There are at least three narrations comparing the Companions to the stars in the sky:
It is reported from the Prophet that he said ﷺ :
1. "My Companions are like the stars; whoever among them you use for guidance, you will be rightly guided."
This is a weak (daʿīf) hadith narrated:
- from Ibn ʿUmar by ʿAbd ibn Humayd in his Musnad as stated by al-Suyuti in Manahil al-Safa (p. 193 #1027) and Ibn ʿAdi in al-Kamil; al-Suyuti indicated it was weak in his Jamiʿ al-Saghir (#4603).
- from Jabir by al-Daraqutni in Fada'il al-Sahaba and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (2:924-925 #1759-1760=2:111);
- from Abu Hurayra by al-Qudaʿi in Musnad al-Shihab with a very weak chain because of Jaʿfar ibn ʿAbd al-Wahid al-Hashimi who was declared a liar as stated by Ibn Hajar;
- from ʿUmar and Ibn ʿAbbas by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal where he said: "Its matn is well-known (mashhūr) and its chains are weak"; - from ʿUmar by al-Sajzi in al-Ibana and Ibn ʿAsakir as stated by al-Suyuti who indicated it was weak in his Jamiʿ al-Saghir (#4603);
- from Anas by al-Bazzar who said of ʿAbd ibn Humayd's narration: "It is condemned (munkar) and unsound" as cited by Ibn Hajar in Talkhis al-Habir (4:190-191 #2098).
Al-Bajawi said in his edition of al-Qadi ʿIyad's al-Shifa (2:613): "Ibn Hazm even said: It is forged. The hadith master al-ʿIraqi said: The author (ʿIyad) should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ ." Al-Halabi said: "The author should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ , due to what is known about it among the scholars of this science, and he has done the same thing several times before." Al-Qari replies in his commentary on al-Shifa' (2:91): "It is possible that he [ʿIyad] had established a chain for it, or that he considered the multiplicity of its chains to raise its grade from daʿīf to that of 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 (fadā'il al-aʿmāl), and Allah knows best."
Al-Saghani declared it fair (hasan) as stated by Hasan al-Tibi and al-Sayyid's respective commentaries on the Mishkat. Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda in his commentary on al-Qari's Fath Bab al-ʿInaya (1:13) and his al-Masnuʿ fi Maʿrifa al-Hadith al-Mawduʿ (p. 273) rejects the grading of mawdūʿ and equally rejects al-Lacknawi's grading of sahīh - in his marginalia on the latter's Tuhfat al-Akhyar entitled Nukhbat al-Anzar (p. 53) and the introduction to his al-Athar al-Marfuʿa fi al-Akhbar al-Mawduʿa - for which the latter cited al-Shaʿrani'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 miraculous unveiling (kashf)." See also the Tamim brothers' marginalia on al-Qari's Sharh Sharh Nukhba al-Fikar (p. 557).
As for the claim by the "Salafi" Saʿid Maʿshasha's recent tract al-Muqallidun wa al-A'imma al-Arbaʿa (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami and Dar Ibn Hazm, 1999) (p. 102) that "this hadith is forged mawdūʿ 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-Daʿifa (#58) and a number of the scholars": this statement is a shameless lie as all al-Shawkani said in al-Qawl al-Mufid fi Adilla al-Ijtihad wa al-Taqlid on page 9 of its original 1347/1929 edition is: "This hadith was narrated through different routes from Jabir and Ibn ʿUmar, and the Imams of narrator-criticism have explicitly said that none of them are sound (lā yasihhu minhu 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 those we have quoted from the majority of the scholars, but it is a far cry from his 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 was Ibn Hazm, imitated in our time by Nasir Albani. One of the ironies of Maʿshasha's book is that he attacks taqlīd in every page, yet relies exclusively on Albani for hadith authentication, without any reference to the hadith masters!
There is a confirmatory report for the above narration:
2. The hadith in Muslim and Ahmad narrated by Abu Musa al-Ashʿari whereby the Prophet, ﷺ , said: "The stars are trust-keepers for the heaven, and when the stars wane, the heaven is brought what was promised (i.e. of the corruption of the world and the coming of the Day of Judgment); and I am a trust-keeper for my Companions, so when I go my Companions will be brought what was promised them (i.e. of fitna and division); and my Companions are trustkeepers for my Community, so when they go my Community will be brought what was promised to you (i.e. following hawā and vying for dunyā)."
Another report states:
3. Anas relates that the Prophet ﷺ, said: "The simile of the scholars of knowledge (al-ʿulama') 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."
Narrated from Anas by Ahmad in his Musnad (al-Arna'ut ed. 20:52 #12600=al-Zayn ed. 10:508 #12537=3:157 #12606) with a very weak chain according to al-Arna'ut because of Rishdin ibn Saʿd who is weak, Abu Hafs - the narrator from Anas - who is unknown, and ʿAbd Allah ibn al-Walid who is "soft" (layyin), although al-Zayn declared it fair with his usual laxity, as did al-Suyuti in al-Jamiʿ al-Saghir. Cf. al-Haytami (1:121). Also narrated by al-Khatib in al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih (2:70), al-Ramahurmuzi in al-Amthal (p. 51) - both with the same chain - and Ahmad in al-Zuhd, mawqūf from Abu al-Darda'. Also narrated mursal from al-Hasan al-Basri by al-Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal (p. 274).
This is what ʿUmar meant when he named the Companions: "Those whom people look at and take (knowledge) from" when he disapproved of the difference of opinion between Ubay ibn Kaʿb and ʿAbd Allah ibn Masʿud, as related in Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr's Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm (Misr: Dar al-Tibaʿa al-Muniriyya 2:84).
Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi said in Nawadir al-Usul: "Not everyone that met him and followed him or saw him once is meant by this hadith 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 the proofs in which resides right guidance and in whose path is found right emulation and in them is safety and right belief."
There are many reports showing the validity or desirability of following and imitating the Companions in their religious practice, and in the case of the Four Well-Guided Caliphs this imitation is actually a Prophetic command, and Allah knows best.
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The Sahaba's Level Of Superlative Learning
Companion of the Prophet: "Accept Only The Truth"