Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

7th in Series of ‘Islam’ for Younger Readers

by Nur Muhammad, Ph.D.

The Islamic Guardian (UK), July to September 1981 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 16–18)

It was because of the impressive example that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set for us in his life and deeds during his own lifetime that a great number of people came to believe in him and to do their best to follow in his footsteps. These people are known in Islamic history as the as-haab [ashaab] of the Holy Prophet (this word sounds like us, followed by haab; it means companions). The lives of each one of the Companions show us how a Muslim should really live and behave. But, more than that, the Companions were a community or brotherhood, so we learn from them what a Muslim Community should really be like.

The Companions of the Holy Prophet came from many different backgrounds: some were poor, others wealthy; some were slaves or freed slaves, others were respected noblemen; some were black Africans, others fair Arabs; and so on. But having become Muslims, they lived as lovingly as brothers and sisters, as a united community in which everyone was equally respected and loved. An example of true love among the Companions was seen when those of them who lived in Makka along with the Holy Prophet himself, had to leave that city, empty-handed and destitute, to save themselves from their enemy’s bitter persecution. The Companions who lived in the city of Yathrib (which later became known as Madinah-tun-Nabi or The City of the Prophet later still just Madina or The City) offered them shelter and protection there (and thus became known as Ansar or the “helpers”). When the refugees from Makka arrived in Madina, each one of them was “paired” with one of the helpers. Each helper welcomed his refugee brother and family into his home to stay with him. But much more than this, each helper offered to give his guest a half of his house, and a half of everything else he had as well! The refugees, for their part, thanked the helpers and asked only to be shown the way to the market to find work.

So much did the Companions care for one another that they would regularly take as many of their poorer brothers as they could, home for dinner as their guests. Once a Companion took another one home for dinner, but on arriving there he was quietly told by his wife that they did not have enough food for all of them. So, what they did was to prepare the meal, but just before serving it they turned out the light, and served all the food to the guest, leaving their own plates empty. In the dark, while the guest ate, the host and his wife made noises to make him think that they were also eating! It is for showing this kind of love for one another that the Companions are described in the Holy Quran as those who “prefer others over themselves, even though they are poor themselves.”

Love and loyalty to the Holy Prophet Muhammad was another great quality in the Companions. Just as he put their needs before his own, so did they care more for him than for themselves. In a battle known as Uhud, at one stage the Holy Prophet came under the enemy’s direct attack. At this, the Companions there formed themselves into a “human shield” around him to fend off the attacks. If one of them fell, another Companion took his place in the shield! When this battle was over and the Muslims returned to Madina, their women who were anxiously waiting for them enquired first whether the Holy Prophet had returned safely. Only after being satisfied about him did they ask about the safe return of their own husbands, brothers, and sons!

The Companions made very great sacrifices for Islam. First, in Makka, they were tortured and persecuted for their religion, but they refused to give it up. After thirteen years of ill-treatment there, they left their homes and went to settle at Madina. But now the Makkans sent armies to attack them. The Companions had to donate their few possessions to prepare for battle, and then to fight against odds of 3 to 1. In the battles, they fought with great courage and bravery. But when they won, and took prisoners from the enemy, they treated them with great kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.

The Companions, men and women, had all become pure of any evil, greed, or selfishness. They were truthful, honest, generous, charitable, merciful, humble, and just and helpful to all people, Muslims or non-Muslims.

After the Holy Prophet’s death, Muslim rule spread outside Arabia to countries such as Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, etc., where there lived Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims. The Companions treated them with respect, equality, and justice. So impressed did these people become with the Companions’ noble qualities that they became Muslims in large numbers. They realised that the man, Muhammad, whose teaching and example the Companions followed must have been a very great person and a Prophet of God.

Here are the names of some of the prominent Companions (it is customary to add the prayer, ‘God be pleased with him/her/them’ after mentioning any of their names; sometimes the word Hazrat, a title of respect, is added before their names):

  • Hazrats Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali (these four, in this order, were the first four leaders (khalifa) of the Muslims after the Holy Prophet);
  • Hazrats Abu Ubaida, Zubair, Talha, and Saad (God be pleased with them all).
  • And from the women, Hazrats Aaishah Sadiqa and Fatima, the Holy Prophet’s daughter (God be pleased with them).