In Part 1, we mentioned that differences are very much part of human nature and unity can be quite an intricate issue. In Part2, we have talked briefly about the nine companions promised Paradise while they were still alive. Those nine names were mentioned in the hadith narrated by Abu Dawood, though the hadith specifically mentioned the number was ten.
In this part, we shall mention the tenth companion and present our conclusion on the theme being discussed.
The name of the tenth person promised Paradise appeared in the hadith narrated by Tirmidhi. The hadith reads as follows:
Abdul Rahman bin Auf said: The prophet (s) said: Abu Bakar in Paradise, Umar in Paradise, Uthman in Paradise, Ali in Paradise, Talha in Paradise, al- Zubair (bin al-'Awwam) in Paradise, AbdulRahman bin Auf in Paradise, Sa’d (bin Abi Waqqass) in Paradise, Saeed (bin Zayd), and abu Ubaydah bin al- Jarrah in Paradise." —Tirmidhi
The last name mentioned is none other than Abu Ubaydah bin Jarrah. Who is he?
Abu Ubaydah is another well known leading companion. In case you are less familiar with him, he was the one whom Umar chose to replace Khalid bin Al Walid as soon as Umar became the caliph. As we know, Abu Bakar had appointed Khalid Al Walid as the leading general during his time, but as soon as Umar took over the leadership, he replaced Khalid with Abu Ubaydah.
About him, we need not mention much here. He led the kind of lives led by Abu Bakar and Umar: extreme piety and extreme poverty. In case you are interested in the little detail, he did not have front teeth. Well, two of them were missing.
Why? Well, he was the one who took out the splintered iron from the Prophet’s armor which got stuck into the Prophet’s cheek during the Battle of Uhud. This story is well known.
After the reverse in the Battle of Uhud, as a result of the archers going against the Prophet’s instruction, which Khalid Al Walid took full advantage, he being the leader of the Quraysh cavalry at that time, the Prophet fell into a ravine and the ensuing mayhem had resulted in his cheek being stuck with two splinters of his mail armor. Not wanting to hurt the Prophet, Abu Ubaydah took that splinters out using his teeth, losing two of them in the process.
Umar was also reported to have said that he would have appointed Abu Ubaydah as his successor should the latter is still alive, but Abu Ubaydah died before Umar was assassinated. Umar chose him over Khalid because he was a more cautious man.
Khalid had a thick warrior blood in his vein. Left to him, he would want to expand the Islamic frontier as fast as he could, and in the process, may endanger many of the Muslim fighters. Abu Ubaydah served as a balancing role. Yet, in every difficult battle, it was to Khalid that Abu Ubaydah would rely for tactical move.
At this point, it may be worth mentioning that all these ten companions were the Prophet’s human shields, protecting the Prophet with their bodies when the Quraysh were going after the life of the Prophet in the Battle of Uhud. They were promised the Paradise after that event.
Now that all those ten companions were mentioned, it is time to conclude our piece.
To recap, these ten companions of the Prophet had lived varied lives. Some lived like a pauper, other lived in comfort. Some are very poor, others are very rich. They are best of friends to each other, but in another occasion, they fight each other to death. Some are very strict in applying justice, others are more lenient. Some refuse to favor their kin and close relatives in official appointments, others have no qualm about appointing their relatives to important positions. But all are guaranteed Paradise even before they died.
As also mentioned in Part 2, these ahadith (plural of hadith) imply that no matter what they did, we cannot say that they were wrong, irrespective whether the actions taken by them may have done a lot of damage to the Muslims.
For instance, if we examine the war between Ali on one side, and Talha plus Zubyar on the other, we would see that the action taken by Talha and Zubayr had led to a bloody war. Some said twenty thousand people had died in that war, although a more believable estimate put it only at ten thousand. Well, ten or twenty thousand, the number is huge, and should have been avoided.
The war between Ali and Muawiyah caused an even larger number of casualties. We shall reserve this deeper examination for later entry. The point to make here is that even when they appeared to make the wrong judgment, we cannot fault them for their mistake, because they had strong basis for their action.
This leads us to a very important point here.
Islam is only one, but its shades and hues are many. The Straight Path is only one, but the way we can traverse this path is varied. We should not hold that only our version of Islam is true, and all other versions are false. The varied lives that these people traversed give us something to ponder, if we care to ponder, especially in the light of our proclivity to be divisive, of accusing others to be wrong or being misled, of saying we alone are in the side of the truth.
As people say, there is more than one way to slice a cat. And if I may add, so as to avoid being misconstrued by the above analysis: there is more than one way to slice a cat, so long as it is the right cat. Thus, before we take a fight with our Muslim brothers or sisters over some issues, and start accusing them of being less Islamic, perhaps it is a good idea to remember that even the leading companions did not always agree with each others.
Before we end, one final point should be made.
You may ask: since these leading companions who had been promised Paradise had led varied lives whereby some of them had taken the route that had brought tragedy to the Muslims, does it mean that it is acceptable for us to do the same, since they are the stars that guide our journey?
Now, if you make that kind of observation, then I must say that you have missed the whole point. If guidance is what we are looking for, then it is another story that we have to be mindful about. The story can be briefly narrated as follow.
After Ali was assassinated, his followers had appointed his son to be the new caliph, replacing his father. Ali’s son, Al Hassan, had seen and participated in the bloody disputes his father had engaged both with the team of Aisha, Zubayr and Talha, as well as the team of Muawiyah.
By the time Al Hassan was made the new caliph, Zubayr and Talha were already dead, but Muawiyah still made the claim as the rival caliph. Knowing the kind of person Muawiyah was, Al Hassan decided that suing for unity is better than suing for war.
Against the wishes of his supporters, Al Hassan wrote the letter to Muawiyah stating that, among others, he would relinquish his claim to the Caliphate and pledge his allegiance to Muawiyah if the latter is willing to let the Ummah decide his successor after his term ended. Muawiyah, on his part, did not desire war either, so, he agreed to the peace treaty. For the next twenty years, the Islamic Empire was united under Muawiyah and expanded even further.
Thus, if guidance on unity is what we are after, then it is the footstep of Al Hassan, the grandson of the Prophet, that we should follow. He sacrificed his stake as a caliph, although by all accounts, he had more right to be the caliph than Muawiyah.
Such an action, however, is easier said than done. To swallow our pride and to sacrifice our interest, even the little one, are extremely difficult for most people to do. Al Hassan the grandson of the Prophet is indeed a rare breed.