Could You Share Narrations Where the Prophet Likened Companions to Earlier Prophets?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

1) Is the following narration found in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad?

Turning to Abu Bakr who had counselled a lenient view, the Holy Prophet said: “Abu Bakr you are like Abraham who said, ‘He who follows me is one of us, and he who disobeys me, then O God, You are gracious enough to forgive’. And Abu Bakr you are also like Jesus who said, ‘If you punish them they are Your servants, and if You forgive them, You are All Powerful, Mighty and Wise.” Turning to Umar, the Holy Prophet said: Umar, you are like Noah who said, ‘O God, do not leave on the earth a single unbeliever.’ And Umar you are also like Moses who said, ‘O God destroy their properties and harden their hearts so that they are not converted till they have suffered punishment.”

2) Could you also share some other narrations where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) likened other Sahaba to earlier Prophets?

Answer: Assalamu ‘alaykum,

I hope you are well.

Comparing Abu Bakr and ‘Umar to Prophets

The narration you mention is narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, ascribed to ‘Abd Allah b. Mas’ud:

The Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – sought the counsel of some of his companions on what to do with the prisoners of war. Abu Bakr – God be pleased with him – counseled that not be executed, in the hopes that God forgives them, and because they are the Prophet’s family and people. ‘Umar – God be pleased with him – counseled that they be put to the sword, because they had exiled the Prophet and disbelieved in him – peace and blessings of God be upon him. Ibn Rawaha suggested they be burned to death, to which al-‘Abbas lent his approval. The Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – left them without indicating his choice.

Upon his return, he said, “God has rendered the hearts of some men soft for him, until they are softer than milk. He has made the hearts of others hard, until they become harder than stone. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to Ibrahim – peace be upon him – who said, Whoever follows me is of me; as for whoever disobeys, you are most forgiving, merciful. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to ‘Isa, who said, If you punish them, they are your servants; if you forgive them, you are most powerful, wise. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Nuh, who said, Lord, do not leave on the earth an abode of the disbelievers. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Musa, who said, Harden their hearts, such that they do not believe until they see a painful punishment…”

I am not aware of many other narrations in which companions are compared to Prophets.

Comparing ‘Ali – God be please with him – to Prophets

There are narrations similar to: Whoever wishes to see the patience of Ibrahim, the wisdom of Nuh, and the beauty of Yusuf, should look at ‘Ali b. Abi Talib.

Ibn al-Jawzi includes this and similar narrations in his collection of fabricated narrations.

Comparisons based on Physical Resemblance

There are narrations in Muslim and Tirmidhi in which the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – attempts to describe the Prophets he encountered, in the Ascension, to his companions, and in so doing, compares them to people they know. He says, The Prophets were shown to me; Musa was almost like someone from Shanu’ah; I saw ‘Isa the son of Mary – peace be upon him – the closest resemblance to him I’ve seen is ‘Urwa b. Mas’ud. I saw Ibrahim – blessings of God be upon him – the closest resemblance to him I’ve seen is your companion – meaning himself. I saw Gabriel – peace be upon him – the closest resemblance I’ve seen to him is Dahya [b. Khalifa].

There may yet be narrations drawing other comparisons I am yet unaware of.

God knows best.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Shuaib Ally

Shaykh Shuaib Ally is a scholar who has recently returned to Toronto after completing his studies overseas. He started his studies by completing his MA in Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto in 2008. He went on to study in a number of Islamic disciplines privately with scholars in Saudi Arabia, including Tafsir, Qur’anic Sciences, Shafi’i law, Usul, Hadith, Hadith Methodology, Grammar and Balagha. Shaykh Shuaib currently resides in Toronto.