Were there other motives for the companions to further urge them to
learn the sunna and convey it to others?
The Companions lived in an ethos that never lost its freshness. Like the
growing of an embryo in the womb, the Muslim Community continued to grow and
flourish so as to include all aspects or domains of life and was
continuously ‘fed’ with Revelations coming one after the other. All these
factors, besides the importance of the Sunna, and the heart-felt attachment
of the Companions to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, motivated
the Companions to record or commit to memory all the words and actions of
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
For example, when ‘Uthman ibn Mad‘un died, God’s Messenger grieved very
much. He shed as many tears as he had shed for the martyrdom of Hamza. He
kissed his forehead and attended the funeral. Witnessing this, a woman said
at the funeral: ‘How happy you are, O ‘Uthman! You have be-come a bird to
fly in Paradise’. The Messenger suddenly changed, turned to the woman and
said: How do you know that, while I, a Prophet, do not know? – Unless God
informs, no one can know whether a man is really so purified as to deserve
Paradise and whether he will go to Paradise or Hell. – The woman collected
herself and said: ‘By God, I will no longer declare someone guiltless.’33
Now, is it conceivable that that woman and the Companions present at the
funeral should have forgotten that event? They did not forget it, as well as
others that they witnessed during the lifetime of the Prophet, upon him be
peace and blessings.
As another example: a man called Quzman fought heroically in the Battle
of Uhud. Finally, he was killed and the Companions concluded that he had
died a martyr. However, the Prophet warned them: No, he is in Hell. A man
came and informed them that Quzman had committed suicide because of the
wounds he had received, and before his death, he had said: ‘I fought not for
Islam, but out of tribal solidarity.’ The Messenger concluded: God
strengthens this religion even through a sinful man.34
Like others, that event and the final comment of God’s Messenger upon it,
could never have been forgotten by the Companions, nor could they have
failed to mention it whenever they talked about the Battle of Uhud or about
A similar incident took place during the conquest of Khaybar. ‘Umar
On the day Khaybar was conquered, some of the Companions enumerated the
martyrs. When they also mentioned so-and-so as a martyr, God’s Messenger,
upon him be peace and blessings, interrupted them and warned: No! I have
seen him in Hell. He stole a robe out of the spoils of war before their
distribution. Then he ordered me: Stand up and announce among the people:
“No one except the believers (who are true representatives or embodi-ments
of absolute faith and trustworthiness) can enter Paradise.”35
Each word and action of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings,
provided the Companions with a new criterion for understanding Islam and
designing their life according to it. This motivated them to absorb, to
imbibe, every word and action of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and
blessings. When they settled in newly conquered lands, they conveyed what
they knew to recent converts and in this way all the words and deeds of the
Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, were transmitted by one generation
to the other. The Companions were extremely well-behaved towards God’s
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. They preferred to keep silent in
his presence be-cause of their absolute respect for him. They would let a
Bedouin come forward and ask him about something.
One day a Bedouin named Dimam ibn Tha‘laba came in and asked rudely: ‘Who
is Muhammad among you?’ They answered: ‘That one with white complexion,
sitting there against the well.’ The Bedouin turned to God’s Messenger and
addressed him loudly: ‘O son of ‘Abd al-Muttalib! I will ask you some
questions. However they may be injurious to you, do not be annoyed at me!’
Ask whatever comes to your mind, God’s Messenger responded.
– Tell me, for God’s sake, your Lord and the Lord of those who came
before you, is it God who sent you to these people as a Prophet?
– Yes, it is.
– Tell me, for God’s sake, is it God who ordered you to pray five times a
– Yes, it is.
The Bedouin continued to ask in the some manner about fasting and
alms-giving. After he re-ceived the same answer each time, he concluded: ‘I
am Dimam ibn Tha‘laba, from the tribe of Sa‘d bin Bakr. They sent me to you
as an envoy. Now, I have believed in whatever message you have brought from
Like many others, this event too was not allowed to fall into oblivion;
rather, the memory of it was handed down to succeeding generations until it
was recorded in the books of Tradition.
Ubayy ibn Ka‘b was one of the foremost in the recitation of the Qur’an.
One day God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sent for him and
said: God ordered me to recite to you sura al-Bayyina. Ubayy was thrilled
with joy and asked: ‘Did God mention my name?’ The answer of God’s Messenger
moved him to tears.37
This was so great an honour for the family of Ubayy that his grandson
used to introduce himself in this way: ‘I am the grandson of the man to whom
God ordered His Messenger to recite sura al-Bayyina.’
This was the ethos in which the Companions lived. Every day a new ‘fruit
of Paradise’, a new ‘gift’ of God, was presented to them and every day came
to them with novelties. Previously unaware of faith, of a Divine Scripture
and of Prophethood, those men of the Arabian deserts, gifted with keen
memory and talent for poetry, were brought up by God’s Messenger as the
educators of future Muslim generations. God chose them as the Companions of
His Messenger and willed them to convey His Message to the whole world.
After the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, they conquered in the
name of Islam all the lands from Spain to China and from Caucasia to India
with an unprecedented speed and conveyed the Qur’an and the Sunna everywhere
they went. Many from among the conquered peoples joined their households and
converted to Islam at their hands. They instructed those peoples in the
Qur’an and the Sunna and prepared the ground for all the leading figures in
Islamic sciences of the next generation to appear among them.
In the view of the Companions, to learn the Qur’an and the Sunna and then
instruct others in them was an act of worship. They had heard from God’s
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings:
Whoever comes to this mosque of mine should come but to
learn the good or to teach it. Whoever does so is the same in rank as the
one who fights in the way of God.38
So, as Anas reports, they frequently came together to discuss what they
heard from the Messen-ger.39 The women, too, learned their religion from the
Messenger, who assigned them one of the days of the week. Especially the
wives of the Prophet conveyed to Muslim women whatever they learned from the
Messenger, who established family ties with the people of Khaybar through
Safiyya, with Banu Amir ibn Sa‘sa‘a through Maymuna, with Banu Mahzum
through Umm Salama, with the Umayyads through Umm Habiba, and with Banu
Mustaliq through Juwayriya. The women of each tribe came to their
‘representative’ in the house of the Prophet and asked her about religious
In the last year of his Messengership, God’s Messenger, upon him peace
and blessings, went to Makka for pilgrimage, called the Farewell Pilgrimage.
He gave a sermon, the Farewell Sermon, at ‘Arafat and more than a hundred
thousand people listened to him. He summarized his mission and warned them:
Those who are present here should convey my speech to those who are not
present.40 The last verse of the Qur’an revealed some time later contained
another warning to practice and sup-port the religion:
Fear a day when you will be returned unto God and every soul
shall be paid what it earned, and they will not be wronged. (al-Baqara,
33. I. Athir, “Usd al-Ghaba,” 3.600.
34. Muslim, “Iman,” 178; Bukhari, “Iman,” 178.
35. Muslim, “Iman,” 182.
36. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 161.
37. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 98/1,2,3; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 122.
38. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 17.
39. Muhammad ‘Ajjaj al-Khatib, “al-Sunna Qabl al-Tadwin,” 160.
40. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 9; I. Hanbal, 5.41.