The Three Golden Centuries are considered for the purpose; in each century, five of the Salaf are looked at.
In the Century of the Companions:
Abu Bakr As-Sideeq
He was the best in the Ummah after the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam). He was the first Successor of the Messenger of All‚h and the second in the Cave with him in the event of the Hijrah .
He is name is Abdullah bn Abee Quhaafah; his father real name was Uthmaan Al-Quraashi At-Taymee. He was the first man to accept Islam. He was nicknamed As-Siddeeq because he never doubted the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) and was an epitome of truthfulness. Also he was known as Al-Ateeq because the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said as regard him: 'Abu Bakr is the ransom of All‚h from Fire.' [Al-Imaam Al-Alb‚ni authenticated the hadith in As-Saheehah 4/102.]
He witnessed all the battles fought by the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) such as Badr and Uhud. The Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said about him: 'The most trustworthy person to me with regard to his wealth is Abu Bakr; if I were to take anyone as a Khaleel (a bosom friend) I would take Abu Bakr as a Khaleel, if not the Islamic brotherhoodÖ' [Muslim; 2382].
A woman asked the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) about a thing; the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) however asked the woman to come back. She said: 'O Messenger of All‚h, what if I come and do not meet you?' He replied (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) : 'If you do not meet me, go to Abu Bakr.' [Muslim; 2385].
Abu Bakr died in the month of Jumadal-Aakhirah year thirteen of the Hijrah. He was then sixty-three years old. It was Umar bn Al-Khattaab that prayed over him. May All‚h be pleased with Abu Bakr a worthy Salaf.
Umar bn Al-Khataab
He was the first to be called Ameerul-Mu'mineen [the Leader of the Faithful]. He was Abu Hafs Al-Adawi Al-Faaruuq. All‚h used him to aid the religion of Islam. During his reign, a lot of cities were liberated. He was the one the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said could be a prophet after him Ė but there is no prophet after the Prophet. The Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) informed him that the devil used to run away from any path he took.
That was Umar bn Al-Khattaab whom none will hate except an ignorant one or a rebellious Raafidite. His opinions about certain Islamic public phenomena were often granted by All‚h; such as the issue of making the Station of Ibraahim (at the Holy Sanstuary of the Ka'bah) a place to observe a two-unit optional prayer, the issue of the Hijaab for the Prophet's wives (which later became a legislation for all the Muslim women) and the issue of what should be done to the captives of Badr; his opinion regarding that was that they should be killed.
Umar bn Al-Khataab was martyred in the last days of Dhul-Hijjah in year 23 of Hijrah. He was killed by a Zoroastrian slave, Abu Lu'luah. He lived for sixty-three years. May All‚h be pleased with Umar bn Al-Khataab.
Uthman bn Affaan
The Leader of the Believers who came to power after Umar bn Al-Khattaab. He was known as Dhu-Nurayn [the Possessor of Two Lights] because he married two daughters of the Prophet (Ruqaayah and Ummu Kulthuum); one after the other. He married Ummu Kulthuum after the death of Ruqayyah. Even when the second died, the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said he could give him another if he had. He was born in the 6th year after the Event of the Elephant.
He witnessed all the battles fought by the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) except Badr and Hudaybiyyah. Before the Battle of Badr, he was allowed to stay in Madeenah to look after his sick wife, Ruqayyah. And at Hudaybiyyah, he was the one the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) sent to liaise with the Quraysh in Makkah, and it was on the occasion of the rumor of his murder by the Quraysh that the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) sought a renewed allegiance from the Muslims to fight the unbelievers.
Uthmaan was among the Ten that were given the tidings of paradise from the earth. He used to spend a lot for Islam. He was the one that purchased Ruumah Well from a Jew for the Muslims' use. He was a bashful type such that the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said even the angels used to be shy of him.
His reign began in year 24 of the Hijrah. He was killed by some rebels from outside the city of Madeenah on Friday 17th day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah in year 35 of the Hijrah. He was killed while reciting the Qur'aan, thus he was a lover of Qur'aan recitation. He was the one All‚h used to gather the Muslims over a copy of the Qur'aan to be recited all over the regions of Islam.
When he was killed, Uthmaan was eighty years old. May All‚h be pleased with him.
Alee bn Abee Taalib
He was Abu Al-Hasan Al-Haashimi, the foremost judge in the Ummah, and the horseman of Islaam. He accepted Islam at a very early age; it was said he was the first young person to accept Islam; that was when he was about ten years old. He was among the Ten that were given the tidings of Paradise. The Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) used to love him and his sons Ė Hasan and Husayn, such that he regarded him as an integral part of his household. The Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said: 'Whoever I am his friend, Alee is.' And he (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) once said to him: 'You are to me as Haaroon was to Moosa, only that there is no prophet after me.' [Muslim 2404].
Alee was married to the most beloved daughter of the Messenger of All‚h, Faatimah. The marriage took place in the second year of the Hijrah.
Alee witnessed all the battles fought by the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) except the Taabuk Expedition. At Khaybaar, it was under Alee's command that victory was granted the Muslims over the Jews, as the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) foretold, that All‚h would grant the victory via a person whom All‚h and His Messenger (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) loved.
He was killed in year 40 of Hijrah by a miscreant sponsored by the Khawwarij (the rebels of the state). May Allaah be pleased with Alee bn Abee Taalib.
Sa'd bn Abee Waqaas
He was among the Ten given the tidings of Jannah from earth and one of the early entrants into Islam, he accepted Islam at seventeen; that day there was none else that accepted Islam alongside with him. He was among those who witnessed the battle of Badr and the event of Hudaybiyyah. He was also among the Six that constituted the ShŻrah that chose Uthmaan as the Khaleefah after Umar bn Al-Khattaab.
He was the first person to shoot an arrow in a battle fought by the Muslims; that was at Uhud. The Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) enjoined him to do so, ransoming him with his father and mother; the only person the Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) ever said that to. [See Al-Bukhaari, 4055].
Sa'd bn Maalik Abee Waqaas was a person whom when he supplicated his supplication would be granted. That was by the blessing of the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam); he said: 'O All‚h grant Sa'd's supplication when he supplicates to You' [Al-Imaam Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Mishkaat Masaabih 6116].
There was no person he made supplication for or against except that it was granted. A woman once falsely accused him of usurping her land and she took his matter to the ruler, Sa'd supplicated that the woman should lose her sight and eventually die if she was dishonest. The woman afterwards lost her sight and fell into a pitch and died. So also was his supplication against a man in Kuufah who accused him of a wrongdoing; he said the man should be blinded if he was falsely accusing him, and so it happened.
It was Sa'd, All‚h used to liberate the whole of Iraaq; he was the commander of the Muslim army in the Battle of Qadisiyyah which saw the end of the Persian Power.
Sa'd died at Al-Aqeeq, a suburb of Madeenah, in year 55 Hijrah. He was carried to Madeenah where he was buried at Baqee'. May All‚h be pleased with Sa'd bn Maalik Abee Waqaas.
In the Century of the Taabioon (the Followers of the Companions):
Sa'eed bn Al-Musayyab
He was an Imaam, Shaykhul-Islam and jurist of Madeenah. He was regarded as the best among the Taabiuun in terms of knowledge. He was born in the first two years of the reign of Umar bn Al-Khattaab; there was a difference of opinion whether he heard from Umar or not. But he heard narrations from Uthmaan, Zayd bn Thaabit, Aaishah, Abu Hurairah, etc, much of his narrations were from Abu Hurayrah such that he married the daughter of Abu Hurairah. Sa'eed was very knowledgeable, very polite, deep in religion and always speaking the truth. Other Taabioon used to rely on his judgments because he was more conversant with the judgments of the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions than any of them.
He was a devout person such that he performed the Hajj forty times. He was also a knowledge seeker; he used to travel far and wide in search of knowledge.
Al-Ajdee reported that Sa'eed bn Al-Musayyab would not take grants from rulers so that he would not be afflicted by them. He was a business man of a sort; he would trade in oil (for home use) and other items.
It was said that he died in year 105 Hijrah. May All‚h bestow mercy on him.
He was Abu Amr Aamir bn Sharaaheel Al-Hamdaanee Al-Kuufee. He was born during the reign of Umar bn Al-Khattaab. He was an Imaam, a memorizer, a jurist and an expert in various Islamic fields.
He used to say: 'I never put white on black.' That is, he never wrote down anything; he used to memorize.
He heard narration from the Companions such as Imraan bn Husayn, Jareer bn Abdill‚h, Abu Hurairah, Ibn Abbaas, Aaisha etc.
In the opinion of Sulaymaan At-Taymee, Ash-Sha'bee was more knowledgeable than Ibn Al-Musayyab, Taawus, Attaa, Al-Hasan and Ibn Seereen.
Ibn Seereen said: 'Stay with Ash-Sha'bee, verily I saw him giving verdicts while the Companions of the Messenger of All‚h were available.'
Ibn Uyaynah said: 'Scholars are three; Ibn Abbaas in his time, Ash-Sha'bee in his time and Ath-Thauree in his time.'
Al-Ash'ath reported from Ibn Seereen that the latter said: 'I arrived in Kuufah, there was a very huge Halqah (circle of learning) of Ash-Sha'bee in place while the Companions of the Messenger of All‚h were many.'
May All‚h bestow mercy on Al-Imaam Ash-Sha'bee.
Muhammad bn Seereen
His brother, Anas bn Seereen, said he was born in the last two years in the reign of Uthmaan. He learnt from a number of notable Companions of the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam). He was an Imaam and a person deep in knowledge, he was also trustworthy in narrations and was an ascetic.
Ibn Aun said about him: 'My eyes have not seen the like of Ibn Seereen.'
Abu Awaanah said: 'I saw Ibn Seereen; there was none that would see him except that he would glorify All‚h.'
Ibn Seeren was a jovial person, he died in year 110 Hijrah. May All‚h bestow mercy on him.
Ur'wah bn Az-Zubayr
His father (Az-Zubayr bn Awwaam) was among the Ten given the tidings of Jannah from the earth. He was one of the sons of As'maa bint Abee bakr Ė the sister of Aaisah. Ur'wah was the scholar of Madeenah during his time. He was born during the reign of Uthmaan bn Affaan. He heard narrations from some Companions of the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam). He took most of his knowledge from his maternal aunt, Aaisah. He knew history and was a very reliable person in narrations.
He was also a devout person. One of his sons, Hishaam, reported that he died while observing fast, and that he used to recite one-fourth of the Qur'aan in his daily Tahaajud. He never missed the activity except the night when his leg was cut.
He was Abu Saeed. He grew up in Madeenah and memorized the Book of Allaah there. He was born during the reign of Uthman bn Affaan; he heard him severally deliver speeches. On the day Uthman was murdered, Al-Hasan was 14 years old.
He then grew up to engage in Jihaad and learning. He became a writer, in the reign of Muaawiya, for a Governor of Khurasaan by name Ar-Rabee' bn Ziyaad. He heard narrations from a number of Companions of the Messenger of All‚h (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) such as Uthmaan (as earlier indicated), Imraan bn Husayn, Al-Mugheerah bn Ash-Shu'bah, Abdur-Rahmaan bn Sam'rah, etc.
Ibn Sa'd said about him in his Tabaqaat: 'He was very knowledgeable, highly-profiled, reliable in narrations, a proof, a devout person, a hajj-goer, eloquent, handsome and good-looking.'
He died in year 110 Hijrah when he was eighty-eight years old.
In the Century of the Atbaaut-Taabieen (those who come after the Taabioon):
He is the jurist of the Ummah, the Imaam of the Home of Hijrah. He heard from a number of notable Taabiuun such as Naafi, Saalim, Al-Maqburi, Nuaym Al-Mujmir, Az-Zuhree, etc. among the students of Az-Zuhree, Imaam Maalik was outstanding.
Imam Shaafi'ee said: 'When scholars are mentioned, Maalik is a star.' And he said: 'If not Maalik and Ibn Uyaynah, all the knowledge of Hijaaz would go away.' Ibn Wahb said: 'If not Maalik and Al-Layth (bn Sa'd), we would go astray.'
Shu'bah bn Hajaaj said: 'I arrived in Madeenah a year after the death of Naafi (Maula Ibn Umar) and I met Maalik having a Halqah.'
Imaam Maalik said: 'I did not begin to give religious verdicts until seventy (teachers of mine) testified that I was capable of doing so.'
Ishaaq bn Ibraahim said: 'When Ath-Thauree, Maalik and Al-Auzaa'ee agreed on a matter, it becomes a Sunnah even if there is no proof for it.'
Al-Imaam Maalik lived for 86 years. He was born in year 93 Hijrah.
He was Sufyaan bn Sa'eed bn Masruuq. He was a resident of Iraaq and was regarded as the foremost person in hadith during his time.
Ibn Al-Mubaarak regarded him as his foremost teacher. Yahyaa Al-Qattaan used to rate Sufyaan over Imaam Maalik.
Sufyaan was reported to have said: 'The scholars is the physician of the Deen, Dirham (unit of money) is its ailment, but when the physician takes the ailment for himself how will he treat other than himself?'
Dam'rah said he heard Maalik say: 'Iraaq used to get exciting to us because of its Dir'ham and clothes and later because of Sufyaan Ath-Thauree.'
Sufyaan was born in year 77 Hijrah and began to learn early. His father was one of the scholars of Kuufah. May All‚h bestow mercy on Sufyaan.
Al-Layth bn Sa'd
He was an Imaam and the leading scholar of the Egyptian Province in his time. He heard narrations from a number of notable Taabiuun such as Attaa, Az-Zuhree, Ibn Abee Mulaikah, etc.
Imaam Ash-Shaafi'ee was of the opinion than Imaam Al-Layth was more knowledgeable than Imaam Maalik only that his students did not raise his status.
Imaam Al-Layth was a very rich scholar. From Egypt, he used to send money to Imaam Maalik to take care of his needs; he would send about one hundred Deenar to him every year. When the house of Ibn Laee'ah got burnt, Imaam Al-Layth gave him one thousand Deenar to build a new house.
Imam Al-Layth died in mid-Sha'baan of year 175 Hijrah when he was 81 years old. May All‚h bestow mercy on Imaam Al-Layth.
Fudayl bn Iyaadh
He was an exemplar, an Imaam and Shaykhul-Islaam. Among his teachers were Attaa bn As-Saaib, Mansuur bn Al-Mu'tamar, Bayaan bn Bushr, etc. Among his students were Yahya bn Saeed Al-Qattaan, Abdullah ibn Al-Mubaarak, al-Qa'nabee, etc.
He used to live in Makkah though he was born in Samar'qand and grew up in one of its villages. He was a reliable narrator, an ascetic and a devout person. He was very stern against the innovators. He once said: 'Whoever sits with an innovator will not be granted wisdom.'
He died in year 187 Hijrah while approaching eighty years of age. May All‚h bestow mercy on Imam Fudayl bn Iyaadh.
Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak
He was an Imaam, a great memorizer, the pride of the Mujaahidun and the example of the ascetic. He was born in 128 Hijrah, he spent all his life time performing Hajj, carrying out Jihaad and trading.
Sualymaan At-Taymee, Hisaahm bn Ur'wah, Buriadah bn Abdillah were among his teachers.
AbdurRahmaan bn Mahdee, Yahyaa bn Maeen, Abu bakr bn Abee Shaybah, and Uthmaan his brother, were among his students.
Imam Ahmad said about him: 'In the time of Ibn Al-Mubaarak, there was none who pursed knowledge as he did.'
He was regarded as the foremost person in hadith in his time.
Ibn Al-Mubaarak was asked as regard self-pride, he said: 'That you see what is with you as not being present in other than yourself.'
He died in Ramadan of year 181 Hijrah.
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