The companions of the Prophet -- Salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- fought Banu Hanifah despite the fact that that tribe adopted Islam immediately from the Prophet, witnessed that there is no God but Allah, that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, recited the adhan (call to salat) and held the salat. If it is objected that they also held Musayli- mah to be a prophet, we argue: If raising a man to the position of prophet is committing unbelief and deserving capital punishment, raising Shamsan, Yusuf, a companion of the Prophet, or a prophet, to the position of the Almighty of Heaven and Earth must be so a fortiori. Can they be so ignorant?
"So Allah seals the hearts of the
ignorant." Qur'an 30:59
Those whom 'Ali ibn Abu Talib had destroyed by fire were all pretenders of Islam. They were 'Ali's own companions and have been taught by no less than the companions of the Prophet. But they exaggerated their faith in 'Ali just as others had done with Yusuf, Shamsan and others. How then did the Prophet's companions unanimously agree to destroy them? Did they do so in vain? Or is belief in Ta~ and his like a lesser crime than belief in 'Ali ibn Abu Talib?
The same is true of Banu 'Ubayd al Qaddah which ruled the Maghrib and Egypt during the 'Abbasi period. All of them witnessed that there is no C'od but Allah and that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah. They called themselves Muslims, observed the congregational prayer and held the Friday salat. When they diverted from the shari'ah in matters much less important than these, the 'ulama' unanimously resolved to declare them heretics and to fight them. The 'ulama'called the provinces the heretics ruled "Land of War," fought them successfully, and rescued those provinces and peoples from their dominion,
9. If it is objected that these ancients were not guilty of unbelief on that account alone, but because they have combined associationism with belying the Prophet and the Qur'an, denying the resurrection of the body or another part of the faith, why then did the 'ulama'assign a chapter in the shari'ah for heresy, the act of unbelief by the Muslim? The 'ulna' took pains to mention in this part of the shari'ah many varieties of heresies, all of which deserved its subject capital punishment and confiscation of his property. They even ascribed it to much lesser acts of disbelief, such as a word spoken verbally but not meant, a word spoken in jest.
Those of whom Allah said:
"They swear by Allah that they did not say
the word of unbelief; but they did say it after their entry into
Islam," Qur'an 9: 75
were declared heretics by Allah despite the fact that they were contemporaries of the Prophet, praying with him, observing the zakat, the pilgrimage, tawhid, and fighting on his side. Likewise was the case of those of whom the Qur'an said:
"And if you ask them to justify their
claim, 0 Muhammad, they will say; 'We did but talk in jest.' Then say, 'Was it
at Allah, His signs and His Prophet that you scoffed? Make no excuse. You have
disbelieved after your confession of faith." Qur'an 9:66-67
Allah has called them disbelievers after their confession of faith in front of the Prophet -- Salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- during the campaign of Tabuk, Their crime was a word of ridicule they claimed they said as a piece of jest. Consider if these were to object, like our contemporaries: Do you declare heretic Muslims who witness that there is no God but Allah, who hold the salat and fast? Consider also the answer Allah has given them!
Another evidence is what Allah reported to us of Banu Isra'il. Despite their piety and righteousness at that time, they asked Musa (Moses),
"Let us have a god, even as they have
gods!" Qur'an 7:137
just as some companions of the Prophet asked him, "Let us too have a tree like Dhat Anwat." The Prophet -- Salla Allahu 'alayhi wa saliam -- swore that the two requests were of the same nature.
Faced with these annals of Islamic history, the modern associationists argue that neither Banu Isra'il nor the Prophet's companions in question had actually achieved their requests, another god in one case, another Dhat Anwat in the second. Hence they did not actually commit unbelief. It is certainly true that neither of them got what they wanted; that had they obtained what they sought, their unbelief would have been confirmed in the deed. These anecdotes teach us that the Muslim, even if he were steeped in knowledge, might well fall into shirk inadvertantly. They have the merit of reminding us not to take tawhid simplistically. Self-conceit in such matters constitutes great ignorance and greater temptation. Should the Muslim pronounce words compromising to tawhid, he should be so told; and he should repent and withdraw his words, just as the Prophet's companions did.