The Hadith “My Companions are like the stars….”
“My Companions are like the stars, whoever among them you use for guidance, you will be rightly guided.”
This hadith is either fair due to its many chains (hasan li-ghayrihi) or, at worst, weak; but not forged, and its meaning is true.
The hadith is narrated through many weak chains as stated by Ibn Hajar in al-Kafi al-Shaf fi Takhrij Ahadith al-Kashshaf (4:94) from:
1) Ibne Umar C by ‘Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad (muntakhab Kuwait ed. 2:28, Cairo ed. p. 250), Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in Jami ‘Bayan al Ilm (2:924.1759), and Ibn Adi in Kamil (2:785-786), all with very weak chains through the forger Hamza ibn Abi Hamza al-Ju’fi al-Jaziri cf. al-Suyuti in Manahil al-Safa (p. 193/1027), Ibn Adi in al-Kamil, and Talkhis al-Habir (4:190);
2) Jabir ibn Abd Allah C by al-Darqutni in Fada’il al-Sahaba and al-Mu’talif wal-Mukhtalif (4: 1778), Ibn Abd al-Barr in Jami ‘Bayan al-Ilm (2:925/1760=2:110-111 da’if), and Ibn Hazm in al-Ihkam (6:244 mawdu) with a weak chain because of Sallam ibn al-Harith although This is the best chain int his chapter and al-Bayhaqi declares it strong in al-I’tiqad (P.319); Ibn Hazm narrates it through Sallam ibn Sulayman (ibn Sawwar) who is also weak;
2a) Jabir by al-Daraqutni in Ghara’ib Malik through unknown from Imam Malik cf. Talkhis al-Habir.
3) Abu Hurayra (radi allahu tala anho) by al-Qudai in Musnad al Shihab (2: 275/1346) with a very weak chain because of Jafar ibn Abd al-Wahid al-Hashimi who is accused of lying as stated by Ibn Hajar;
4) Umar (radi allahu tala anho) (a hadith qudsi) by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal (p. 162=1: 145-146/151), al-Khatib in al-Kifaya (p. 48-p. 66=p. 95), al-Bazzar who graded it da’if munkar as quoted by Ibn Abd al-Barr in Jami Bayan al -Ilm 2:924, Nizam al-Mulk (408-485) in Majlisan min Amali Nizam al-Mulk (p.52), al-Sijzi in al9Ibana, and Ibn Asakir, all with a very weak chain because of Abd al-Rahim ibn Zayd al-Ammi who is discarded cf. Ibn al-Jawzi, ‘Ilal (1:282), al-Dhahabi, Mizan (batil), al-Suyuti, Jami’Saghir (4603 daif), al-Sanani, Tawdih al-Afkar P. 264, al Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir 4:76 batil), and al-Ghumari, al-Mughir P. 56 mawdu);
5) Ibn Abbas C munqati by al-Khatib in al-Kifaya P 48, P.65-66.P 95), al- Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal P. 163-164=1: 147-148), and Ibn Asakir cf. al-Suyuti, Miftah al-Jana P 45,93-94/180), all with a very weak chain because of Juwaybir ibn Said al-Azdi (cf. Taqrib) in addition to its being broken between al-Dahhak and Ibn Abbas;
6) Hz Anas (radi allahu tala anho) through al-Bazzar cf. Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir 4:191 isnad wahin and al-Matalib al-Aliya 4:146 isnad daif.
7) Jawab ibn Ubaydullah the Tabe’i, mursal by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal p 163/1: 148/153) through Juwaybir.
Qazi Iyad attributes it positively to the Prophet (sall allahu alehi wasalam) in al-Shifa (p. 535/1302). Al-Bajawi said in his commentary of the Shifa (2:613): “The hadith Master al-Iraqi said: The author (Iyad) should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet.” Al-Halabi said: “The author should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet (alehisalam) as per what is known about it among the experts of the science, and he has done the same thing several times before.” Al-Qari replies in his Sharah al-Shifa (2:91): “It is possible that he (Iyad) had established a chain for it or that he considered the multiplicity of its chains to raise its grade from da’if to hasan due to his good opinion of it, not to mention the fact that even the weak hadith may be put into practice for meritorious acts (fada’il al-a’mal), and Allah knows best.” See also Ibn al-Athir, Jami’ al Usul (8:556-557)
Al Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal concludes “Its matn is well-known and its chains are weak, not one of them being sound” but He declares one of its chains strong and adduces it in al-Itiqad P. 319, confirming its meaning while ibn Hajar supports him in Talkhis al-Habir 4:191 cf. al-Mubarakpuri, Tuhatul Ahwadhi 10: 156.
Ibn Abd al-Barr rejects al-Bazzar’s ruling of munkar and also tends to strengthen it cf. Ibn Hajar in Takhrij Ahadith Mukhtasar Ibn al-Hajib (i.e. ibn al-Hajib’s abridgment of his own Muntaha al-Sul wal-Amal fi Ilmay al-Usul wal-jadal) as cited in al-Sanani’s Tawdih al Afkar Page 264.
Al-Saghani declared it fair (hasan) as stated by Hasan al-Tibi and al-Sayyid’s respective commentaries on the Mishkat and al-Lacknawi’s Iqamat al-Hujja P 49, Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda in his commentary on al-Qari’s Fath Bab al-Inaya 1:13 rejects the grading of mawdu and tends to accept al-Lacknawi’s grading of hasan in his marginalia on the latter’s Tuhfat al-Akhyar titled Nukhbat-al-Anzar P 53 and in the introduction to his al-Athar al-Marfu’a fi al-Akhbar al Mawdu’a – for which the latter cites al-Sharani’s phrase in the Mizan al Kubra: “Even if the authenticity of this hadith is questioned among the Scholars of hadith, nevertheless it is sound among the people of spiritual unveiling (kashf).” See also the Tamim brothers’ marginalia on al-Qari’s Sharh Sharha Nukhbat al-Fikar (p. 557).
The “Salafi” scribeling Sa’id Mashasha in his tract al-Muqallidun wal-Aimmat al Arba’a (Beirut: al -Maktab al-Islami and Dar Ibne Hazm, 1999) (p. 102) said, “this hadith is forged (mawdu) as Ibn Hazm said in Usul al-Ahkam (810), al-Shawkani in al-Qawl al-Mufid p. 30, and al-Albani in al-Silsila al Daifa (58) and a number of the scholars.” This statement is a flat untruth as al-Shawkani adduces this narration as a proof in his Irshad al-Fuhul (1:337, 1:394) and all he said in al-Qawl al-Mufid fi Adillat al-Ijtihad wal-Taqlid on page 9 of its original 1347/1929 edition is : “This hadith was narrated through different routes from Jabir and Ibn Umar, and the Imams of narrator-criticism have explicitly said that none of them are sound (la yasihhu minha shay’) and that this hadith is not firmly established as a Prophetic narration……In sum, this hadith forms no proof.” This is the same opinion as what we have quoted from other scholars but it is a far cry from saying the hadith is forged. Furthermore, it is untrue that “a number of the scholars” have declared it forged as the only scholar who did so was Ibn Hazm, imitated in our time by various semi-Ulema. One of the ironies of Ma’shasha’s book is that he attacks taqlid on every page yet relies blindly on Albani for hadith authentication, without reference to the hadith Masters!
Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Nawadir al-Usul 3: 62 and others consider the meaning of this hadith true. Its meaning is confirmed by countless corroborative evidence such as the following:
The Hadith from Abu Musa al-Ashari (rd) narrated by Muslim and AHmad, “My Companions are trustkeepers for my Community,” part of a longer hadith in which the Prophet alehisalam compares himself and his Companions (ridwanllahi tala alehum ajmaeen) to the stars. This comparison is unique in the hadith and, together with the verse (and by the stars they find a way) (16:16 Holy Quran), shows the truth of the hadith “My Companions are like the stars.”
The Hadith from Anas (rd) in the Musnad and Zuhd of Imam Ahmad, “The simile of the people of learning (al-Ulema) on the earth is the stars in the sky by which one is guided in the darkness of the land and the sea. When the stars are clouded over, the guides are about to be lost.“
The hadith from Anas (rd) in the Sahihayn and Sunan, “You are the witnesses of Allah on earth! You are the witnesses of Allah on earth! You are the witnesses of Allah on earth!”
The hadith from Abu Said al-Khudri (rd), Rafi ibn Khajid and Zayb ibn Thabit (rda) by Ahmad, al-Tabarani, al-Hakim, Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Tayalisi, al-Qudai, and al-Bayhaqi, “Mankind makes up one portion (hayyiz) and I and my Companions make up one portion (counter-balancing it).”
The report that our liege-lord Abu Bakr (radi allahu tala anho) said to a desert Arab who had objected to the allotment for him agreed upon by the Muslims: “If the Emigrants are satisfied, you are but followers!”* – using the word “followers” (taba’un) to mean ‘without any prerogative to consider, question, or discuss.”” Similar to this is the word of Allah: (When those that were followed (uttubi’u) disown those that followed (ittab’u)) (2:166), which uses follow (ittiba) for the most basic blind imitation.
The fact that our Amir al-Momineen Umar (rd) referred to this paradigmatic guidance of the Companions when he defined them as “Those whom people look at and take (knowledge) from” at the time he disapproved of the difference of opinion between Ubay ibn Ka’b and Abd’Allah ibn masud. (rda)
The fact that Imam Ahmed confirmed this understanding in his definition: “The Religoin is nothing but imitation itself” (al-din innama huwa al-taqlid) and he continued, “This imitation is for the Companions of the Messenger of Allah.“(sall allahu alehi wasalam).”* To al-Sayrafi who was asking him whether it is permissible to verify the variant positions of Companions “in order to know which is correct so that we may follow it,” Ahmad replied: “It is not permissible to verify (the difference) among the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (alehisalam)!” Al-Sayrafi said: “Then what do we do?” He replied: “You imitate whomever of them you like!” (tuqallidu ayyahum ahbabt).* (This is an explicit stipulation (nass) from Imam Ahmad that by taqlid he means taqlid, not “following the proof” or “ittiba” or some such invented distinctions aimed at diluting or nullifying the meaning of taqlid.)
Similarly, Ahmad said to al-Maymuni: “Abu al-Hasan! Never speak over any matter in which you do not have an Imam [to imitate].”*
As for the objection of Ibn Hazm that “not through every star is one guided,” it is refuted at the root by the verse (and by the stars they find a way)! (16:16) and was anticipated by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi who said in Nawadir al-Usul: “Not everyone that met him (alehisalatowasalam) and followed him or saw him once is meant by the hadith ‘My Companions are like the starts’ but only those that studiously kept his company morning and evening, received his conveyance of the Revelation, took from him the Law that became the path of the Umma, and looked to him for the ethics of Islam and to his noble traits. Those became, after him, the Imams and proofs in which resides right guidance and in whose path is found right emulation and in them is safety and right belief.”*
And Allah and His Noble Messenger knows best!
* Narrated by al-Muhibb al-Tabari in al-Riyad al-Nadira 2:235 -236
* Narrated by Ibn Abd al-Barr in jami’ Bayan al-Ilm (Misr: dar al Tiba’at al-Muniriyya 2:84
* Narrated from Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari by Ibn Abi Ya’la in Tabqat al-Hanabila 1:29
* Narrated by Ibn Abd al-barr in Jami ‘ Bayan al Ilm 2: 909/1705)
(Selected from Shaykh G.F. Haddad)