Who was the bravest companion?
Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm
This is one of the issues which Shia love to raise against the personality of companions like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Their problem is that they think bravery is to kill people in Jihad and if someone couldn’t kill with his power than he is not brave. And hence, they conclude, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were not brave. If that is the case then people like Pharaoh, Nimrod, Stalin and all the mass murderers would have to be listed at the top of all the braves.
Among the believers Bara bin Malik al-Ansari lonely killed hundred men besides those whom he killed with the help of others. Hamza, Abu Dujanah al-Ansari, ‘Aasim bin Thabit, Talha, Zubair, Sa’d were all known for their specialty in tackling the enemy. But no one prefer them over ‘Ali bin Abi Talib or over Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with them all.
Once a person presents himself to face the enemy he is proven to be a brave one regardless of how much of them he could kill or defeat. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, never missed any battle with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and they were seen defending the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) during harsh conditions especially in Uhud and Hunain. How could such a person be coward? If it is just because there is hardly any narration describing how they killed a Mushrik during battle then what could be the response regarding the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) who never killed anyone in battle except Ubayy bin Khalaf? If they say that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was bravest but he was a leader and hence did not involve in fighting then we shall let ‘Ali (ra) falsify this claim. Hence Imam Ahmad records in Musnad (1042), Abu Ya’la (302, 412) and others with an authentic Isnad through Abu Ishaq from Harithah bin Mudharrib that ‘Ali said:
لَمَّا حَضَرَ الْبَأْسُ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ اتَّقَيْنَا بِرَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَكَانَ مِنْ أَشَدِّ النَّاسِ، مَا كَانَ – أَوْ: لَمْ يَكُنْ – أَحَدٌ أَقْرَبَ إِلَى الْمُشْرِكِينَ مِنْهُ
“When the fighting grew intense on the day of Badr we sought shelter by drawing closer to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), who was one of the strongest of men, and no was closer to the disbeliever than him.”
We see that during the harsh time even brave like ‘Ali (ra) used to seek shelter with the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) but still he did not kill anyone except Ubayy.
So what is bravery? Let us look at the meaning of Shuja’ah [Arabic of bravery] in Arabic dictionary. Al-Jawhari says in “As-Sihaah” (3/1235):
شدَّة القلب عند البأس
“It is the stability of heart during trial.”
Even the English word bravery means ‘able or ready to face and endure danger, disgrace or pain’. So not being able to kill someone or not being able to conquer some place does not indicate cowardice. Indeed, those who were killed by ‘Ali during the battles were more than those who were killed by Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. But it only proves that ‘Ali encountered more famous combatants than them not that they were hiding for their life.
As for running away from battles than there is no indication that any of the two Shaikh left the battle field. There were two incidents in Prophetic history when Muslims ran from the battle field when they couldn’t handle the enemies’ fierce attack. But in none of them, with any shred of evidence, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar left the battle field. So called proofs which some Shia authors quote to prove that they ran away from the battlefield are nothing but sheer misrepresentation of the context. If Allah willed I will compile a refutation on such arguments.
The following passage I translated from Minhaj as-Sunnah (8/87-89) of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah who quoted ‘Allamah Ibn Hazm from “Al-Fisal” (4/107).
Ibn Hazm said:
We see that they claim that ‘Ali was the greatest in waging Jihad against disbelievers and attacking and fighting them among all the companions.
Abu Muhammad (Ibn Hazm) said: This is wrong as the Jihad is classified in three categories;
- One of them is calling towards Allah,
- Second is to do Jihad during war by ideas and strategies
- And the third is to do jihad with hands by killing and hitting.
We find that with regards to the first type of Jihad no person supersede Abu Bakr and ‘Umar after the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). As for Abu Bakr then we find that the senior companions accepted Islam on his hands. As compared to him, ‘Ali does not have much share in this. As for ‘Umar then we see that the day he became Muslim Islam was strengthened and the worship of Allah was being done openly. This is the greatest Jihad and these two persons were alone in such Jihad of the first two categories (during early days) which has no comparable and ‘Ali does not have participation in it.
With regards to the second category then we find that it is specifically for Abu Bakr and then for ‘Umar.
As for the third category which is stabbing, hitting and combating then we find that it is the lowest level of Jihad because of the obvious reason that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), with the agreement of Muslims, was selective in doing the most virtuous of the act and we see that his – may Allah sends Salaat and salutation upon him – Jihad in most of the cases was restricted within the first two categories which is to call towards Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – and planning and forwarding. His least involvement (among the three categories) was in stabbing, hitting and combating. This is not because of cowardice but in reality he was absolutely the bravest of all earthly beings with his hands and soul and the most complete to attain succor. But he would look for the best and then next after it from the acts, and then he would prefer it and get involved with it. We find that, during Badr and other battles, Abu Bakr would not leave him and sometimes even ‘Umar was included in it. They were distinguished in this case unlike ‘Ali and all other companions, except in rare cases.
Then after that we ponder over the third category of Jihad which is to stab, to hit and to combat. We see that ‘Ali was not alone in this, but many other companions also had the same share like Talha, Zubair and Sa’d and those were killed in early Islam like Hamza, ‘Ubaidah bin Harith and Mus’ab bin ‘Umair, and from Ansar Sa’d bin Mu’adh, Simak bin Kharshah Abu Dujanah and others. Also Abu Bakr and ‘Umar do have good share in it even if they did not involve in it like these people which is because of their participation in a better Jihad in association with the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and to aid him during battles. And he sent them for war more than he sent ‘Ali. He sent Abu Bakr towards Bani Fazarah and elsewhere and he sent ‘Umar towards Bani Fulan. On the other hand we do not know ‘Ali was sent for any battle except at some fort of Khaibar which he conquered [and he had sent Abu Bakr and ‘Umar there, before ‘Ali, but they could not conquered it]. So Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were involved in the highest level of Jihad and besides that they have their share with ‘Ali in the lower category of Jihad.