Shi’ite polemicists often ask Sunnis: “How do you claim that the Sahabah are all just role models when you yourselves acknowledge that they all fought each other?”
Though this question embodies several fallacious premises, one eventually finds himself questioning its main premise: “Did the Sahabah all actually fight each other as implied by the question?”
It must not be a surprise to the Sunni reader that this appeal is one of the many fallacious and dishonest appeals made by Shi’ite polemicists. The fitnah between Ali and Mu’awiyah is presented as some grand-scale cosmic war that took place where most companions of the Prophet ﷺ viciously slaughtered each other. However, the evidence indicates that only a tiny fraction of the Sahabah actually participated in the fitnah between Ali and Mu’awiyah.
Ibn Taymiyah said: “Regarding the Sahabah, the majority (jumhoor) of them, including the majority of the virtuous among them, did not participate in a fitnah.” (Ibn Taymiyah 6: 236)
Abu Bakr b. Al-Khallal in Kitab Al-Sunnah (#428) & Ibn Shabbah in Tarikh al-Madinah (4/271) authentically reported that the major tabi’i, Ibn Sirin said:
“The fitnah raged, and the companions of the Prophet were around ten thousand in number at that time; and less than a hundred of them attended it. In fact, there were not more than thirty of them.”
‘Abdullah b. Ahmed in Kitab Al-‘Ilal wa Ma’rifat Al-Rijal (#462) transmits a report from his father, Ahmed b. Hanbal, who said: Umayyah b. Khalid once said:
I told Sho’bah: Abu Shaybah told us from Al-Hakam, from ‘Abdurrahman b. Abi Laylah that he said: “Seventy men from the people of Badr witnessed the Battle of Siffin.”
Sho’bah responded: “By Allah, he has lied! I have revised this matter with Al-Hakam. We went over this in his house, and we found that no one from among the people of
Badr witness the battle of Siffin except Khuzaymah b. Thabet.”
Abu Bakr b. Al-Khallal in Kitab Al-Sunnah (#726) also transmit this report from ‘Abdullah b. Ahmed b. Hanbal.
Ibn Taymiyah comments on this report saying:
I say: This negation indicates the extreme scarcity of companions who attended the battle, and it is said that Sahl b. Hanif and Abu Ayyub attended it is as well; and Ibn Sirin’s statement is accurate: there are barely a hundred men listed [among the companions who attended the battle]. (Ibn Taymiyah 6: 237)
Thus, if one were to say (for argument’s sake) that a hundred companions of the Prophet participated in the conflict, then that’d be almost 1%. If we were to say that around thirty Sahabis took part in the conflict, as reported by Ibn Sirin, then that means < 0.3% of the Sahabah were involved in the fitnah!
A Few Notable Companions of the Prophet Who Did Not Participate in the Fitnah
- Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas
- Ibn ‘Umar
- Anas b. Malik
- Usamah b. Zaid
- Abu Huraira
- Abu Bakrah
- Abu Mas’ud Al-Badri
- Suhayb Al-Rumi
- Salamah b. Al-Akwa’
- ‘Imran b. Hosain
- Muhammad b. Maslamah
- Jarir b. ‘Abdillah
As evident, most companions of the Prophet ﷺ refrained from participating in the conflict between Ali and Mu’awiyah. In fact, several reports display some of these companions refusing to take part in the conflict.
For example, Bukhari reports in his Sahih (#7110) that Harmalah said:
Usamah [ b. Zaid] sent me to Ali, and he told me: “He (Ali) shall ask you: what prevents your companion from coming?”
Respond to him saying: He (Usamah) tells you: “If you were between the jaws of a lion, I would have loved to be by your side; however, I shall not take part in this matter. (Bukhari 9: 57)
Muslim reports in his Sahih (#2965) that ‘Amer b. Sa’d said:
Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas was tending his camels, and then his son, ‘Umar, approached him. When Sa’d saw him approaching, he said: “I seek refuge in Allah from the evil of this rider.”
Umar [b. Sa’d] then told him: “You tend to your camels and livestock, and you leave the people fight for power among themselves?!”
Sa’d then hit his chest and said: “Be quiet! I’ve heard the Messenger of Allah say: Allah loves the God-conscious, unneedy and unnoticed slave.” (Muslim 4: 277)
The theme is clear: most of the companions of the Prophet were not interested in shedding Muslim blood throughout this conflict. In fact, authentic reports in Shi’ite sources demonstrate key members of Ahlulbait asserting this theme as well:
Al-Saduq, for example, in Kitab Al-Khisal (p. 639-640) authentically quotes Ja’far Al-Sadeq praising the companions in this context. Al-Saduq says:
Ahmed b. Ziyad b. Ja’far Al-Hamadani may Allah be pleased with him said: ‘Ali b. Ibrahim b. Hashem told us, from his father, from Muhammad b. Abi ‘Umayr, from Hisham b. Abi Salem, from Abu ‘Abdillah that he said:
The companions of the Prophet ﷺ were 12,000 in number: Eight thousand of them were in Medina, two thousand were in Mecca, two thousand of them were among the Tulaqaa’. None of them was a Qadari, a Murji’, a Haruri (Khariji), a Mo’tazilite, nor a man of Ra’y. They used to cry in the day and night, and they’d say: “[O Allah] take our souls before we eat yeast bread.” (Al-Saduq 640)
(Referring to the luxury of eating yeast bread at the time.)
Though participating in the conflict does not delegitimize the status and reliability of any companion of the Prophet, it is unfair for Shias to judge the vast majority of the Sahabah according to an action carried out by a tiny minority among them.
The majority of the Sahabah, as demonstrated, refrained from participating in the conflict between Ali and Mu’awiyah, and the burden of proof is upon the Shi’as to demonstrate otherwise.
Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma’il. Sahih Al-Bukhari. Edited by Muhammad Al-Naser, 1st
ed., vol. 9 9, Dar Tawq Al-Najah, 2001.
Al-Naysaburi, Muslim, and Muhammad Fouad AbdulBaqi. Sahih Muslim. Vol. 4, Dar Ihyaa
Al-Turath Al-Arabi, 1954.
Ibn Babawayh, Al-Saduq. Al-Khisal. Edited by Ali Akbar Al-Ghifari, Qum, 1982.
Ibn Al-Khallal, Abu Bakr. Al-Sunnah. Edited by Atiyyah Al-Zahrani, 1st ed., vol. 2 5, Dar
Ibn Hanbal, Ahmed. Al-‘Ilal Wa Ma’Rifat Al-Rijal – Riwayat Abdullah. Edited by Wasiyullah
Abbas, 2nd ed., vol. 1 3, Dar Al-Khani, 2001.
Ibn Shabbah, Umar. Tarikh Al-Madinah. Edited by Faheem Muhammad Shaltout, 2nd ed.,
vol. 4 4, 1979.
Ibn Taymiyah, Ahmed. Minhaj Al-Sunnah . Edited by Muhammad Rashad Salem, 1st ed., vol. 6 9, Al-Imam
Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, 1986.