There are numerous examples set by the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) that show how emphatically they abided by the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to the extent of severing their relations with their kith and kin once they discovered someone going against the Sunnah. Let us have some examples from the lives of the great Caliphs of Islam followed by many other Companions:
Just after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) three major issues confronted the Muslim community. They could have left it apart and disunited, had it not been for the wise guidance of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) who settled them amicably in the light of the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The first issue was related to the appointment of the khalifah (leader of the Muslims, caliph). Assembled in Saqifat Bani Sa’idah, a great number of Muhajirun (those who emigrated from Makkah to Madina) and Ansar (those who helped the emigrants from Makkah) originally had been busy arguing this issue. The Ansar proposed that the leader should be appointed from both of the above communities. The Noble Companion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) cited the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him ): “Leaders (imams) should be from Quraysh (the tribe of Prophet Muhammad) as long as they have the understanding (of the religion).” The Ansar conceded to this quietly. The great Companion Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) proposed the name of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) as the khalifah, which was accepted unanimously by those present there and later followed by all the inhabitants of Madina through the oath of allegiance.
The second issue was related to the place where the Prophet (peace be upon him) should be buried. Again the Companion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) cited the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him ): “A Prophet is to be buried where he breathes his last.” Accordingly, his burial took place in the apartment of his wife, the Mother of the Faithful Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), in which he died.
The third issue was related to the inheritance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as raised by his daughter Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) who came to the Caliph Abu Bakr asking for her share. Abu Bakr replied by reminding her of the saying of the Prophet: “We, the community of the prophets, are not inherited from; whatever we leave behind us is a charity.” Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) did not argue further, but retired quietly.
Caliph Uthman (Allah be pleased with him) once agreed to buy a piece of land from a person. On the completion of the verbal agreement, he asked the man to collect the money the following day. But the man turned up after a few days, only to renounce the agreement. He had changed his mind because his friends had blamed him for selling the land at a low price. Uthman could have been adamant about the sale, particularly when it had been agreed upon completely. But he remembered the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which admired a person who treated the people easily and wholeheartedly in his sales deals. So, Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) preferred to concede to the man’s wish without raising any objection.
In one of his journeys, Ali (Allah be pleased with him) found a merchant hoarding a stock of grain in the hope of a good price. Ali reminded him of the saying of the Prophet “The hoarder is cursed,” and instructed his people to set the stock on fire as a punishment.
This is how the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs (may Allah be pleased with them) adhered to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Let us have some more examples from the lives of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all).
Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) heard a man saying after a sneeze , “Al-hamdu lillah wa as-salatu wa as-salamu ala Rasuli Allah.” Ibn Mas’ud said to him, “Whatever you have said is true, but that is not the way that the Prophet has taught us. He instructed us to say simply Al-hamdulillah‚ after sneezing.”
It would be appropriate to remind all Muslims about this Sunnah, which is commonly abandoned by a great number of them. Say “Al-hamdu lillah” whenever you sneeze. If you hear someone saying this after sneezing, say to him “yarhamukumu Allah” (may Allah have mercy upon you). The sneezer should pray for you as well by saying “Yahdikum Allah wa yuslihu balakum” (may Allah guide you and set your affairs right). There are plenty of occasions when you should say “As-salatu wa as-salamu ala Rasuli Allah.” You should say it, for example, whenever you hear the name of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) or whenever you enter a mosque or step out of it, adding these words respectively: “Allahumma iftah li abwaba rahmatik” (O Allah, open for me the doors of Your mercy) and “Allahumma inni as’aluka min fadlika” (O Allah, I ask You for Your bounty).
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) used to address a gathering of Muslims on Friday eve. Once, before beginning his sermon, he said to the people , “Whoever has cut off from any of his relations should leave this place.” No one stood up. On repeating these words thrice, a young man left the place and went to his aunt whom he had deserted a long time before, and reconciled with her. Abu Hurairah said this is because he knew that all actions are presented to Allah on each Friday eve. He didn’t like his assembly of the devout to be smeared by a person who had committed the sin of deserting his relatives. By doing so, he saved a person from a major sin.
This is how the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) conducted their lives – setting sublime examples of adherence to the Sunnah.