In the cave, the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi, repeatedly assured Abu Bakr of Allah’s Presence. But it did not work:
إذ يقول لصاحبه لا تحزن إن الله معنا
When he was saying to his companion: “Do not fear, surely Allah is with us.”
Al-Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H) comments about this verse:
عام الهجرة ، لما هم المشركون بقتله أو حبسه أو نفيه ، فخرج منهم هاربًا صحبة صدِّيقه وصاحبه أبي بكر بن أبي قحافة ، فلجأ إلى غار ثور ثلاثة أيام ليرجع الطَّلَبُ الذين خرجوا في آثارهم ، ثم يسيرا نحو المدينة ، فجعل أبو بكر ، رضي الله عنه ، يجزع أن يَطَّلع عليهم أحد ، فيخلص إلى الرسول ، عليه السلام منهم أذى ، فجعل النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يُسَكِّنه ويَثبِّته ويقول : " يا أبا بكر ، ما ظنك باثنين الله ثالثهما"
During the year of the Hijrah, the pagans tried to kill, imprison or expel him (i.e the Prophet). So, he escaped with his friend and companion, Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafah, to the Thawr Cave. They remained in there for three days. So the scouts who were sent in their pursuit returned, and they proceeded to Madinah. (While in the cave), Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, was afraid that they might be discovered by someone, that some harm might come to the Messenger, peace be upon him, from them.
Therefore, the Prophet, peace be upon him, kept reassuring him and strengthening his resolve, saying, “O Abu Bakr! What do you think of two, the third of whom is Allah?”1
Apparently, one word was not enough for Abu Bakr. When the Prophet mentioned the presence of Allah the first time, he obviously noticed that his companion was not convinced. So, he kept repeating it, telling him not to fear. The Sunni argument is that Abu Bakr only had great, uncontrollable fears for the life and safety of the Messenger of Allah. Well, there is nothing in the verse or hadith remotely suggesting that.
By contrast, the words of the Prophet, “Allah is with us”, suggest that Abu Bakr’s fears were about both of them together in the cave. Otherwise, he would have said, “Allah is with me”, placing the emphasis upon himself. Abu Bakr’s fears about the Prophet could also have actually been self-serving! Their fates were interconnected in that dire situation. If the Messenger fell into any danger, Abu Bakr was sure to have a good taste of it too. So, he wanted the Prophet safe, so that he too could be safe.
What support our contention – that Abu Bakr did not really care about the Prophet’s life – are his latter actions on the battlefields. For instance, he abandoned the Messenger of Allah to the mercy of the pagans on different days of battle, and fled away, again and again, with his life from jihad. Imam Muslim (d. 261 H) records:
حدثنا محمد بن أبي بكر المقدمي وحامد بن عمر البكراوي ومحمد بن عبدالأعلى قالوا حدثنا المعتمر (وهو ابن سليمان) قال سمعت أبي عن أبي عثمان قال لم يبق مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم في بعض تلك الأيام التي قاتل فيهن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم غير طلحة وسعد عن حديثهما
Muhammad b. Abi Bakr al-Muqaddami, Hamid b. ‘Umar al-Bakrawi and Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-A’la – al-Mu’tamar (and he is Ibn Sulayman) – father – Abu ‘Uthman:
“None remained with the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, on some of the days in which the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, was fighting apart from Talhah and Sa’d. They both (i.e. Talhah and Sa’d) narrated that to me.”2
On several expeditions of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman fled and escaped from battle! They ran way, and did not look back, knowing fully well that their actions could get the Prophet killed, injured or imprisoned.
In any case, what matters to our discussion in this chapter is that Abu Bakr doubted the assurances of the Messenger of Allah while they both were in danger, in the cave. He was unconvinced by them. Therefore, when Allah sent down His sakinah, He excluded him. The same thing happened with ‘Umar later on the Day of al-Hudaybiyyah. Imam Ibn Hibban (d. 354 H) records his own words concerning what he did on that day:
فقال عمر بن الخطاب رضوان الله عليه والله ما شككت منذ أسلمت إلا يومئذ فاتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقلت ألست رسول الله حق
So, ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭab, may Allah be pleased with him, said (about the Day of al-Hudaybiyyah): “By Allah! I never doubted since I accepted Islam EXCEPT on that day. So, I went to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said, ‘Are you not truly the Messenger of Allah?’”3
‘Allamah al-Albani (d. 1420 H) comments:
Moreover, Shaykh al-Arnauṭ agrees:
It is a sahih hadith5
He doubted the nubuwwah of Muhammad on that day! This removed him from the ranks of believers. So, when Allah sent down His sakinah, He excluded ‘Umar, and whoever was like him:
فأنزل الله سكينته على رسوله وعلى المؤمنين
So, Allah sent down His sakinah upon His Messenger and upon the believers.6
لقد رضي الله عن المؤمنين إذ يبايعونك تحت الشجرة فعلم ما في قلوبهم فأنزل السكينة عليهم
He knew what was in their hearts. Therefore, He sent down sakinah upon them.7
At this point, it is apposite to quote this verse:
إنما المؤمنون الذين آمنوا بالله ورسوله ثم لم يرتابوا وجاهدوا بأموالهم وأنفسهم في سبيل الله أولئك هم الصادقون
The believers are only those who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and do not doubt afterwards, and they do jihad with their wealth and with their lives, for the Cause of Allah. They are the truthful ones.8
Did Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ever doubt Allah or His Messenger after they had accepted Islam? Did Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ever shield their lives from jihad by running away? Were they true believers then? Can people like them really be the best ones in this Ummah after our Prophet? What about those of the Sahabah, like Imam ‘Ali, ‘alaihi al-salam, and perhaps others, who never doubted after their acceptance of Islam, and who never fled the battlefield? How could they have been inferior?
How can a doubter be superior to a firm, unshakable believer? How can someone who escapes with his life from jihad be better than someone who completely sold his life to Allah? How can someone who abandoned the Messenger of Allah in fatal danger and ran to save his own life be more valuable than another who placed his life in the midst of pagan swords so that the Prophet could live?
Most importantly, the Messenger also specifically named the second best of the entirety of this Ummah – during his lifetime – after himself. It is in Hadith al-Ikhtiyar, recorded by Imam al-Tabarani (d. 360 H):
حدثنا محمد بن جابات الجند نيسابوري و الحسن بن علي المعمري قالا : ثنا عبد الرزاق عن معمر عن ابن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن ابن عباس قال لما زوج النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فاطمة عليا قالت فاطمة : يا رسول الله زوجتني من رجل فقير ليس له شيء فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم : أما ترضين يا يا فاطمة أن الله عز و جل اختار من أهل الأرض رجلين أحدهما أبوك والآخر زوجك
Muhammad b. Jabat al-Jund Naysaburi AND al-Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Ma’mari – ‘Abd al-Razzaq – Ma’mar – Ibn Abi Najih – Mujahid – Ibn ‘Abbas:
When the Prophet, peace be upon him, married Faṭimah to ‘Ali, Faṭimah said, “O Messenger of Allah! You are marrying me to a poor man who has nothing.” So, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Are you not pleased, O Faṭimah, that Allah the Almighty the Most Glorious chose, from the people of the earth, two men: one of them is your father and the other is your husband?”9
Concerning the First Narrator B, ‘Allamah al-Albani states:
الحسن بن علي المعمري ... هو صدوق حافظ
Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Ma’mari ... He is saduq (very truthful), a hafiz (hadith scientist).10
Al-Hafiz (d. 852 H) says something similar:
الحسن بن علي بن شبيب المعمري الحافظ واسع العلم والرحلة
Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali b. Shabib al-Ma’mari: the hafiz (hadith scientist), very knowledgeable and widely travelled (in search of knowledge).11
And Imam al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H) corroborates them:
المعمري :الامام، الحافظ، المجود، البارع، محدث العراق، أبو علي، الحسن بن علي بن شبيب البغدادي المعمري.
Al-Ma’mari: the Imam, the hafiz (hadith scientist), the generous, the pious, the hadith master of ‘Iraq, Abu ‘Ali al-Hasan b. ‘Ali b. Shabib al-Baghdadi al-Ma’mari.12
Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H) has equally documented his chain in his Mustadrak:
حدثنا أبو سعيد أحمد بن يعقوب الثقفي ثنا الحسن بن علي المعمري ثنا أبو مصعب الزهري ثنا هشام بن عمار السلمي ....
Abu Sa’id Ahmad b. Ya’qub al-Thaqafi – al-Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Ma’mari – Abu Mus’ab al-Zuhri - Hisham b. ‘Ammar al-Sulami....13
Al-Hakim says about the chain:
هذا حديث صحيح الإسناد
This hadith has a sahih chain.14
And al-Dhahabi corroborates him:
This proves that al-Ma’mari was thiqah (trustworthy).
Al-Hafiz also states about the second narrator:
عبد الرزاق بن همام بن نافع الحميري مولاهم أبو بكر الصنعاني ثقة حافظ
‘Abd al-Razzaq b. Hammam b. Nafi’ al-Humayri, their freed slave, Abu Bakr al-San’ani: Thiqah (trustworthy), hafiz (a hadith scientist).16
He further says about the third narrator:
معمر بن راشد الأزدي مولاهم أبو عروة البصري نزيل اليمن ثقة ثبت فاضل
Ma’mar b. Rashid al-Azdi, their freed slave, Abu ‘Urwah al-Basri, he lived in Yemen: Thiqah (trustworthy), thabt (accurate), fadhil (meritorious).17
The fourth narrator is like him, as confirmed by Imam al-Dhahabi:
عبد الله بن أبي نجيح المكي، صاحب التفسير. أخذ عن مجاهد، وعطاء، وهو من الأئمة الثقات.
‘Abd Allah b. Abi Najih al-Makki: the scholar of tafsir. He learnt from Mujahid and ‘Aṭa and was one of the thiqah (trustworthy) Imams.18
عبد الله بن أبي نجيح يسار المكي أبو يسار الثقفي مولاهم ثقة رمي بالقدر وربما دلس
‘Abd Allah b. Abi Najih Yasar al-Makki, Abu Yasar al-Thaqafi, their freed slave: Thiqah (trustworthy), accused of believing in fatalism, and maybe he practised tadlis.19
There is a probability that he practised tadlis. It is not definite. In any case, his ‘an-‘an reports from Mujahid are accepted as sahih. For instance, Imam Muslim records this chain in his Sahih:
وحدثني حسن بن علي الحلواني حدثنا زيد بن الحباب حدثني إبراهيم بن نافع حدثني عبدالله بن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن عائشة رضي الله عنها
Hasan b. ‘Ali al-Halwani – Zayd b. al-Habab – Ibrahim b. Nafi’ – ‘Abd Allah b. Abi Najih – Mujahid – ‘Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her.20
Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241 H) also records:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا عبد الرزاق ثنا معمر عن بن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن عبد الرحمن بن أبي ليلى عن كعب بن عجرة
‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – ‘Abd al-Razzaq – Ma’mar – Ibn Abi Najih – Mujahid – ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Layli – Ka’b b. ‘Ujrah.21
And Shaykh al-Arnanuṭ comments:
إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين
Its chain is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.22
Imam al-Hakim is not left out:
أخبرني عبد الرحمن بن الحسن القاضي بهمدان ثنا إبراهيم بن الحسين ثنا آدم بن أبي إياس ثنا ورقاء عن ابن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما
‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hasan al-Qadi – Ibrahim b. al-Husayn – Adam b. Abi Iyas – Waraqa – Ibn Abi Najih – Mujahid – Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both.23
هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين
This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.24
Imam al-Dhahabi concurs:
على شرط البخاري ومسلم
(Sahih) upon the standard of al-Bukhari and Muslim.25
Imam al-Tirmidhi (d. 279 H) has documented a similar chain:
حدثنا ابن أبي عمر حدثنا سفيان عن ابن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن أبي معمر عن ابن مسعود
Ibn Abi ‘Umar – Sufyan – Ibn Abi Najih – Mujahid – Abi Ma’mar – Ibn Mas’ud26
هذا حديث حسن صحيح
This hadith is hasan sahih.27
‘Allamah al-Albani agrees too:
Imam Abu Ya’la (d. 307 H) records as well:
حدثنا زهير أخبرنا يزيد بن هارون أخبرنا محمد بن إسحاق عن عبد الله بن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن ابن عباس
Zuhayr – Yazid b. Harun – Muhammad b. Ishaq – ‘Abd Allah b. Abi Najih – Mujahid – Ibn ‘Abbas.29
Shaykh Dr. Asad comments:
Its chain is sahih30
And finally, Imam Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311 H) has documented this chain in his Sahih too:
ثنا الفضل بن يعقوب الجرزي ثنا عبد الأعلى عن محمد عن عبد الله بن أبي نجيح عن مجاهد عن ابن عباس
Al-Fadhl b. Ya’qub al-Hirzi – ‘Abd al-A’la – Muhammad – ‘Abd Allah b. Abi Najih – Mujahid – Ibn ‘Abbas.31
Shaykh Dr. al-A’zami states:
Its chain is sahih.32
At this point, it is needless to prove that Mujahid, the last narrator of Hadith al-Ikhtiyar – was also thiqah (trustworthy). However, we shall still do so, in case there is someone who prefers that. Al-Hafiz says about him:
مجاهد بن جبر بفتح الجيم وسكون الموحدة أبو الحجاج المخزومي مولاهم المكي ثقة إمام في التفسير وفي العلم
Mujahid b. Jabr, Abu al-Hajjaj al-Makhzumi, their freed slave, al-Makki: Thiqah (trustworthy), an Imam in tafsir and in (religious) knowledge.33
With this, it becomes absolutely proven that Hadith al-Ikhtiyar is sahih. All its narrators are thiqah (trustworthy), and there is no disconnection whatsoever in the chain. The hadith establishes that Allah chose only Muhammad and ‘Ali – in a special selection - out of all the people of the earth. It is clear from the text that Allah had not chosen anyone else among them before He chose the two. As such, whatever other selections were made by Him, apparently, came after this first, unique selection.
The Qur’an makes it absolutely clear that creation and choosing are exclusive divine functions:
وربك يخلق ما يشاء ويختار ما كان لهم الخيرة
And your Lord creates whatever He wills, and He chooses. They have no right to choose.34
Among those He chose was His Messenger, Musa:
وأنا اخترتك فاستمع لما يوحى
And I have chosen you. So listen to that which is inspired to you.35
He equally chose the Israelites:
ولقد اخترناهم على علم على العالمين
And We had knowingly chosen them above the worlds.36
The chosen ones, of course, are also the best:
وإنهم عندنا لمن المصطفين الأخيار
And with Us, they are verily from the chosen ones, the best.37
So, when Allah chose His Messenger and Amir al-Muminin out of all the people of the earth, He was basically declaring them both as the best of all. Since Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman were alive at that time, it is obvious that both Muhammad and ‘Ali were better than them, by Allah’s Own Decree. These facts are very uncomfortable to mainstream Sunni teachings, and pose an existential threat to Sunni Islam as a whole.
If the khilafah of Abu Bakr collapses, nothing else can survive from the Sunni madhhab. This is why Sunnis generally feel very uneasy about Hadith al-Ikhtiyar. Perhaps, it is also why ‘Allamah al-Albani grades the authentic hadith in this manner:
Fabricated?! By who? By the thiqah (trustworthy) narrators?! Then, our ‘Allamah states:
روي من حديث أبي هريرة، وعبد الله بن عباس، وأبي أيوب الأنصاري، وعلي الهلالي، ومعقل بن يسار.
It is narrated by Abu Hurayrah, ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abbas, Abu Ayub al-Ansari, ‘Ali al-Hilali and Ma’qil b. Yasar.39
Five Sahabah! That is enough to make it mutawatir by the standards of some Sunni muhadithun! What exactly is the problem with our dear ‘Allamah al-Albani? The worst part of it all is that the ‘Allamah – whether deliberately or by mistake – omits the sanad of al-Ma’mari above in his extensive discussion against the authenticity of the hadith!
This, of course, makes it possible for him to reject it! However, if he had included that sahih chain in his analysis, the story would have been far different. It is unclear how the ‘Allamah misses that sanad of al-Ma’mari, despite that he has quoted other chains of the same hadith from the same Mu’jam al-Kabir of al-Tabarani! In any case, ‘Allamah al-Albani’s verdict upon the hadith is based upon incomplete research. As such, it is void.
Sadly, our ‘Allamah takes things even more disturbing levels – to an all-time low - with this comment of his over a chain that has some common names with that of al-Ma’mari:
ولو أنه ثبت عنه؛ لبقي فيه علة أخرى تقدح في صحته، وهي احتمال أن يكون هذا الحديث أيضاً مما أدخله ابن أخي معمر في كتب معمر؛ فإنه كان رافضياً
Even if it is established from him (i.e. ‘Abd al-Razzaq), there is still another defect in it which discredits its authenticity. It is the possibility that this hadith too is one of those things which the nephew of Ma’mar inserted into the books of Ma’mar, for he (that nephew) was a Rafidhi.40
Possibility?! Mere conjecture? So, there is no concrete evidence? But even then, no such possibility ever exists, to begin with! We will simply round off this chapter with this angry reply of the Sunni hadith master, ‘Allamah al-Maghribi:
قلت : هذا كلام باطل جدا ، وبيان ذلك : أن ابن أخي معمر، شخص وهمي لا وجود له ، ولا يعرف أخ لمعمر . وكيف يوجد ابن بدون أب غير عيسى عليه السلام ؟
I say: This is complete nonsense! The reason for this is: That nephew of Ma’mar was only an imaginary figure. He never existed! Ma’mar was not known to have any brother. How could a son exist without a father, apart from ‘Isa, peace be upon him?41