‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma narrates:
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بعث بعثا وأمر عليهم أسامة بن زيد فطعن الناس في إمارته فقام رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال إن تطعنوا في إمارته فقد كنتم تطعنون في إمارة أبيه من قبل وايم الله إن كان لخليقا للإمارة وإن كان لمن أحب الناس إلي وإن هذا لمن أحب الناس إلي بعده
Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent an army and appointed Usamah ibn Zaid as their commander. The people criticized his leadership. Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam got up and said, “If you (people) are criticizing his leadership you used to criticize the leadership of his father before. By Allah, he (i.e. Zaid) deserved the leadership indeed, and he used to be one of the most beloved persons to me, and now this (i.e. his son, Usamah) is one of the most beloved persons to me after him.”
This narration has been recorded in the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik narrated by Imam Muhammad ibn al Hassan al Shaybani.
Imam al Bukhari has recorded it as well with the added word:
فطعن بعض الناس
Some people criticized his leadership.
Imam Muslim has recorded it with a difference of wording:
فأوصيكم به فإنه من صالحيكم
I advise you to treat him well as, for he is pious amongst you.
Commentary and Lessons Learnt from this Narration:
There is great virtue and honour in favour of Usamah ibn Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu in this narration. Hereunder are some reasons:
a. He is of the most beloved people to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
b. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam advised the ummah on his behalf.
c. Praising him as a pious individual amongst the galaxy of Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
d. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was convinced that he is fit for leadership.
e. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam defended his and his father’s honour.
2. The narration lends a weighty title to Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu as the beloved of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Furthermore, the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam defended his honour and was impressed by his leadership abilities. The great Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were aware of this veneration afforded to Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha says:
ما بعث رسول الله زيدا في جيش قط إلا أمره عليهم ، ولو بقي بعده استخلفه
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam never sent an army with Zaid expect that he appointed him as their leader and if he lived, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would have made him his vice-gerent.
3. This narration teaches us to defend the honour of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, especially if someone is found speaking ill of them or desecrating their virtue.
4. The desirability to defend the honour of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in a public setting, in front of the masses. The narration of Sahih Muslim indicates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was on the pulpit when he said the above hadith.
5. It is permissible for the Imam to appoint one of young age as a leader if he feels it is justified and the said person is worthy of the post.
6. In the narration Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took an oath. This proves the permissibility of taking an oath by Allah in matters of religion when there is premise. In this instance it was defending Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the criticism of people.
7. The permissibility of appointing a freed slave to a position of leadership, besides that of khilafah. Some scholars have claimed consensus on this.
8. The permissibility of appointing as a leader one who is lower in rank over those higher in rank to him.
9. Question: Why did Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appoint Usamah ibn Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu over this army, with the likes of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma present?
Answer: The author of Mirqat has stated that this was firstly due to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam understanding the potential and virtue of Usamah ibn Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Secondly, it was to ground the sentiment of submission to leaders after his passing. This would prove invaluable for the stability of khilafah after him. Furthermore, it was to dispel the notion prevalent in the time of ignorance; a freed slave was not fit to be a leader. This decision of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to uproot intolerance and prejudice. The yardstick of honour in Islam is solely taqwa.
10. At times, those who are superior in rank can have erroneous opinions. Virtue is not certain by way of intellect. Virtue is certain by way of divine selection.
11. A believer should not show the slightest bit of disinclination towards one whom Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
12. The Imam should defend his policies if he truly feels he is right. He should not allow criticism to silence him, he should rather counter such criticism with positive dialogue, especially in times of war. If the Imam does not defend his own policies, it could very well lead to a revolt.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 4199.
 Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4453
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