The greatest individual after the Prophets and Messengers

Muhammad Adnan Chishti Attari Madani

All human beings are the descendants of Adam عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام but they are not all equal because Allah Almighty has bestowed some with the bounty of Iman, distinguishing them from others; and He bestowed knowledge to some and Taqwa and piety to others, granting them virtue over others. This chain of virtue increases and eventually leads to superiority. That is why Allah Almighty has bestowed superiority on various favoured servants of His in different aspects. The Noble Sahabah رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم were made superior to the companions of other Prophets. Some of the Noble Sahabah were given superiority over others. The Ijma’ (consensus) of the Ummah is that the rightly-guided caliphs are superior to all the other Sahabah.


The Imam of Ahl-us-Sunnah, Maulana Shah Imam Ahmad Raza Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says: ‘The Ijma’ (consensus) of the Ahl-us-Sunnah نَصَرَھُمُ اللهُ تعالٰی is that after the Messenger angels and the human Messengers and Prophets صَلَوَاتُ اللهِ تَعَالٰی وَتَسْلِیْمَاتُه عَلَیْھِمْ, the four khulafa are superior to the entire creation of Allah Almighty. Nobody from the entire Ummah of the world, past, present or future reaches to their piety, greatness, honour, dignity, acceptance, magnanimity, sainthood and proximity to Allah Almighty.’

He further stated: ‘Then their order is such that Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ is the most superior, followed by Sayyiduna ‘Umar Farooq-e-A’zam رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, then Sayyiduna Usman-e-Ghani رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ and then Sayyiduna Ali رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.’ (Fatawa Razawiyyah, vol. 28, p. 478)

The matter of superiority is definitive

The Imam of Ahl-us-Sunnah, Maulana Shah Imam Ahmad Raza Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says: ‘(On the superiority of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ and Sayyiduna ‘Umar رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ,) If Ijma’ (consensus) is definitive, then what remains to be said about the superiority of the Shaykhayn? This is the belief of our Shaykhs of spirituality and Shari’ah.’ (Matla’-ul-Qamarayn p. 81)

The matter of superiority is from the matters of creed

A’la Hadrat رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says: ‘In general, the issue of superiority is not from the chapter of virtue, in which weak Ahadees can be utilised. Rather, it is explicitly mentioned in Mawaaqif and Sharh Mawaaqif that it is from the matters of creed, and even Ahaad Sihaah (solitary Hadees narrations that are sound) are not accepted in this.’ (Fatawa Razawiyyah, vol. 5, p. 581)

The Great Hanafi Muhaddis, Sayyiduna Imam Abu Ja’far Ahmad Bin Muhammad Tahawi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه states:

‘وَنُثْبِتُ الْخِلَافَةَ بَعْدَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اَوَّلًا لِاَبِی بَكْرٍ الصِّدِّيق رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُ تَفْضِيلًا لَهُ وَتَقْدِيمًا عَلَى جَمِيعِ الْاُمَّةِ، ثُمَّ لِعُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُ، ثُمَّ لِعُثْمَانَ رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُ، ثُمَّ لِعَلِیِّ بْنِ اَبِی طَالِبٍ رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُ

i.e., ‘We affirm the caliphate after the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم first went to Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ due to having superiority and precedence over the entire Ummah. Then, for Sayyiduna ‘Umar Farooq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, then for Sayyiduna ‘Usman Bin Affaan رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ and then for Sayyiduna Ali al-Murtada رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ. (Matan Al-‘Aqeedah At-Tahawiyyah, p. 29)

The best within the Ummah

One day, the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم delivered a sermon and then looked out, but could not see Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ. He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم called him twice by calling his name. Then, he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘Surely Jibraeel-e-Ameen عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام has just informed me that the best of your Ummah after you is Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.’ (Mu’jam Awsat, vol. 5, p. 18, Hadees 6448)

Superiority of Siddeeq Akbar in the words of Maula Ali

The son of Sayyiduna Ali Al-Murtada رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, Sayyiduna Muhammad Bin Hanafiyyah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, states: I asked my father, Sayyiduna Ali رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, ‘Who are the best people after Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم?’ He replied, ‘Abu Bakr.’ I asked, ‘Who then?’ He said, ‘Umar.’ I sensed that if I asked him again, perhaps he would say Usman, so I said, ‘After Sayyiduna Umar, you must be the most superior?’ He said, ‘I am only an ordinary person.’ (Bukhari, vol. 2, p. 522, Hadees 3671)

Who the Noble Sahabah considered as superior?

Sayyiduna Abdullah Bin Umar رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما states: ‘We used to regard Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ as the most superior during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. Then, Sayyiduna Umar Bin Khattab رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ and then Sayyiduna ‘Usman Bin Affaan رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.’ (Bukhari, vol. 2, p. 518, Hadees 3655)

As the Noble Sahabah were of the opinion that Sayyiduna Siddeeq-e-Akbar رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ was superior, the great Imams also adhered to this belief. Just as Sayyiduna Imam A’zam Abu Hanifah, Sayyiduna Imam Shaafi’i, Sayyiduna Imam Malik رَحِمَهُمُ الـلّٰـه considered Siddeeq Akbar رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ as superior, as Sayyiduna Imam A’zam Nu’man Bin Saabit رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه said: ‘Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ is the most superior of all people after the Prophets, then Umar Bin Khattab, then ‘Usman Bin Affaan Zun-Nurayn (the Possessor of the Two Lights), and then Ali Bin Abi Taalib رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم.’ (Sharh Fiqh Akbar, p. 61)

Sayyiduna Imam Muhammad Bin Idrees Shaafi’i رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says: ‘There is Ijma’ among all the Noble Sahabah and great Tabi’een that Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ is the most superior from all the Ummah, then Sayyiduna Umar, then Sayyiduna Usman Bin Affaan, and then Sayyiduna Ali رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم.’ (Fath Al-Baari, vol. 8, p. 15)

Sayyiduna Imam Malik رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه was asked: ‘Who is the most superior among the people after the Noble Prophets?’ He رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه replied: ‘Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, and then Sayyiduna Umar Farooq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.’ (Al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, p. 57)

Sayyiduna Shaykh Taqi-ud-Deen رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says: ‘اِنَّ اَبَابَکْر رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُ اَفْضَلُ مِنْ سَائِرِ الْاُمَّةِ الْمُحَمَّدِیَّةِ وَسَائِرِ اُمَمِ الْاَنْبِیَاءِ وَاَصْحَابِھِم’ i.e., Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ is the most superior from the entire Ummah of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and from all the Ummahs of the Prophets and their companions, because he was always attached to the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم just as a shadow is attached to the body, and [this was the case] even in the Covenant of the Prophets (Misaaq-e-Anbiya), which is why he was the first to accept the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. (Al-Yawaqit wal Jawahir, juzz 2, p. 329)

The commentator of Bukhari, Sayyiduna ‘Allamah Ibn-e-Hajar ‘Asqalani رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه states: ‘اِنَّ الْاِجْمَاعَ اِنْعَقَدَ بَيْنَ اَهْلِ السُّنُّةِ اَنَّ تَرْتِيْبَهُمْ فِیْ الْفَضْلِ كَتَرْتِيْبِهِمْ فِی الْخِلَافَةِ رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنْهُمْ اَجْمَعِيْن i.e., ‘There is Ijma’ among the Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah that the superiority of the Rightly-guided Caliphs is in the same order as the order of the Caliphate.’ (Fath Al-Baari, vol. 7, p. 29, under the Hadees 3678)

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