Who is a companion and are they of the same rank?
The Companions of God’s Messenger constitute the first pure and blessed
channel through which the Qur’an and the Sunna were transmitted to later
generations. God is the All-Trustworthy and Inspirer of Trust; the Archangel
Gabriel is also trustworthy. The Qur’an describes the Archangel as
trustworthy and as one, obeyed and having power (al-Takwir, 20.21). As
everybody knows, the Prophet Muhammad was renowned, first of all, for his
trustworthiness. Having been revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad through
the Archangel Gabriel, the Qur’an was entrusted to the Companions, who
memorized it, recorded it and transmitted it to the following generations.
This blessed community, which was praised in the Torah and Gospel, were the
living embodiment of almost all laudable virtues and sought nothing but the
good pleasure of God; they absorbed, besides the Qur’an, the Sunna of the
Prophet and lived disciplined lives strictly in accordance with the example
of the Prophet, and represented and transmitted it without any disloyalty to
Who is a Companion and the ranks of the Companions
Scholars are agreed upon the definition of Companionship by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani:
‘A Companion is the believer who saw and heard God’s Messenger at least once
and died as a believer.’145 Even though some scholars have stipulated that,
in order to be ranked as a Companion, a believer should have lived in the
company of God’s Messenger for one or even two years, the majority of the
scholars regarded it as enough to have been present in the radiant
atmosphere of the Messenger long enough to have derived some benefit from
It goes without saying that the Companions are not equal to each other in
rank or greatness. Some of them believed in God’s Messenger at the very
outset of his mission, and conversions continued until his saying farewell
to the world. The Qur’an grades them according to precedence in belief and
ac-cording to conversion before the conquest of Makka and after it (al-Tawba,
9.100; al-Hadid, 57.10). The same gradation was also made by God’s Messenger
himself. For example, he reproached Khalid for offending ‘Ammar, saying: Do
not trouble my Companions!146 In the same way, he frowned at ‘Umar, when he
annoyed Abu Bakr, and said: Should you not leave my Companions to me? Abu
Bakr believed in me at a time when all of you denied me. Abu Bakr knelt down
and explained: ‘O Messenger of God! It was my fault!’147
The Companions were divided into twelve ranks by Hakim al-Nisaburi.148
This division was made according to the chronological order and some groups
are also included in others. It was accepted by the majority of scholars:
1 The four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and
‘Ali, and the rest of the ten to whom Paradise was promised while alive.
They are Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, Abu ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn
‘Awf, Talha ibn ‘Ubayd Al-lah, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas and Sa‘id ibn Zayd, may
God be pleased with them all.
2 Those who believed prior to ‘Umar’s conversion and frequently gathered
together secretly in the house of Arqam to listen to God’s Messenger, upon
him be peace and blessings.
3 Those who migrated to Abyssinia.
4 The Helpers (Ansar) who were present at the first ceremony of taking
the oath of allegiance to God’s Messsenger at al-‘Aqaba.
5 The Helpers who took the oath of allegiance to the Messenger at al-‘Aqaba,
the following year.
6 The first Emigrants who joined God’s Messenger before his arrival in
Madina during the Emigration.
7 The Companions who participated in the Battle of Badr.
8 Those who emigrated to Madina during the period between the Battle of
Badr and the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
9 The Companions who took the oath of allegiance to God’s Messenger under
a tree during the expedition of Hudaybiya.
10 Those who converted and emigrated to Madina after the Treaty of
11 Those who became Muslims after the conquest of Makka.
12 The children who saw God’s Messenger either during the conquest of
Makka or during the Farewell Pilgrimage, or in any other place and on
145. I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 1.7.
146. I. Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, 4.132.
147. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 7/3.
148. Hakim, Ma‘rifat Ulum al-Hadith, 22–4.