THE COMPANIONS OF THE PROPHET (PBUH) IN BEDIUZZAMAN'S WORKS
It will be useful to state Bediuzzaman's view of the Companions in this connection. For at the present time certain inappropriate things have begun to be said about the Companions (May God be pleased with all of them), who were the first builders of Islamic civilization, and the first bearers of the Shari'a, to whom it was entrusted. However, without exception, they are repeatedly praised and commended in Qur'anic verses and Hadiths of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him). The Sunni 'ulama, who base their judgements on these sources, have concurred on their justice. It is truly a great loss that influenced by 'breezes' from anti-Islamic quarters, some of the sons raised today by the Islamic world, which for fifteen centuries has held that lofty generation in the greatest honour and respect, are departing from that vast, unshakeable caravan of fifteen centuries. The matter is not limited only to the loss of those individuals; it is a dissension that in the course of time will hinder the new generations' understanding of and identification with Islam. Have we given thought to what it means to cast aspersions on the Companions because of some personal and subjective observations, based on no actual or objective evidence, and where this will finally lead? We can say immediately: it will lead to doubt and scepticism about the authenticity of Hadith, and even about the integrity of the Qur'an, which form the basis of our religion, with its law, politics, social relations, punishments, worship, beliefs etc., with everything that pertains to it. Imam al-Haramayn said: "If through lack of confidence in the narrations of the Companions, they come to a standstill, the Shari'a of Islam will be limited to the era of the Prophet (PBUH). It will not encompass subsequent centuries." It is clear what a ghastly, infernal dissension it would be for Islam, the final religion for humanity, for all time. The dissension of the Antichrist, even, would not be so damaging.
The zealous cannot merely stand back and watch such a dissension. The question has to be solved before it spreads any further. And this will certainly not be with fists and clubs.
I believe that the seeds of this dissension find acceptance and sprout in the ground of ignorance. In which case, the Umma has to be informed of the matter, and the views of the Sunnis have to be set forth clearly so that everyone can understand them.
I want to recall the following at this point: in his works, Bediuzzaman discusses the question of the Companions in many contexts, corroborating exactly the views of the Sunnis, convincingly proving and explaining their rightness. It is therefore important, that to put a stop to the above-mentioned dissension, the new explanations put forward by Bediuzzaman are arranged systematically and presented to the people.
1. The Sunni views on the Companions
The Sunnis call 'Companions' those persons who saw the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), believed in his prophethood, and died believing.1 It makes no difference if the meeting was brief or lengthy. Other conditions have also been laid down like "Being together with him for a long period," "Having fought alongside the Prophet (PBUH) in battles," and "Having narrated Hadiths." These however are uncommon, and have not become the rule.
According to the Sunnis, all the Companions were just.2 That is, they would never knowingly tell lies about anything related to religion. Whatever they related about the Prophet, it was correct. Everything they said in connection with religion is to be trusted. The Sunni scholars have not considered it permissible to voice any doubts or suspicions that they might have lied. They hold this to be true for all the Companions. They consider all those who rose to being Companions to be equal in the question of justice; they do not differentiate between them.
The term 'just' has been given various meanings by the scholars.3 It should be well understood what is intended when it is used in reference to the Companions. I want to state immediately that it does not mean that they were free of faults and sins (ma'sum). According to the Sunnis, the state of 'isma, that is, being preserved from sin, is a privilege reserved for the prophets. Apart from the prophets, no human being can claim such preservation from sin. The Shi'a's belief in the Sinless Imam is a false belief from this point of view, and not shared by the Sunnis. The Sunnis accept that due to their being human, the Companions may have been unintentionally at fault and in error.
In consequence, when saying "The Companions were just," the Islamic 'ulama meant the following:
"They avoided intentionally lying when relating Hadiths or performing any action that would make such a narration unacceptable to others."4
There were differences among the Companions in respect of virtue and moral excellence. The most virtuous were the first Muslims, that is, those who spent most time with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). For instance, the 'Ten Promised Paradise' were from among the first Muslims. Thus, those counted as Companions who saw God's Messenger only briefly at the very end of his life, were of lesser virtue than those who had seniority over them.
The Sunnis rely on verses of the Qur'an and Hadiths when pronouncing the Companions just, without differentiating between them, for there are numerous verses and Hadiths which do this. One of the verses is:
You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind.5, 6
We may also quote the Hadith: "Whoever vilifies any one of my Companions, may God's curses be upon him!", which is one of many similar.7
Another view of the Sunnis that should be taken note of is that no one can reach the Companions in the question of virtue and moral excellence. That is to say, any of the Companions was superior in virtue to anyone that came after him, even if he was the very least of the Companions. To put it another way, even the most select and eminent of the Umma in respect of knowledge, learning, and sainthood cannot reach the level of virtue and moral excellence of the least of the Companions. As evidence for this, the Islamic scholars quote the Hadith: "By He in the hand of whose power is my self! If any one of you were to spend a mountain of gold to maintain others, it would not be as meritorious as my Companions spending a handful, or even half a handful."8
Their conversations with God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) were the source of such effulgence for them and elevated them to a degree so high it is not possible to reach it by any other means. It is therefore not permissible for any member of the Umma to compete with them as regards virtue or to claim superiority. To do so would be contrary to the courtesy demanded by membership of the Umma of Muhammad (PBUH). For the verse states that no believer, man or woman, can gainsay God and His Messenger, once they have spoken.9
2. Bediuzzaman's views on the Companions' superiority
Bediuzzaman shares the views of the Sunnis concerning the Companions. He says the Companions are the most excellent generation of humanity. Conversation with God's Messenger (PBUH) afforded them such effulgence and honour that "the greatest of the saints" of the Umma who succeeded them "even, who are the most perfect of true human beings, cannot claim to be equal to the least of the Companions."10
The Addendum to the Twenty-Seventh Word is an independent discussion about the Companions. It is as though written to provide a convincing exposition of the Sunnis' views on the question of the Companions which will be acceptable to everyone. The piece includes in question and answer form the most important matters which are made the subject of polemic on the subject. All its explanations are contained in the answers to six questions. Five of these are directly related to the Companions, and one indirectly related. The directly related questions are based on Hadiths about the Companions and just about summarize the polemic about it, so I want to begin here by quoting them:
1) "You Ask: There are some narrations which say: 'At a time when innovations are rife, some of the righteous from among the believers and those who fear God will be on a level with the Companions, or of even greater virtue.' Are these narrations sound? And if so, what is their true meaning?"11
2) "Q u e s t i o n : It is said, the Companions saw God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him), then they believed. However we have believed without seeing him, in which case our belief is stronger. Also, are there not narrations pointing to the strength of our belief?"
3) "One time, it occurred to me, why could wondrous individuals like Muhyiddin al-'Arabi not attain to the level of the Companions?"
4) "They say that the saints and possessors of perfection abandoned the world. It even says in a Hadith: 'Love of this world is the source of all error.' Whereas the Companions were very involved in the world. It was not abandoning the world, some of the Companions were ahead of the civilized of that time even. How is it that you say that even the least of such Companions was of higher worth than the greatest saint?"
5) "Where does the claim of the Companions' superiority spring from? And who put it forward? Why should this matter be made the subject of discussion at this time? Also, why is there this claim of equality with the great interpreters of the law (mujtahid)?"12
3. The reasons for the Companions' superiority
The first question is related to the question of whether or not there has been any member of Muhammad's (PBUH) community more virtuous than the Companions. For a large number of narrations whose authenticity is pretty doubtful state that some persons who will appear at the end of time will be superior to the Companions in respect of virtue.
As noted above, Bediuzzaman puts the shared meaning of those narrations in Turkish, into question form: "At a time when innovations are rife, some of the righteous from among the believers and those who fear God will be on a level with the Companions, or of even greater virtue. Are these narrations sound? And if so, what is their true meaning?"13
Before moving on to Bediuzzaman's answer, I want to draw attention to a masterly touch in the question: the condition "when innovations are rife" is not to be found in any of the narrations which compare the virtue of a subsequent generation with that of the Companions. He is thus saying right in the question stage that the first condition of acquiring virtue comparable to that of the Companions -enduring severe tribulations "as though holding fire in one's hand"14 at a time people have grown away from the Prophet's practices (Sunna) due to the prevalence of innovations- is to follow the practices. As it is said in another Hadith: "Those who adhere to my practices at a time the Umma is corrupted will receive the recompense of a hundred martyrs."15
We may study Bediuzzaman's answer to the question he posed in this fashion in two parts:
First Part: This part is an introductory paragraph of eight lines in which, with much skill in regard to both style and manner of expression, he summarizes the matter from a number of angles: 1) He draws attention to the existence of both sound Hadiths on this subject and those which are not sound. 2) He explains the meaning of "the superiority of subsequent generations of the Umma." 3) Offering evidence from the Qur'an, he expresses his conviction that the Companions are the most superior generation in human history.
Second Part: Here, a reasoned explanation is given for the Companions' superiority. After alluding to a number of the reasons for their superiority, only three are discussed. Before describing these three reasons, we quote the introductory paragraph whose three main themes are mentioned above. This is also like the 'thesis' of the matter:
"The consensus of the Sunnis, the Ahl-i Sunna va Jama'at, that after the prophets the most virtuous of mankind are the Companions, is a certain proof that those that are sound out of those narrations refer to minor virtues. For in minor virtues and particular perfections a quality may be deemed preferable over that which is superior and in fact preferable. But from the point of view of general virtue16 the Companions cannot be reached, who are the subject of Divine praise at the end of Sura al-Fath, and are praised and applauded in the Torah, Gospels, and Qur'an. For now, we shall explain three points of wisdom concerning this truth, which comprise three reasons, out of very many reasons and instances of wisdom."17
I shall now summarize those three reasons:
FIRST REASON: This is the conversation of God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him). This "was such an elixir that someone who experienced it for one minute received lights of reality equivalent to years of the spiritual journeying" of the sufis. "Due to the mystery that, through allegiance to his sovereign and following him, a sultan's servant rises to a position so high a king cannot rise to it, the greatest saints cannot reach the level of the Companions." The Companions' conversation was conversation with Muhammad (PBUH) as Prophet. Its loftiness and refinement may be understood from this example: "A primitive man so hard-hearted and savage he buried his daughter alive would come and be honoured with the conversation of the Prophet for an hour, and would acquire such kindness and compassion he would not step on an ant. While an ignorant savage would converse with the Prophet for a day, then go to lands like China and India and instruct civilized peoples in the realities and guide them in perfections." In Leme'at, (Gleams) he expressed this in verse as follows:
"One look of the Messenger transformed of a sudden
An ignorant tribesman into an enlightened man of knowledge.
If you want an example:
'Umar before Islam
And 'Umar after Islam."18
SECOND REASON: The vast majority of the Companions were at the very peak of human perfections.
"For at that time in the mighty revolution of Islam, good and truth appeared in all their beauty, and evil and falsehood, in all their ugliness, and they were felt physically. Such a difference was apparent between good and evil and such a distance opened up between truth and falsehood that they drew as apart and distant from one another as belief is from unbelief, and even Hell is from Paradise."
Nothing else could have been expected in such a situation from the Companions with their elevated characters, other than supporting with all their strength veracity, truth, and belief, which had produced a luminous fruit like God's Messenger (PBUH) and a result like Paradise. Bediuzzaman states on other occasions too that the Companions' justice was largely the result of this.19
THIRD REASON: The relation of prophethood to sainthood is that of the sun itself to its reflection in mirrors. Certainly the sun in the sky and its image in a mirror are so different and distant from each other that there can be no comparison between them.
"And so, however much higher the sphere of prophethood is than that of sainthood, the servants of the sphere of prophethood and the Companions, the stars of that Sun, have to that degree to be superior to the righteous in the sphere of sainthood."
There are three different aspects of superiority in this third reason:
First Aspect: Superiority in ijtihad
"The Companions cannot be reached in interpretation of the law, that is, in deducing its ordinances, that is, in understanding what pleases Almighty God from His Word. Because that mighty Divine revolution revolved on understanding the dominical wishes and Divine ordinances."
Minds, thought, intellects, desires, ambitions were all turned towards this. Everyone's ability to learn developed in that direction. But at the present time the great majority of people seek this world, they are preoccupied with philosophy and politics, their desires and ambitions are all different, their ideas are confused. The social environment and cultural atmosphere has an overpowering effect on the development of the personality and abilities. So much so that the people of the present are in need of at least ten times longer than the Companions to acquire the capacity to carry out ijtihad.
Because of the importance of this question, Bediuzzaman asks a question that might occur to anyone, and provides the answer:
"If you say: The Companions also were human beings and not free of error and differences, while the means of interpretation of the law and the ordinances of the Shari'a is the justice and truthfulness of the Companions, on which the Islamic community have agreed, saying: 'All the Companions were just and all spoke the truth.'"
In reply, Bediuzzaman says: "Yes, the absolute majority of the Companions of the Prophet were lovers of the truth, truthfulness, and justice..." And then gives an explanation within the framework of the points made in the First and Second Reasons above.20
The point I want to note in particular here is Ustad's cautious approach: "Yes, the absolute majority of the Companions of the Prophet were lovers of the truth..." It is understood from this that even if very few in number, some of them might not be included under this description. With his caution here, Bediuzzaman may have intended those who committed certain acts, which if observed in anyone other than the Companions would have been a means of refuting them, since it would have negated their justice. However, the ulama ruled that since they had repented, they had been purified, and in accordance with verses 4-5 of Sura al-Nur, due to their repenting and being cleansed, had regained their justice. Nevertheless, for some reason no narration has been included in our books about Ma'idh ibn Malik, Ghamidiyya (a woman), and 'Abdullah, known as Khimar, who received the hadd penalty in the Prophet's time.21
Second Aspect: Their closeness to God differed from that of the saints
The level of the Companions with regard to closeness to God cannot be reached with the feet of sainthood. For their sainthood was not that of the saints which can be gained by traversing the levels through spiritual journeying. Known as 'the greater sainthood,' it was the disclosing of Divine immediacy. It is not attained, it is God-given. "The unfolding of Divine immediacy" occurs through deepening knowledge of Almighty God's essence, attributes, and acts. It occurred at once in the spirits of the Companions through the reflection and drawing power of the light of prophethood, as a Divine favour.22
The prophets are close to God in this way, and the Companions manifested the mystery through 'the legacy of prophethood' and company of the Prophet.
• The differences between the Companions and the saints
1) The Companions' souls were purified by God
When describing the elevated rank of the Companions, which not even "wondrous individuals like Muhyiddin al-'Arabi" could rise to,23 Bediuzzaman insistently mentions their mental and spiritual states. As shall be seen, this is not to be encountered explicitly in the works about the Companions of former writers; it is particular to Bediuzzaman. He says that through the effulgence they received from the company of prophethood, they were favoured by being cleansed and purified spiritually. For others to be able to receive this spiritual purification, they have to traverse the intermediate realm of spiritual journeying and through great striving kill their instinctual souls. Bediuzzaman does not consider it appropriate to kill the soul in order to purify the spirit and attain true perfection. The soundest way according to him is to cleanse and purify it without killing the soul. For with its death, numerous subtle inner faculties connected to it die, as a result of which worship, which the soul would also perform, becomes simple [or one-dimensional]. For this reason, the souls of the Companions, which had been purified through Divine grace without being killed, performed a rich [multi-dimensional] worship, together with all the faculties and senses tied to them, each with its different worship, yet in chorus. Bediuzzaman describes this as follows:
"For sure, the saints are successful in annihilating the soul and kill the evil-commanding soul, but they still cannot reach the Companions. Because, since the Companions' souls had been purified and cleansed, they manifested to a greater degree through the many faculties within the soul, the varieties of worship, thanks, and praise. After the soul has been annihilated, the worship of the saints acquires a simpleness and plainness."24
I want to mention here what Bediuzzaman means by "the many faculties within the soul," which are said to be annihilated together with the soul. In addition to explaining in various contexts that man has not only a heart, but a mind, spirit, inner heart, and soul,25 Bediuzzaman says that only the soul has "thousands of emotions," such as anxiety for the future, love, obstinacy, and ambition, and that by directing them towards good, man may attain true perfection.26
Thus, the Companions were people all of whose "subtle inner faculties... received their share from the Qur'an itself."27 Bediuzzaman repeatedly expressed this certain conviction of his. He said:
"If man consisted of only a heart, he would have to give up everything other than God, and leave behind even the Divine Names and attributes and bind the heart to the Divine Essence alone. But he possesses many senses and subtle faculties, all charged with duties, like the mind, spirit, soul, and others. The perfect man is he who, driving all those subtle senses towards reality on the different ways of worship particular to them, marches heroically like the Companions in a broad arena and rich fashion towards the goal with his heart as commander and his subtle faculties as soldiers. For his heart to abandon its soldiers in order to save itself alone and to proceed on its own would be not the cause of pride, but of distress."28
It was because the Companions attained to this multi-dimensional spirituality that "a single hour" of theirs was the equivalent of "a day of the saints."29 And God's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) "challenged forty rulers with forty Companions."30
We can find more specific examples of this related to the Companions in Bediuzzaman's writings. As is described in greater detail below, he says that they attached more importance to the world than 'the people of civilization' of their time, but this was not for the sake of their souls, but for God's pleasure.31
2) The different sainthood of the Companions
Another point we should make clear in setting forth Bediuzzaman's views on the Companions concerns the nature of the sainthood observed in the Companions. Bediuzzaman called this "the greater sainthood," and described it as follows:
"The Companions' sainthood, known as the 'greater sainthood,' was a sainthood which arose from the legacy of prophethood, and, passing directly from the apparent to reality without travelling the intermediate path, looks to the unfolding of Divine immediacy."32
The most distinctive attribute of this sainthood is its following the Sunna:
"The finest, straightest, richest, and most brilliant is following the practices of the Prophet. That is, to think of the practices in acts and deeds, and to follow and imitate them, and in conduct and dealings with others, to think of the rulings of the Shari'a and take them as guide."33
Sainthood (velayet) is basically a way of attaining closeness to God, and gaining His pleasure and friendship.
What does it mean to attain closeness to God, for He is closer to us than anything else? He is closer to us than our jugular vein.34 But what about us? Are we close to God?
We are far from God. In which case, man's closeness to God is to gain His pleasure and love.
Bediuzzaman says that this closeness may be obtained in two ways: The first way is through the unfolding of Divine immediacy; that is, not through a person's will, but by increasing God Almighty's love for the person and contentment with him, Who is anyway closer to him than anything else, God's closeness being unfolded to the person; this was the sort of closeness of the Prophet. The second is the person advancing through his own striving and efforts; that is, by his traversing the degrees.
Bediuzzaman states that through the legacy of prophethood and conversation with the Prophet (PBUH), the Companions manifested the first sort of sainthood. Since this sainthood, which he calls 'the greater sainthood,' is not obtained through the person's efforts (kesbî) but is Divinely bestowed (vehbi), that is, attained to through the unfolding of Divine closeness, he says it is not possible to reach the Companions through the normal ways of sainthood, which are based on attaining to Divine closeness through personal efforts:
"The level of the Companions with regard to closeness to God cannot be attained with the feet of sainthood. For Almighty God is infinitely close to us; closer to us than everything, but we are infinitely distant from Him."35
Bediuzzaman makes the following comparison in order to show the difference between the two forms of sainthood:
"... There are two ways of reaching yesterday. The first is not to be subject to the course of time. Through a sacred power, it is to rise above time and see yesterday as present like today. The second is to traverse the distance of a year, to travel and turn, and come to yesterday. But still yesterday cannot be held on to; it leaves the person and departs. In just the same way, there are two ways of passing from the apparent to reality. The first is to be carried away directly on the attraction of reality, and without entering the intermediate realm of the sufi way, to find reality within the apparent itself. The second is to pass through many levels by means of spiritual journeying."
In the continuation of his analysis, Bediuzzaman says that the first way, which is a short way to reality, is that of the Companions, while the second, long, way is that of the other saints, and that it is not possible to reach the Companions on this second way.36
I should mention immediately at this point that those unable to grasp this privileged state of the Companions form a number of erroneous opinions. Bediuzzaman interprets these opinions in the form of a question:
"The Unity of Existence is considered by many people to be the most elevated station. But the way of the Unity of Existence in this form was not seen explicitly in the Companions and foremost the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, who were at the level of 'the greatest sainthood,' or in the Imams of the Prophet's Family and foremost the five 'People of the Cloak,' or the great interpreters of the law and the generation following the Companions and primarily the founders of the four schools of law. So did those who emerge subsequently advance further than them? Did they find a better highway on which to proceed?"
Bediuzzaman begins his refuting answer like this:
"God forbid! Nobody at all has the ability to advance further than those purified ones, who were the stars and heirs closest to the Sun of Prophethood; the highway is indeed theirs."37
3) The Companions did not practise asceticism
What is generally meant by 'asceticism' (z?hd) is not seeking the life of this world, but focussing one's life on the hereafter and worship. It is reasonable to ask what the Companions' position was in this question. With certain exceptions like 'Uthman ibn Maz'un, Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari, and 'Abdullah b. 'Amr, asceticism of the sort defined above was not observed in the lives of the Companions. Bediuzzaman expressed this characteristic of the overwhelming majority of the Companions in a question asked of him:
"They say that the saints and possessors of perfection abandoned the world. It even says in a Hadith: 'Love of this world is the source of all error.'38 Whereas the Companions were very involved in the world. It was not abandoning the world, some of the Companions were ahead of the civilized of that time even. How is it that you say that even the least of such Companions was of higher worth than the greatest saint?"39
In answering this question Bediuzzaman refers to the explanations in other parts of the Risale-i Nur of the ways of viewing the world. He says that the world has three faces: one of these looks to man's evil-commanding soul, and it is on this face that all man's evils, rebellions, sins, and wrongdoing are committed; its second face is the seed-bed of the hereafter; while as a place of manifestation of the Divine Names, its third face acts as a missive or mirror making God known to man. Bediuzzaman states that the world condemned in Hadiths is in respect of its first face, and that it should be loved in respect of its other two faces. The Companion's love of the world was not for its first face, but for its other two faces.40
While on the subject I want to discuss further Bediuzzaman's views on asceticism. Since he took the way of the Companions as his criterion in every matter, he offered a different interpretation of asceticism, that is, giving up the world: a person may love "delicious foods and fruits, his father, mother, children, and spouse, his friends and companions, the prophets and saints, life, youth, the spring, beautiful things and the world." But in loving all these, he should do so on Almighty God's account.41 According to Bediuzzaman, this sort of love of the world was similar to that of the Companions. Former scholars who did not grasp this subtlety of the prohibitions in the Hadiths had recourse to artificial explanations in order to avoid the contradiction of encouraging people to give up the world without offering anything to back up their advice. We may give the following interpretation of Ghazzali as an example:
"Mustafa, Peace and blessings be upon him, said: 'Love of this world is the source of all error.' If people did not love the world, it would go to wrack and ruin and life could not continue, but he still taught that love of the world took one to perdition. The reason was that the majority would not root out love of the world from their hearts on its being said that it took them to perdition; only a small minority would do so, and with their giving up the world, it would not go to wrack and ruin. Therefore, the Messenger (PBUH) did not refrain from advising and recalling the harms resulting from love of the world. Similarly, because of his confidence that men would still fulfil the functions related to lust, which in accordance with the verse: If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance; but the Word from Me will come true, "I will fill Hell with jinns and men all together,"42 as a cause of perdition had been made a means of testing, so as to send men to Hell; and because he feared they might give it up altogether, he still did not give up warning about its dangers."43
Bediuzzaman tried to define his attitude to the world in clearer terms44 with sayings like "The world should be given up not from the point of view of striving, but with the heart."45 "All believers are charged with upholding the Word of God, and at this time the most important means of this is material progress."46
We may reach the following conclusion from his discussions: Muslims this age must lay claim to the world in order to know God, save the dignity of religion by upholding the Word of God, and to win the hereafter. But this should be purely to gain God's pleasure. The measure of this is while gaining the world, to permit nothing prohibited by religion, not to neglect worship, to give zakat on the profits, and to spend willingly and enthusiastically on God's way out of those gains.
Third Aspect: The Companions' 'good-deed books' are still open
According to Bediuzzaman, another reason why those who have come after the Companions have been unable to reach their level, was the great merit of the Companions' actions. This arises from two points:
1 - They strove in the most difficult conditions to establish Islam and spread its injunctions throughout the earth. Deeds differ in value according to the importance of the situation and severity of conditions. Guard duty on the frontier in normal conditions in times of peace is not the same as guard duty performed in wartime under threat of death in the freezing cold. Similarly, the service the Companions performed in establishing Islam, challenging the whole world, was of such high worth and was so meritorious in God's eyes that subsequent generations have not been able to reach their level of service.
Moreover, it says in the Hadith that if those of subsequent generations were to give gold to the amount even of Mount Uhud, it would not have the value of half a handful of what the Companions gave. And it says in the Qur'an that the deeds of believers after the conquest of Mecca were not as meritorious as the deeds of believers before that. The merit of those before the conquest was greater.47
2 - Furthermore, by establishing Islam, the Companions were the cause of those who came after them finding right-guidance. So in consequence of the rule taken from a Hadith 'the cause is like the doer,' since the Companions have a share in the merits of those who succeeded them, it is impossible for anyone else to reach their degree of merit. Bediuzzaman cites as evidence of their "partaking in the good deeds of all the Umma," their being mentioned in the blessing "O God, grant blessings to our master Muhammad and to his Family and Companions," which is recited by all the Umma in all the obligatory five daily prayers. And he says:
"Furthermore, just as an insignificant characteristic in the root of a tree takes on a larger form in the tree's branches, and is larger than the largest branch; and just as a small protuberance at the beginning gradually forms a mass; and just as an excess the size of a needle point at a central point may become more than a metre at the circumference of the circle, just like these four examples, since the Companions were part of the roots and foundations of the luminous tree of Islam, and were at the beginning of luminous lines of the structure of Islam, and were from among the leaders of the Islamic community and were the first of their number, and since they were close to the centre of the Sun of Prophethood and Lamp of Reality, a few of their actions were many and their small acts of service were great. To reach their level necessitates being a true Companion."48
4) The Companions' degree of worship cannot be reached
Bediuzzaman offers an explanation about the Companions' worship which is not to be encountered in the works of any other scholar. This explanation is the natural consequence of some of the ideas and explanations about the Companions which we have noted above. It is difficult to understand this, and therefore accept it, without properly understanding the above. But once they are thoroughly understood, a number of problems are solved which are to be found in the books about the Companions and are difficult to understand.
I want to embark on this subject by mentioning a problem I personally had difficulty in understanding and explaining, for I solved the problem I am going to set out here with the help of Bediuzzaman's analysis of the Companions' worship. The problem was this: I saw that in a number of narrations in the authoritative sources, some of the Companions had lost their sensibilities while performing their worship as though their senses had been deadened, and I had difficulty in explaining this.
For example, while performing the prayers on night guard duty during the expedition of Dhat al-Riqa', 'Abbad b. Bishr (May God be pleased with him) was struck by the arrow of an idolator, who was marking him. But he pulled out the arrow with his hand and continued the prayers. Seeing that he had risen to perform the second rak'at, the idolator thought that the first arrow had missed, and shot another. 'Abbad pulled out the second arrow and continued to pray. He was struck by a third arrow, which he also pulled out, and completed the prayers. He was standing in a pool of blood. He informed 'Ammar b. Yasir, who was also on guard duty and had been sleeping. When asked by 'Ammar why he had not told him when hit by the first arrow, he replied: "The sura I was reading was such I did not want to break off!"49
Similarly, 'Ali, unable to bear the pain of having an arrow that had stuck in his foot being pulled out, told those with him that he would perform the prayers and that they should pull it out while he was doing so. Another story about the Companions connected with the prayers is about Abu Ayyub al-Ansari: he was very sensitive to noise, but while performing the prayers was entirely insensible to it.
An incident similar to the above has been narrated about Jundab b. Makis: he pulled out two arrows without wincing which had struck him one after the other while he was carrying out his duty of look-out at night. He performed his duty perfectly without leaving his post.50 This incident did not occur while he was performing his worship, but while performing his duty, of greater value than personal worship, and particularly the duty of jihad, considered to be the highest form of worship.
While on the subject of feats related to duty, it is worth mentioning the unbelievable story about 'Ali during the conquest of Haybar: while capturing the citadel, 'Ali's shield was stuck from his grasp by a blow of the enemy. He seized hold of the door of the citadel and used it as a shield throughout the battle. When the battle came to its victorious conclusion, he laid it down on the ground, and eight men could not lift it.51 For sure, some people who cannot accept anything unless it is corroborated by the West, say such historical incidents are "merely tales," instead of trying to find a reasonable explanation. But this is really the easy way out. For a similar incident occurred in our own times during the Battle of Gallipoli: a Turkish soldier who had lost all his companions in the course of the battle, on his own lifted a shell which normally could be lifted only by several people, and placing it in the heavy gun and firing it accurately, sank the leading ship of the enemy fleet which was about to enter the Straits, thus turning the tide of the battle in our favour.
How can all these incidents be explained? Or should they be rejected saying like some people who choose the easy way out "they are fables and fictitious nonsense;" or in a fairer manner: "these are not unanimous narrations; they are not sound and cannot be established certainly." It is not easy to deny a truth that has been confirmed by so many incidents. In which case, it has to be explained.
As I stated a little previously, some of Bediuzzaman's discussions help us to reach a reasonable explanation of these. This explanation is made up of several different ideas, which Bediuzzaman states in various places and which complement each other. As follows:
1) According to Bediuzzaman, before everything man is not a being composed of only five senses. He has "thousands of senses,"52 most of which have no name. Some of them are love, obstinacy, anxiety for the future, greed, reliance, hope, joy, confidence, which have been named since they are powerful, and which everyone knows.53
I should state immediately that Bediuzzaman sometimes calls these spiritual senses, feelings, or emotions (his), duygu, and sometimes latife or its plural form, leta'if.
2) All of these emotions were in fact created for elevated purposes and put at man's disposal. That is to say, all the emotions have their own particular worship and degree of affirming Divine unity. While worshipping, through his will and effort, man may direct all of these emotions towards the ideal goal. This is possible.54 As we noted above, Bediuzzaman said in this connection: "The perfect man is he who, driving all those subtle senses towards reality on the different ways of worship particular to them..." He also says that: "Yes, true progress is to turn the faces of the heart, spirit, intellect, and even the imagination and other subtle faculties given to man towards eternal life and for each to be occupied with the particular duty of worship worthy of it."55
3) Through the blessings and effulgence of the Prophet's (PBUH) company, the noble Companions manifested this mystery. Directing all their subtle faculties while worshipping towards their particular forms of worship, they attained to a true affirmation of Divine unity that we might call 'taabb?dî tevhid.' Each of their subtle senses received its share from the meanings -in all their breadth and comprensiveness- of the supplications and formulas recited during worship. For example, when we say "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" during the five daily prayers, our intellects may receive a share of its meaning, so long as we know Arabic and our minds are not busy with something else. But the overwhelming majority of our other faculties and senses, which are said to number thousands, will have no share. However, Bediuzzaman described in connections with the Bismillah "one manifestation" of the spiritual life of the affirmation of Divine unity and reflective thought that he experienced in nine pages in the Second Station of the Fourteenth Flash. I quote the introductory sentence so that we may grasp the possible breadth of reflective thought:
"I saw one manifestation of the In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate as follows: on the face of the universe, the face of the earth, and the face of man are three stamps of dominicality one within the other and each showing samples of the others..."
Later in the same discussion, Bediuzzaman expounds the verse from Sura al-Fatiha, "You alone do we worship." He offers this brief literal meaning as a several-page tableau of reflective thought, which we may understand with our faculties of intellect alone, so long as we know Arabic,
As is seen from the subsequent discussion, according to Bediuzzaman, it is not even these two phrases, all the pieces recited in the prayers have similarly extensive meanings, and not only with his intellect but with all his myriad faculties, man possesses a nature whereby he may partake of all these truths. Everyone may achieve this, if they make the effort.
4) I want to note immediately at this point that Bediuzzaman says that during the obligatory five daily prayers the Companions partook of all the phrases recited with all their senses and faculties to the optimum degree. As follows:
"At one time, a single glorification unfolded to me in one of the prayers in a manner close to how the Companions perceived them, and it appeared to me as important as a month's worship. I understood through it the Companions' high worth. It meant that at the start of Islam, the effulgence and light proceeding from the sacred words had a different quality."56
In another discussion Bediuzzaman explains this memory further:
"One time, it occurred to me, why could wondrous individuals like Muhyiddin al-'Arabi not attain to the level of the Companions? Then, while saying, Glory be to my Sustainer, the Most High during the prayers, the meaning of the phrase was unfolded to me. Not in its complete meaning, but its reality in part became apparent to me. I said in my heart: if only I could perform one of the five daily prayers in the same way as this phrase, it would be better than a year's worship. After the prayers I understood that that thought and state was guidance indicating that the Companions' degree in worship could not be reached."57
5) In the continuation of the same passage, Bediuzzaman explains how they obtained this superiority. In short: in the revolution brought about by the Qur'an,
"While opposites were separated from one another, and evils together with all their darkness, details and all who followed them, and good and perfections together with all their lights and results came face to face - at such an exciting time, all glorifications of God and recitations of His Names expressed all the levels of their meanings freshly and newly and in a young and fresh fashion. So too, under the crashing of that mighty revolution all the senses and subtle inner faculties of people were awakened, even senses like those of fancy and imagination, in an awakened and aware state, received the numerous meanings of those recitations and glorifications in accordance with their own perceptions, and absorbed them."
He then continues:
"Thus, due to this wisdom, when the Companions, whose senses were awakened and subtle faculties, alert, uttered those blessed words comprising the lights of belief and glorification, they did so in all their meaning and they partook of them with all their senses."
Bediuzzaman then concludes the discussion by explaining why subsequent generations have not been able to reach the degree of the Companions:
"However, after that revolution and upheaval, the subtle faculties have gradually sunk into sleep and the senses fallen from that point of realities into heedlessness; like fruits, under the veil of familiarity, those blessed words have gradually lost their delicacy and freshness. Simply, as though drying up through the air of superficiality, only a little freshness remains, and this may be restored to its former state only through drastic surgery of a reflective and reasoning kind. Thus, it is because of this that another can reach the virtue and level the Companions attained to in forty minutes, only in forty years."58
Thus, Bediuzzaman does not say that the meanings and truths of the verses, glorifications and other blessed words and phrases recited during worship have been completely obscured for later generations. Resembling them to fruits that have not lost their freshness, that is, their vitality, completely, he says that they may regain it only through drastic surgery of a reflective and reasoning kind. "Like fruits, under the veil of familiarity, those blessed words have gradually lost their delicacy and freshness. Simply, as though drying up through the air of superficiality, only a little freshness remains, and this may be restored to its former state only through drastic surgery of a reflective and reasoning kind."
At this point, in order to understand this question of drastic surgery of a reflective and reasoning kind, we shall recall Bediuzzaman's explanations of You alone do we worship, and of the affirmation of Divine unity in the supplication that starts "There is no god but God, He is one, He has no partner," which forms the Twentieth Letter and is, in all, 43 pages in length.
On studying carefully discussions of this sort in the Risale-i Nur, it is seen that certain words and phrases that we recite inattentively comprise most extensive meanings and truths, and by means of effort and exertion in reflective thought may be deciphered and revealed.
The Companions, therefore, again in Bediuzzaman's words, not through their own efforts but as a result of the spiritual purification and cleansing brought about by the disclosing of Divine immediacy, as the effulgence and blessing of the company of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), perceived the instant they uttered them the meanings and truths we can reach only through great effort to think reflectively, and they actually lived them. Furthermore, they experienced this state and perceived those truths not only with a few faculties and senses such as the intellect and power of thought, but all with their faculties and emotions, which are reckoned to number thousands, and shared in them.
Surely the spiritual delight of someone who experiences such an affirmation of Divine unity and reflective thought in the obligatory prayers, would block out any feeling of physical pain caused by a few arrows, and prevent them hearing the noise around them.
I am of the opinion this state is not one of 'wonder-working' particular to the Companions, but one which exists potentially in man's innate disposition, and may be realized through exercise of the will, mental exercise and exertion. Just as we see that certain sportsmen (experts in karate) can as the result of assiduous practice and exercises split at the blow of a hand or foot a pile of rooftiles or a plank 5 to 10 centimetres thick. Such an event is considered a wonder by those with no knowledge of the sport, but by those who practise it is explained easily: "Through practice and exercises a person is able to concentrate all his strength on the blow at the moment he strikes it, and the power concentrated in the heavy blow is able to break the tiles or split the plank."59
In my view, the state of the Companions described above and the state of the karate expert who breaks the tiles is subject to the same law and may be explained in the same way.
During worship, the Companions were turned to their worship with all their senses and emotions, and were as though in ecstasy through perceiving the meanings and realities of the varying degrees of the verses and phrases they recited with all their faculties and with the spiritual delight resulting from this concentrated perception, and thus were insensible to physical sensations. That is to say, the one smashes tiles through the power concentrated in his forearm, while in the other, the concentration of the subtle spiritual faculties so diminished the awareness of physical sensations as to make him insensible of them.
5) Why did the Companions behave as though Doomsday was about to break forth?
The Companions acted in accordance with the verse The Hour has drawn nigh60 and believed that the signs of the Last Day had appeared in their own times. When asked by certain unfair people:
"Why did the Companions of the Prophet with their vigilant hearts and keen sight, who had been taught all the details of the hereafter, suppose something that would occur one thousand four hundred years later to be close to their century, as though their ideas had deviated a thousand years from the truth?",
Bediuzzaman offered the Companions' religiosity as the explanation:
"Because, through the effulgence of the Prophet's conversation, the Companions thought of the hereafter more than anyone, and knowing the transience of the world and understanding the Divine wisdom in the hour of Doomsday being vague, assumed a position of always awaiting the world's appointed hour and worked seriously for the hereafter."61
4. Truths about the Companions in the Qur'an which Bediuzzaman disclosed
I stated above that the Islamic 'ulama based their views concerning the Companions' justice on verses of the Qur'an. Bediuzzaman too says that they are praised in the Qur'an and other revealed scriptures.62 But the things Bediuzzaman brought to light in this connection are not to be found in the works of previous scholars.
In the Seventh Flash, Bediuzzaman deduced seven sorts of predictions about the Unseen from the verses at the end of Sura al-Fath, which are recited as an 'ashr. These are in part connected with the Companions.
i) And those who are with him are strong against the unbelievers, [but] compassionate among each other. In this verse, he points out that the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs are being alluded to, and the setting-up of the Caliphate, and their fine attributes and the events that would befall them in the future.63
ii) This is their similitude in the Torah, and their similitude in the Gospel... It was a true miracle that an unlettered and untaught Prophet who had never seen the Torah or Gospels should have related the descriptions of the Companions in those books.64 Bediuzzaman gives details in Mektûbat (Letters) of which verses in the Torah and Gospels give which descriptions of the Companions.65
iii) Bediuzzaman points out that the number of times each of the letters in the passage from the verse He it is Who has sent His Messenger to the end is repeated, coincides with the number of the Companions of Badr, Uhud, and the Suffa whose names began with those letters.66 Moreover, Bediuzzaman says this last verse alludes to the different levels among the Companions:
"Like this last verse looks to the Companions with its sentences, so does it look to their situations with its phrases. And like it describes their attributes with its words, so too with its letters, and with the repetition of the number of letters, does it allude to classes of famous Companions like the Companions of Badr, of Uhud, of Hunayn, of the Bench, and of Ridwan. It also expresses many further mysteries through 'coincidences' (tawafuqat) and abjad reckoning, which are branches of the science of jafr, and keys to it."67
In expounding the verse, All... are in the company of those on whom is the grace of God - of the Prophets, the Veracious, the Witnesses, and the Righteous: how goodly a company are these!, he says that it indicates the most famous of five classes of men who are said to receive God's grace, then states that with the phrase of the Prophets, it refers to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), with the Veracious, to Abu Bakr, and with the Witnesses [or martyrs], to 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali. He says that the verse also alludes to their succeeding one another as Caliph and being martyred.68
With the Righteous, it indicates eminent persons like the Companions of the Suffa and of Badr and Ridwan.
He says that with how goodly a company are these!, it alludes to Hasan, whose Caliphate although only six months in length, was of great value.69 He extracts the allusion to Hasan from the word goodly (hasuna). And finally feeling it necessary to point out its allusion, since it is not altogether clear, explains also: "And through a device called in rhetoric mustatba'at al-tarakib, it alludes to the fifth Caliph's name with the phrase How goodly (hasuna) company are these!"70
5. Political differences among the Companions
Bediuzzaman also mentioned the question of the political differences among the Companions, which led to bloodshed. He favoured the Sunni's view in this question. The Sunni 'ulama have said that the conflict arose from interpretations of the law (ijtihad) that had been carried out, that the Companions were at a level whereat they could do this, and according to the Shari'a of Islam, even if one doing this makes a mistaken judgement, he may not be censured. The Companions who were the cause of war, therefore should not be criticized because of their judgements which were in error.71 Bediuzzaman says here:
"Since the interpretations had been purely for God's sake and for the benefit of Islam, and war arose from interpretation of the law, we may surely say that both those who killed and those who were killed gained Paradise, and both acted rightfully."72
1) The right and wrong sides
Besides saying that the sides should not have condemned one another because of the differences in interpretation which has been the cause of bloodshed, he said that 'Ali had been correct in his interpretation, and his opponents in error:
"However accurate was 'Ali's interpretation and however much in error those who opposed him, they still did not deserve punishment. For if one who interprets the Law extracts the truth, he gains two rewards, but if he does not extract it, he still earns one reward, the reward for interpreting which is a form of worship; he is forgiven his error."73
2) The ruling of those in error in the dissension
In addition to confirming that the Companions should not be blamed for being involved in the strife, Bediuzzaman accepts that some of them perpetrated serious errors in these internal disturbances. He deduces this view from the word forgiveness in verse 29 at the end of Sura al-Fath, which praises the Companions. He says:
"It indicates through the word forgiveness, that although since the Companions' excellent qualities were being praised they should have been promised the greatest rewards, in the future strife would be the cause of serious faults arising among them. For forgiveness indicates the existence of faults. And at that time the things most demanded by the Companions, the greatest bounty, would be forgiveness. The greatest reward would be absence of punishment, due to forgiveness."74
It must have been due to the magnitude of the Companions' service in the establishment of Islam that certain serious errors they were to commit subsequently were deemed small and did not prevent them attracting Divine mercy. This matter is illustrated by the incident involving Khatib b. Abi Balta:
"Although God's Messenger (PBUH) took every precaution during the preparations for the conquest of Mecca so that news of it would not be leaked outside, Khatib secretly sent a letter to the Meccans informing them and the letter was intercepted. 'Umar looked on this as treachery and dissembling, and when asked that he should be killed, God's Messenger's reply is important in defining the attitude the Umma should adopt when considering certain 'errors' encountered in the Companions and towards such Companions. God's Messenger (PBUH) said: 'But he fought at Badr. Almighty God was certainly aware of the circumstances of those who fought at Badr for He said: Do as you will for I have forgiven you.'"75
3) The nature of the dissension
Bediuzzaman describes briefly as follows the nature of the strife which began during the Caliphate of 'Ali:
"The war called the Event of the Camel between 'Ali and Talha, and Zubayr and Aisha the Veracious (May God be pleased with all of them) was the struggle between pure justice and relative justice."76
"When it comes to Imam 'Ali's war with Mu'awiya at Siffin, that was a war over the Caliphate and rule. That is to say, taking the injunctions of religion, the truths of Islam, and the hereafter as the basis, Imam 'Ali sacrificed some of the laws of government and pitiless demands of politics to them. Whereas Mu'awiya and his supporters left aside resoluteness and favoured permissiveness in order to strengthen Islamic society with their policies of government; they supposed themselves to be compelled to do so due to the demands of politics, and choosing permissiveness, fell into error.
"As for Hasan and Husayn's struggle against the Umayyads, that was a war between religion and nationalism. That is, the Umayyads planted the Islamic state on Arab nationalism and put the bonds of nationalism before those of Islam, therefore causing harm in two respects:
"The First Respect: They offended the other nations and frightened them off.
"The Other: Since the principles of racialism and nationalism do not follow justice and right, they are tyranny. They do not proceed on justice. ... Thus, Husayn took the bonds of religion as the basis, and struggled against them as someone who executes justice, until he attained the rank of martyrdom."77
4) Why did the Companions not discover the troublemakers?
Bediuzzaman was asked an interesting question about the Companions:
"Why didn't the Companions discover the troublemakers with the eye of sainthood, so that it resulted in three of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs being martyred? For it is said that the lesser Companions are greater than the greatest saints?"
The first part of Bediuzzaman's answer to this is an explanation of 'the greater sainthood,' which the Companions manifested. He says that together with being short, this way of sainthood is extremely elevated, that its 'wonders' are few but virtues many, that illuminations and wonder-working are to be encountered infrequently on it, and that the majority of instances of 'wonder-working' are involuntary and are unexpected Divine bestowals. He then says that the dissension was not the work of a handful of Jews, but the result of the widespread social discontent which developed on the mixing together of the ideas of the many different peoples who had entered Islam. The people whose former religions had been abrogated, and old empires and states, which had been the cause of their pride, swept away, were awaiting the opportunity to take their revenge. In replying to the question of why 'Umar had not seen his murderer who was at his side, although he had seen his commander, Sariya, a month's distance away when he was being pressed in on all sides, and had given him orders saying: "Sariya! The mountain, the mountain!", he recalled that Divine will was fundamental.78
An evidence recalled here was the position of Jacob: although he perceived the odour of Joseph's shirt from Egypt, he did not see him in the well at Cana'an close by. According to Bediuzzaman, when asked this, Jacob replied:
"Our state is like lightning; sometimes it appears and sometimes it is hidden. Sometimes it is as though we are seated on the highest spot and can see everywhere. And sometimes we cannot see even the arch of our foot."79
5) The wisdom in the dissensions
Bediuzzaman also draws attention to a number of beneficial results of the strife and dissension that occurred among the Companions. He said in connection with Companions and the generation that followed them:
"Just as a heavy spring rainstorm stirs into action the potentialities of all the varieties of plants, seeds, and trees, and causes them to develop, so each blossoms in its particular way and performs the duties inherent in its nature, so too the dissension visited on the Companions and their successors stirred their potentialities into action, which were all different and like seeds; it spurred them on. Exclaiming, 'Islam is in danger! Fire! Fire!', it put fear into all the groups and made them hasten to protect Islam. According to its abilities, each of the groups shouldered one of the numerous different duties of the Islamic community and strove in utmost earnestness. Some working for the preservation of the prophetic Hadiths, some for the preservation of the Shari'a, some for the preservation of the truths of belief, some for the preservation of the Qur'an, and so on; each group undertook a particular duty. They strove to perform the duties of Islam. Numerous multicoloured flowers opened. And through the storm, seeds were cast to all the corners of the most extensive world of Islam; half the earth was transformed into a rose-garden. But sadly, together with the roses, the thorns of the deviant sects appeared in the garden."80
Under the heading An