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Last Updated: 2008/05/11
Summary of question
Why do Shias curse the Sahabah and khalifahs?
Why do Shias curse the Sahabah and khalifahs?
Concise answer

One of the accusations that Shias have always faced from those who oppose them is that they have a hidden enmity towards the Prophet’s companions (Sahaba). However, this accusation is false because the Shia consider the Sahaba as the primary bearers, conveyers, and promoters of Islam. The holy Quran says: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves in prayer…”. The Imams have also praised the Sahaba; Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “I have seen the companions of the Prophet but I do not find anyone resembling them. They began the day with dust on the hair and face and passed the night in prostration and standing in prayers.” Imam Sajjad would also pray for the Sahaba a lot.

Basically, Shias believe that when it comes to Adalah, the Sahaba are like every other normal person. Just because one has been with the Prophet for a while doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to always be adel (righteous). Merely being with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) doesn’t do any good for one’s adalah unless it shows itself in his actions and behavior. Therefore, the criterion for being adel is one’s actions and conduct. If it accords with Islamic standards, that person is adel, and on the contrary if it doesn’t, he isn’t. This criterion corresponds with the Quran and the tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h), and also corresponds with the realities of history. In addition, the historical evidence that we will cite in our detailed answer, also emphasizes on this point.

Detailed Answer

One of the accusations that Shias have always faced from their opposers is that they have a hidden hatred and enmity towards the Prophet’s companions (Sahaba). Yet, a realistic look at the matter, far from any bias, gives us the fact that this is a false accusation. That is because Shias have a deep respect for the Great Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his admirable companions. How can one hate them, considering the fact that they are the ones who bore the message and light of Allah for all people?!  They were the ones who supported and defended the Prophet, and fought and strived in Allah’s way! How can one have the least enmity towards them, while they have been praised by Allah in the Quran; “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Torah, and their similitude in the Gospel is like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and stands on its own stem and grows so much that as a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great reward.”[1]

“They (Sahabah) were the ones who assisted Allah and his prophet and revived his religion and raised the foundations of an Islamic government and wiped out ignorance during their time.”[2]

The imam and leader of the Shia, Imam Ali (a.s.), states that: “I have seen the companions of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) but I do not find anyone resembling them. They began the day with dishevelled hair and dust on the face (showing how godly they were) and spent their nights in prostration and standing in prayers. Sometimes they put down their foreheads and sometimes their cheeks (in prostration). With the recollection of their resurrection it seemed as though they stood on live coal (from fear). It seemed that in between their eyes there was thickened skin like the knees of goats, resulting from long prostrations. When Allah was mentioned their eyes flowed freely till their shirt collars were drenched. They trembled for fear of punishment and hope of reward as the tree trembles on the day of stormy wind.”[3] He also says: “Where are my brethren who took the (right) path and trod in rightness. Where is Ammar? Where is Ibn at-Tayyihan? Where is Dhush-Shahadatayn?  And where are others like them from among their comrades who had pledged themselves to death and whose (severed) heads were taken to the wicked enemy. Then Amír al-mu’minín wiped his hand over his auspicious, honored beard and wept for a long time, and continued: Oh my brothers who recited the Quran and strengthened it, thought over their obligation and fulfilled it, revived the sunnah and destroyed innovation. When they were called to jihád they responded and trusted in their leader and followed him.”[4]

In Sahifah-al-Sajjadiyyah, Imam Sajjad (a.s.) prays for the Sahabah, and says: “O God, as for the followers of the messengers and those of the people of the earth who attested to them (Allah’s messengers) unseen (while the obstinate resisted them through crying lies) - they yearned for the emissaries through the realities of faith, in every era and time in which Thou didst send a messenger and set up for the people a director from the period of Adam down to Muhammad (God bless him and his Household) from among the imams of guidance and the leaders of the god-fearing (upon them all be peace) - remember them with forgiveness and good pleasure! O God, and as for the Companions of Muhammad specifically, those who did well in companionship, who stood the good test in helping him, responded to him when he made them hear his messages' argument, separated from  their mates and children in manifesting his word, fought against their fathers and sons in strengthening his prophecy, and through him gained victory; those who were wrapped in affection for him, hoping for a commerce that comes not to naught in love for him; those who were left by their clans when they clung to his handhold and denied by their kinsfolk when they rested in the shadow of his kinship; forget not, O God, what they abandoned for Thee and in Thee, and make them pleased with Thy good pleasure for the sake of the creatures they drove to Thee while they were with Thy Messenger, summoners to Thee for Thee. Show gratitude to them for leaving the abodes of their people for Thy sake and going out from a plentiful livelihood to a narrow one, and [show gratitude to] those of them who became objects of wrongdoing and whom Thou multiplied in exalting Thy religion. O God, and give to those who have done well in following the Companions, who say, Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who went before us in faith, Thy best reward. ”[5]

In addition, Shia scholars have a very high respect for the Sahabah. For instance, Ayatollah Shahid Sadr says: “The Sahabah were the leading believers of their time, and the best and most righteous investments for the growth of Islam, such that time has never seen a more faithful, higher, elite, and purer generation than the one that the holy Prophet trained and raised.”[6]

Of course, we have our differences with our Sunni brothers, because we believe that according to the Quran, the Sahabah and those who lived with the Prophet (p.b.u.h) are divided into different groups;

1-“And (as for) the foremost, the first of the “Mujahids” and the “Ansars” and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him and he has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow to abide in them forever; that is the mighty achievement.”[7]

2-“It is He who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to proclaim it over all religions, and enough is Allah for a witness.”[8]

3-“How is it with you that you spend not in the way of Allah?-For to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth. Not equal among you are those who spend (freely) and fought, before the Victory (Fath Makkah) (with those who did so later). Those are higher in rank than those who spend (freely) and fought afterwards. But to all Allah has promised a goodly (reward). And Allah is well acquainted with all that ye did.”[9]

On the other hand, the Quran names other groups of the Sahabah which differ greatly from the high and interesting personalities mentioned above.

1- The Hypocrites[10]

2- Hypocrites that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) wasn’t familiar with and didn’t know.[11]

3- People with low levels of faith and spiritual illness.[12]

4- Individuals that were weak in faith and would listen to (and go by) what the seditious (Ahlul-Fitnah) would say and…[13]

5- Those who have both good and evil deeds.[14]

6- Those who are ready to turn back from their religion and faith.[15]

7- Wrongdoers whose words and actions don’t match.[16]

8- Those who claim that they are believers but faith hasn’t truly entered their hearts.[17]

and other negative traits that have been mentioned regarding some of the people around the Prophet.

Moreover, there were people among the Sahaba that had tried to assassinate the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) during the night of Aqabah.[18]

Therefore, we can say that the viewpoint of Shia regarding the Sahabah is as follows:

The Sahabah are like every other person, meaning that it’s possible for a Sahabi to be unadel. It’s not that anyone who is a Sahabi is necessarily adel. The only way for one to be adel, is to follow the Prophet in his actions and deeds and in other words, simply being a sahabi has no role in making one adel.

Therefore, the only thing that counts is one’s behavior and practical way of life. If it meets Islamic standards, that person is adel, otherwise, he isn’t. As we said, this viewpoint corresponds with the Noble Quran and the tradition of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.).

How can one say that Malek-ibn-Nuwairah (one of the great companions of the Prophet), and his killer, whom, after killing him, slept with his wife, are the same and that both are Sahabis?!

It’s very unfair to be on the side of a drunkard like walid-ibn-aqabah, just because of the fact that he is a Sahabi, or support a person that has changed the Islamic government into a dictatorship, has killed the ummah's righteous people, and has gone to battle against the imam and religiously assigned khalifah (Ali-ibn-Abitaleb) of his time? Is it right to say that Ammar Yaser and the head of the "wrongdoing and misled group" (referring to the famous hadith of the Holy Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) that says that the sinister and misled group “al-fi’atul-bakhiyah” will kill Ammar Yaser) are equal?! Is it possible for a logical person to claim such a thing?! If such assertions were to be true, Islam would only be a religion that tries to justify the actions of tyrants and oppressors with the excuse of them being Sahabis. But the truth of the matter is that Islam has nothing to do with the wicked and sinister acts of the wrongdoing and misled, making no difference in what time and place they live in. This is our opinion on the issue and it isn't important what others think, what is important is that the truth be followed and put to practice.

For instance, do our Sunni brothers believe that Uthman and his assassins were equal? If so, then why has Imam Ali (a.s.) been criticized so much over this issue (because some falsely claim that Imam Ali (a.s.) was responsible for his assassination)? If so, then why did some rebel and declare war against him in Jamal and Siffin with the excuse that they wanted to avenge Uthman’s death? On the other hand, if they believe that the two aren’t equal, and those opposing Uthman or those who gave a hand in assassinating him - let alone his immediate assassins - are people who have turned away from the law and Islam, that’s actually another way of saying that they aren’t adel! In other words, in this case they are saying exactly what we believe in! So why are the Shia being condemned for what they believe in, while others are saying the same thing?!

Therefore, the criterion for being adel in the Shia’s viewpoint is acting according to the Prophet’s Sunnah, during the Prophet’s lifetime and afterwards. Any one of the Sahaba who were like that, are completely respected, will be followed and prayed for on our part. On the contrary, those who don’t follow the Prophet in their actions aren’t considered adel by us. For example, two of the sahaba along with one of the Prophet’s wives went against the religiously assigned khalifah of their time with an army in the battle of Jamal in which thousands of Muslims were killed in. Our question is, is it okay that all this blood be shed?

Another person who was known of being a Sahabi of the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), rebelled against Imam Ali (a.s.), causing the battle of Siffin, which ended up in the death of both good and bad. What we claim is that this act is against Islam and is considered violation of the Islamic khalifa’s rights and authority. Merely being a sahabi is of no way an excuse for such wrongdoings. This is the main difference of opinion that lies between the Shia and others. It is very clear that here we are not talking about cursing, abusive language, and the like.

[1] Fath:29

[2] Edalat-e-Sahabi, p.14, Majma’ Jahani Ahlulbayt

[3] Nahjul-Balaghah, p.144, sermon 97

[4] Nahjul-Balaghah (Sobhi Saleh), p.42, sermon 184

[5] Sahifah-Al-Sajjadiyyah, p.42 , Blessing Upon the Attesters to the Messengers

[6] Majmoo’ah Kamilah, no. 11, discussion on wilayah, p.42

[7] Tawbah:100

[8] Fath:28

[9] Hadid:10

[10] Munafiqun:10

[11] Tawbah:101

[12] Ahzab:11

[13] Tawbah:45-47

[14] Tawbah:102

[15] Al-Imran:154

[16] Hujurat:6, Sajdah: 18

[17] Hujurat:14

[18] Al-Fusul-al-Muhimmah, Abdulhussein Sharafuddin, p.189

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