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There have been many eras that have passed upon the Muslim Ummah. In some of these eras the Ummah held fast onto the correct sound aqidah, and in others this attachment weakened, and some from the Ummah held fast to it, whilst others deviated from it. In this series we will take a look at the period in which the Ummah held fast to the sound aqidah, and the factors and causes that led to the change in this situation, bringing about differing, splitting, disunity and the emergence of multiple sects and groups each claiming to represent the true Islamic aqidah and the Tawhid of the Messengers.
The Era of the Messengership, the Companions
During this era, the Islamic aqidah was pristine and pure, it was pure in the hearts of the Believers (the Companions), there were no blemishes or anything mixed with it. The Messenger (alayhis salaam) did not depart to the Higher Companionship except after he had conveyed the message, and had fulfilled the trust, and had given sincere advice to the Ummah. Allaah the Most High testified that He had indeed completed and perfected the deen of Islaam (and all what it contains of aqaa'id, ibaadaat, ahkaam), so He said:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا
This day have I perfected for you your religion, have completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.
And Allaah ordered His Prophet (alayhis salaam) to convey from Allaah, Allaah's religion, so Allaah said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
O Messenger! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His Message. Allaah will protect you from mankind. Verily, Allaah guides not the people who disbelieve. (Al-Ma'idah 5:67)
Thus, the Messenger (alayhis salaam) conveyed it, just as he had been commanded. He conveyed the entire religion in both aqeedah (beliefs) and sharee'ah (rulings). And the Companions (radiallaahu anhum) who were characterized with amaanah (trustworthiness), they acquired this deen as it was being revealed, right to its completion.
In the two Saheehs of al-Bukhari and Muslim there is the hadeeth of Hudhayfah bin al-Yamaan (radiallaahu anhu):
حدثنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حديثين قد رأيت أحدهما وأنا انتظر الآخر حدثنا أن الأمانة نزلت في جذر قلوب الرجال ثم نزل القرآن فعلموا من القرآن وعلموا من السنة ثم حدثنا عن رفع الأمانة فقال ينام الرجل النومة فتقبض الأمانة من قلبه
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) foretold to us two ahaadeeth. I have seen one (being fulfilled), and I am waiting for the other. He told us that the amaanah (quality of trustworthiness and fulfilling trusts) descended in the innermost (root) of the hearts of men. Then the Qur'an was revealed and they learnt from the Quran and they learned from the Sunnah. Then he told us about the removal of amaanah. He said, "The man would have some sleep, and Amanah would be taken away from his heart..."
So here trustworthiness (amaanah) was found in the hearts of the people first and upon this quality did they acquire the Qur'an and the Sunnah (i.e. the religion with all its beliefs, deeds and injunctions). They affirmed all of what was revealed in beliefs, sayings and actions and acted upon all of that and whatever it contained of Tawhid, eeemaan, the righteous actions, and the rulings.
This religion, at that time, was a sound, authentic and complete manhaj (methodology) which did not admit to any additions or deletions. And the affair continued upon this way, upon this Straight Path, and it was traversed by the Righteous Salaf, who are the Companions, and their successors, then their successors. This was the aqidah, this was the deen and the Eemaan that raised these people, who are the best of people to have walked the earth, after the Prophets and Messengers.
It Was the Islamic aqidah That United the Companions
In the days of Jaahiliyyah there was much corruption in terms belief, morals and likewise in economic, social and political conditions. The Arabs were divided, with tribes constantly waging wars over insignificant matters. They were idol-worshippers, and would worship the righteous dead. They were split in their religion (of Shirk). The strong would consume the weak. The birth of females was seen as a disgrace. Women would sleep with many men, as a result of which the geneologies of those born would become obscure. Men would inherit the wives of their fathers. They proceeeded upon their affairs with great superstition and believed in omens and the likes, held strong beliefs in the magicians, soothsayers and the likes. Although there is a great deal more that can be said this should be enough to give an insight into the type of society that was present - one that was far, far away from the traces and remnants of Prophethood and Messengership, and was on the verge of destruction.
And he was not ordered to first unite the Arabs into a single mass, nor to call to "social justice", nor to struggle for the rights of women, nor to call for economic equality and justice, nor to to become involved in the politics of the tribes in order to unite them, and nor did he begin with the legislative rulings. Rather, he began with that which truly united and cemented their hearts, which was the pristine, pure aqidah.
And Allaah, the Most High, recounted this to the Companions, when He said:
وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاء فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىَ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allaah and be not divided among yourselves. And remember Allýh's Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allaah makes His signs clear to you, that you may be guided. (Aali Imran 3:103)
So just as He united their hearts together (upon the Islamic aqidah), He also commanded them to remain united upon that by holding fast to His rope, which is the deen of Islaam, and the Islamic aqidah - and this command extends to the rest of the Ummah.
The Obligation to Follow the Companions
And in the Book of Allaah, and in the Sunnah there are numerous evidences, that the Scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah utilize as proof for the obligation to remain steadfast upon that which the Companions were upon and not to depart from it. And from these texts:
The saying of Allaah, the Most High:
وَمَن يُشَاقِقِ الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الْهُدَى وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّى وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ وَسَاءتْ مَصِيرًا
And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way, we shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell - what an evil destination. (An-Nisa 4:115)
And the Scholar's, amongst them Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee (d. 204) have explained that this verse is a proof to follow the ijmaa' of the Companions. As Allaah, in addition to mentioning contradictind and opposing the Messenger (alayhis salaam), He added, (وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ), "... and follows a path other than the believer's way...", and this way is explained in other verses and ahaadeeth, as being that which the Companions were upon in their fahm (understanding) and implementation of the religion.
Also the saying of Allaah, the Most High:
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
And the first (to embrace Islaam) of the Muhaajiroon (those who migrated from Makkah to al-Madinah) and the Ansaar (the citizens of al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhaajiroon) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith) [thereafter]. Allaah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success. (At-Tawbah 9:100)
So in this verse, Allaah mentioned, those who followed the Muhaajireen and the Ansaar upon Ihsaan (goodness), which means the Eemaan and the deen, and ash-Shawkaanee explains in Fath ul-Qadeer (2/398), that this refers to "...those Companions who came after them (the Muhaajireen and the Ansaar) and whoever came after them right until the Day of Judgement."
And also the saying of Allaah, the Most High:
وَالَّذِينَ جَاؤُوا مِن بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلًّا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
And those who came after them say: "Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in faith (Eemaan), and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful. (Al-Hashr 59:10)
And those being referred to here are the Companions (radiallaahu anhum) who preceded the whole Ummah in faith (Eemaan) which is the Islamic aqidah and what follows on from it of speech and action. In this verse is a praise of those who come after the Companions, recognize the virtue of the Companions and their precedence in faith, make supplication for them, and they do not harbour any ill-will or hatred towards the Companions. And this is in indication of the obligation to follow the Companions in their Eemaan (faith), which is the Islamic aqidah and whatever follows on from it of speech and action.
And also the saying of Allaah, the Most High:
فَإِنْ آمَنُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُم بِهِ فَقَدِ اهْتَدَواْ وَّإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَإِنَّمَا هُمْ فِي شِقَاقٍ فَسَيَكْفِيكَهُمُ اللّهُ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
So if they believe with the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allaah will suffice you against them. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. Al-Baqarah (2):137
Although this verse was revealed in relation to the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), there is an accepted and agreed upon principle in tafseer amongst the Scholars of tafseer that the meanings of the verses are not restricted to their specific causes of revelation, but also carry the general meaning afforded by their wording. This verse constitutes a proof that only those are guided who believe with that specific belief of the Companions, because in this verse Allaah stated, (فَإِنْ آمَنُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُم بِهِ), "If they believe with the like of what you (i.e. the Prophet and His Companions) believe...", the pronoun is in the 2nd person plural, which indicates the Prophet and his Companions. For this reason, those who depart from the belief (aqidah and eemaan) of the Companions, then they are not rightly guided and are in opposition.
Then what occurs in the Sunnah, from the hadeeth of Imraan bin Hussain, that the Prophet (alayhis salaam) said:
خير الناس قرني ثم الذين يلونهم ثم الذين يلونهم ثم الذين يلونهم
The best of people is my generation, then those that follow them, then those that follow them.
And al-Bukhaaree narrates the hadeeth of Abu Burdah al-Aslamee that the Prophet (alayhis salaam) said:
خير هذه الأمة القرن الذي بعثت فيهم ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم الذين يلونهم ؛ ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم يكون فيهم قوم تسبق شهادتهم أيمانهم وأيمانهم شهادتهم
The best of this Ummah is the generation to which I have been sent. Then those who come after them, then those who come after them, then those who come after them. Then there will come a people whose witness precedes their oaths, or their oaths precede their witness.
And in the hasan hadeeth narrated by at-Tirmidhee:
وتفترق أمتي على ثلاث وسبعين فرقة ، كلها في النار إلا واحدة " فقيل له : ما الواحدة ؟ قال : " ما أنا عليه اليوم وأصحابي
And my ummah will split into seventy-three sects, all of them in the Fire except for one. So it was said to him, "What is this one?". He said: That which I am and my Companions are upon today.
And Abdullaah bin Mas'ood narrates, as reported by Ahmad, an-Nasaa'ee and others:
خط لنا رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - خطا فقال: هذا سبيل الله، ثم خط خطوطا عن يمينه وعن شماله ثم قال: هذه سُبل متفرقة، على كل سبيل منها شيطان يدعو إليه، ثم تلا وَأَنَّ هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ
The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) drew for us a line (in the sand), and then said: "This is the path of Allaah", then he drew lines to the right and to the left, and then said: "These are different ways, upon each of these is a devil calling to it." Then he recited:
This hadeeth, in light of the previous ones, proves and shows that the Companions were the ones who were not upon any path except that which the Prophet (alayhis salaam) came with, and they were the ones who were sound and safe in their religion, the foundation of which is the aqidah, and were the united jamaa'ah.
Warning Against Innovation and Its People
The Prophet (alayhis salaam), after informing about the splitting of the Ummah, cautioned against the underlying causes and reasons for that, from the greatest of them being inovations into the religion. For this reason, there is found an abundance of warnings in the Prophetic Sunnah in this regard, and from them, for the sake of brevity:
The famous hadeeth of al-Irbaad bin Saariyah (radiallaahu anhu) in which he narrates from the Prophet (alayhis salaam):
أوصيكم بتقوى الله والسمع والطاعة وإن عبدا حبشيا فإنه من يعش منكم بعدي فسيرى اختلافا كثيرا فعليكم بسنتي وسنة الخلفاء المهديين الراشدين تمسكوا بها وعضوا عليها بالنواجذ وإياكم ومحدثات الأمور فإن كل محدثة بدعة وكل بدعة ضلالة
I advise you with the taqwaa of Allaah, and to hear and obey (your leader), even if he is an Abysinnian slave. For verily, whoever amongst you lives for long after me will see great differences. So upon you is to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my rightly-guided successors (caliphs). Hold fast to it (the Sunnah) and bite onto it with your molar-teeth. And beware of the newly-invented matters, for every newly-invented matter is misguidance.
The hadeeth of Aa'ishah (radiallaahu anhaa) related by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim, that the Prophet (alayhis salaam) said:
من أحدث في أمرنا هذا ما ليس منه فهو رد
Whoever introduced into this affair of ours (i.e. Islaam), that which is not from it, will have it rejected.
And also from Aa'ishah (radiallaahu anhaa) as related by Muslim, that the Prophet (alayhis salaam) said:
من عمل عملاً ليس عليه أمرنا فهو رد
Whoever does an action which our affair is not in agreement with, will have it rejected.
And then this matter became known and established with the Companions (radiallaahu anhum) and those following in their way:
Ibn Abbaas (d. 68H) said: "Indeed the most detestable of things to Allaah are the innovations." Reported by al-Bayhaqee in as-Sunan al-Kubraa (4/316). Al-Hasan al-Basree (d. 110H) said: "Do not sit with the people of innovation and desires, nor argue with them, nor listen to them." Reported by al-Laalikaa'ee in Sharh Usool ul-I'tiqaad (no.267). Al-Fudayl bin 'Iyaad (d. 187H) said: "I met the best of people, all of them people of the Sunnah and they used to forbid from accompanying the people of innovation." Reported by al-Laalikaa'ee in Sharh Usool ul-Iýtiqaad (no.267). Ibraaheem bin Maysarah (d.132H) said: "Whoever honours an innovator has aided in the destruction of Islam." Reported by al-Laalikaa'ee (1/139). Sufyaan ath-Thawree (d. 161H) said: "Whoever listens to an innovator has left the protection of Allaah and is entrusted with the innovation." Reported by Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilyah (7/26) and Ibn Battah (no.444). Imaam Maalik (d. 179H) said: "How evil are the people of innovation, we do not give them salaam." Reported by al-Baghawee in Sharh us-Sunnah (1/234).
Ath-Thaabit bin al-Ajlaan said, as occurs in Sharh Usool ul-I'tiqaad of al-Laalikaa'ee (no.239):
I met Anas bin Maalik, Ibn al-Musayyab, al-Hasan al-Basree, Sa'eed bin Jubair, ash-Sha'bee, Ibraaheem an-Nakha'ee, Ataa' bin Abee Riyaah, Taawoos, Mujaahid, Abdullaah bin Abee Mulaikah, az-Zuhree, Makhool, al-Qaasim Abu Abdur-Rahmaan, Ataa' al-Khurasaanee, Thaabit al-Banaanee, al-Hakam bin Utbah, Ayyoob as-Sakhtiyaanee, Hammaad bin Muhammad bin Seereen, Abu Aamir - and he had actually met Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq - Yazeed ar-Riqaashee, and Sulaimaan bin Moosaa, all of them were ordering me [to hold on to] the Jamaa'ah and forbidding me from the the People of Desires (i.e Innovations).
أصول السنة عندنا: التمسك بما كان عليه أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم - والاقتداء بهم، وترك البدع وكل بدعة فهي ضلالة، وترك الخصومات والجلوس مع أصحاب الأهواء
The foundational principles of the Sunnah with us are: Holding fast to what the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah were upon. Taking them [and their way] as a model to be followed. The abandonment of innovations, and every innovation is misguidance. The abandonment of controversies and the abandonment of sitting with the people of ahwaa (desires).
والأساس الذي تبنى عليه الجماعة، هم أصحاب محمد -صلى الله عليه وسلم- ورحمهم الله أجمعين، وهم أهل السنة والجماعة، فمن لم يأخذ عنهم، فقد ضل وابتدع، وكل بدعة ضلالة، والضلالة وأهلها في النار
And the foundation upon which the Jamaa'ah (united body of Muslims) is built, is the Companions of Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and may Allaah have mercy upon them all, they are Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah. So whoever does not take from them, then he is strayed and innovated, and every innovation is misguidance, and misguidance and its people are in the Hellfire.
These are just a sample of the texts relating to this subject which indicate that the deen of Islaam was pristine and pure and the Companions adhered firmly to it, and because of this, they were given strength, victory, authority, honour and might, to such a level that they conquered the East and the West. And it was nothing but the sound pristine aqidah and Eemaan they upheld that resulted in this. These texts also illustrate how the Companions and their followers understood what was contained in the Prophetic Sunnah of warning against innovation and its people and their role in corroding Islam and splitting the Ummah and plundering its unity, and breaking the handholds of Eemaan (faith).
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