Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Ten Promised Paradise, Or How Would You Like Your Cat Sliced (2/3)

In Part 1, we have alluded to the intricacy of the much touted idea of unity and suggested that disagreement or dispute is very much part of human nature.  Disagreement and dispute are as old as mankind themselves, as illustrated in the story of Cain and Abel (Qabil and Habil).

Halfway through it, the Hadith of Ten Promised Paradise was presented and its background analyzed. 

Now, there are many others whom the Prophet specifically mentioned will be the people of Paradise, such as Bilal bin Rabah, Ammar bin Yassir, Salman Al Farisi, to name among the well known ones.  The Prophet also mentioned others who fell martyr during the wars, such as his uncle, Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib, whom he said will be the leader among the martyrs (syuhada).  But to be singled out in one breath, as per the aforementioned Hadith, has its own special significance. 

One the one hand, the Prophet was saying that no matter what these people do, they will enter Paradise, since he stated it unequivocally.  On the other, it implies that these people will not do things that will disqualify them from entering Paradise.  Combining these two points together, it will throw some light on our understanding of what Islam is all about.


Because even with cursory examination of their lives, we find that they lived rather varied lives.  Some even engaged in actions which, for the lack of better word, appeared to be rather uncalled for. 

As a way of reminder and in order to know who are the companions concerned, let’s reproduce the aforementioned hadith, as narrated by Saeed bin Zayd, as appeared in the collection of Abu Dawood:
"I bear witness to the Apostle of Allah (SAWS) that I heard him say: "Ten persons will go to Paradise: "Abu Bakr will go to Paradise, Umar will go to Paradise, Uthman will go to Paradise, Ali will go to Paradise, Talha will go to Paradise: Zubair bin Al-Awwam will go to Paradise, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas will go to Paradise and Abdur-Rahman bin Awf will go to Paradise. If I wish, I can mention the tenth." The People asked: "Who is he?" so he kept silence. They again asked: "Who is he?" He replied: "He is Saeed ibn Zayd."
As for the first two, Abu Bakar and Umar, nothing really needs to be said about them.  They are beyond reproached.  Both of them led the kind of lives which are always preached by the teacher of religion: extreme piety, strict justice, no favoritism, and utter disregard to the material comfort.  Only the extreme Shiites will talk bad about these two.

In this case, Umar is especially exemplary.  While Abu Bakar never cared about material comfort, and he continued to live in poverty even after becoming caliph, it has to be remembered that Abu Bakar lived during the time of scarcity. 

When Umar became caliph, however, he conquered the two most powerful empires at that time: Persia and Rome.  Wealth was abundant during his time, but he continued living like a pauper.  He was also very strict in appointing the officer to the office.  None of his close relatives, even the most competent ones, was allowed to assume any significant position.

As Muawiyah used to say, “The Prophet and his two closest companions never cared about the material comfort, but the Prophet and Abu Bakar lived during the time of scarcity.  Umar lived in the time of abundant, but never cared about it either.  As for us, we indulge in luxury.”

As for the other eight companions, or at least seven of them, similar things cannot be said.  They lived varied lives, and some of their decisions may be deemed controversial, if not altogether inappropriate.  Yet, all of them were promised Paradise during their lifetimes.  This means that whatever actions taken by them, none can be considered a major flaw. 

It goes to show that great as they were, they were still humans.  It also means that Islam is not a rigid way of life.  These companions led varied lives, but they were examples for us to follow.

The third person after Abu Bakar and Umar, whose name is Uthman, presents a different picture from two of his predecessors.  He was pious, humble, extremely generous, and in many ways, a paragon of virtue.  But he did allow himself of material comfort.  His house was big, and his clothes were generally of a rather expensive kind. 

He was also accused of being a bit too lenient in applying justice.  He would rather forgive than to punish, even when executing punishment appears to be a more appropriate course of action.

Furthermore, he had appointed many of his close relatives to important positions.  Among the famous ones were Muawiyah, his second cousin, as the Governor of Sham, and Marwan bin Hakkam, his cousin, who was appointed as his secretary.  Uthman was accused of nepotism, favoritism and cronyism.  It was because of this accusation that people revolted against him, which ended up in his assassination.

But Uthman was also the man whom the Prophet gave two of his daughters to be married, one after the other.  He was also the man whose wealth the fledgling Islamic community benefited the most, as the Prophet himself attested in one of his sayings.

As for Ali, his virtue is exemplary and his wisdom is beyond matched.  But during his time as the fourth caliph, he plunged himself in many civil wars.  In fact, throughout his reign, which lasted about four years and a half, it was colored by one civil war to another.  Many tens of thousands were dead due to these civil wars. 

Before Ali became caliph, he shone above the rest in every endeavor he undertook.  But as a caliph, he got mixed reviews.  He was most unlucky as compared to his three predecessors.  While they were elected by the companions during peace time, he was forced by the rebels who revolted against Uthman to assume the caliphate office.  He inherited the troubled nation left by his predecessor.  It was because of this reason that the civil war was unavoidable.

As for Talha and Zubayr, their virtues are too numerous to mention.  But both of them died fighting against Ali, when the later became caliph.  This was the first civil war that Ali had encountered.  

In fact, it was the first civil war among the Muslims. Nay, not just any Muslims, but leading companions to boot.  Ali fought the army led by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, in whose army both Talha and Zubayr were the commanding leaders.  This is the great tribulation that continues to haunt us Muslims till these days.

As for Abdul Rahman bin Auf, his virtues, like other companions, are too many to enumerate.  But most people know him as the businessman par excellence.  He was rich beyond belief, if we are to take some of the stories at the face value.  He didn’t live like a pauper, but lived comfortably. 

He did not choose to live like his close friend, Umar Al Khattab, but Umar never faulted him for his wealth.  In fact, it was his wealth, along with Uthman’s wealth, that Umar benefited the most during the famine that hit Arabia during Umar’s reign. 

Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, meanwhile, was noted as the General who conquered the Persian Empire.  After the Battle of Qadisiyyah, of which he led, the Persian Empire was slapped with the definitive blow.  It took many more years before the remnant of the empire to be annihilated, but it was after that Battle, which took place in the year 636 AD, that the Persian Empire crumbled to the ground. 

After Persia was conquered, Sa’d was appointed as the Governor of Basrah by Umar.  As a Governor, Sa’d built the wall around his house because people kept disturbing him.  For that, he was accused by the population as being a difficult leader to seek the audience.  In his characteristic move, Umar instructed for the wall to be burned down, which was done.  Umar also later on dismissed him of his position.

Umar, however, did not put blame on him, which is why Sa’d was selected as one of the six candidates to replace him.  Sa’d did not become Umar’s successor, however, but continued to support Uthman, who was chosen as the third Caliph after Umar.

But when Ali assumed the role as the fourth Caliph, and subsequently entered into numerous civil wars, he chose to be neutral, neither siding with Ali, nor against him.  He refused to pledge his obedience to Ali, nor to Ali’s rivals.  He died a wealthy man.

Saeed bin Zayd, the companion who narrated the aforementioned hadith, as mentioned in the Part 1, was the brother in law of Umar.  He took part in all major battles that the Prophet engaged.  He dutifully served the same during Abu Bakar, Umar and Uthman, although rarely as a leader.   He was as competent as any other men mentioned above, but he never aspired to be a leader. 

When Umar was stabbed, which led to his death, Umar did not select Saeed among the candidates to replace him, on account of him being Umar’s close relative.  During Ali caliphate, like Sa’d Abi Waqqas, he chose to remain neutral. 

Also like Sa’d, he later regretted his decision not to join Ali’s party against Muawiyah.  It was probably because of this that when people talked abusively about Ali after the latter had died, Saeed rose to defend Ali.  The point he wanted to make is that people shouldn’t talk ill of Ali, because Ali was already guaranteed the Paradise.  Whatever decision he had made during his rule, which was marked by one civil war to another, was the best decision he could make given the time and situation.

The foregoing is cursory examination of the lives of ten companions who were promised Paradise even before their death. 

Ten we say?  Have you counted the number properly?  It is only nine, is it not?

Yes, the narration through Saeed bin Zayd as reported by Imam Abu Dawood somehow placed the Prophet himself as number one, which of course is odd.  The hadith may have reached him in that manner, and Abu Dawood, being scrupulous he was, dared not change the text although it sounded odd.    

To know the missing name in the list, we have to use other narration through Abdul Rahman Auf as reported by Imam Tirmidhi. 

Who was the other leading companion promised Paradise?  We shall mention his name in our concluding part.  Stay tune. 

End of part 2

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