Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had special relations to some of his Companions (RA). He chose each one of them for distinctive missions and called them nicknames that strengthened respect, love, and intimacy.
Abu Sufyan (RA), before his Islam, said: “I have never seen any person loved another to the extent that Muhammad’s Companions love Muhammad!!” (The Prophet’s Biography by Ibn Hisham)
Ali bin Abi Talib (RA)
Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) was the first Sahabi who made self-sacrifice in Islam. Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ordered him to sleep on his bed and wear his green burdah on the night of Al-Hijra from Makkah to Madinah because Quraysh was planning to kill him (PBUH).
At that night, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) chose carefully his first believer among children “Ali ibn Abi Talib” as he was known for his bravery, valor, and fierce at all times and in all battles and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) would refer to him as Asadullah “the Lion of Allah (SWT)”.
“On the day (of the battle) of Khaibar, Prophet said, “Tomorrow I will give the flag to somebody who will be given victory (by Allah) and who loves Allah and His Messenger and is loved by Allah and His Messenger.
“So, the people wondered all that night as to who would receive the flag and in the morning everyone hoped that he would be that person. Allah’s Apostle asked, “Where is `Ali?” He was told that `Ali was suffering from eye trouble, so he applied saliva to his eyes and invoked Allah to cure him. He at once got cured as if he had no ailment.
The Prophet gave him the flag. `Ali said, “Should I fight them till they become like us (i.e. Muslim)?” The Prophet said, “Go to them patiently and calmly till you enter the land. Then, invite them to Islam, and inform them what is enjoined upon them, for, by Allah, if Allah gives guidance to somebody through you, it is better for you than possessing red camels.” Sahih al-Bukhari 3009
Mus’ab bin Umayr (RA)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sent Mus’ab bin Umayr (RA) to Yathrib “Medina” to teach them the rituals of Islam, read them the Qur’an, instruct them in the religion, and prepare Al-Medina for the day of the great Hijrah.
Prophet Muhammad chose him because he was an attentive listener, wise young man, very determined, and sensible.
Mus’ab (RA) had the characteristics of an ambassador and thus he was called “the First Ambassador of Islam“.
In Medina, many people embraced Islam by Mus’ab bin Umayr (RA) such as Sa’d bin Mu’adh, Usayd bin Hudayr, and Sa’d bin Ubadah.
One day, Prophet Muhammad was sitting with his Companions when Mus’ab came. Prophet PBUH looked at Mus’ab, smiled gratefully, and said:
“I have seen this Mus’ab with his parents in Makkah. They lavished care and attention on him and gave him all comforts. There was no Quraysh youth like him. Then he left all that seeking the pleasure of Allah and devoting himself to the service of His Prophet.”
Hudhaifah bin Yaman (RA)
Hudhaifah bin Yaman was the Secret Keeper of the Messenger (PBUH) even under persistent questioning. In addition to his quick-wittedness and valiance in all battles and military expeditions except the Battle of Badr, he had a unique intelligence that made him very close to our Prophet (PBUH).
Therefore, he was chosen to watch the hypocrites (munafiqun), especially the Jews and their allies, follow their activities, and shield the Muslims from their sinister purposes.
Our Prophet (PBUH) told him all the names of the munafiqin and that was a weighty secret which the Prophet did not disclose to any other of his companions and he ordered him not to disclose the secret.
Caliph Umar (RA) knew indirectly who the hypocrites were by watching Hudhayfah’s attendance at the funeral prayer. He asked:
“Has Hudhayfah attended his funeral prayer?” If ‘yes’, he would perform the prayer. If ‘no’, he became doubtful about the person and refrained from performing the funeral prayer.
Also, Umar (RA) used to ask Hudhayfah if any of his governors was a Munafiq. Hudhayfah told him ‘Yes’ but declined to inform whom.
Once Umar (RA) was sitting with his companions and said: “what do you wish for?” One said: “I wish this house was full of gold so I could spend it in the way of Allah and give it in charity.” Another said: “I wish this house was filled with precious stones, so I could spend that in the way of Allah and give in charity.” Umar asked: “what else do you wish for?” They said: “we do not know O Leader of the believers.”
Umar said: “I wish this house was filled with men like Abu Ubaydah, Muadh bin Jabal and Salim Mawla of Abu Hudhayfah and Hudhayfah bin Yamaan, (so I would use them in Allah’s way).” [Al-Mustadrak 5005]
During Al-Ahzab ‘the Battle of the Trench’
Ibn Ishaq relates:
“Hudhayfah bin Al-Yaman (RA) said: “Prophet (PBUH) stood up praying for a part of the night. He then turned to his companions and asked: ‘Who is willing to go and find out what our enemies are doing and return (to return was a condition the Prophet attached to that particular mission). I shall pray to Allah to make any volunteer for this mission my companion in Heaven.’
No one volunteered because of our great fear and hunger on that very cold night. When no one answered, the Prophet called me forward. I then had no choice but to go. He said to me:
‘Hudhayfah, go inside their camp and find out what they are doing. Do not do anything on your own initiative until you return.’ I went into their quarters to see the wind and God’s other soldiers playing havoc in their camp. No pot or pan stood upright, no fire could be maintained and no structure stood up. Abu Sufyan then addressed his people: ‘People of the Quraysh, let everyone make sure of the person sitting next to him.’
“I took the man next to me by the hand and asked him who he was. He answered me, mentioning his name and his father’s name. Abu Sufyan then said:
‘People of the Quraysh, you realize that we cannot stay much longer. We have endured great hardship and the Jews of the Qurayzah have not fulfilled their promises to us. Indeed, we have received highly disturbing reports about their position. You see what these strong winds are doing to us. We cannot stay much longer in these conditions, and my advice to you is to go back home where I am now going.”
He then mounted his camel, which was tied to a peg. He hit the camel, which jumped on its feet, and released itself as it stood up. Had it not been for the Prophet’s clear instructions to me that I must not do anything serious before I returned, I could have killed Abu Sufyan with my arrow.”
Hudhayfah then returned to the Prophet and deliver his report. He found the Prophet praying, and sat very close to him. Continuing his prayers, the Prophet drew Hudhayfah closer to him until he was sitting between his legs and he covered him with his robe. When he finished his prayers, he listened to Hudhayfah’s news and our Prophet (PBUH) was very happy.
Usama bin Zayd (RA)
Usama bin Zayd (RA) got our Messenger of Allah’s (PBUH) infinite love as he was born and nurtured Islam since his birth. He was called among the Companions “The Beloved Son of the Beloved”.
Prophet (PBUH) used to hold Usama and Al-Hassan (The Messenger’s grandson) and say: “O Allah love them for I Love them.”
Usama grew up in the house of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and with the mother of the believers Khadija (RA). He attended most of the battles during his lifetime and showed outstanding bravery, high intelligence, and piety. Then, Prophet (PBUH) selected Usama bin Zayd (RA) to be the commander of an army which was to invade the region of Balqa in the Byzantine Empire to take revenge for Muslim’s defeat at the Battle of Mu’tah.
Usama’s leadership was not accepted by some people because of his young age but our Prophet (PBUH) dispelled all the doubts.
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar:
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) sent troops appointed Usama bin Zaid as their commander. The people criticized his leadership. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) got up and said:
“If you (people) are criticizing his (i.e. Usama’s) leadership you used to criticize the leadership of his father before. By Allah, he (i.e. Zaid) deserved the leadership indeed, and he used to be one of the most beloved persons to me, and now this (i.e. his son, Usama) is one of the most beloved persons to me after him.” Sahih al-Bukhari 4469
Muadh bin Jabal (RA)
Muadh bin Jabal (RA) was a very wise, knowledgeable, and diligent student. He was keen to learn as much knowledge from the Prophet (PBUH) as possible and he kept the company of the Prophet most of the time to learn Quran from him.
Prophet (PBUH) loved him and said to him: “O Muadh: By Allah, I love you.” [Abu Dawud].
Muadh (RA) was also ambitious, persevering in his efforts, discerning, and patient in learning Qur’an during the life of the Prophet (PBUH) until he became one of only four people who had memorized it.
Narrated Masriq:`Abdullah bin `Amr mentioned `Abdullah bin Masud and said, “I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, ‘Take (learn) the Qur’an from four: `Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu`adh and Ubai bin Ka`b.'” Sahih al-Bukhari 4999
Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sent him to Yemen to spread Islam there and to teach its people about it.
Narrated Abu Burda that his father said:
“The Prophet (PBUH) sent Mu`adh and Abu Musa to Yemen telling them. ‘Treat the people with ease and don’t be hard on them; give them glad tidings and don’t fill them with aversion, and love each other, and don’t differ.” Sahih al-Bukhari 3038
Narrated Abu Ma`bad: (the slave of Bin Abbas) Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said to Mu`adh when he sent him to Yemen:
“You will go to the people of the Scripture. So, when you reach there, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in each day and night. And if they obey you in that tell them that Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the Zakat which will be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor among them. If they obey you in that, then avoid taking the best of their possessions, and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person because there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.” Obligatory Charity Tax (Zakat) Book 24, Hadith 97
Abu Bakr (RA)
Abu Bakr (RA) was the first believer of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) among men, that’s why he was called Al-Ṣiddiq. He was the closest friend and the companion of the Messenger’s migration “Hijra” from Mecca to Madinah and when they hid in the Cave of Thaur.
Anas b. Malik reported that Abu Bakr Siddiq reported him thus:
I saw the feet of the polytheists very close to us as we were in the cave. I said: Allah’s Messenger, if one amongst them were to see at his feet he would have surely seen us. Thereupon he said: ‘Abu Bakr, what can befall twain who have Allah as the third One with them. Sahih Muslim, Book 31 Book 31, Number 5698
Abu Bakr (RA) was present at almost all the battles and expeditions with our Prophet (PBUH) and he showed unique courage and steadfastness.
Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) asked his Companions: “Tell me, who is the bravest of men?” The people replied, “You.” He said, “As for me, I never encountered anyone but that I took my due from him, but tell me, who is the bravest of men?” They said, “We don’t know. Who is it?” He said, “Abu Bakr. On the day of Badr, we made a shelter from the sun for the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) then we said, ‘Who will be with the Messenger of Allah so that none of the idolaters may fall upon him?’ By Allah, none of us drew near except for Abu Bakr who brandished a sword over the head of the Messenger of Allah. No one fell upon him but that he, in turn, fell upon him. So he is the bravest of men.” He continued, “I saw the Messenger of Allah and the Quraysh grabbed him. One held him and another threw him down and they were saying, ‘Are you the one who had made the gods into one God?’ By Allah, none of us approached except Abu Bakr striking this one, and restraining that one, and throwing down another, saying, ‘Woe to you! Will you kill a man because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah?’”
During our Prophet (PBUH) sickness, Abu Bakr (RA) lead the prayer.
When the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was confined to bed, Bilal came to him to summon him to prayer. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Ask Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer. She (‘A’isha) reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr is a tenderhearted man when he would stand at your place (he would be so overwhelmed by feelings) that he would not be able to make the people hear anything (his recitation would not be audible to the followers in prayer). You should better order Umar (to lead the prayer). He (the Holy Prophet) said: Ask Abu Bakr to lead people in prayer.
She (‘A’isha) said: I asked Hafsa to (convey) my impression to him (the Holy Prophet) that Abu Bakr was a tenderhearted man, so when he would stand at his place, he would not be able to make the people bear anything. He better order Umar.
Hafsa conveyed this (message of ‘A’isha) to him (the Holy Prophet). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: (You are behaving) as if you are the females who had gathered around Yusuf. Order Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer.
She (‘A’isha) reported: So Abu Bakr was ordered to lead the people in prayer. As the prayer began, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) felt some relief; he got up and moved supported by two persons and his feet were dragged on earth (due to excessive weakness).
‘A’isha reported: As he (the Holy Prophet) entered the mosque. Abu Bakr perceived his (arrival). He was about to withdraw, but the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) by the gesture (of his hand) told him to keep standing at his place. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) came and seated himself on the left side of Abu Bakr.
She (‘A’isha) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was leading people in prayer sitting. Abu Bakr was following the prayer of the Apostle (ﷺ) in a standing posture and the people were following the prayer of Abu Bakr. Sahih Muslim 418f
Zayd bin Harithah (RA)
Zayd bin Harithah (RA) was the fourth believer among the Companions of our Prophet (PBUH). He was raised at the house of Khadija as the adopted son of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). However, Islam rejected adoption and replace it with Kafala.
Our Prophet (PBUH) sent him for several expeditions as he was a skilled archer. The last battle, where he was the commander, was Mu’tah.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Zaid took over the flag and was martyred. Then it was taken by Jafar who was martyred as well. Then `Abdullah bin Rawaha took the flag but he too was martyred and at that time the eyes of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) were full of tears. Then Khalid bin Al-Walid took the flag without being nominated as a chief (beforehand) and was blessed with victory.” Sahih al-Bukhari 1246
Ja’far Bin Abi Talib (RA)
Ja’far Bin Abi Talib (RA) was the cousin of the Prophet (PBUH) and looked like him in appearance and morals.
Prophet (PBUH) said to Ja`far, “You resemble me both in character and appearance” Sahih al-Bukhari 2699
Ja’far (RA) got heroic situations due to his great courage and support to Islam. That’s how he was named the First Foreign Emissary For Islam. He escaped from Quraysh harm and persecution to Abyssinia with other Companions. He delivered his eloquent speech to the King of Abyssinia “The Negus” and gained his protection.
Ibn Ishaq narrated that Ja’far (RA) said:
“We were an uncivilized people. Allah sent us an Apostle who commanded us to speak the truth, be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, and to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women. He commanded us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, alms, and fasting [enumerating the commands of Islam]. So we believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah, and we follow what he asked us to do and we avoid what he forbade us to do.”
Sa’d bin Mu’adh (RA)
Sa’d bin Mu’adh (RA) was the master of the Aws tribe. He embraced Islam at the hands of Mu’sab ibn Umair. Thus, the whole Aws tribe converted to Islam.
Before the Battle of Bader, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) asked for his Companions’ opinions as the number of the Army of Mecca was very large compared to the Army of Muslims.
Sa’d bin Mu’adh (RA) stood up and said:
“O Prophet of Allah! We firmly believe in you, and we witness that what descends on you is the truth. We swore a solemn oath and gave you the allegiance, so go ahead with whatever you want, and we shall stand by your side. We swear by Allah, Who has sent you with truth, that if you reach the sea and cross it, we will cross it hand-in-hand with you. No man will lag or stay behind. We are absolutely ready to go to war against our enemy tomorrow for we are given to terrible warfare, and we are sincere in our desire to meet Allah. I hope that Allah will make us do what will make you proud of us. So go on with whatever is in your mind. Allah blesses you.”
The people of Banu Qurayza asked for Sa’d bin Mu’adh’s (RA) judgment as he was their ally in Jahiliya.
Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri :
The people of (Banu) Qurayza agreed to accept the verdict of Sa’d bin Mu’adh. So the Prophet sent for Sa’d, and the latter came (riding) a donkey and when he approached the Mosque, the Prophet said to the Ansar, “Get up for your master or for the best among you.” Then the Prophet said (to Sa’d).” These (i.e. Banu Qurayza) have agreed to accept your verdict.” Sa’d said, “Kill their (men) warriors and take their offspring as captives, “On that, the Prophet said, “You have ruled according to Allah’s Judgment,” or said, “according to the King’s Judgment.” Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith No. 3895
At the Battle of Badr
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) called fighters from his tribe and from Al-Muhajirun. He knew that it’s a heavy sacrifice therefore he chose them before anyone else and put them in the first lines of defense.
When Hamza bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib killed al-Aswad bin ‘Abdul-Asad al-Makhzumi, three men from the Ommayad: Utbah ibn Rabi’ah with his brother Shaybah ibn Rabi’ah and son al-Walid bin ‘Utbah challenged the Prophet (PBUH) to send his fighters.
Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sent Hamza, Ubaydah bin al-Harith, and ‘Ali bin Abu Talib. Ali killed Al Walid and Al Hamza killed Utbah; then they both helped Ubaydah against his rival Sheibah. Sheibah was killed immediately and Ubaydah was the first martyr at this battle.
As Muslims, we follow our Prophet (PBUH) Sunnah and read carefully how he chose his closest and beloved Companions (RA) to spread Islam widely and fight the polytheists.
Allah (SWT) says: “Verily in the Messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looked unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembered Allah much.” Sura Al Ahzab 21
And Allah knows best.
*Additional contribution by Asma’a Mraish