The Ahl-e-Sunnat wa Jama’at has reached consensus (Ijma’) that after the Prophets (Alaihim as-Salam) the best of creation are the four rightly guided Khalifas (Khulafa-e-Arba’a i.e. Hadrat Abu Bakr, Hadrat Umar, Hadrat Uthman and Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhum Ajma’een).
Their sequence of excellence is that Sayyiduna Abu Bakr as-Siddique is the most excellent, then Sayyiduna Umar, thereafter followed by the excellence of Sayyiduna Uthman and Sayyiduna Ali (Ridwanullahi Ta’ala Alaihim Ajma’een). Here I present few proclamations of the Classical Scholars and Jurists in this regard.
“It is patent that to prefer ‘Ali to the Two Shaykhs contravenes the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a according to what the totality of the Salaf follow.” [Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Page 140]
“At first I withheld from taking any position and considered reserve best. But then I reached the conclusion that Religion dictated other than silence. So I said: ‘Uthman is better than ‘Ali with the agreement of the assembly of the Companions. This is the position of Ahl al-Sunnah, and it is the first knot of the Rafida one cuts loose.” [Siyar A'lam al-Nubala', Dar al-Fikr Edition. Vol. 12, Page 483]
“…Both ‘Uthman and ‘Ali possess great merits and precedence and are among the foremost shuhada’. However, the vast majority of the Community agree to give precedence to ‘Uthman, and this is our position also; and better than both of them without doubt are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Whoever differs with this is a hardened Shi’i.” [Siyar A'lam al-Nubala', Dar al-Fikr Edition. Vol. 12, Page 483-492]
“We affirm the succession after RasulAllah SallAllahu Alaihi wa Sallam first for Abu Bakr Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu – on account of his superiority upon the entire ummah and being paramount among them. Then, Umar ibn al-Khattab Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu. Then, Uthman ibn affan Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu. Then, ali ibn Abu talib Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu. For they are the Rightly Guided Successors [khulafa ar-rashidun] and The Guiding Leaders [ayimmah al-muhtadun - in another version ayimmah al-mahdiyyun].” [al-Aqida at-Tahawiyyah]
“The Imam (leader of Muslims) after RasulAllah SallAllahu Alaihi wa Sallam is Abu Bakr Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu. The Shiah say: ali. And we say: There is a unanimous agreement (ijmaa) of every person of importance (the ahl al-Hill wa’l aqd – from the council, prominent ones, nobles etc.) on this matter.” [SharH al-MaqaSid]
“Superiority, according to us [ahl as-sunnah] is according to the order of succession (of Khalifahs).” [SharH al-MaqaSid]
وللصديق رجحان جلي … على الصحاب من غير احتمال
And Siddiq has a prominence and superiority
Upon all companions without any doubt
وللفاروق رجحان وفضل … على عثمان ذي النورين عالي
And Faruq has prominence and superiority
Upon Uthman – he of the two lights, the lofty
وذو النورين حقا كان خيرا …. من الكرار في صف القتال
And Dhu’n Nurayn has the right, that he is superior to
al-Karrar, the brave and unflinching in the face of battle
وللكرار فضل بعد هذا …. على الأغيار طرا لا تبال
And superiority is due to ali the brave, after this
Upon everybody else without any hesitation
وخيرهم من ولي الخلافة …. وأمرهم في الفضلك الخلافة
And the best of them are the successors to khilafah
And the order of their superiority is like the khilafah.
“Whoever prefers ‘Ali to Abu Bakr maligns the Prophet; whoever gives ‘Ali preference over ‘Umar maligns the Prophet and Abu Bakr; and whoever gives ‘Ali preference over ‘Uthman maligns the Prophet, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and the Emigrants. Nor do I believe that the deeds of such a person are accepted.” [Manaqib Ahmad, Page. 162]
“Who is nobler than five under a cloak, the sixth of whom is Gibril?” (in reference to the established hadith wherein the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, gathered Sayyida Fatima, her two sons and her husband under his cloak) whereupon the Sunni replied: “Two in the cave, the third of whom is Allah” (in reference to the verse of Qur’an and hadith of the Prophet and Abu Bakr in the cave on the way to Madina).
“The Ahadith on the Afdhaliyya of Abu Bakr over the Sahaba are mutawatir by meaning.” [Nazm al-Mutanathir min al-Hadith al-Mutawatir Page 202]
He quotes Qastallani’s Irshad al-Saari Baab Tafadhul Ahl al-Iman fi al-A’man from the Book of Imaan who quotes Ijma’ of Ahl al-Sunnah on this. He also quotes Ibn Hajar from al-Sawa’i al-Muhriqa and Ibn Taymiyya from al-Wassiyyat al-Kubra who mention that it the reports are mutawatir.
“It has been soundly narrated from Ali himself: the best of people after the Prophet is Abu Bakr then Umar and then someone else… it is from this that the Ahl al-Sunnah from the Sahabah and Tabiun and those after them agree (ijma) that Abu Bakr is absolutely excellent among all Sahabah and then Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both).” [al-Sharaf al-Mu'abbad, Page 207]
“The excellence of Abu Bakr over all is Mujma’ alayh among Ahl al-Sunnah and there is no dispute in this, and consensus implies qata’.” [al-Sharaf al-Mu'abbad, Page 208]
“If Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali ever came to me for something, I would attend Ali first for his close relation with the Messenger of Allah, and I would prefer falling from the sky to the earth over giving Ali preference (in fadhila) over the two”. [al-Sharaf al-Mu'abbad, Page 209]
“most excellent of the Sahabah in his Manaqib”,
“greatest of them in his rank”,
“most noble of them in his station”, and
“most honoured among them in the Messenger’s court”!! [al-Sharaf al-Mu'abbad, Page 193]
“Anyone, who claims that Hadrat Mawla Ali (Karam Allahu wajh al-Karim) is superior to all companions, is a heretic, and a wrongdoer.”
a. Fatawa Khulasa, in ‘Kitab al-Salat’ (chapter of Salah) Section: 15
b. Khazanat al-Musannifeen, in the chapter of ‘Kitab al-Salat’ (Book of Salah) in the section ‘To follow a Rafidhi in Salat, is it right or wrong’?
“Anyone, who prefers Mawla Ali above the other three rightly guided Caliphs, is a misled.”
a. Fateh al-Qadeer, Sharah (a commentary) on the most renowned and reliable Fiqh book “Hidaya”, Printed in Egypt, Vol 1, Page 248
b. Hashiyyah (a commentary) on the Fiqh book “Tabi’een al-Salamah”, by Allama Ahmad as-Salabi, Printed in Egypt, Vol 1, Page 135
“Anyone, who prefers Hadrat Mawla Ali (Karam Allahu wajh al-Karim) over them (Shaykhain) is a misled and heretic.”
a. Bada’eh, Vol 3, Page 264
b. Bazaziyyah, Vol 3, Page 319
c. Asabah – Printed in Egypt, Page 187
d. Fatawa Qurwiyyah – Printed in Egypt, Vol 1, Page 25
e. Waqiat al-Muftiyyin – Printed in Egypt, Page 13
“Tafdhili, those who prefer Hadrat Mawla Ali Radi Allahu Anhu above the other three Caliphs are misled. [Majma' al Anhar - Printed in Istanbul, Vol 1, Page 105]
After Hadrat Abu Bakr comes the excellence of Hadrat Umar, then Hadrat Uthman and then Hadrat Ali. He who does not accept Hadrat Ali as the Khalifa is from the Kharijees and he who regards him (Hadrat Ali) to be more excellent than Hadrat Abu Bakr and Umar is from the Raafdhis. [Sab'a Sanabil, Page 10]
There is an Ijma’ of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah on the fact that Sayyiduna Abu Bak Al-Siddiq is the most superior amongst the companions of our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon Him and Allah is pleased with them all). After him comes the excellence of Hadrat Umar, then Hadrat Uthman and then Hadrat Ali Ridwanullahi Ta’ala Alaihim Ajma’een. They all were pious worshippers and steadfast on Truth and sided with Truth and we love all of them.
He, who believes that Sayyiduna Ali or any other companion is more superior above Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, is misguided from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. The true Love for Sayyiduna Ali Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu will only and only be valid and beneficial when his teachings, Aqida and Iman is also followed. The Ahl al-Bayt should themselves talk more often about the tafhdil of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu as this is mass-narrated from Sayyiduna Ali Karram Allahu Wajh al-Kareem himslef, and a sunnah of his.
And Allah Most high alone gives guidance!!