Waraqah before Al-Ba'thah
Waraqah ibn Nawfal was one of the four men of Quraysh who disliked polytheism, finding the plurality of society's idols making little sense. The other three were Zayd ibn Nufayl, Abdullah ibn Jahsh and Uthman ibn al-Huwayrith.
They simplified this system to comprise of just one idol and determined a day they would annually sacrifice an animal in its name.
The night when the Prophet (saw) was born, they found their idol had fallen; they repositioned it three times and each time it would fall. They soon realised it could not help itself, let alone its worshippers. (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. 2, p. 340; al-Halabi, al-Seerah al-Halabiyah, Vol. 1, p. 116)
Waraqah used to tell his companions:
تَعْلَمُونَ - وَاللَّهِ - مَا قَوْمُكُمْ عَلَى دِينٍ، وَلَقَدْ أَخْطَئُوا الْحُجَّةَ، وَتَرَكُوا دِينَ … يَا قَوْمِ، الْتَمِسُوا لِأَنْفُسِكُمُ الدِّينَ
"You know, by Allah, your people don't have a correct deen; they depend on false argument and left the deen of Ibrahim (as).
O people, search for yourselves the (right) deen." (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, Vol. 2, p. 341, ibn Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 1, p. 242, al-Baghdadi, al-Munamaq, pp. 175-176)
These four truth-seekers began searching for authentic divine revelation. They met a Jewish group who influenced Waraqah to adopt their religion, but the others remained unpersuaded. They continued searching, moving from one religious community to another. A Christian community persuaded Waraqah to convert to Trinitarianism as preached by Paul, however the others remained unpersuaded, Zayd arguing it was little different to Quraysh's polytheism:
مَا هَذَا إلّا كَدِينِ قَوْمِنَا نُشْرَكُ وَيَشْرَكُونَ
"This is nothing but our people's deen i.e. we associate (gods with Allah) and they associate." (Qurtubi, al-Isti'aab, Vol. 2, p. 616, al-Halabi, al- Seerah al-Halabiyah, Vol. 1, p. 116)
They encountered some monotheistic Christians who seemed authentic in following the Prophet Jesus (as). Waraqah finally converted whilst the others preferred to adhere to the religion of Ibrahim (as) until the ba'thah of the Prophet (saw). Ibn Hajar narrated the last journey:
وَكَانَ لَقِيَ مَنْ بَقِيَ مِنَ الرُّهْبَانِ عَلَى دِينِ عِيسَى وَلَمْ يُبَدِّلْ
"He met what has been left of the monks who were on the (original) deen of Isa (Jesus) without change." (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 25)
It seems that Waraqah was adopting the most probable religion out there until he discovered the correct deen of Allah. It explains why he adopted whatever goodness he found in Judaism, then moving to Trinitarianism which he saw as abrogating Judaism and finally a lesser corrupted version of Christianity. What supports this understanding is the fact that he continued the search with his friends, refusing to remain with the group who converted him until the last group of monotheistic Christians.
Monotheistic or Polytheistic Christianity:
Some historians, such as al-Suhayli, argue Waraqah followed a Trinitarian sect of Christianity that believed Jesus (as) was a God with God as a father. (Suhayli, al-Rawd al-Aneef, Vol. 1, p. 273) But this is improbable as we know from Waraqah's poems that he purely monotheistic; he used to say:
إِنِّي نَصَحْتُ لأَقْوَامٍ وَقُلْتُ لَهُمْ …لا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَهًا غَيْرَ خَالِقِكُمْ وَإِنْ سُئِلْتُمْ فَقُولُوا مَا لَهُ أَحَدُ
"I advised many people and told them … don't worship any god except your Creator and when others ask you, tell them He has no others (beside him)." (Ibn al-Jawzi, Mutheer al-Gharam, p. 184)
The above verses clearly nullify the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition, there are many indications in his statements with Khadijah (ra) after the ba'thah indicating he did not accept mainstream Christianity. For example, when coming to know of the Prophet's revelation, he commented:
إِنَّهُ لَيَأْتِيهِ نَامُوسُ عِيسَى الَّذِي لَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ
"He experiences the Namus (revelation) that Banu Isra'il don't teach to their children." (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 26, Salihi, Subul al-Huda, Vol. 2, p. 242)
So, he acknowledged it as a revelation and argued it to be different from what Christians and Jews preached. He was similar to many Christians who rejected the divinity of Jesus (as), awaiting for the appearance of Prophet Muhammad (saw), including those who accompanied Salman al-Farisi and others.
For that reason, almost all classical scholars rejected Suhayli's opinion. Ibn Hajar narrated the classical scholarship's stance:
وَأَمَّا مَا تَمَحَّلَ لَهُ السُّهَيْلِيُّ مِنْ أَنَّ وَرَقَةَ كَانَ عَلَى اعْتِقَادِ النَّصَارَى فِي عَدَمِ نُبُوَّةِ عِيسَى وَدَعْوَاهُمْ أَنَّهُ أَحَدُ الْأَقَانِيمِ , فَهُوَ مُحَالٌ , لَا يُعَرَّجُ عَلَيْهِ فِي حَقِّ وَرَقَةَ وَأَشْبَاهِهِ مِمَّنْ لَمْ يَدْخُلْ فِي التَّبْدِيلِ , وَلَمْ يَأخُذْ عَمَّنْ بَدَّلَ
"But what Suhayli individually said of Waraqah's belief, in the Christian creed of non-Prophethood of Jesus and their notion Jesus was one of the persons (of Allah), is impossible.
It is not accepted regarding Waraqah and his like who did not embrace the corrupted (beliefs) and was not taught by those who corrupted." (Ibn Hajar, Fatha al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 26, Suhayb Abd al-Jabar, al-Jami al-Sahih li al-Sunan wa al-Masaneed, Vol. 14, p. 263)
So, Waraqah was a monotheistic Christian prior to the ba'thah.
Waraqah after Al-Ba'thah
Waraqah kept searching for the true religion for 40 years, commencing with the birth of the Prophet (saw), passing away with the beginning of revelation.
When the Prophet (saw) received revelation, he told his wife Khadijah (ra) who promptly consulted Waraqah, given his experiences and expertise. After questioning him, Waraqah told him about Prophethood.
Classical scholars disagree on whether he embraced Islam or not; those who are he did, disagreed on whether he was a companion or not.
The first group of scholars: such as the fifth-century hadith scholar ibn Mandah, argue he was not a Muslim and he passed away before the Prophet called for Islam. So, according to them, it is nonsense to argue he was a Muslim as there was no Islam yet and he did not testify. (Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 4, p. 63) They also argue, Waraqah told the Prophet (saw):
وَإِنْ يُدْرِكْنِي يَوْمُكَ أَنْصُرْكَ نَصْرًا مُؤَزَّرًا
"And if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." (Sahih al-Bukhari 3)
But he was not alive days later. (Abd al-Raziq Afifi, al-Fatawa, p. 313)
This is an improbable understanding of the hadith as Waraqah hoped to be alive when the Prophet's (saw) people expelled him from the city so he could support him.
يَا لَيْتَنِي فِيهَا جَذَعًا، لَيْتَنِي أَكُونُ حَيًّا إِذْ يُخْرِجُكَ قَوْمُكَ.
فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " أَوَمُخْرِجِيَّ هُمْ ". قَالَ نَعَمْ، لَمْ يَأْتِ رَجُلٌ قَطُّ بِمِثْلِ مَا جِئْتَ بِهِ إِلاَّ عُودِيَ، وَإِنْ يُدْرِكْنِي يَوْمُكَ أَنْصُرْكَ نَصْرًا مُؤَزَّرًا
"I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out."
Allah's Messenger (saw) asked, "Will they drive me out?" Waraqah replied in the affirmative and said, "Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." (Sahih al-Bukhari 3)
Another narration supports this:
لَئِنْ أَمَرَّتْ بِالْقِتَالِ، لِأُقَاتِلَنَّ مَعَكَ وَلََأَنْصُرَنَّكَ نَصْرًا مُؤَبَّدًا
"If you are ordered to fight, I would fight with you and would support you strongly forever." (Tistiri, Qamus al-Rijal, Vol. 10, p. 435, Baladhri, Ansab al-Ashraf, p. 105)
So, the hadith speaks not of reaching the revelation, as he already did, but being a strong man when they harm the Prophet (saw) or in the time of prescribed war to support him.
The second group of scholars: the majority argue he believed the Prophet (saw) with many evidences supporting this. For example, Waraqah was a Christian and the Prophet (saw) said:
وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لاَ يَسْمَعُ بِي أَحَدٌ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ يَهُودِيٌّ وَلاَ نَصْرَانِيٌّ ثُمَّ يَمُوتُ وَلَمْ يُؤْمِنْ بِالَّذِي أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلاَّ كَانَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ
"By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell-Fire." (Sahih Muslim 153)
So, given Waraqah heard of the Prophet's revelation, he should be in in heaven as he believed him.
Furthermore, another hadith states the Prophet (saw) saw him in jannah, which taken with the above hadith, suggests he believed him. The Prophet (saw) said about Waraqah:
رَأَيْتُ لَهُ جَنَّةً أَوْ جَنَّتَيْنِ
"I saw a janah (paradise) or two paradises for him." (al-Hakim 4211, Daraqutni argued it is mursal in al-Ilal, Vol. 14, p. 157)
The Prophet (saw) was asked about Waraqah, he attributed him to heavens and rejected being in hellfire. A'isha (ra) narrated:
سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ وَرَقَةَ فَقَالَتْ لَهُ خَدِيجَةُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَدَّقَكَ وَلَكِنَّهُ مَاتَ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَظْهَرَ . فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " أُرِيتُهُ فِي الْمَنَامِ وَعَلَيْهِ ثِيَابٌ بَيَاضٌ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ لَكَانَ عَلَيْهِ لِبَاسٌ غَيْرُ ذَلِكَ
"The Messenger of Allah (saw) was asked about Waraqah. Khadijah said to him: 'He believed in you, but he died before your advent.' So the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: 'I saw him in a dream, and upon him were white garments.If he were among the inhabitants of the Fire, then he would have been wearing other than that.'" (Tirmidhi, 2457, Musanaf Abu Shaybah, Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-Nubuwah, Vol. 2, p. 158)
In addition, the above narration of Bukhari indicates he believed the Prophet (saw) as even Khadijah (ra) accepted Waraqah's observations and embraced Islam. So, he must have truly testified Muhammad (saw) was a prophet. Furthermore, there are narrations of his testification:
أَنَا أَشْهَدُ أَنَّكَ أَنْتَ أَحْمَدُ وَأَنَا أَشْهَدُ أَنَّكَ مُحَمَّدٌ وَأَنَا أَشْهَدُ أَنَّكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ
"I testify you are Ahmed (prophesied by Jesus) and testify you are Muhammad and testify you are the Messenger of Allah." (Tistiri, Qamus al-Rijal, Vol. 10, p. 435, Baladhri, Ansab al-Ashraf, p. 105)
The Prophet (saw) also said Waraqah believed in him and so he is in heaven:
لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ الْقَسَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ، عَلَيْهِ ثِيَابُ الْحَرِيرِ لِأَنَّهُ آمَنَ بِي وَصَدَّقَنِي يَعْنِي وَرَقَةَ.
"I saw the Qas (knowledgeable or priest) in jannah with garments of silk because he believed in me and attested my truthfulness i.e., Waraqah" (Qurtubi, al-Jami Li-Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 1, p. 82, ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi, p. 177, ibn Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 34. P. 404)
In the above narration, the word (قَسْ-qas) not (qis) as former means the knowledgeable or priest but does not necessarily mean an ecclesiastical or churchly spot, but a label they used to give it to him as he had knowledge of inter-religious issues and there was no Christian communities or churches in Mecca; the latter refers to the religious spot. All narrations and statements of scholars say (وكان يُدعى: القَس) he was called: the knowledgeable or priest because the term is linguistically used to refer to the state of leaning and intelligence – as in all the lexicons such as Lisan al-Arab that state العُقَلاء- الحُذّاق the reasonable and intelligent people – as well as several other meanings but the conclusive religious label is qisees (قِسْيِسْ) Christian priest.
Whilst the hadith is mursal and gharib hadith, its meaning is supported by the other ahadith.
So, it is reasonable to conclude he believed and testified in the Prophet (saw).
Was Waraqah a Companion?
Whilst the majority of classical scholars confirm he believed in the Prophet (saw), they disagree whether he was a companion or only a believer of his message before its initiation.
There are a great number of classical scholars, such as ibn Hajar, Dhahabi, Karamani, ibn al-Jawzi, ibn Asakir and others, who argue he was not a companion but is a believer as the message had not yet began. (Karamani, Umdat al-Qari, Vol. 1, p. 168) As Dhahabi explains:
وَإِنَّمَا مَاتَ الرَّجُلُ فِي فَتْرَةِ الْوَحْي بَعْدَ النُّبُوَّةِ وَقَبْلَ الرِّسَالَةِ
"The man died in the period of revelation intermittence after Prophethood but before risalah (conveyance of the message)." (Dhahabi, Siyar A'lam al-Nubalaa, Vol. 1, p. 129)
He was also considered as other religious elites who testified the Prophethood of the Prophet (saw) but did not believe in him because there was no Islam yet. Ibn Hajar argued:
فَهَذَا ظاهِرُهُ أَنَّه أَقَرًّ بِنُبُوَّتِهِ ، وَلَكِنَّه مَاتَ قَبْلُ أَنْ يَدْعُوَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيه وَسَلَّمَ النَّاسَ إِلَى الْإِسْلامِ ، فَيَكُونُ مِثْلَ بُحَيْرَا ، وَفِي إِثْبَاتِ الصُّحْبَةِ لَهُ نَظَرٌ
"The obvious meaning is he admitted his Prophethood but died before the Prophet (saw) called people to Islam.
He is similar (in status) to Buhaira, but attributing suhbah (companionship) is questionable." (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, Vol. 6, p. 476)
There are many, probably majority, of scholars who argued he was a companion, including Tabari, Baghawi, ibn Qani, ibn al-Sakan, Suhayli, ibn al-Qayim, Ibn Kathir, al-Barmawi, al-Kafiri, ibn al-Qadi Aljun, Abu Musa al-Madini, ibn Qudamah and others, and there is a weak narration of ibn Abbas (ra) supporting them. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, Vol. 6, p. 607, Zirikli, al-A'lam, Vol. 8, p. 115, Suhayli, al-Rawd, Vol. 1, p. 173, Ibn al-Qayim, Zad al-Mi'aad, Vol. 3, p. 21, ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, Vol. 3, p. 25, al-Biqa'i, al-Ta'reef bi Suhbat al-Sayd Waraqah, p. 42)
They argue the companion is the one who met the Prophet (saw), believed in him and died without nullifying his belief, all of which Waraqah did.
They cite the above narrations and argue they are clear in his testimony and belief in the Prophet (saw) after initiation of revelation. So, there is no way to argue the contrary. So, if he believed there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet, what is required further? These kinds of testimonies are accepted even out of hypocrisy.
The leading eighth-century Egyptian Shafi'i jurist Abu Zar'ah al-Iraqi stated the position of this group, it is proper to say the first male companion was Waraqah:
ينبغى أَنْ يُقَالُ إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مِنْ آمِنَ مِنَ الرُّجَّالِ وَرِقَّةً بْنُ نَوْفَلِ
"It is better to say the first man to believe was Waraqah ibn Nawfal (not Abu Bakr)." (Abu Zar'ah, Tarh al-Tarayuth, Vol. 4, p. 197)
There are other contemporary scholars, such as ibn Uthaymeen and Salih al-Fawzan, who argue he accompanied the Prophet (saw). (Ibn Uthaymeen, Fatawa wa Rasa'il ibn Uthaymeen, Vol. 8, p. 613)
A core evidence cited, in addition to the above narrations, is the Prophet (saw) on hearing a companion insult another said:
لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي لاَ تَسُبُّوا أَصْحَابِي
"Do not revile my Companions, do not revile my Companions." (Sahih Muslim 2540)
Going on to say the same about Waraqah:
لَا تَسُبُّوا وَرَقَةَ
"Do not revile Waraqah." (al-Hakim 4211, Daraqutni argued it is mursal in al-Ilal, Vol. 14, p. 157)
So, he gave the same ruling to people who are of similar status, especially considering the above evidences that he already testified and believed after the revelation and probably with Khadijah (ra).
There is a profound book, "Badhl al-Nush wa al-Shafaqah fi al-Ta'reef bi Suhbat al-Sayd Waraqah", authored by the ninth-century scholar al-Biqa'i that discusses this issue in depth, citing arguments of all the groups, concluding Waraqah ibn Nawfal is most likely a companion.
Before revelation (ba'thah) began to the Prophet (saw), his wife's cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfalused to worship idols. He abandoned them at some point seeking a truer religion outside Mecca with his friends. He later converted to Judaism, followed by Trinitarian Christianity, then a purer monotheistic Christianity that taught Jesus was not divine. After revelation, he believed the Prophet (saw) and was likely a companion who passed away within a few days of revelation.
Ibn Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah
Ibn Ishaq, al-Siyar wa al-Maghazi
Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah
Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari
Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah
Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq
Dhahabi, Siyar A'lam al-Nubalaa
Al-Halabi, al-Seerah al-Halabiyah
Qurtubi, al-Jami Li-Ahkam al-Qur'an
Bayhaqi, Dala'il al-Nubuwah
Suhayli, al-Rawd al-Aneef
Ibn al-Jawzi, Mutheer al-Gharam
Salihi, Subul al-Huda
Suhayb Abd al-Jabar, al-Jami al-Sahih li al-Sunan wa al-Masaneed
Abd al-Raziq Afifi, al-Fatawa
Tistiri, Qamus al-Rijal
Baladhri, Ansab al-Ashraf
Karamani, Umdat al-Qari
Ibn al-Qayim, Zad al-Mi'aad
Al-Biqa'i, al-Ta'reef bi Suhbat al-Sayd Waraqah
Abu Zar'ah, Tarh al-Tarayuth
Ibn Uthaymeen, Fatawa wa Rasa'il ibn Uthaymeen
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