إن الله أمرني بحب أربعة، وأخبرني أنه يحبهم، قيل: يا رسول الله سمهم لنا. قال: علي منهم. يقول ذلك ثلاثا، وأبو ذر، والمقداد، وسلمان، أمرني بحبهم وأخبرني أنه يحبهم.
Verily, Allah has commanded me to love four people; and He informed me that He (too) loves them. It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, name them for us.” He said, “‘Ali is among them.” He said this three times. “And Abu Dharr, al Miqdad, and Salman. Allah has commanded me to love them; and He informed me that He (too) loves them.”
This hadith is narrated by Buraydah, Ibn ‘Umar, Abu Hurairah, and Anas ibn Malik radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
The Hadith of Buraydah
Imam al Tirmidhi, Imam ibn Majah, and others narrate — from Sharik — from Abu Rabi’ah — from Ibn Buraydah — from his father who said, “The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said…”
Imam al Tirmidhi regarded the hadith as Hassan (fair).
Al Hakim regarded the hadith as sahih (authentic). However, Imam al Dhahabi criticised this opinion by saying that Imam Muslim does not include Abu Rabi’ah in his collection.
The grading by both al Hakim and al Tirmidhi is too lenient. Sharik is considered sayyi’ al hifz (weak memory). Regarding Abu Rabi’ah ‘Umar ibn Rabi’ah, Abu Hatim says he is a munkar al hadith (reports unacceptable hadith). Yahya ibn Ma’in says he a thiqah (reliable) from Kufah. The jarh (impugning statement) of Abu Hatim is to be given preference over Ibn Ma’in’s statement because it is mufassar (explained in detail).
Al Albani regards the hadith as da’if (weak).
Sharik does enjoy a tabi’ (parallel narration). Abu Nuaim narrates — from Musa ibn ‘Umair — Abu Rabi’ah al Iyadi narrated to us — from Abu Buraydah — from his father.
However, this hadith contains the narrator Musa ibn ‘Umair. He is matruk (suspected of forgery). Abu Hatim called him a liar. It is supposed to be from Ibn Buraydah, not Abu Buraydah.
The Hadith of Ibn ‘Umar
Ibn ‘Adi and Ibn ‘Asakir narrate — Ahmed ibn Hafs al Sa’di; Ibrahim ibn ‘Abdullah al Khazzaf al Jurjani narrated to us — Sulaiman ibn ‘Isa al Sijzi narrated to us — al Layth ibn Sa’d narrated to us — from Nafi’ — from Ibn ‘Umar who said that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Verily, Allah has commanded me to love four people of my Companions. And Allah said, ‘I love them (too).’ (They are) Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali.”
Sulaiman ibn ‘Isa ibn Najih al Sijzi’s kunyah (agnomen) is Abu Yahya. He fabricates hadith.
The Hadith of Abu Hurairah
من طريق عبد العزيز بن النعمان القرشي، ثنا يزيد بن حيان، عن عطاء الخراساني، عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: لا يجتمع حب هؤلاء الأربعة إلا في قلب مؤمن: أبو بكر، وعمر، وعثمان، وعلي رضي الله عنهم أجمعين.
Abu Nuaim narrates — from ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn al Nu’man al Qurashi — Yazid ibn Hayyan narrated to us — from Ata’ al Khurasani — from Abu Hurairah who said that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “The love of these four people does not come together except in the heart of a believer: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhum.”
I think ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn al Nu’man is al Mawsili. Abu Hatim says he is majhul (unknown).
‘Ata’ al Khurasani is a mudallis (obfuscated when he transmits) and he did not hear (hadith) from Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
The Hadith of Anas ibn Malik
Ibn ‘Asakir narrates — from Abu ‘Abdullah al Buka’ — from Abu Khalaf — from Anas ibn Malik.
Al Azdi says Abu ‘Abdullah al Buka’ is matruk al hadith (suspected of forgery).
Ibn Ma’in says Abu Khalaf al A’ma is a liar.
Al Tabarani and Ibn ‘Asakir narrate — Muhammad ibn ‘Isa ibn al Sakan al Wasiti narrated to us — al Hassan ibn Bishr al Jabulli — Abu ‘Amir al Thawri — from ‘Ata’ al Khurasani — from Anas.”
‘Ata’ is a mudallis (obfuscated when he transmits) and he did not hear (hadith) from Anas.
Abu ‘Amir al Thawri (or al Tawzi—as it appears in Ibn ‘Asakir’s narration) and al Hassan ibn Bishr al Jabali could not be traced.
Al Albani says the hadith is da’if jiddan (very weak).
In short, the hadith is da’if (weak).
 Imam al Tirmidhi: Sunan al Tirmidhi, hadith no. 3718; Imam ibn Majah: Sunan Ibn Majah, hadith no. 149.
 Al Albani: Silsilat Ahadith al Da’ifah, hadith nos. 1549, 2171 and 3128.
 Abu Nuaim: Hilyat al Awliya’, 1/190.
 Ibn ‘Adi: al Kamil, 3/289; Ibn ‘Asakir: Tarikh Dimashq, 39/127.
 Abu Nuaim: Hilyat al Awliya’, 1/190.
 Abu Hatim: Kitab al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, 5/398.
 ibn ‘Asakir: Tarikh Dimashq, 39/127.
 Ibn Hajar: Lisan al Mizan, 7/72.
 Al Tabarani: Musnad al Shamiyyin, hadith no. 2312; Ibn ‘Asakir: Tarikh Dimashq, 39/128.
 Al Albani: Silsilat Ahadith al Da’ifah, hadith no. 2743.