What It Means to Follow the Way of the Companions
Jamaal ud-Deen Zarabozo
The Friday Prayer: Part III
In numerous places in
the Qur'aan, Allaah praises and shows His pleasure for the Companions of the
Prophet (Saw) and also for those who follow in their footsteps. For
example, Allaah says,
"And the first to embrace Islaam of the
Muhaajirun and the Ansaar and also those who followed them exactly (in faith)!
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, 100)
following verse of the Qur'aan was first and foremost directed to the Companions
of the Prophet (saw);
"You are the best of peoples ever raised
for mankind, you enjoin good and forbid evil, and you believe in Allaah" (al-'Imraan, 110)
In addition there are
numerous hadith in which the Prophet (saw) told us about the special place and
superiority of his Companions, and also of those who came after them. Imraan ibn
Hussain narrated that the Prophet (saw) said,
people are my generation, then the people who come after them, then the people
who come after them"
(al-Bukhaari, and Muslim).
In another very
important hadith, the Prophet (Saw) said,
tribes of Israel broke up into seventy-two sects. My ummah shall break up
into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except for one:
[That group] which follows what I and my Companions are following." (at-Tirmidhi)
The behaviour and
actions of the Companions of the Prophet (ra) were witnessed by the Prophet
(saw) himself and approved by him. This means that their behaviour was
also approved by Allaah as it is an accepted principle that the Prophet (Saw) is
not allowed to approve of something which is essentially wrong.
These verses and these
hadith - as well as many others - demonstrate to us that the Companions were on
the Straight Path. This is, in fact, the only true path as the hadith
concerning the dividing into sects demonstrates. Indeed, Allaah makes it
clear that the path to Him is only one when He says:
"And verily this is My Straight Path, so
follow it, and follow not other paths, for they will separate you away from His
Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious".
Ibn Mas'ud stated that
the Prophet (saw) drew a straight line with other lines to the left and right of
it. He stated that the straight line was the Straight Path and upon all
other lines were Satans calling the people to those paths. Then he recited
the above verse from Surah al-Anaam.
Therefore, we should
look to the Companions and the others of the first three generations - those who
followed in their footsteps and who learned directly from them -- and we should
try to emulate them as we know that their lives were pleasing to Allaah.
However, in what matters
should we emulate them? In matters of the deen, in matters related to
following the Straight Path. And what is the deen? It is one's
matters of belief, one's matter of law, one's matter of behaviour and ethics --
all of these form part of the deen and all are essential aspects of the deen.
We should look to the
Companions and try to learn from them and be like them. But not just with
respect to matters of 'aqeedah or beliefs - as some people today seem to think.
It is true that aqeedah or faith is the foundation of life - but there is no
such thing as 'aqeedah by itself without it being translated into actions and
There are many people
nowadays who are stressing that we have to follow the way of the pious
forefathers or the salaf in Islaam. They talk, in particular, about
matters of 'aqeedah. However, following in their footsteps is not simply a
matter of believing some articles of faith and being able to repeat them like a
parrot! So many people can rattle off the principles related to the
names and attributes of Allaah but that does not necessarily make them true
followers of the way of our pious forefathers.
Many times when it comes
to behaviour and ethics, the same people who are "calling to the way of the
Salaf" seem to forget that we have to follow their example in these areas as
well. It does not make any sense - in fact, it is not possible - that we
have the same beliefs as our Salaf but our actions are quite to the contrary.
This means that we don't have their beliefs at all. If we had their
beliefs, they would be represented in our actions. It is inconceivable
that we call ourselves followers of those pious people yet our behaviour is not
like their behaviour whatsoever. How can we truly call ourselves their
followers when we lie, cheat, don't mind to live off of other people, spread
false rumours about each other, are not willing to sacrifice for the sake of
Allaah, and so forth. Indeed, some who claim to be following those pious
individuals are actually the furthest away in their behaviour from the pattern
and example that those pious souls set.
In this khutbah - after
making the above point and advising us all to follow the way of the Prophet
(saw) and his Companions in order to be among the saved sect - I would like to
remind us of some of the behaviours and characteristics of those early
generations. In this way, we can take a good look at their lives and we
can also look at our own lives and behaviour, and truly ask ourselves if we are
actually following their example and having their deen which was so pleasing to
One of their
characteristics that we can note in their speech and action is that they would
weight every action according to the scales of the shariah.
We can see clear
examples of how Abu Bakr and Umar would not take any action until they were
certain that such an action was correct according to the Shariah. We
must be cautious and not tread into doubtful matters - which was another one of
the beautiful and noble characteristics. Many times we do things without
first asking or searching to make sure those things are lawful and pleasing to
Allaah. After we actually engage in the act, we may then ask, "Is this act
halaal or haraam?" It is one of the characteristics of the Salaf
that they would ask this question before acting.
Second, they used to
remember and think a lot about death. This remembrance of death would have
a strong effect on their actions and their attachment to this world. The
Prophet (saw) advised them to remember death often -- the thing that brings an
end to the pleasures of this world. They implemented this teaching of the
Thabit once said, "Whenever we attended a funeral, we would be crying".
We can see from other reports of the same nature that they were not actually
crying for the deceased. Instead, they were crying for themselves.
They realized that they would also have to face that same day in which their
deeds would come to an end. They would think to themselves: Are we
prepared for that day when the two angels will come and question us? Are
we prepared for that day when our deeds will come to an end and there will be no
more opportunity to repent from our sins??
How often do we who
claim to be following in their footsteps remember death. Do we every cry
when thinking about that day in which our deeds will be sealed and the angels
will come to question us? If we are truly following their way, we must
remember death often and this remembrance should have a profound effect on us.
This is all part of following the way of the Companions.
A third characteristic
that we find about them is that they were very forgiving to those who did them
wrong in any way. They implemented Allaah's description
"[Those] who repress anger and who pardon
men, verily Allaah loves the good-doers"
They would forgive
people in hopes that Allaah would forgive them. Recompense comes in a form
similar to the deed that is being recompensed. Hence, those who are
forgiving to others for the sake of Allaah, Allaah willing, may look forward to
Allaah treating them in the same way. How many of us today possess that
characteristic? On the other hand, how many of us hold a grudge forever
and are never willing to forgive some wrong that may have been done to us many
characteristic was the great respect that they had for the honour of other
Muslims and how they always desired good for their brethren Muslim. The
Prophet (saw) explicitly told them,
Muslim is inviolable to another Muslim - his blood, his wealth and his honour"
Abu Bakr once said, "Do not belittle any Muslim for the most insignificant
Muslim is great in the eyes of Allaah". 'Umar ibn al-Khattab
declared that to save a life of a Muslim was more important to him than all of
the lands of Iraaq. In fact, the Prophet (saw) said,
killing of a believer is greater in Allaah's sight than the perishing of this
world." (an-Nasai, sahih,
al-Albaani in Sahih al-Jaami' as-Sagheer, vol.2, p.804, hadith no. 4361)
That has happened to
this beautiful characteristic of our Salaf. Do we treat each other with
the respect and honour that they used to treat each other? Nowadays it is
not uncommon to see Muslims cheating other Muslims. It is not uncommon to
see Muslims breaking their promises to other Muslims. Indeed we can even
see Muslims killing one another.
In fact, nowadays, it is
not uncommon to see Muslims treat, honour and respect non-Muslims in a much
better fashion that they treat their own brethren Muslims. As long as we
behave in this manner, we cannot possibly claim to be following in the footsteps
of our pious predecessors.
Another very important
aspect of their lives was their continued performance of the late night prayers,
known as the tahajjud prayers. We know the place of those prayers in the
Qur'aan. For example, Allaah says:
"Verily, the pious will be in the midst
of Gardens and Springs (in Paradise), taking joy in the things which their Lord
has given them. Verily, there were before this doers of good. They
used to sleep but little at night (invoking their Lord and praying) and in the
hours before dawn, they were found asking (Allaah) for forgiveness" (al-Dhaariyat 15-18)
The Prophet (saw) also
said about the late-night prayers
the late-night prayers for it [their performance] was the custom of the pious
people before you; it is also a means of getting closer to your Lord; it wipes
away your evil deeds; and it keeps one from committing sins". (Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, Al-Haakim and others, sahih,
see Sahih al-Jaami' as-Sagheer, vol.2, p. 752, hadith no. 4079)
The performance of this
prayer was something very dear to our pious predecessors. They would not
be happy when they missed its performance. In addition, they understood
the cause of their missing it. al-Hasan al-Basri said, "No one leaves the night prayer except due to a sin that he
performed". On another occasion he said, "The late night prayer is only heavy upon a person who is
weighed down by sins".
In our desire to be
their true followers, we have to revive this sunnah and important practice.
In this day and age we find many excuses not to perform this very important act.
However, we must struggle and overcome those excuses and do our best to have
this characteristic that was so common and so important to those whom we wish to
One thing that comes out
very clearly in the different statements of the Muslims of the early generations
is their attitude toward this world. They always put the Hereafter first.
They preferred the deeds that would benefit them in the Hereafter over those
deeds that would merely benefit them in this world. In fact, this world
meant very little to them except as a means of attaining salvation in the
Allaah makes it very
clear in the Qur'aan that if someone desires this world, Allaah will give
it to him. This is very easy for Allaah and the things of this world are
not that important to Allaah, so He will even give its pleasure to the
disbelievers. Allaah says in the Qur'aan:
"Whoever wishes for the quick-passing
[transitory enjoyment of this world], We readily grant him what We will for whom
We will. Then, afterwards we have appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein
disgraced and rejected [far from Allaah's Mercy]. And whoever desires the
Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due it, while he is a
believer, then such are the ones who striving shall be appreciated, thanked and
rewarded [by Allaah]" (al-Israa 18-19)
A true believer should
be "above" this world. His aspirations and goals are not of this world.
He should not be spending all of his time just for the sake of this dunya.
As I stated, this characteristic was very clear in those people whom Allaah has
stated that He is pleased with.
One of those early pious
souls, Malik ibn Dinar, once said, "Whoever proposes
to this world, it will seek from him his entire religion as its dower and it
will not be pleased with anything other than that".
There is no question
that chasing after this world is one of the greatest trials that Muslims are
afflicted with today. Many who have education or wealth are chasing after
more and more wealth. Many of our youth do not know and understand
anything except getting the latest clothing, best pair of sneakers and so forth.
We have lost that proper balance in our lives between this life and the
Hereafer. The proper balance is wherein the Hereafter comes first in our
lives and this world is only a stepping stone to Allaah's Forgiveness in the
Hereafter. That was the understanding of our Salaf and that is the understanding
we must have if we are truly following in their footsteps.
Another aspect that we
can see in some of their statements is that they realised that they had never
given Allaah even the smallest amount of thanks. In fact, to them, the act
of thanking Allaah was yet another blessing that Allaah had guided them to, such
that Allaah was once again deserving of thanks for guiding them to thanking Him.
The only result is to realise all of the great blessings that Allaah has given
you and to realise that all of your praises of Allaah, thankfulness to Allaah,
sacrifices for Allaah's sake are actually nothing compared to all that Allaah
has so graciously done for you.
we find among them is that they were more concerned with their own shortcomings
than with the shortcomings of others. It is reported that 'Umar once said,
"May Allaah have mercy on the one who points out my shortcomings". In fact
finding the faults of others will not be of much avail to you in the Hereafter.
Instead, recognising your own faults and changing them, this will be of great
benefit to you in both this life and the Hereafter. We should be very
concerned with correcting our own faults. In fact, we should be happy when
other people point out our shortcomings so that we may realise them and correct
them. This was the way of our pious Forefathers and this must be our way
The Salaf would also
remain away from sinful people and their gatherings. Indeed, as we find in
the example of 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud, even if they were invited to a wedding
feast, they would leave that feast if they found something forbidden therein.
They would stay away from the people of sin and innovations. In this way,
their hearts would remain pure and clean. They would not be infected or
infiltrated by the doubts and desirs of such evil people. By mixing only
with good people and attending only settings in which the forbidden aspects are
absent, they were able to increase their faith and keep their faith strong.
Nowadays, we find our
situation many times to be quite different. We might take as friends not
the pious but the people who commit many sins. We take them as friends for
very inconsequential reasons, such as we like their sense of humour or they have
the same nationality that we have and so forth. We fail to realise how
much harm they may be causing our own religion. We fail to realise that by
mixing with them and being in places in which Allaah's law is being
transgressed, we are harming ourselves and we are clearly straying from the way
and practice of those first generations whom the Prophet (saw) described as the
There is one final
characteristic of our noble forefathers that I would like to mention.
However, this is one of the most important of their characteristics. This
is the attending the daily prayers in congregation in the masjid. During
the time of the Prophet (saw) this was one of the signs that differentiated a
true Muslim from a hypocrite. 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud once said, "Whoever wishes to meet Allaah tomorrow as a Muslim should
guard the prayers whenever he is called to them. The Messenger of Allaah
taught us the sunnah of guidance. Part of this sunnah is to perform the
prayer in the masaajid in which the call to prayer in given. If you pray
in your houses, like those people who stayed behind and prayed in their houses,
you have left the sunnah of the Prophet (saw). If you leave the sunnah of
your Prophet (saw), you'll be misguided... in our view, no one would no attend
the prayers accept for someone who was well known for his hypocrisy"
In our society here, it
is sometimes difficult to make it to the prayers. However, we have to do
our best. We have to sacrifice for the sake of the prayers. We have
to arrange our time in such a way that we can make it to the prayers. If
we do so, we will be actually following in the footsteps of the Companions of
the Prophet (saw), who were from the best generation ever raised for mankind.
These are just some of
the important characteristics of our pious forefathers. When w recognise
that their path is the correct path - the path of the Saved Sect - we must
realise that we are not simply talking about believing in some doctrines that we
can rattle off with our tongues. Instead, we are talking about their deen - and
deen encompasses every aspect of our lives. If we are truly their followers,
this must be exhibited by our behaviour, our actions, our ethics, our worship
and obviously, our beliefs. However, if we drop any of those aspects, then
we are not truly following their path, no matter how much we may claim to with