is amazing in the presence of Allah: One of them kills the other but both of them go to Paradise. (Sunan Nasai; p. 411)"

Due to a question of ijtihad, a believer kills another believer but both of them go to Paradise since both of them are people of the truth. For instance, there were civil wars during the periods of Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah and a Muslim killed another Muslim. Both of them went to Paradise because they fought for the sake of religion and based on an ijtihad.

How should Muslims see the disagreements that took place among the Companions?

The attribute of "ismah" (innocence), that is, "protection from sins through divine assistance” belongs to the prophets only. Only prophets are infallible. Since the Companions do not have this attribute, it cannot be said that the Companions never made mistakes. However, a Muslim does not exit Islam when he makes a mistake; likewise, a Companion does not lose the honor of being a Companion when he makes a mistake.

All of the mujtahids of four madhhabs evaluated the disagreements and conflicts among the Honorable Companions as follows: All of the Companions are mujtahids. They have the right before everybody else to make ijtihad regarding the issues that are not stated clearly in the Quran and hadiths. It is a definite rule in the methodology of fiqh that if someone has the right to make ijtihad, he does not have to act in accordance with the ijtihad of another mujtahid. The conflicts, arguments and battles that took place among them arose from the difference of ijtihad. Their own desires and wishes had nothing with their disagreements because they had been freed from the bad attributes like hatred, enmity and animosity by the religious talks of the Prophet. Their souls were purified from such mean qualities; and they became pure and lofty.  

Yes, each one of the Companions was a mujtahid in establishing the religion of Islam. As it is known, if a mujtahid is right in his ijtihad, he gains two rewards; if he is wrong in his ijtihad, he gains one reward. The ijtihads of those distinguished companions, who sacrificed their property and lives for Islam and who had no other goal but to exalt and spread Islam, aimed to exalt Islam. Their love and determination for Islam was so great that they did not refrain from expressing the view that was contrary to that of the Prophet during the Battle of Uhud. They stated their view clearly by saying, "We think that the success of Islam depends on this view." When most of the Companions had the opposite view, the Prophet (pbuh) had to do what they wanted. The events that took place later justified the Prophet. Not even a single verse was sent down by God Almighty to warn the Companions although the Quran was still being sent down then. Allah did not warn them with any verses; on the contrary, He ordered His Prophet to continue asking their views as he did previously. The Messenger of Allah did not blame them; he still loved them and showed compassion to them; he continued asking their ideas as he was ordered by Allah. Even only this incident is enough to show clearly that the Companions were appreciated by Allah and His Messenger and that they had the right to make ijtihad.

Now let us think justly. How can we dare to judge them because of the disagreements among them although neither Allah nor the Messenger of Allah warned them because they made a different ijtihad from that of the Prophet? It is necessary for a person who has the slightest degree of conscience, foresight and understanding not to try to commit a sin like that.  

If we dare to transgress our limits and try to judge those distinguished people, who sacrificed their blood for the establishment of Islam, and justify some of them while criticizing others, we will not besmirch those stars of guidance but pave the way for ruining ourselves.

Besides, the people that we judge are the most distinguished ones of the Companions. Some of them were given the glad tidings that they would enter Paradise while they were alive. Those people, whom we talk about, were praised by the Quran and the Prophet.

We should never forget about it and we should be very cautious about the disagreements among the Companions; we should avoid transgressing our limits.

If the disagreement among the Companions had not been legitimate and reasonable, a command to prevent them would have been sent down. As a matter of fact, when the Companions spoke loudly in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh) the following verse was sent down to warn them:

"O ye who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk, as ye may speak aloud to one another lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not." (al-Hujurat, 2)

The believers are asked to avoid having bad thoughts about others:

"Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?" (al-Hujurat, 12)

In the verse, God Almighty informs us that to backbite a believer is as ugly as to eat the flesh of a dead person and that it does not fit a believer. You can think about the degree of the risk of the issue when the believer that is backbitten is a Companion, and one of the most distinguished ones.

In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah said, "Backbiting eats up good deeds just as fire eats up wood”, warning us severely about the issue.

It behooves us to listen to those truths and act accordingly both for the safety of our life in the hereafter and for the sake of the future of Islam. A believer is prohibited from thinking bad things about another believer; the risk of thinking bad things about the Companions, who were the associates and army mates of the Prophet and who were the means of guidance for believers, and the most distinguished ones of the Companions, will be understood clearly. 

The safest way for the clever and reasonable people is to avoid sounding off regarding the issue. It will be easily understood when someone thinks about it a little that we were not sent to the world to analyze the problems among the Companions and to judge them as right and wrong. It cannot be the aim of our creation to have an idea about the issue. We were created to be a proper slave of Allah not to talk about that issue. That is, our religion calls us to fulfill our duties not to analyze the disagreements among the Companions. 

The Companions, from the Caliphs to the ordinary ones, received the same sustenance and shared the same excitement. They worked very hard, day and night, secretly and openly, for the development and spread of Islam. They made jihad and sacrificed their blood and lives. They opposed their tribes for the sake of the Quran and the Prophet; they sacrificed their wives, children and property. They preferred the Prophet to their own selves, wives, children and parents. They shed their blood for the foundation of Islam.

They contributed to the worldly and otherworldly bliss of the Muslims from their age to the Day of Judgment. It is a debt of justice and conscience for us to feel grateful to them, to pray and to praise them.

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