Rahmatullah Khan Shakir (1901-2000), Former Assistant Editor and Manager of Al Fazl
The Companions were the paragon of forthrightness, truthfulness and were living examples of genuineness and candour.
In normal circumstances and occasions, the discussion of their truthfulness is tantamount to an insult to their standing of truthfulness as it were. Not even the heaviest loss or the most terrible persecution could have swerved them from the path of truthfulness. They put their lives in danger but never brought a misstatement to their tongues. Spiritually eminent Companions let alone, even the weaker in faith among them never dared a misstatement. Out of frailties of flesh and blood, if someone committed a mistake, they would never ever think to hide it on account of the fear of penalty or punishment; rather, being absolutely indifferent to the consequences, they would admit their mistake.
Some faith-enhancing accounts of the Companions are given below in this regard.
Open criticism of a fellow Ansari
After the fall of Mecca, the Holy Prophetsa distributed the spoils of war and under God’s command, gave preferential treatment to the Quraish. Naturally, every person cannot understand all the delicacies of matters, nor is every man at that stage of cognisance to fathom the most subtle and delicate raison d’être of things.
Those who really understood the true standing of the Holy Prophetsa, criticism of such a preferential treatment apart, they would not even object at all if the Holy Prophetsa had given all of that to a specific group of people.
But an ignorant and unwise Ansari objected to the preferential treatment to the Quraish. The Holy Prophetsa was agonised to learn of this criticism. He called for the Ansar and enquired about it. The Ansar made no endeavour whatsoever to cover up or interpret the folly of this member of theirs; rather, they gave full account of the matter word for word and did not cover it up.
Then clearing their own position, they very clearly explained that this was the folly of an ignorant and silly person; otherwise they were absolutely free of any such thoughts. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Zakat, Bab A‘ta-ul-Mu‘allafati Qulubuhum alal-Islam wa Tasbiru man Qawiyya Imanahu)
Accepting one’s mistake
Hazrat Kaabra bin Malik did not join in the Battle of Tabuk. And the fact is that he had no valid excuse for this negligence. He was well aware that it was his negligence.
On return, the Holy Prophetsa asked him its reason. He knew well that he would be punished for that miss. But he did not try to cover up his negligence for fear of penalty by putting forward lame excuses; rather, he very clearly admitted his remiss. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Maghazi, Bab Hadith Kaab bin Malik)
Openness of sin for spiritual purification in this world
Hazrat Ma‘izra bin Malik was a young Companion. Man is to err by nature. Satan is ever on the lookout to tempt man to deviate him from the right path as man is ever prone to err. Hazrat Ma‘izra too fell victim to Satan’s temptation.
Once he committed fornication, which was not an insignificant vice. He was not unfamiliar with the punishment of this crime in the Islamic Shariah. But according to the Companions, it was easier to bear the punishment of a slip in this world than presenting themselves to God being guilty. Later, when he realised his mistake, he let go of his former patience and calmness.
Once the cover of ignorance was removed, he was so overawed by the majesty of God that he became restless and impatiently presented himself to the service of the Holy Prophetsa and requested the Holy Prophetsa to purify him. But the Holy Prophetsa overlooked his slip and suggested him to seek forgiveness and repentance from God Almighty.
After this reply, Ma‘iz returned but he had lost his tranquility after the vice he had committed. He was so overburdened by it that he wanted to shed it off as soon as possible. His heart was not at peace. He had returned in compliance, but after a short distance, he came back and again restlessly submitted to the Holy Prophetsa to purify him.
Again, the Holy Prophetsa overlooked his mistake and suggested him to seek forgiveness and repentance from God Almighty. Again, in compliance, he returned, but he was so helpless by his heart that a step forward would move him backward two steps. He focused only on one thing as to how to get rid of this impurity of sinfulness and purify himself.
Thus, after a few steps, in a state of restlessness, he returned and repeated his request to the Holy Prophetsa. At this, the Holy Prophetsa asked him as to what he wished to seek purity of. Very embarrassingly and repentantly he said, “Of the sinfulness of fornication.”
The Holy Prophetsa, too, was surprised at this straightforwardness and voluntary pleading guilty of his, and asked people if he was in his senses, or if what he said was not because of some mental illness. The Companions replied in the negative and submitted that he was in total control of his senses.
Since the Holy Prophetsa considered it essential to confirm all the aspects before imposing the penalty prescribed in the Shariah, he again asked if he was drunk. One person sniffed him from close and learnt that such was not the case as he did not smell of liquor. The Holy Prophetsa again confirmed from Ma‘izra if he had committed fornication, at which he confessed his sin. Then the Holy Prophetsa ordered for him to be punished. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Hudud, Bab man I‘tarafa ‘ala Nafsihi biz-Zina)
Hazrat Umarra commented that he failed to appreciate the attribute of God of covering the human failings, which is why he had to suffer the ostensible penalty imposed by the Shariah. If he had repented and sought Allah’s forgiveness, He might have forgiven him because He covers the human failings and also would have spared him this penalty.
Divine revelation vouches for truthfulness of a companion
At Murisi, the account of the disparaging words uttered by Abdullah bin Ubai in disrespect of the Holy Prophetsa has been discussed earlier with regard to his own son’s righteous indignation for the honour of the Holy Prophetsa.
Hazrat Zaidra bin Arqam was a child when he heard these impure words and became restless, and instantly reported it to the Holy Prophetsa through his uncle. The Holy Prophetsa enquired of Abdullah bin Ubai about it, but as he was tainted with hypocrisy and was deprived of the true faith, he denied it. His accomplices, too, who, like him, suffered from the same malady, corroborated it on oaths. The Holy Prophetsa, following divine command, thought well of it and taking their statements to their face value, rejected Hazrat Zaid’s account. But later, divine revelation corroborated Zaid’s statement and thus, exonerated the believing child of the impurity of untruthfulness by disclosing the truth to His Prophet through direct revelation. (Sirat Ibn Hisham, Vol. 2, p. 291)
The Holy Prophetsa vouches for truthfulness of a companion
Hazrat Muazra bin Jabl was a very righteous young man and an embodiment of Islamic moral values. Once, he related something about the Holy Prophetsa. Hazrat Anasra went to the Holy Prophetsa to confirm it, at which the Holy Prophetsa commented, “Muaz spoke the truth; Muaz spoke the truth; Muaz spoke the truth”, and thus, with full conviction, confirmed the truthfulness of one of his Companions. (Usdul-Ghabah, Vol. 4, p. 419, Zikr Muazra bin Jabl)
Companions’ trust in fellow companion
Hazrat Abdur Rahmanra bin Auf accepted Islam at about 30 years of age, but he so excelled in righteousness, cleanliness, honesty and truthfulness that the Companions had full trust in his truthfulness; so much so that even in case of a dispute, whether he was a plaintiff or a defendant, they trusted his account. (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 1, p. 192)
A wife gives honest testimony against husband
As it goes against faith, the Companions showed no regard whatsoever for even the most fragile worldly relationships. Irrespective of all consequences, they would speak the truth.
Once, a weak Muslim, Qadamah bin Maz‘un, slipped and drank some alcohol. When Hazrat Umarra learnt of it, he prescribed the penalty imposed by the Shariah. But what is surprising is who the eye-witness was in this case and at whose testimony he was punished. Qadamah’s own wife testified against her husband and thus, he was punished. (Al-Isabah, Vol. 5, p. 323)
In the above-mentioned incidents, some slips committed by the Companions have been discussed. One must not fall victim of misconception about the Companions. There are only a few incidents in which a Companion is proved to have erred for some reason or another. Otherwise, they had such a high standing in uprightness and piety that the commission of such deeds at their hands was like impossibility.
Those who are even scantily familiar with the history of the Arabs know well that drinking and fornication was prevalent in this region. And the Arabs indulged, day in and day out, in such activities. Islam declared these evils unlawful, and the Companions, despite their being given to them for the whole of their past lives, complied with this commandment so meticulously that the history of other nations fails to present its precedence.
A slip from a member of a people given to vices is not such a thing on whose basis the national piety and righteousness of the Companions should be criticised. Complete innocence from, and protection against, sins is due only to the prophets of God Almighty. Weak of faith believers are liable to err momentarily.
If a Companion committed a sin, instantly he would recourse to repentance and would himself confess his sin and slip and do its penance.
The truth is that such incidents, the embarrassment and guilt of the Companions and their restlessness to face the penalty on commission of such acts only enhances their value in the eyes of a fair-minded person.
Another special and worthy-to-be-emulated point in the above accounts is that the Companions deemed the worldly punishment nothing as compared to the punishment in the Hereafter. The thought of presenting themselves in a sinless state before God in the Hereafter dominated their hearts. Therefore, the punishment in the Hereafter was absolutely unbearable for them. That is why they tried their best to face the punishment of their sins in this very world, so that before God, they might be presented as pure and sinless.
But the state of affairs of this age is quite the opposite. Today, most of us belong to that group who try their utmost to somehow evade the penalty of their errors in this world. And in order to evade it, in addition to the original crime, if they have to recourse to lie and untruth etc. or other such heinous crimes, they give it little thought. A perusal over it will reveal that such a state is the result of lack of unconditional trust in God Almighty. Otherwise, a person who wholeheartedly believes in life after death, where they will have to give an account of their worldly deeds before God, does not dare to commit a crime and then try to avoid its punishment, and thus with their own hand become liable to punishment in the Hereafter.
The truth is that the utmost worldly punishment or even the capital punishment for a person whose heart is enlightened with the light of faith, is very insignificant. Such a one would never like to present themselves before God as sinful and thus become liable to the punishment of Hell for some misdeed.
(Translated by Shahid Mahmood Ahmad, Missionary in Ghana, from the original Urdu, Muslim Nau-jawanon kay Sunehri Karnamey)