Excerpts from al-Qadi `Iyad said in his book al-Shifa' fi ma`rifat huquq al-Mustafa (The Healing consisting in the knowledge of the Prophet's Rights):
Part of respecting and obeying the Prophet consists in respecting his Companions, obeying them, recognising what is due to them, following them, praising them, asking forgiveness for them, refraining from discussing their differences, showing enmity to those who are hostile towards them and shunning the misguidance of the Shi'a and the innovators and the reports of any historians or ignorant transmitters who detract from any of them. If there is something equivocal which is reported about them regarding the trials that took place between them, then adopt the best interpretation and look for the most correct way out of it since that is what they deserve. None of them should be mentioned in a bad manner nor are they to be rebuked for anything. Rather, we mention their good deeds, their virtues and their praiseworthy lives and are silent about anything else.
======= The Prophet said: ==============================
idha dhukira as-habi fa amsiku.
"When my Companions are mentioned, hold back."
[The complete hadith states: "When my Companions are mentioned, hold back; when the stars are mentioned [i.e. astrology], hold back; and when Allah's Decree [al-qadar] is mentioned, hold back." Narrated by: Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-kabir (2:93, 10:244) from Ibn Mas`ud and Thawban; Ibn `Adi in al-Kamil fi al-du`afa' (6:2172) from `Umar, Ibn Mas`ud, and Thawban; and Ibn Abi Usama from Ibn Mas`ud. al-`Iraqi (d. 806) in his Takhrij ahadith al-Ihya' entitled al-Mughni `an haml al-asfar [Book of knowledge] said: "Tabarani narrated it from Ibn Mas`ud with a fair (hasan) chain." Haythami (d. 807) said in Majma` al-zawa'id (7:202, 223 #11395-6, 11515): "From Thawban: Tabarani narrated it with a chain contaning Yazid ibn Rabi`a who is weak; from `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud: Tabarani narrated it and its chain contains Mushar ibn `Abd al-Malik, whom Ibn Hibban and others declared trustworthy but there is disagreement about him, while the rest of the narrators are the men of sound hadith." Suyuti's (d. 911) grading in al-Jami` al-saghir (#615) hasan. Albani included it in al-Silsila al-sahiha (#34).]
"Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful to the believers..." (48:29)
"The outstrippers, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansars," (9:100)
"Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave allegiance to you under the tree," (48:18)
"Men who were true to their contract with Allah." (33:23)
Hudhayfa said that the Messenger of Allah said:
iqtadu bi al-ladhina min ba`di abi bakrin wa `umar.
"Take for your leaders/guides those after me, Abu Bakr and 'Umar."
[Narrated through several chains by Tirmidhi in his Sunan (Manaqib) who said: hadith hasan; Ahmad in his Musnad through four chains; Ibn Majah in his Sunan; al-Hakim who declared it sound (sahih); and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.]
And the Prophet said:
as-habi kal-nujum bi ayyihim iqtadaytum ihtadaytum.
"My Companions are like stars. Whichever of them you use as a guide, you will be rightly guided."
[Suyuti said in Manahil al-safa: `Abd ibn Humayd narrates it from Ibn `Umar, and in al-Jami` al-saghir (#4603): da`if. al-Bajawi said in his edition of al-Shifa (2:613): "al-Daraqutni narrated it, and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-`Ilm, through chains that are all weak. Ibn Hazm even said: It is forged. The hadith master al-`Iraqi said: The author (`Iyad) should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet." However, al-Qari said in his commentary on al-Shifa' (2:91):
The Prophet said it, as narrated by `Abd ibn Humayd from Ibn `Umar; "My Companions are like the stars" refers to the totality of the guidance of the stars, for by the stars is one guided in the darkest nights, and by the Companions is one guided to the beauties and the highest levels of the lights of the Shari`a. The hadith may be deduced from Allah's saying: "Ask the People of dhikr" (16:43) and it is strengthened by the Prophet's saying: "The Scholars of knowledge are the inheritors of Prophets." [see below] But you must know that "My Companions are like the stars" is another hadith narrated by al-Daraqutni in the Fada'il and Ibn `Abd al-Barr through his chain from Jabir, and he said: "This is a chain through which no proof can be established firmly." al-Bazzar said of `Abd ibn Humayd's narration: "It is denounced (munkar) and unsound." Ibn `Adi narrated it in al-Kamil from Nafi` from Ibn `Umar with a weak chain. Bayhaqi narrated something similar in al-Madkhal from `Umar and Ibn `Abbas and he said: "Its matn is well- known (mashhur) and its chains are weak." al-Halabi said: "The author should not have cited it as if it were definitely a hadith of the Prophet due to what is known about it among the scholars of this science, and he has done the same thing several times before." I say: It is possible that he had established a chain for it, or that he considered the multiplicity of its chains to raise its grade from da`if to that of hasan, due to his good opinion of it, although the weak hadith may be put into practice for meritorious acts (fada'il al-a`mal), and Allah knows best.
The author of Kanz al-`ummal, al-Muttaqi al-Hindi (#1002) cited the similar hadith mahma utitum min kitabillah. . . :
"Whatever is brought to you from Allah's Book, it is obligatory to practice it, there is no excuse for leaving it; if it is not from Allah's book, then a Sunna established by me; if not one of my Sunnas, then what my Companions said; verily, my Companions are equivalent to the stars in the sky: whichever of them you pinpoint, you will be guided, and the differences among my Companions are a mercy for you." Narrated by Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal and Abu al- Nasr al-Sajzi in al-Ibana, and he said: It is rare (gharib); also al-Khatib, Ibn `Asakir, and al-Daylami from Sulayman ibn Abi Karima from Juwaybir al-Dahhak from Ibn `Abbas. The former two are both weak..
Ibn `Abd al-Barr said in his book Jami` bayan al-`ilm (2:84):
`Umar ibn al-Khattab was angry about the disagreement between Ubayy ibn Ka`b and Ibn Mas`ud on the question of praying in a single cloth: Ubayy said that it was fine and good, while Ibn Mas`ud said that this was done only when clothes were scarce. `Umar said: "Two men disagreeing from among the Prophet's Companions who are those one looks at and takes [knowledge] from?!" -- and this supports the import of the hadith which they have declared weak whereby My Companions are like the stars; whoever among them you use for guidance, you will be rightly guided.
Anas relates that the Prophet said: "The simile of the scholars of knowledge (al-`ulama') 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." Ahmad narrated it in his Musnad (3:157 #12606) with a chain containing Rishdin ibn Sa`d who is weak.
However, all the above narrations are confirmed by the hadith in Muslim and Ahmad narrated by Abu Musa al-Ash`ari whereby the Prophet 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 hawa (lusts) and vying for dunya (worldly life))."
This trust-keeping is what `Umar meant when he named the Companions: "Those whom people look at and take (knowledge) from" when he disapproved of the difference of opinion between Ubayy ibn Ka`b and `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud, as related in Ibn `Abd al-Barr's Jami` bayan al-`ilm (2:84).
This is further confirmed by al-Zuhri's saying related by Darimi in the introduction to his Sunan: "Beware of evaluating things for yourself. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if you evaluate things for yourself you will assuredly declare lawful the unlawful and declare unlawful the lawful. Rather, whatever reaches you from those who learned from the Companions of Muhammad -- peace be upon him -- put it into practice."
Similar to this is al-Awza`is' saying: "Knowledge is what comes from the Companions of Muhammad -- peace be upon him -- and whatever does not come from one of them is not knowledge." Narrated by Ibn `Abd al-Barr in his Jami` bayan al-`ilm (2:36).
About the hadith: "The scholars of knowledge are the inheritors of Prophets": It is narrated from Abu al-Darda' by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad (5:196), Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab al-iman, Darimi in the Muqaddima of his Sunan, and Bukhari in the Book of Knowledge in his Sahih in mu`allaq form (i.e. without chain). Al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 425) said in his dictionary Mufradat alfaz al-qur'an under the entry w-r-th: "Suyuti said: Shaykh Muhyiddin al-Nawawi was asked about it and he said it was weak (da`if) -- that is: in its chain -- even if it is true (sahih) -- that is: in its meaning. al-Mizzi said: This hadith has been narrated through chains which attain the rank of hasan. It is as al-Mizzi said, and I have seen fifty chains for it, which I collected in a monograph."]
Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said:
mathalu as-habi ka mathal al-milhi fi al-ta`am
"The likeness of my Companions (among people) is like salt in the food. Food is not good without it."
[Narrated from Anas by al-Bazzar in his Musnad and Abu Ya`la in his Musnad. al-Baghawi cites it in Masabih al-sunna and Sharh al- sunna (1:551). So does al-Tibrizi in Mishkat al-masabih (#6606). al-`Ajluni in Kashf al-khafa' (2:275) mentions that Ibn al-Mubarak narrated it, as well as Abu Ya`la from Anas from the Prophet and al-Baghawi narrated it in Sharh al-sunna with a chain containing Isma`il ibn Muslim al-Makki. Haytami said in Majma` al-zawa'id (10:18): "Its chain contains Isma`il ibn Muslim al-Makki who is weak." However, Suyuti cited it in al-Jami` al-saghir (#8160) and graded the hadith hasan.
The author of Nasim al-Riyad (3:469) said:
al-Hasan al-Basri said: "Our salt has disappeared; what good is left in us?" Their good consisted in their direction and rightful guidance, their scrupulousness in obedience, their commanding good and forbidding evil, and their elucidation of the Shari`a and of the matters of the Deen.
The above hadith is confirmed by the Prophet's narration in Bukhari's Sahih from Ibn `Abbas in the book of the merits of the Ansar, whereby the Prophet said during his last illness:
"O people! People will become numerous, and the Ansar will decrease in number, until they shall be among people in the same way as salt in the food. Therefore, whoever among you holds sway and wields power to harm or benefit, let him accept the good of those who do good among them, and excuse the evil of the evil-doers among them."
Ibn al-Qayyim said in his al-Tibb al-nabawi (p. 301, 1993 ed.) which is part of his book Zad al-ma`ad, translated by Shaykh Muhammad al-`Akili as Medicine of the Prophet (p. 314):
Anas narrated that Allah's Messenger said: "Salt is the master of your food." (sayyidu idamikum al-milh - Sunan of Ibn Majah with a chain containing `Isa ibn Abi `Isa, who is matruk -- fatally weak.) "Master" here means stabilizer, architect, or the principal substance, and the one that plays a dominant role in affecting others. That is what master (sayyid) means, and in that sense, food is regulated with salt, and most food do not balance unless they contain salt. [Note: this is unrefined salt, which is much healthier than the salt used nowadays.]
In another prophetic tradition, Allah's Messenger said: "Perhaps, there will come a day when you will be in the midst of people like salt in the food, and nothing balances food better than salt." (sayushiku an takunu fi al-nasi mithla al-milhi fi al-ta`ami wa la yaslihu al- ta`amu illa bi al-milhi - Musnad of al-Bazzar, and al-Tabarani; see al-Kahhal's al-Ahkam al-nabawiyya fi al- sina`a al-tibbiyya 2:109)
`Abd Allah ibn `Umar said: "Allah Almighty sent down four blessings from the skies: iron, fire, water, and salt." (Tafsir of al-Baghawi)]
Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions