Ijtihad and the Companions
By Syed Hassan Bokhari
In this section we shall analyse one of the key beliefs
of the Ahl’ul Sunnah – the ijtihad used by the companions. It is not
intended to insult anyone it is an objective analysis of this core
component, one that is central to the beliefs of the followers of the
one is beyond reproach in Islam
In Islam all people are equal in the eyes of Allah (swt).
The Qur’an is a code of life for us, and as such we must live our lives in
accordance with the dictates of the Qur’an and Sunnah. If we look at the
Muslim countries today we see leaders plundering the nations wealth; they
commonly put friends and relatives in to positions of power, they likewise
plunder the state’s wealth.
They commit acts that cause revulsion amongst the public,
and yet they are ‘above the law’ you cannot question their actions. We hate
this, we believe they should be brought to task, accountability is a
key component in Islam. We all must comply with it and we are all
responsible if we break it, no matter who you are, who you know, who you are
related to. We have the verse in the Qur’an making it clear that we will be
judged according to our actions on the Day of Judgement. Furthermore we have
incident recorded in books of hadith:
woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a
theft. The case was brought to the Prophet, and it was suggested that she
may be spared the punishment of theft. The Prophet replied: “The nations
that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished the common
man for their offences and their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes;
I swear by him (God) who holds my life in his hand that even of Fatima, the
daughter of Muhammad has committed this crime, then I would have amputated
Human Rights in Islam, by Abul A’la Maudoodi page 35-36,
published by the Islamic Foundation, United Kingdom 1976.
This event makes it absolutely clear that:
1. All are accountable for their actions
2. You will be accountable irrespective of nobility
This is the justice of Allah (swt) the justice which
Islam proclaims. With this clear evidence how would you feel if legislation
were passed stating that you can never question the actions of members of
the ruling party, no matter what they do? Would the reasonable person accept
such a law? Certainly not, on the contrary this would be a clear violation
of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Bearing this in mind it is most unfortunate that
the majority sect has formulated an opinion that if the companions perform
such violations, they are not in error and hence accountable before Allah (swt),
their actions are due to mistakes in Ijtihad.
verdict of Ahl’ul Sunnah on the disputes between the companions
This is the Fatwa of the Wahabie scholar Shaykh Muhammad
Al-Saleh Ul-Uthaimin on this matter:
believe that the disputes that took place among the Prophet’s companions
were the result of sincere interpretations they worked hard to reach.
Whoever was right among them would be rewarded twice, and whoever was wrong
among them would be rewarded once
and his mistake would be forgiven”
The Muslim’s Belief, by Shaikh Al Saleh Al Uthaimin,
translated by Ar Maneh Hammad al Johani, p 23
this a plausible concept?
What sort of justice is this? If the companions commit
any wrongdoing, not only are they unaccountable they are forgiven and
rewarded for it! If the beloved daughter of the Prophet (s) is not above the
law, then why are the companions?
In every day life we as fallible human’s commit mistakes,
we act in a way that does not behove a believer, when we make such mistakes,
do we believe that these actions will merit praise from Allah (swt)?
It is a basic principle of rationality that if two
parties have a dispute both can be wrong, but both can not be right.
Applying this to the battles of Jamal and Siffeen, will both the murderers
and the murdered be in heaven, because both were right? A Judge for example
when hearing a dispute between two parties will not rule that both parties
are right and should be compensated for their role in the dispute. An even
more absurd conclusion would be if the Judge after ruling that one party was
right in its claim and awarding it; then turned to the other side pardoned
them and then awarded them for their wrongdoing. Is this a rational concept?
If a Judge would never behave in such an unjust way, do you honestly believe
that the greatest Judge of all, Allah (swt) would act in this way?
adhere to such a belief?
The reality is that this concept has been developed by
the scholars to in effect provide blanket immunity for those companions who
committed major wrongs. Whilst the casual reader would be horrified by their
actions his childhood beliefs that the companions actions were mistakes for
which they would be rewarded have effectively subdued the majority to not
think about what they read.
Never has the desire to believe in mistakes in Ijtihad
been more important for the followers of the companions than when looks at
the battles of Jamal and Siffeen. Here two groups of companions met each
other on battlefield and fought one another. The same
companions who had sat with the Prophet (s) were
killing one another. As these battles are undeniable facts, and
uncomfortable reading for scholars whose attitude has been all the
companions are just, the concept of Ijtihad has proved to be a ‘protection
clause’ a means of maintaining beliefs in the presence of facts which would
other wise create doubts in those beliefs.
Ibn Khaldun exemplifies this thinking as follows:
Do not speak ill of anyone of them. One ought to find some justification for
each faction for they deserve to be rated highly by us. They differed on
principle and rightly fought the battle. All those who were killed or were
slain were fighting in
the way of God for upholding truth and justice.
Rather, I think that their differences were a blessing for the latter
generations so that every one may choose anyone of them as his guide and
Imam. Keep this in mind and try to understand the divine wisdom governing
the world and the beings”.
ibid, p 145 quoting Muqqadimah, by Ibn Khaldun p 172
The ijtihad attributed to the companions who rose against
Imam ‘Ali (as) contradicts the Qur’an, the Sunnah and sheer common sense
It should be pointed out that both Sunni and Shi’a adhere
to the concept of ijtihad as a legitimate source of Islamic Law. We however
assert that ijtihad can only be exercised when there is no clear ruling
within the Qur’an or Sunnah with regards to a particular matter. Ijtihad is
therefore essentially the last resort, it cannot be utilised when solutions
are evident in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and crucially ijtihad can never be
exercised when it is in violation of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Qur’an is a binding document for all. Muslims are
brothers to one another and yet one group rebels against the leader refuses
to submit to him, declares war on him a war which leaves thousands dead and
this was all done in the interests of truth and justice, for the betterment
of Islam. Do we have evidence of such thinking in the Qur’an or hadith?
What gave one party the right to rebel and behave in this
way against a Khalifa whom the vast bulk of Muslims deems rightly guided? Do
these actions not therefore set a precedent that if you do not agree with a
Khalifa you can mount armed rebellion against
him? Would the common man ascribe to the view that
ousting a Leader over a difference of opinion through armed rebellion is not
only good but will be rewarded even if it is wrong?
The Holy Qur’an states quite categorically:
whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense shall be hell, he
shall abide therein and God’s wrath (Ghazibullaho) shall be on him and his
curse (lanato), and is prepared for him a great torment” (Surah Nisa, v 93).
With this verse in mind, history testifies that during
the battles of Siffeen and Jamal 70,800 Muslims lost their lives. What is
the position of the killers here? Does this verse not applicable to them? If
these individuals opposed the Khalifa of the time and were responsible for
spreading fitnah (dissension) and murder, what will be their position on the
Day of Judgement?
If for arguments sake, this concept is indeed correct
then why should any disputes be resolved in court? After all if there is a
dispute between two groups of Muslims, why should they be punished? Can they
not advance a defence that they were following the
way of the companions and that whoever was right
will receive one reward from Allah (swt) and whoever was wrong will get one
reward and be forgiven. Should they not be encouraged to continue to fight
and kill one another in the same way that the companions did?
Afghanistan is a land that has been plagued by Civil War
between Muslim factions? Each party thinks it is right and the other is
wrong and hence should bow to them. Would it be correct to say that they all
are working sincerely for Islam, and hence will be
rewarded, they should continue killing one another
as their actions if wrong will just amount to mistakes in Ijtihad for which
they will get one reward? Can any rational person accept such a thinking?
appeal to rationality
Islam is not a religion of confusion, a religion of truth
clear unequivocal truth it has clear rules and regulations. In the same way
two wrongs don’t make a right how can two parties killing each other both be
right! They are either both wrong, or one Party is wrong and the other is
right. When the Sunni Ulema acknowledge that Ali (as) was right then they
are forced to accept that his opponents were wrong, hence the thinking
espoused by the famous Sunni scholar from the Indian Subcontinent Qazi Thana
who disputed with him were in the wrong, but we should not think ill of any
The Essential Hanafi Hand Book of Fiqh, page 29 the
English Translation of Mala Budda Minhu, by Qazi Thana Ulla - rendered in to
English by Maulana Yusuf Talal Ali Al-Amriki, Kitab Bhavan publishers, India
Apportioning blame to Ali (as)’s opponents is a difficult
pill to swallow, hence the development of the thought that the mistake was a
mistake in Ijtihad religious interpretation for which they would receive one
reward from Allah (swt). It cannot be overstated that this was not a small
mistake in Ijtihad which might not be of much significance, this was a
mistake that lead to social disorder amongst the Muslims, anarchy and
ultimately bloodshed on the battlefield, despite the fact that the Prophet
(s) had warned the companions during his pilgrimage:
not revert to disbelief after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one
Sahih al Bukhari Arabic-English Volume 9 hadith number
will Allah (swt) reward such acts of insurgency? When the
Prophet (s) states that he would punish his daughter if she committed theft,
what of those who propagated insurgency and caused the deaths of thousands
of fellow Muslims, all because they interpreted Islam differently? Would
Allah (swt) hold such individuals accountable for their deeds or would he
reward them? Is it justifiable to conclude that these actions should not be
questioned because the companions committed them? Does Sharia apply to all?
Is there one rule for Muslims and another for the Companions - to the extent
that there is blanket immunity for them?
In England until recently there used to be the law of
‘diplomatic immunity’ whereby ambassadors from foreign lands could not be
charged with any offences due to their positions. Media coverage following
some horrendous behaviour by such individuals created
public outrage the law was repealed and rightly
so, why should the law of the land not extend to such persons? Now think how
would you have felt if rather than punish such personages a clause was added
stating not only are such persons not going to be prosecuted they will
receive an order of merit from the Queen for their actions. Would you
support such thinking?
The Battle of Siffeen took place when Mu’awiya refused to
leave his post as Governor over Syria, following Ali (as)’s appointment as
fourth Khalifa. Despite numerous correspondences to Mu’awiya by the Imam
(as), he refused to wrest his authority, hence the
Imam was forced to wage a war against Mu’awiya and
Now we should ask, what was the Ijtihad used by Mu’waiya
in this case which justified his actions to the extent that the matter had
to be resolved through bloodshed? The Ahl’ul Sunnah scholars state that he
wanted the killers of Uthman to be punished, what
verse of the Qur’an did he interpret which would
justify him to rebel and mount a campaign against the Khalifa if he did not
get his way? What Ijtihad did Mu’awiya use which would justify his
opposition to Ali(as) and hence grant him a reward from Allah (swt)? Despite
this, scholars still try to water the episode down by putting it down to
religious interpretation; Ghazzali symbolises this thinking as follows:
to the struggle between Mu'awiyah and Ali, it was the result of differences
of opinion to discover truth by Ijtihad”
Ihya Ulum-id-din, by Imam Ghazzali, Volume 1 page 143,
English translation by Maulana Fazlul Karim, Publishers Kitab Bhavan, India.
And what a discovery! A journey of discovery inciting
hatred and armed opposition to the Khalifa, resulting in a 110-day battle,
which left the field of Siffeen strewn with corpses? On what ground will
Mu’awiya receive a reward from Allah (swt)? What precisely were these
‘differences’? Let us allow the Wahabie scholar Al Aqqad answer this:
was not a conflict between two individuals but between two systems, which,
on modern phraseology, can be called a conflict between two schools of
thought. In fact, the clash between the system of Caliphate (represented by
Ali) and the scheme of administration (epitomised by Mu’awiya b. Abi Sufyan”
The life of Caliph Ali, by S. Abul Hasan Nadwi, p 187
quoting Al-Abqariyat al-Islamiyah, by Al Aqqad p 892
So essentially Mu’awiya didn’t want to give up his power,
this entitled him to rebel against the leader and plague the Ummah with a
second civil war! And this was all done for the betterment of Islam, for
which Mu’awiyah will be awarded on account of him exercising Ijtihad which
incidentally was a ‘mistake’! Can you really ascribe to such a viewpoint,
explaining Siffeen in terms of a mistake for which no one shall be held
accountable? It is unlikely that the objective person to support this
thinking and yet
we see recognised Sunni scholars like Ibn Khaldun doing
stand taken by Ali in this dispute was undoubtedly correct yet no evil
intention can be attributed to Mu’awiyah also. He was well intentioned but
made a mistake. Thus both groups were justified so far as their motives are
concerned, but a peculiarity of the power is that he should wrest it for
himself alone from others. It was not possible for Mu’awiyah to give up this
peculiarity either for himself or for his people. This was a natural trait
strengthened by one’s own predilections and the support one gets from his
family and tribe”.
The life of Caliph Ali, by S. Abul Hasan Nadwi, p 145
quoting Muqqadimah, by Ibn Khaldun p 162
So Mu’awiya rebelled against Imam Ali (as) due to his
exercise of ijtihad, the ijtihad being he wanted to stay in power, and for
this he will be rewarded! One must ask what benefit did Siffeen have for the
Muslims that will reap reward from Allah (swt)?
concept is an attempt to cover up history
This entire thinking has been developed to maintain
status quo to continue the thought that the Companions are just and they can
never make a mistake for which they will be admonished. The Sunni Ulema are
fully aware that history cannot vouch for this and hence seek to urge their
adherents to blindly accept this as part of their belief.
The Ulema know better and they know that they are seeking
to cover up the truth, this is evident from the comments of the Wahabie
scholar Shaykh Naasir al-’Aql:
noble companions are all trustworthy (‘udool) and they are the best of this
Ummah...It is necessary to withhold from entering into the differences that
befell them and to abandon discussing the matter so as not to belittle their
rank and position”.
The General precepts of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, by
Shaikh Naasir al-’Aql, page 34 - 35 English translation by ‘Abu ‘Aaliyah
Surkheel ibn Anwar Sharif, published by Message of Islam
What we should ask is, if the companions are indeed
trustworthy then what is there to worry about? If they are indeed all
trustworthy then there should be no risk of their rank and position being
diminished via discussion over their disputes. To abandon discussing
something is clear evidence of seeking to cover up something unpleasant. If
there is nothing to hide then why insist on not discussing these matters? If
the companions are indeed the best of generations then we should investigate
both their agreements and disagreements for the sake of learning lessons
from those differences.
Clearly there is a link in the eyes of the Wahabie
scholar between the two, if you discuss the disputes, the high-elevated
position of the companions are called in to question. Does this not seem
somewhat unusual? This is similar to the blind following attributed by
Christians to the Bible. When the contradictions are brought to their
attention, the clergy insist that you should not think about that, rather
you should blindly accept the Book to be the word of God free of errors.
The Roman Catholic Church likewise follow a similar
approach, adherents are taught to blindly believe in the infallibility of
the Papal Church, and are forbidden to think about the transgressions of the
Pope, past and present. Many reverts broke the shackles of such blind
following when they embraced Islam, and yet they are being told to blindly
accept something that does not tally up with history. Does the mind really
feel at ease with such a belief, ‘Do not think or investigate history, do
not even think about them just believe what we say because we are Ulema?’
What is the difference between this approach and that used by the Catholic
This concept is ‘selectively applied’ creating clear contradictions
Curiously this concept only applies to the two battles
waged during the Caliphate of Imam Ali (as)! During the reign of Hadhrath
Abu Bakr, he waged a war against those companions who refused to pat Zakat
to him. The Sunni Ulema have never deemed their actions as mistakes in
On the contrary a very different opinion is put forward.
The late Wahabie scholar Sayyid Abul A’la Maudoodi , in his book
“Murtad ki Saza” (Punishment of the apostate) states that those who did not
pay Zakat became apostates because they rebelled against the Khalifa of the
time. Murtad ki Saza, page 24 – 25 Karachi edition 1954 Curiously when the
companions rebel against Ali (as) and wage war against him the same thinking
is not applied. Faced with this problem the same Maudoodi in his later work
aur Mulukiyat’ Khilfath aur Mulukiyath, by Sayyid Abul
A’la Maudoodi (Caliphate and Monarchy) reflects orthodox Ahl’ul Sunnah
beliefs putting the rebellions down to mistakes in ijtihad by the
A mistake in Ijtihad is a concept that was formulated
specifically to defend those companions who unsheathed their swords against
Ali (as). On the one hand the Ahl'ul Sunnah proudly proclaim the importance
of sticking to the Jamaah and not rebelling against a leader, and to do so
is a major sin, but if the Companions rebel against Ali who to quote the
Wahabie scholar Nadwi “the Ali-i-Sunnat Sect of the Muslims is unanimous
in the view that Ali was lawfully entitled to hold the reigns of caliphate”
The life of Caliph Ali, by S. Abul Hasan Nadwi, p 193, quoting Shah
Waliyullah ‘Izalatul Khifa pages 278-280 it is okay it is a mistake for
which they will be rewarded!
In Sahih al-Bukhari we learn that Abdullah Ibne Umar
dissuades the Ummah from breaking the oath of allegiance to Yazid, basing
his argument on a hadith that such persons will be raised as betrayers on
the Day of Judgement.
Sahih al Bukhari Arabic - English Volume 9 hadith number
Curiously, this hadith is put forward to support Yazid,
the tyrant after the event oh Harra when he ordered his army free reign to
ransack Madina, this lead to the slaughter of the companions and mass rape
of the women folk. Those who turn their back on Khalifa Yazeed shall be
raised as betrayers on the Day of Judgement for breaking the oath of
allegiance; while companions such as Talha and Zubayr who broke the oath of
allegiance administered to ‘Ali (as) and fought him are not rebels but
companions who made mistakes in Ijtihad for which they shall be rewarded.
What is worse, rebelling against Yazid or against Hadhrath ‘Ali (as)? If
those who rebelled against Yazid will be raised as betrayers in the next
world why not those who rebelled against Hadhrath ‘Ali
Is this not a clear contradiction, applying a different
approach to a different scenario? If Mu’awiyah rebels against Hadhrath ‘Ali
it is a mistake in his ijtihad, if Hadhrath Abu Bakr denies the daughter of
the Holy Prophet (s) her inheritance rights in violation of the Qur’an this
is not a mistake in ijtihad, but rather can be put down to ‘minor matters’
and a ‘misunderstanding’.
The life of Caliph Ali, by S. Abul Hasan Nadwi, p 75 &
ibid p 175
What sort of rationale is this? Mistakes in ijtihad are
selectively applied to different scenario’s, they can be applied here but
This type of inconsistent approach is no different to the
different way the West deals with dictatorships. The US for example imposes
sanctions and isolation against Burma for its human rights violations, but
not against China, when Madelaine Albright the,
Secretary of State was asked why this was the case
on one occasion in 1998 she answered unequivocally ‘Different strokes for
different folks’. Do the followers of the companions not follow the same
approach when analysing the wars between the companions?
‘Baghi’ (rebel) can never claim ijtihad as a defence for his actions
The Holy Prophet (s) had told Hadhrath Ali (as):
Ali! Soon a rebellious group will fight against you, you will be on the
truth whoever does not support you on that day will not be from us”
Kanz al Ummal, by Ali Muttaqi al Hind quoting Ibn Asakir,
hadith number 32970
The late Wahaby scholar Sayyid Abu’l Ala Maudoodi in his
‘Tafhim ul Qur’an’ collates the opinions of the Ahl’ul Sunnah Ulema about a
Khumman in Hidaya’s commentary Fathul Kadheer states that the scholars have
declared that a baghi is he who disobeys the rightful Imam. Imam Shaafi in
Kitab ul Umm states ‘Baghi’ is he who fights the Adil Imam. Imam Malik
declared that it is a duty to fight the Adil Imam [al Mudawanna]”
Tafhim ul Qur’an by Sayyid Abu’l Ala Mauddodi, Volume 5
This point needs to be taken into account. In addition
one should also think about this verse of the Qur’an:
you who believe! Obey Allah and his Apostle and those in authority among
This verse provides no room for manoeuvre obedience to
those in authority is on par with obedience to Allah (swt) and the Prophet
(s). This means that disobeying the Leader amounts to disobeying Allah (swt)
and his Prophet (s). The verse is absolutely clear how can anyone interpret
this verse as entitling someone to rebel against a leader. Anyone who does
so is a rebel.
Now the question we ask is these questions:
Under the definitions of Ahl’ul Sunnah his disobedience
of Imam Ali (as) makes him a rebel. If this is not clear enough we also have
the hadith of Rasulullah (s) about Hadhrath Amar bin Yasir (ra).
Umm Salama narrated that Allah's messenger (may peace
be upon him)
said: “A band of rebels would kill Ammar”
Sahih Muslim, English version, v4, chapter MCCV,
Ibn Sa’d also records that the Prophet (s) said to Amar
“You will be killed by a rebellious group”.
Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa’d Volume 3 page 252
Can there be anything more explicit than this hadith?
Amar was martyred during the Battle of Siffeen by the forces of Mu’awiya.
The late Wahaby scholar Maulana Sayyid Abu’l Ala Maudoodi
writes as follows during his commentary of Jihad:
were some companions who were reluctant to participate in Jihad as they were
unsure which party was that of truth and which party was that of falsehood.
After Amar Ibne Yasirs death the matter became clear. It is on this basis
that Abu Bakr bin Jasas writes in Ahkam ul Qur’an, Volume 3 page 492: ‘Ali
ibne Abi Talib (ra) fought a rebellious group accompanying him were
recognised Sahaba who had participated in Badr, they were in the right. The
Prophet told Amar that a ‘baghi group will kill you’ this hadith is
mutawatir and Sahih, so much so that when Abdullah bin Umar bin Aas said
this to Mu’awiya he did not refute it”. Allamah Ibne Abdul Barr in al Istiab
Volume 2 page 424 records the hadith ‘a baghi group will kill Amar, this is
a mutawatir / Sahih tradition. Allamah Hafidh Ibne Hajar in Isaba writes on
Volume 2 page 502 ‘After Amar’s murder it became clear that the truth was
with ‘Ali and on this the Ahl’ul Sunnah became united when previously there
were differing opinions”.
Al Khilfath aur Mulukiyath – by Sayyid Abu’l Ala Maudoodi,
The hadith and verdicts of Ahl’ul Sunnah are quite clear
that Mu’awia and his cronies were rebels. This fact is so clear that
Abdullah ibne Umar regretted until his dying days his decision to steer away
from fighting at Sifeen. Ibn Barr in al Istiab narrates that Un Habeeb ibne
Abi Sabith (ra) heard Abullah ibne Umar say:
regret that I did not join Ali and fight the rebellious group”. Abi Barr bin
Abi Jaham (ra) narrates that he heard Abdullah ibne Umar say “I never
regretted anything in my life other than the fact that I did not fight the
al Istiab, by Ibn Barr Volume 3 page 83
Ibn Sa’d narrates that “Hasan bin Thabit said that
Abdullah ibn Umar stated on his deathbed “The biggest regret I have in my
life is that I did not fight the rebellious group”.
Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa’d Volume 4 page 187
With such clear evidence the verdict of the Qur’an the
Sahaba and the Ahl’ul Sunnah Ulema themselves, those that have sought to
maintain the belief that all the companions should be revered and committed
mistakes in ijtihad falls deeper into the quagmire of contradiction. The
perfect example of contradiction is evident of one analyses the rulings of
the Wahabie scholar Shaykh Naasir al-’Aql whilst setting out the creed of
the Ahl’ul Sunna wa al Jamaah. He proudly proclaims in the preface:
are called the Jamaa’ah because they are the ones who gather upon the truth
and do not split-up in their Religion; they gather upon the legitimate
rulers and do not rebel against them; and they follow the consensus (ijma’)
of the Pious Predecessors of this ummah”.
The General precepts of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, by
Shaikh Naasir al-’Aql, page 12 English translation by ‘Abu ‘Aaliyah Surkheel
ibn Anwar Sharif, published by Message of Islam
Perhaps the Shaykh should also answer this question ‘was
Imam Ali (as) a legitimate ruler?’ Clearly he was, he is deemed the fourth
rightly guided Khalifa in the eyes of Ahl ul Sunna. To rebel against the
legitimate leader according to Al’ Aql takes you out of the jamaa’ah. Did
prominent companions not break ranks and rebel against Imam Ali?
Al’ Aql illuminates this delicate issue yet further:
is not permissible to revolt against the Muslim ruler except in cases where
he manifests clear unbelief (kufr buwaah), for which there is decisive proof
from Allah concerning it”.
ibid, page 34 English translation by ‘Abu ‘Aaliyah
Surkheel ibn Anwar Sharif, published by Message of Islam
Perhaps Al ‘Aql should also shed light on whether the
companions followed this example, after all according to the Wahabies
guidance is by adhering to their way. Did Imam ‘Ali (Allah forbid) display
any signs of clear unbelief that justified revolt? No Muslim would have the
audacity to state this, so on what basis did the companions feel justified
to rebel against Imam ‘Ali. When Al ‘Aql makes this ruling to legitimise his
paymasters the Saud family then it should be applied in all circumstances.
He makes it clear rebellion is not permissible does this ruling not apply to
the companions who rebelled against Imam ‘Ali (as) or does it refer to
everyone accept those who fought Imam ‘Ali (as)?
Al ‘Aql is a learned man who is fully aware about the
rebellions against Imam ‘Ali and the fact that this is in contradiction to
what he stipulates as the way of the Ahl’ul Sunna. Rather than raise doubts
about the companions he then proceeds to completely
rewrite history, stating:
Khawaarji were the first people to split from the ummah with the sword and
split from the Jamaa’ah of the Muslims and its leader”.
ibid page 44
This is a remarkable revision of history since the first
group to split from the Jamaa’ah and raised their swords against the Leader
were not the Khawaarji. Has the ‘learned scholar’ had amnesia as to the
previous two battles against Imam ‘Ali? This being an undeniable fact then
why is Al-Aql seeking to deny history? This is because it is necessary to
define these battles as ‘differences’ rather than ‘splitting’ so as to
maintain the belief that the companions had exercised ijtihad when breaking
ranks with Imam ‘Ali (as) and fighting him. If al-Aql were in fact to apply
the verdicts written from his own pen; to the letter - the entire house of
‘ijtihad of the companions’ built by him and his predecessors will fall
down. The Arabic for splitting is ‘iftiraaq’
and is defined by Al Aql as:
which is disunity, separation, cutting off. It is also derived from the term
divergence and aberration. From it comes (the expression): Departure from
the fundamental, or from the united body”.
ibid page 42
Now that Al Aql has defined splitting let us delve
further into its significance:
Ahlu-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah in any of the fundamental precepts of belief (‘aqeedah)
is deemed as splitting (iftiraaq) and separating from the Jamaa’ah…and
opposing the united body of Muslims and their leader, in what is from the
(issues of) welfare
is deemed as splitting and separating from the Jammah”.
ibid page 43
So opposing any of the fundamental beliefs of the Ahl’ul
Sunnah constitutes splitting from the Jamaa’ah. One of those fundamental
beliefs stated by Al Aql here and earlier (see footnote 27) is that it is
not permissible to rise up against your Leaders. Taking this to its logical
conclusion if anyone breaches this, they have broken a fundamental precept
of the belief of Ahlu-Sunnah and have therefore split from the Jamaa’ah.
Applying Al-Aql’s own definition of splitting, the very
first people to split and draw swords against their Leader were the
prominent companions such as Talha, Zubayr and Hadhrath Ayesha at Jamal.
Thereafter Mu’awiya did likewise at Siffeen. The Khawaarij in rebelling and
raising their swords against Hadhrath Ali (as) were hence only following the
precedents established by the companions.
Do these actions not therefore suggest that the path of
the Salaf (pious predecessors) is not to remain in the ranks of the majority
but is in fact to break from it, rebel and fight the legitimate ruler? Those
who rebelled against ‘Ali (as) cannot be defined as the earliest examples of
Ahl’ul Sunnah since they split from the Jamaah and fought the Rightly Guided
Khalifa. They acted in opposition to what ‘Al Aql states is the way of the
Why does Al-Aql not wish to apply splitting to the first
two groups? To do so will mean that he will be unable to maintain the
assertion that the companions had made mistakes in ijtihad. This is because
Al-Aql himself states that:
is never due to ijtihad and good intentions and its proponent is never
rewarded, rather he is censured and sinful in all cases. Therefore splitting
does not occur except due to innovations, or following whims and desires, or
due to the blameworthy type of imitation (taqleed madhmoom)”.
ibid page 47
What more can we say? If one objectively goes through al-Aql’s
verdicts it is evident that the companions were indeed guilty of splitting
from the Jamaa’ah. As he comments, splitting is a sin and will not be
rewarded, the defence of ijtihad can never be raised. If as al-Aql states
you can never raise a defence of ijtihad when splitting from the aqeedah of
Ahl’ul Sunnah - rebelling against a Leader being one such tenet, on what
basis do the Ahl’ul Sunnah scholars maintain that the actions of the
companions in splitting from the Imam, rebelling against him and fighting
him were mistakes in ijtihad for which they will be rewarded? Is this not a
contradiction in belief?
Perhaps the Wahabies should answer each one of these
questions in the following order:
1. Can you split from your Leader?
2. Does rebelling against a Leader constitute splitting
from the Jamaa’ah?
3. Can you justify splitting from the Leader by relying
on Ijtihad for which you will be rewarded?
4. Where does that leave the companions who split and
fought battles against Hadhrath Ali (as)?
The first three questions will automatically be a
resounding ‘No’. Once the fourth question is posed one will automatically
witness confusion appear on their faces followed by an explanation of
mistakes in ijtihad, an explanation that curiously contradicts
/ negates the first three answers. It is at that
point that the rational minded person will be able to conclude the obvious
contradiction that dogs this concept.
Rising against Ahl’ul bayt can never be deemed a mistake in ijtihad
The Prophet (s) had made an explicit instruction during
the farewell pilgrimage, namely “I am leaving you two weighty things, if
you follow them you will never go astray, they are the Qur’an and my
Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, page 662-663
This meant that in all circumstances it was incumbent
upon Muslims to attach themselves to the Family of the Prophet (s). At no
point did he (s) ever say that it would be permissible to fight them, at no
time did he state those that fought them would be rewarded because they
exercised ijtihad. On the contrary, Hadhrath ‘Abu Bakr narrates:
saw the Messenger of God pitch a tent in which he placed 'Ali, Fatima, Hasan,
and Husayn. He then declared: 'O Muslims, I am at war against anyone who
wars against the people of this tent, and am at peace with those who show
peace toward them. I am a friend to those who befriend them. He who shows
love toward them shall be one of a happy ancestry and good birth. Nor would
anyone hate them except that he be of miserable ancestry and evil birth”.
Abu Ja'far Ahmad al-Muhibb al-Tabari, Al-Riyad al-nadira
(Cairo, n.d.), Volume 2, page 199
Is there anything more explicit than this instruction?
Those who fight them are fighting the Prophet (s). Can fighting the Prophet
(s) ever be deemed as a mistake in ijtihad for which the perpetrators will
be rewarded? By Hadhrath ‘Abu Bakr’s own admission
fighting the Ahlul’bayt is on par with fighting
the Prophet (s) so how can ijtihad be used as a defence for those that
fought Hadhrath ‘Ali (as)?
There are adherents of the Wahaby / Nawasib school of
thought that may seek to place the onus on Hadhrath Ali (as) by alleging
that he initiated the war, and hence his opponents were not at war against
him per se, rather they were defending themselves. To this our reply is
clear, whoever takes a stand against Hadhrath Ali (as) is taking a stand
against the Prophet (s). If Imam Ali (as) declares war on a group the
Prophet (s) is likewise at war with such individuals, there is no room to
excuse their behaviour on account of mistaken ijtihad.
In this there is no doubt, the Prophet (s) made this
point absolutely clear with these words, as narrated by Zaid bin Arqam:
Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said regarding ‘Ali,
Fatima, Hasan and Husain (Allah be pleased with them all): I am at peace
with those with whom you make peace and I am at war with those whom you make
Sunan Ibn-I-Majah, English translation by Muhammad Tufail
Ansari, Volume 1 page 81
Sahaba never proclaimed that they had made mistakes in ijtihad
This is a very interesting point. There exists no annals
in history in which any Sahaba who fought Imam Ali (as) declared that they
had exercised ijtihad that was wrong but they will be rewarded for it. This
has only been formulated by their advocates. Remember, an advocate in law
can only prepare e defence for an individual on the basis of legislative
tools, he is not free to present a defence outside that. The legal stautes
in Islamic Jurisprudence are the Qur’an Sunnah and as we have conclusively
proven in this article there exists no evidence in these to support the
defence that individuals can rebel against a Leader claiming immunity on
grounds of ijtihad. If the companions never declared this, on what basis
have the Sunni Ulema done so? On the contrary
their damning confessions prove clearly that they
did not believe that Allah (swt) would forgive them.
Alhamdolillah, there is no such confusion for the Shi’a.
We believe firmly in Justice, and that no one is beyond reproach of the law.
The fact that individuals saw the Prophet (s) does not therefore provide
them with any immunity with regards to their future conduct. Why should
actions of personalities whose conduct violated the Qur’an and Sunnah and
caused fitnah in the Ummah be explained in terms of mistakes for which they
shall be rewarded?
There is no evidence of such protection in the Qur’an and
we find hadith that confirm that the companions will make changes and be
punished accordingly. This is what we read Sahih al-Bukhari:
men from my companions will come to my Lake-Fount and they will be driven
away from it, and I will say, 'O Lord, my companions!' It will be said, 'You
have no knowledge of what they innovated after you left: they turned
apostate as renegades (reverted from true Islam)”.
Sahih al Bukhari English-Arabic edition Volume 8 hadith
This is an authentic hadith confirming that some of the
companions will become apostates, where does that leave the belief that all
the companions are just and trustworthy?
There is no doubt that the companions deserve respect
having sat in the presence of the Prophet (s). It is however sad that when
we see history and the tragic events that took place, the Ahl’ul Sunnah
scholars assert that such individuals should be forgiven for their mistakes
on account of whom they are and not according to what they did!
The Book of God is the guiding principle for us and yet
scholars have abandoned its applicability when faced with the actions of the
companions. Ibne Jauzi was indeed correct when he wrote:
people blindly follow their leaders, which is absolutely wrong, because we
should follow the principle not the leader. When Harith bin Hauta asked
Hadhrath Ali whether Talha and Zubayr could be in the wrong he replied
‘Harith you have been deceived, remember the truth is not recognised through
people, rather people are recognised by the truth”
Talbees ul Iblees, by Ibn Jauzi