An unbiased overview of the tribal population of the Arabian Peninsula when our dearest Prophet (pbuh) passed away should convince any unprejudiced Muslim that the majority of that population was newcomers to Islam. Thus, it can be said that the majority were shallow Muslims whose only line of argument was their verbal expression of the Shahadatain (article of faith).
In essence, though, this large number of “superficial” Muslims was thoroughly jahili [ignocratic] in spirit, mind, and ethics. This is to be understood from Allah’s divine words:
The vagrant Arabians [some of who a short time ago became Muslims] are more tenacious in [their] refusal to acknowledge the truth [pertaining to Allah’s here-and-now power] and in [their] double-dealings [than are the settled and urbane people], and more liable to ignore the ordinances that Allah has bestowed from on high upon His Apostle [Muhammad] – but Allah is all-knowing, wise. (Al-Tawbah, 97)
In this new Islamic world order, there were two sets of values, principles, and standards. One was the predominant Islamic social order, and the other was the clannish, communal, and “tribal/nationalist” jahili (ignocratic) culture. With these two diametrically opposed arrangements there was an erratic relationship between the highly principled Islamic ruler (Khalifah) and the majority newcomer Muslim citizens in the Islamic homeland.
If we are able to throw off centuries of sectarian programming, we will come to realize that there was never a strong and unanimous solidarity between the Khalifah and the greater part of apprentice Muslim population. The real strong, stable, and sound solidarity existed between the Khalifah and the crème de la crème of the Prophet’s unmitigated 23-year true and tried confidantes and companions. It was this rock-solid base of solidarity and team spirit that enabled Abu Bakr to defeat the breakaway factions of “Arabian Muslims” in what is known as Hurub al-Riddah [the wars of reversion] thereby militarily “shocking” Arabia out of its traditional jahili culture back into its recently integrated Islamic matrix.
Henceforth an Islamic foreign policy of liberation upended divisive and generational Arabian internal drifts. Still, the Prophet’s peer group of loyal followers and absolute supporters had its “minority” of equivocators and “relativists”. All human societies have a type of individual who at one time in his life is utterly sincere in his heart, mind, and conscience to the higher values and ideals but then as circumstances change and he is confronted with challenges, accidents or “twists of fate”, this same erstwhile perfectionistic person succumbs to rationalizations or reasons that turn into justifications and excuses for worldly ends.
This same person may approach a day towards the end of his life when, with hindsight, he may realize that there is a profound distance between what he was earlier and what he became later. It is because of this pitfall in human nature that the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh), the Khulafa’ and the Imams advised people and alerted individuals to this “trap in the flesh” and entanglement with materialism. The world is full of temptations that can be framed with inadequate “human logic”. Life can be full of slippery slopes.
It should surprise no one that even a few individuals who climbed the ladder of uprightness while they were accompanying the Prophet (pbuh) in his lifelong jihad would in the years following the Prophet’s heavenly departure fall short of their hitherto transcendent temperament. There is a difference between those who consciously live with the Prophet (pbuh) and those who live with memories of the Prophet (pbuh).
If this column continues into the distant future, we shall discover those individuals who gave way to their poor judgment or error of conclusions.
This writer does not seek to antagonize anyone by any type of exaggeration concerning our first chapters of Islamic history. Nor would he ever “pile on” to the delicate and inflammable psychology that has split the lovers of Allah’s engaging Prophet (pbuh). These articles are not intended to harm anyone’s integrity.
That being said, there are some observations that this unpretentious writer has to express in all honesty and humility. It appears that there were those companions of our dear Prophet (pbuh) who were totally sincere and selfless in their struggle during the most challenging times of the struggle and jihad against injustice, oppression, and disparity that the Prophet (pbuh) endured. Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) was very pleased with them—even indicating that they have secured their place in paradise.
But what happened after the Prophet (pbuh) left this worldly abode and the years that followed? These same companions began to encounter indistinct issues and ominous dangers coming from the twin traps of power privileges and wealth opportunities. What happened in that particular context was an impairment of their hitherto solidarity. Thus, some of them began to carry arms against others and some were even slain because of that.
This resulted in what may be called a state of unprecedented psychological distrust and even paranoia. Where does that leave us? How are we to think and behave with that type of aftereffect that we have inherited as sectarian self-righteousness?
Obviously, it would be naïve to say that everyone was right when they had life and death differences that brought them to blows with each other. We cannot shut our minds when our Deen demands justice and fulfillment as well as the abhorrence of evil and the eradication of injustice in the process of putting an end to belligerency and aggression.
At the same time, we cannot criminalize or pronounce “kufr” on a companion who misjudged or “got it wrong” frankly because he was valued by our beloved Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet’s fondness of the Muhajireen and Ansar is established in the Qur’an and Seerah as well as Allah’s approval of them. This blanket approval of the Muhajireen and Ansar does not mean that within them there were no individuals who later on “lost their way”.
In many unthinking minds or to be more precise in the minds of those that are still influenced by the Umayyad propaganda, these Muhajireen and Ansar are incorrectly lumped into the word “sahabah” with its Umayyad-slanted definition. These Muhajireen and Ansar were the basis and building bloc who devoted the prime of their lives to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (pbuh) anticipating Allah’s act of kindness and good return.
We should be mature enough to free ourselves from the resentment or cynicism that some of them had towards others. It would be foolish to inherit bygone animosities. There were differences of opinion among individuals from the Muhajireen and Ansar but there was no evil in those differences by the Muhajireen and Ansar as a bloc towards the Prophet’s nucleus family.
It is best for us not to impugn their relationship with Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh) but rather to hold individuals among them accountable for their societal misgivings, mistakes, and miscalculations. The sectarian psychology feeds on designating one side or the other as “Mu’min” or “Kafir”, or by casting judgement that some would be in paradise while others would be condemned to hell.
A Qur’anic- and Prophetic-committed Muslim would understand that if we are to evaluate any of them it should be on how they behaved and made decisions concerning issues of justice and equality in their growing Islamic society. This itself needs Islamic scholars who are void of sectarianism.
As readers may have concluded by now, the Islamic consciousness and conscience in its best display is vulnerable to inaccuracies, oversights, and errors. Even if we were to stretch our minds to breaking point and confer perfection upon that first generation, we cannot extend that to the generations that followed. They were faced with trials and tribulations in society and temptation and indiscretion in their own selves.
Indeed, Allah has turned in His mercy to the Prophet, as well as to al-Muhajireen (those who have abandoned the jurisdiction of evil and oppression in Makkah) and al-Ansar (those who have sheltered and supported the Prophet in al-Madinah) – [all] those who followed him [the Prophet] in the hour of [military] distress, when the hearts of some of the other committed Muslims had well-nigh swerved [from the deen]. And once again: He has turned to them in His mercy—for, behold, He is compassionate toward them, exceptionally merciful (Al-Tawbah, 117)