Who is a Companion and are they of the Same Rank?
Like Mawlana Jami, I say,
O Messenger of God! If only like the dog of the Companions of the Cave,
I could be in Paradise in the company of your Companions.
Is it right that their dog is in Paradise while I am in hell?
It was the dog of the Companions of the Cave, I am the dog of Your Companions.
In His Name, be He glorified. There is nothing but glorifies Him with praise.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with Him are hard against the unbelievers and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and falling prostrate (in worship), seeking grace from God and (His) good pleasure. The mark of them is on their foreheads from the traces of prostration. Such is their likeness in the Torah and their likeness in the Gospel--like as sown grain that sends forth its shoots and strengthens it and rises firm upon its stalk, delighting the sowers with amazement –that He may enrage the unbelievers with (the sight of) them. God has promised unto such of them as believe and do good works, forgiveness and immense reward. (Al-Fath, 48.29)
The Companions of God’s Messenger constitute the first pure and blessed channel through which the Qur’an and the Sunna were transmitted to later generations. God is the All-Trustworthy and Inspirer of Trust; the Archangel Gabriel is also trustworthy. The Qur’an describes the Archangel as trustworthy and as one, obeyed and having power (al-Takwir, 20.21). As everybody knows, the Prophet Muhammad was renowned, first of all, for his trustworthiness. Having been revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel, the Qur’an was entrusted to the Companions, who memorized it, recorded it and transmitted it to the following generations. This blessed community, which was praised in the Torah and Gospel, were the living embodiment of almost all laudable virtues and sought nothing but the good pleasure of God; they absorbed, besides the Qur’an, the Sunna of the Prophet and lived disciplined lives strictly in accordance with the example of the Prophet, and represented and transmitted it without any disloyalty to it.
Scholars are agreed upon the definition of Companionship by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani: ‘A Companion is the believer who saw and heard God’s Messenger at least once and died as a believer’.1 Even though some scholars have stipulated that, in order to be ranked as a Companion, a believer should have lived in the company of God’s Messenger for one or even two years, the majority of the scholars regarded it as enough to have been present in the radiant atmosphere of the Messenger long enough to have derived some benefit from it.
It goes without saying that the Companions are not equal to each other in rank or greatness. Some of them believed in God’s Messenger at the very outset of his mission, and conversions continued until his saying farewell to the world. The Qur’an grades them according to precedence in belief and according to conversion before the conquest of Makka and after it (al-Tawba, 9.100; al-Hadid, 57.10). The same gradation was also made by God’s Messenger himself. For example, he reproached Khalid for offending ‘Ammar, saying: Do not trouble my Companions!2 In the same way, he frowned at ‘Umar, when he annoyed Abu Bakr, and said: Should you not leave my Companions to me? Abu Bakr believed in me at a time when all of you denied me. Abu Bakr knelt down and explained: ‘O Messenger of God! It was my fault!’ 3
The Companions were divided into twelve ranks by Hakim al-Nisaburi.4 This division was made according to the chronological order and some groups are also included in others. It was accepted by the majority of scholars:
- The four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, and the rest of the ten to whom Paradise was promised while alive. They are Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, Abu ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, Talha ibn ‘Ubayd Allah, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas and Sa‘id ibn Zayd, may God be pleased with them all.
- Those who believed prior to ‘Umar’s conversion and frequently gathered together secretly in the house of Arqam to listen to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
- Those who migrated to Abyssinia.
- The Helpers (Ansar) who were present at the first ceremony of taking the oath of allegiance to God’s Messenger at al-‘Aqaba.
- The Helpers who took the oath of allegiance to the Messenger at al-‘Aqaba, the following year.
- The first Emigrants who joined God’s Messenger before his arrival in Madina during the Emigration.
- The Companions who participated in the Battle of Badr.
- Those who emigrated to Madina during the period between the Battle of Badr and the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
- The Companions who took the oath of allegiance to God’s Messenger under a tree during the expedition of Hudaybiya.
- Those who converted and emigrated to Madina after the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
- Those who became Muslims after the conquest of Makka.
- The children who saw God’s Messenger either during the conquest of Makka or during the Farewell Pilgrimage, or in any other place and on different occasions.
1. I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 1.7.
2. I. Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, 4.132.
3. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 7/3.
4. Hakim, Ma‘rifat Ulum al-Hadith, 22–4.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.