The Companions of the Prophet in Sunni Islam

20 December, 2016
Q Salam. I am a Shi`ite and I want to learn about the Ahl al-Sunnah beliefs about the life and history of the top sahaba (Companions of the Prophet). I just want to know which are Ahl al-Sunnah’s most authentic books on the lives and histories of Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat `Umar, Hazrat `Uthman, Mu`awiyah and the rest of sahaba that have high value in Sunni scholars’ eyes. Please give me the names of such books and their links online if possible. Thank you.


Asalamu Alaikum Syed, 

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

I can tell from your tone and use of titles of respect that you have an open mind to the Sunni position regarding the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him-PBUH). Perhaps one of the most valuable tools that Allah Almighty can bestow on any person is a mind that is open to the views of others. 

Before mentioning the specific books and links that you requested, let me say in brief that the Sunni position is to hold ALL of the Companions in the highest esteem. Thus, it is a grave sin to slander any member of this auspicious generation who gave all of their energies so that we can be Muslims today. 

As such, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

Do not slander my Companions, for if one of you were to spend an amount of gold equivalent to the size of Mount Uhud, you would not even come halfway to their level. (Reported by al-Bukhari.) 


Every good deed that we do today is written in their books because without them Islam would have never reached us. Thus, even though there have been many people of the later Muslim generations who prayed more or fasted more than some of the Companions, they could never reach the rank of the Companions in the sight of Allah. 

Naturally, not all Companions are exactly the same and some achieved a higher rank than others. The Companion Ibn `Umar said:

We used to discuss the best of the people during the time of the Prophet and we saw the best as Abu Bakr, then `Umar, and then `Uthman ibn `Affaan. (Reported by al-Bukhari.) 

In response to your question, I highly recommend Maulana Abul Hasan `Ali Nadwi’s The Life of the Caliph `Ali. Maulana Nadwi’s book chronicles the life of the great Companion `Ali and lays particular emphasis upon his attitudes towards the other Caliphs like `Umar, Abu Bakr, and `Uthman, while also providing novel insights into the disagreements between `Ali and Mu`awiyah. 

Nadwi’s style is that of both a historian and a Muslim concerned with reconciling the differences between the Sunni and Shiite communities. The author focuses his research specifically on the Companions who you mentioned in your question. 

The book is printed in India and your best bet would be to look for it in a local Islamic bookstore.

You may also want to read the recent English translation of Imam al-Suyuti’s “Tarikh al-Khulafaa’,” which has been titled The History of The Khalifahs Who took the Right Way and is available here.

While I have not read this book, and am not sure of the quality of the translation; the original author is one of the greatest scholars in the history of Islam, and this work will most likely touch upon many pertinent issues. 

For the Sunni position on the Companion Mu`awiyah, see Aisha Bewley’s book Mu`awiyah: Restorer of the Muslim Faith. It is available here

Finally, for a modern masterpiece concerning the lives of the Companions, I highly recommend reading selections from Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi’s Hayatus Sahaba: The Lives of the Sahaba. This book consists of classical traditions and anecdotes surrounding the lives of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH).

It contains very little commentary, thus the stories themselves paint a unique picture of the piety and attitudes of the Companions. Though originally written in Arabic, I believe the book is available in Urdu and is readily available in any bookstore in Pakistan. An English translation is available here

I hope this helps in your search for answers. Please don’t forget that books are an excellent tool, but actual human beings are the source of true knowledge. 

Thank you for your question and please stay in touch. 

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Sunni, Shiite, or Wahhabi: What’s the Deal?

How to Overcome Sunni-Shia Hatred?

“Why Can’t I Be a Sushi “- A Different Approach to the Sunni-Shia Conflict

Were Prophets and Companions Infallible?