Imam Reza (A.S.) Gives Explanation about Sahaba
Some asked him about the meaning of this tradition: "My companions are like the stars: If you follow any of them, you shall receive guidance," and another one saying, "Leave my companions to me." Both of these traditions are considered by Sunnis as the foundation of their generalization of their judgement regarding all companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.), thus justifying even their acts which contradicted Islamic justice, calling what they could not justify as "an error in ijtihad."
But the Imam (A.S.) provides us with the actual explanation of these and other such ahadith with honesty and integrity, outlining in an easy manner their exact meaning. In his answer regarding the first tradition, he said, "Yes; he did say this hadith, meaning thereby the companions who did not make any alteration after him or any change." He was asked, "How can you tell that they altered and changed?" He said, "This is due to what is reported about him (S.A.W.) that he said, `Certain individuals among my companions will be forcibly pushed away from my Pool (of Kawthar) on the Day of Judgement just as strange camels are pushed away from the watering place, and I shall cry, `O Lord! My companions! My companions!' and it shall be said to me, `You do not know what innovations they invented after you,' so they will be pushed away towards the left side (where Hell is), and I shall say, `Away with them; ruined they shall be.'" The Imam continued to say, "Such will be the penalty of those who alter and change (hadith)."
This hadith is narrated, with a minor variation in its wording, by al-Bukhari who quotes Abdullah ibn Mas'ood citing the Prophet (S.A.W.) saying, "I shall be the first to reach the Pool, then the souls of some men among you will be raised and they shall be prohibited from coming near me, and I shall say, `Lord! These are my companions!' And it shall be said to me, `You do not know what they did after you...'"(Bukhari, Vol. 8, p. 119, Amiri edition).
A number of huffaz and narrators of hadith reported this tradition in various wordings which maintained the same contextual meaning, proving thus that it is consecutive according to them.
The Imam (A.S.), through his frank and proven answer, saved us the effort to look for lame excuses for the flagrant transgressions in which a number of the sahaba fell, and from far-fetched arificialities to justify the errors of conduct which they deliberately committed with determination and which the same huffaz could not justify except by saying that they were cases of "mistaken ijtihad" which, according to them, did not contradict the justice expected of them, having been pressed by their attempt to attribute absolute justice to the sahabi no matter what he did….
A companion (sahabi) of the Prophet (S.A.W.) who was distinguished with the honour of being so close to the Prophet (S.A.W.) is one who is the custodian over the fruits of the Message and a protector of its structure through his faith and deeds. He is a man who ought to be taken as a model of conduct. He is a man, as the Imam (A.S.) used to say, who does not alter or change any of the statements of the Prophet (S.A.W.). As regarding those who altered and changed, these cannot be awarded a unique distinction, just because they were companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.), which raised them above other Muslims simply because they were not up to par with the level of responsibility of being honest, which is expected of them, to carry out after the demise of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and the cessation of wahi from coming to this world.
The hadith which the Imam (A.S.) narrated about Ibn Mas'ood, and which is recorded by a number of those who learned the Holy Qur'an and hadith by heart in their books is considered as an explanation of this hadith and an explanation of its connotation. Moreover, it puts the sahaba on equal footing with the others in subjecting their behaviour to criticism and discussion, and it shatters the self-immunity which was granted to them in accordance to Prophetic statements manufactured by a number of huffaz and traditionists without permitting themselves or others to discuss but take for granted.
In another hadith, the Imam (A.S.) proves to us, through a clear statement by the Prophet (S.A.W.), that some individuals who were regarded as sahaba were not actually so, which shatters all the excuses used only to justify the mistakes and transgression committed by them. For example, Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Taliqani reported that a man in Khurasan swore by divorce that Mu'awiya was not among the true companions of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), and this happened when Imam al-Reza (A.S.) was present there. The jurists there issued their verdict that the man had actually divorced his wife, and the Imam (A.S.) was asked to provide his own opinion in this regard. He decided that that man's wife was not divorced; therefore, those jurists wrote a statement and sent it to him. In it, they asked him, "How did you come to say, O son of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.), that the woman was not to be divorced?" He wrote down on the same sheet saying, "It is so because of what you yourselves narrate from Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri quoting the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) saying about those who accepted Islam on the day of opening Mecca, when he was surrounded by a large number of people, `You are good; my companions are good; and there shall be no migration after this Fath,' without including these (meaning Mu'awiya) among his companions." The jurists had to adopt the decision of the Imam (A.S).
Thus did the Imam (A.S.) deny that Mu'awiya was a companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.), which claim used to surround the man with a halo of sanctity of his personality and which used to be used to justify the very serious transgressions he committed which left their terrible marks on the structure of the Islamic government since then, and to justify such transgressions by saying that he was a sahabi, and that as such whatever he did or said could not possibly cast a doubt about his justice, adding, "If we see the good aspect of his action missing, we may say that he attempted ijtihad, and he erred," even if such error was at the expense of the Prophetic Message itself…
If we accept this argument, we would be justifying all the transgressions and erroneous behaviour of some companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) regardless of their motives or horrible consequences. The transgressions of Mu'awiya and his norms of conduct, in which he departed from the line of the Islamic Message, and which agreed with the attitude of animosity towards Islam, and whose motives and impulses were reasons to cast doubts and suspicions, nobody is really obligated to defend and describe as within the Islamic Shari'a simply because they were the result of an erroneous ijtihad wherein the mujtahid is rewarded with one reward, due to his "immunity" which does not include Mu'awiya simply because the latter was not a companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.) but was just like any other Muslim whose conduct was subject to accountability and criticism, and the verdict in his regard is based on the anticipated results of his deeds.
The directive the Imam (A.S.) intended by denying that those who accepted Islam, including Mu'awiya, were not companions of the Prophet on the day when Mecca was conquered is one of the strongest and deepest of his directives, for he drew a line between the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his true companions on one side, and those who accepted Islam after the conquest of Mecca and under the pressure of a superior power and authority on the other hand. Had it not been for their feeling of their precarious situation versus the might of their opponent, realizing that they had no choice except to make asylum and submit to the word of Islam, they would have otherwise dealt with Islam in a quite different manner..