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The Care the Companions Showed in Following the Sunna


The Companions, may God be pleased with them all, were absolutely obedient to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, never thinking to oppose him in any word, action or decision of his. They were so imbued with love of the Messenger that they did their utmost to imitate him in every step he took. This was, in fact, the order of the Qur’an, according to which submission to the verdicts of the Messenger is something directly related to belief:

But no, by your Lord! They will not believe till they make you the judge in disputes between them, then they shall find in themselves no impediment touching your verdict, but shall surrender in full submission. (al-Nisa, 4.65)

The following examples are only a few out of many that show the degree of submission the Companions showed to the Sunna.

  • Shortly before his death, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, raised an army, and appointing ‘Usama to its command, ordered him: Advance as far as the place where your father was martyred, and strengthen our rule there.41

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, took to his bed before the departure of the army. When ‘Usama visited him in his bed, he prayed for him. The army was just about to set out when God’s Messenger said farewell to the world. Abu Bakr became the Caliph. Despite the uprisings in various parts of ‘Arabia, Abu Bakr showed no hesitation about despatching the army. So, the Caliph Abu Bakr accompanied the army on foot to the outskirts of Madina and said: ‘By God, even if wolves were to attack us from all directions, I will not lower that flag hoisted by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.’42

  • The death of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, shocked the Muslims in Madina. Everybody was consumed with grief. The election held at that critical point to choose the Caliph, caused little dissension among the Companions. Abu Bakr shouldered a very heavy task. The army under the command of ‘Usama was waiting to be sent. News of uprisings came from various parts of the country. There were little groups offended at the election of the Caliph. It was just at this juncture that Fatima, the beloved daughter of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, came to Abu Bakr to demand the Prophet’s share in the land of Fadak. Abu Bakr did not want to offend Fatima, equally he was determined to remain faithful to the Sunna. He used to say: ‘I cannot forsake anything that God’s Messenger did.’43 He had heard something from the Messenger, which Fatima had not: We, the community of the Prophets, do not bequeath anything. Whatever we leave, is charity.44
  • After the conquest of Makka, people from all parts of Arabia entered Islam in throngs but many of those new converts were, of course, not as devoted to Islam as the Companions in Madina. While some of them apostatized under the leadership of false prophets such as Musaylima the Liar and revolted against Madina, there were still others who showed signs of revolt in refusing to pay the prescribed alms-tax. Abu Bakr did not give in to the demands of any of the rebellious parties and re-established peace and security in Arabia.
  • ‘Umar, the second Caliph, was known as ‘the one who submits himself to truth’. Unaware of the Prophet’s decree, he judged, through his own reasoning, on the money to be paid as a recompense for cutting a finger. A Companion opposed him, saying: ‘O Commander of the Faithful! I heard God’s Messenger say: The blood money for both of the hands together is the same amount as that paid for a life. So, this amount is shared out equally among the fingers, as ten camels for each.’45 ‘Umar gave up his opinion immediately and said to himself: ‘O son of Hattab! How dare you judge, through your own reasoning, on a matter God’s Messenger decreed?’
  • Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari went to visit ‘Umar in the office of Caliphate. He knocked on the door three times but there was no answer. After Abu Musa left, ‘Umar opened the door and asked who had knocked on the door. On discovering that it was Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari, ‘Umar sent for him and asked why he had left. Abu Musa answered: ‘God’s Messenger said: When you visit someone, knock on the door. If you are not allowed to enter after you knock on it the third time, return. ‘Umar asked Abu Musa if he could bring a witness to corroborate this hadith which he did not know. Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri testified on behalf of Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari and ‘Umar conceded.46
  • When ‘Umar was stabbed while prostrating in the mosque, they asked him if he wanted to designate someone as his successor. ‘Umar answered: ‘If I designate, it is true that one who is better than me did so. If I do not designate, still it is true that one who is better than me did not do so.’47 By this, ‘Umar meant Abu Bakr and God’s Messenger respectively. ‘Umar was certain to prefer the choice of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. However, in order to prevent a possible disagreement among the Muslims, he left the matter to a consultative committee he formed.
  • When ‘Umar saw Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani performing a supererogatory prayer after the afternoon prayer in mosque, he reproached him for doing what God’s Messenger had not done. Zayd ibn Khalid responded to him: ‘Even if you were to break my head into pieces, I will never give up this prayer of two rak‘ah because I saw God’s Messenger perform it.’48

As reported from Umm Salama, Mother of Believers, one day God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, could not perform the supererogatory prayer of two rak‘ah after the noon prayer because he was busy with the expedition visiting him. He performed that prayer after the afternoon prayer.49 Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani must have seen God’s Messenger performing it then.

  • The fourth Caliph ‘Ali once drank water while standing. Maysara ibn Ya‘qub asked him critically: ‘Are you drinking while standing?’ ‘Ali answered: ‘If I drink while standing, it is because I saw God’s Messenger do so. If I drink while sitting, it is because I saw God’s Messenger do so.’50

Whatever the Companions witnessed in God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, they tried to imitate it.

  • A Muslim is permitted, instead of washing his feet in ritual ablution, to wipe the upper surface of light thin-soled boots worn indoors (or inside overshoes) with wet hands. To illustrate that it is not permissible to judge through personal reasoning on a matter established in the Sunna, ‘Ali said: ‘If I had not seen God’s Messenger wipe the upper surface of his light thin-soled boots, I would deem it more proper to wipe their soles.’51
  • In Islam, if a man murders another by mistake, the heirs of the murderer must pay the blood-money. ‘Umar was of the opinion that a wife cannot inherit the blood-money due to her husband. However, Dahhak ibn Abi Sufyan informed him that when Ashyam ibn Dibabi died, God’s Messenger gave to his wife out of his blood-money. ‘Umar declared: ‘From now on, wives will inherit the blood-money of their husbands.’52
  • Abu ‘Ubayda ibn Jarrah was the commander of the armies fighting in Syria. When ‘Umar went to visit him, pestilence had already broken out in Amwas, where Abu ‘Ubayda was. Before ‘Umar entered the city, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-‘Awf warned him: ‘I heard God’s Messenger say: If you hear that pestilence has broken out in a place, do not enter it. If you are already in the place where pestilence has broken out, do not leave it.53 ‘Umar, so obedient to the Sunna of the Prophet, therefore returned before he could see his faithful friend for the last time before his death.


41. I. Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 2.190.

42. Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa’, 74.

43. Bukhari, “Fara’id,” 3.

44. Bukhari, “Khums,” 1; Muslim, “Jihad,” 52.

45. I. Hanbal, 4.403; Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 15.118.

46. Muslim, “Adab,” 7/33; I. Hanbal, 3.19.

47. Bukhari, “Ahkam,” 51.

48. I. Hajar, Fath al-Bari’, 3.83.

49. Bukhari, “Mawaqit,” 33.

50. I. Hanbal, 1.134.

51. Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 63.

52. Abu Dawud, “Fara’id,” 18; I. Ma’ja, “Diyat,” 12; Tirmidhi, “Fara‘id,” 18.

53. Bukhari, “Tib,” 30; I. Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, 3.48.


This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.