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 companions.


No 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 the following incident recorded in books of hadith:


A 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 her hand”.


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.



The 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:


We 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


Is 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?


Why 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:


Beware! 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:


And 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?


An 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 Ullah Panee Puthee:


Those who disputed with him were in the wrong, but we should not think ill of any Sahaba”.

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:

Do not revert to disbelief after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another”

Sahih al Bukhari Arabic-English Volume 9 hadith number 198


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 his adherents.


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:


As 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:


It 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 precisely that:


The 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)?


The 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:


The 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 hierarchy?


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 Ijtihad.


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 ‘Khilafath 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 companions.


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 127)


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 (as)?


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 not here!


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?



A ‘Baghi’ (rebel) can never claim ijtihad as a defence for his actions


The Holy Prophet (s) had told Hadhrath Ali (as):


O 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 ‘baghi’.

He writes:


Ibne 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 page 80


This point needs to be taken into account. In addition one should also think about this verse of the Qur’an:


O you who believe! Obey Allah and his Apostle and those in authority among you”.


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:


  • Does Imam Ali (as) not come within this verse?


  • Was he not ‘those in authority’?


  • Is he not the fourth rightly guided khalifa?


  • Did Mu’awiya obey him?



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, Tradition #6970


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:


There 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, pages 136-138


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:

I 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 rebels”.

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:


They 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:


It 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:


“…the 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:


“…Fragmentation, 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:


“…opposing 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 Jamaa’ah.


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:


Splitting 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 Ahlul'bayt”.

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:


I 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:


Allah’s 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 war”

Sunan Ibn-I-Majah, English translation by Muhammad Tufail Ansari, Volume 1 page 81


The 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.


The Shi’a viewpoint


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:


Some 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 number 586


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:


Some 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




 "WHOEVER I AM HIS MASTER, ALI IS HIS MASTER. O God! Love those who love him. Be hostile to those who are hostile to him. Hate those who hate him. Help those who help him. And keep the truth with him wherever he turns." (repeating this paragraph three times). 


وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ {41:18}

But We delivered those who believed and practised righteousness


Sahaba According To Bukhari
 Ijtihad and the Companions
Ijtihad Against The Texts

Copyright ©2011
All rights reserved

وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ     اللهم صلى على محد و ال محد.... و عجل فرجهم