The rancour which the Shia harbour for the noble Sahabah (رضي الله عنهم) needs no introduction and it is quite commonplace to find them levelling unfounded tenuous accusations against the esteemed companions and students of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) on account of their bigotry. One such accusation has been levelled against the Sahabah in general that they all became apostate after the demise of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).
This vicious Takfiri ideology is actually based on Shia narrations that unequivocally state that all Sahabah (except for a handful) apostatised after the demise of the Prophet (ﷺ) for rejecting the alleged most important (!) pillar of Islam i.e. the myth of Wilayah/Imamah. A belief of mass-Takfir against hundreds of thousands of Sahabah or in the words of the renowned Shia scholar Ali Namazi Shahroudi who says in his book “Mustadrakat ‘Ilm-ul-Rijal” 1/67:
‘We conclude from the big quantity of [Shia] narrations declaring that all companions are apostates except three or four, that the general rule for every companion who remained alive after the Prophet (ﷺ) and did not become a martyr in his time, is that they are apostates for placing the non-chosen leader (means Abu Bakr) in authority over the chosen leader (means ‘Ali), or impious sinners for their short comings when it came to supporting him (means ‘Ali), thus it is not possible to assume the reliability of any of them except through a specific divine text.
There you go, the default Twelver position is that every Sahabi is a Kafir Murtadd until proven otherwise. In Islam we have Husn al-Dhann even for an average Muslim of the 21st century, in Rafidism mass-Takfir against the Sahabah is the default position (then they have the audacity to speak of ‘Takfiri-Vahhabis’).
The Rafidah in their quest for Takfir claim that certain Sunni narrations too prove that most Sahabah apostatised after the Prophet’s (ﷺ) demise. There are some good articles out there refuting their desperate attempts and the scholars have responded to their distortions. Here some good duroos in Arabic:
I myself have written an article in German language in refutation of this lie, it’s a decade old but still pretty useful, in sha`Allah. The following article is one of my favourites and was written by our beloved brother from mahajjah.com (who have been working relentlessly translating works after works that completely dismantled Imamism) and it explains the true nature of these narration — in light of the Noble Qur’an and authentic ahadith — and exposes the feeble conjecture of the Sahabah-abusers, the Rafidah who cherry-pick narrations (instead of viewing them holistically) in order to arrive at takfiri anti-Sahabah conclusions).
Accusation Regarding the Hadith of the Pond
The Sahabah are the Yardstick of Truth and the Foundation of Religion
Some people rejected the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum being the yardstick of truth and the basis of religion on account of their shallow understanding and flawed intellectual capacity. A number of points will be presented in this regard.
According to their understanding, Rasulullah (ﷺ) is the sole criterion of religion and the basis of religion is also only his person, while the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum of Rasulullah (ﷺ) are not the standard of truth, and not beyond criticism.
The people of knowledge are aware that the principle of the Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah at this point is that all the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are just and reliable. Therefore, no criticism can be levelled against them, as we have explained in our work Sirah Amir Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu (vol. 1 p. 42, 43) under the topic of “justice of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum”. A number of verses of the Qur’an indicate this, ponder over the following verses:
وَ اعْلَمُوْٓا اَنَّ فِیْكُمْ رَسُوْلَ اللّٰهِؕ لَوْ یُطِیْعُكُمْ فِیْ کَثِیْرٍ مِّنَ الْاَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَ لٰکِنَّ اللّٰهَ حَبَّبَ اِلَیْكُمُ الْاِیْمَانَ وَ زَیَّنَهفِیْ قُلُوْبِكُمْ وَ کَرَّهَ اِلَیْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَ الْفُسُوْقَ وَ الْعِصْیَانَؕ اُولٰٓئِكَ هُمُ الرّٰشِدُوْنَ
Know well that the Rasul of Allah (ﷺ) is in your midst. There are many matters regarding which you will be placed into difficulty if he were to obey you people concerning them. However, Allah has made iman beloved to you, has made it beautiful within your hearts and has made kufr, sin and disobedience abhorrent to you. Such people are rightly guided.
This verse verifies the true perfection of iman of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and them being just in a clear manner.
Therefore, they are the standard of truth and are beyond criticism. In another place, Allah has classified the iman of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to be the ideal. He made a similitude of their iman and encouraged the people to have iman in the same way as them. Allah says:
فَاِنْ اٰمَنُوْا بِمِثْلِ مَآ اٰمَنْتُمْ بِهٖ فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوْاۚ
If they have iman just as you have iman, then they are rightly guided.
This means that the iman and verification of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum has been classified the standard of truth for others to believe. It is apparent that their iman is the standard, it is only then that it was made worthy of being made a simile.
It is clear from the above that their iman is the standard of truth and verification, and the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are not worthy of criticism. Similarly, many ahadith points towards this, a few of which will be quoted here, which will establish that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are the standard of truth.
Rasulullah (ﷺ) said:
عن عبد الله بن عمرو قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وان بني اسرائيل تفرقت على ثنتين وسبعين ملة وتفرق امتي على ثلث وسبعين ملة كلهم في النار الا ملة واحدة قالوا من هي يا رسول الله؟ قال ما انا عليه وأصحابي
Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah (ﷺ) said: “The Banu Isra’il split into seventy two sects and my ummah will split into seventy three sects, all of them will be in the fire except for one.” The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum enquired: “Who are they, O Rasul of Allah?” Rasulullah (ﷺ) replied: “(Those are upon) that which I am upon and my Sahabah.”
In this hadith, the standard of truth and falsehood has not only been classified to be the path of Rasulullah (ﷺ), but together with this, the path of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum of Rasulullah (ﷺ) has been classified to be the standard of truth. Rasulullah (ﷺ) has also explained that the path of his Sahabah is exactly his path and following them is a means of salvation. It is thus established that together with Rasulullah (ﷺ), the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are also the standard and yardstick of truth.
In another hadith, it is stated:
Sayyidina ‘Irbad ibn Sariyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that after leading us in the morning salah, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam delivered a sermon in which he gave many advises and bequests. One of them was:
وانه يعيش منكم بعدي فسيرى اختلافا كثيرا فعليكم بسنتي وسنة الخلفاء الراشدين المهديين عضوا عليها بالنواجذ
Whoever lives after me will witness abundant differences. At that time, hold on to my sunnah and the sunnah of my rightly guided khulafa’, hold on to it firmly with your molars.
Similarly, Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina Hudhayfah ibn Yaman radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم اقتدوا بالذين من بعدي ابي بكر وعمر
Rasulullah (ﷺ) said: “Follow Abu Bakr and ‘Umar after me.”
The following aspects are clearly proven from these ahadith: Rasulullah (ﷺ) commanded that his sunnah be held onto firmly and together with this, he emphatically commanded his ummah to hold on to the practices of the al Khulafa’ al Rashidin. Then, he specifically mentioned the names of the senior Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum (i.e. Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma), and issued a bequest to the effect that they be followed. Thus it is apparent from these proofs that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are the standard of truth, and based on this it has been classified as necessary to follow them.
Assuming that they were not the standard of truth and instead worthy of criticism, then these texts of the Qur’an will be superfluous and meaningless. If these injunctions of the Qur’an and hadith are not practised upon, but rather belied, then this will be termed contradicting the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Moreover, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are the basis of religion and it is a fact that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are the link between Rasulullah (ﷺ) and the ummah. It is through them that the Qur’an has reached the ummah and it is through them that we learnt of the Sunnah of Rasulullah (ﷺ) and the laws of the shari’ah. In light of this, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are the basis of religion and were the means of us acquiring Islam. If they are deemed unreliable, then no reliance and conviction can be placed in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
If we were to assume — hypothetically — that these eye-witnesses of religion were not reliable and were worthy of criticism then the entire structure of din will collapse and the truthful nature of religion would be undermined; the veracity of Islam itself will be brought into question. We seek the protection of Allah. It is for this reason that the senior scholars of the ummah have classified it as impermissible to find fault with the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and have classified those who criticise and abuse them as heretics and irreligious. Subsequently, Abu Zur’ah al Razi rahimahu Llah, who is among the great teachers of Imam Muslim rahimahu Llah has issued this ruling, he writes:
انا رايت الرجل ينقص احدا من اصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فاعلم انه زنديق وذالك ان الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم عندنا حق والقرآن حق وانما ادى الينا هذا القرآن والسنن اصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وانما يريدون ان يجرحوا شهودنا ليبطلوا الكتاب والسنة والجرح بهم اولى وهم زنادقة
If you see any person criticising any of the Sahabah of Rasulullah (ﷺ), then know full well that he is a zindiq. This is because Rasulullah (ﷺ) is true according to us, and the Qur’an is true; and the Sahabah of Rasulullah (ﷺ) conveyed this Qur’an to us and the Sunnah. They intend to criticise our witnesses only so that they falsify the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is more fitting to criticise them (i.e. those who criticise the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum), and they are heretics.
Accusation Regarding the Hadith of the Pond
The hadith that has been reported regarding a few people being driven away from the Pond of al Kowthar is used to malign all of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, especially Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.They claim that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, after the demise of Rasulullah (ﷺ), innovated in din, abandoned the true shari’ah and altered its laws. The subject matter of the hadith of the Pond:
On the day of Qiyamah, Rasulullah (ﷺ) will come to the Pond of al Kowthar and some people will be driven away from the pond, upon which Rasulullah (ﷺ) will say: “These are my Sahabah.” The reply will be given:
انك لا تدري ما احدثوا بعدك
You do not know what they had innovated after you.
Rasulullah (ﷺ) will then say:
سحقا سحقا لمن غير بعدي
Destruction! Destruction! For the one who changed (matters) after me.
The Hadith of the Pond is narrated with different words and despite the variances in the wording of these narrations, the subject matter is the same. The above quoted narration is from Mishkat.
A number of points with regards to the Hadith of the Pond are mentioned below, from which the purport of this hadith will be clarified and criticism levelled against the Sahabah will be answered, with the help of Allah.
It is correct that the hadith of the Pond is present in the Sihah Sittah and it is authentic. However, those opposed to the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum have left out the original purport and the correct meaning, and instead levelled this criticism based upon their own understanding and bias interpretation. On this occasion, the statement of Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu holds true:
كلمة حق اريد به الباطل
A true statement, but the intention behind it is falsehood.
The meaning and purport of the Hadith of the Pond as explained by the scholars is given below:
Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz rahimahu Llah says:
These people refer to the renegades, who died upon disbelief, and from the Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah, none refers to any of them as “Sahabi” and they do not believe in their good qualities or piety. These people were mostly from the tribe of Banu Hanifah and Banu Tamim, they had come in the form of a delegation during the final days of Rasulullah (ﷺ) for a visit. However, after the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam they relented their faith and turned away from Islam, resorting to utter ruin.
On account of their outward acceptance of Islam and having been honoured with seeing Rasulullah (ﷺ) they were referred to as “Sahabi” or “Usayhabi” (the diminutive of Sahabi). However, after the demise of Rasulullah (ﷺ), they turned away from the religion of Islam, which is why they will be driven away from the Pond of al Kowthar.
Nonetheless, the narration stating that they will be removed from the Pond of al Kowthar does not refer to the senior Sahabah of Rasulullah (ﷺ), but rather it refers to the renegades and those who turned away from Islam. There are a number of reasons to support this:
There is clear mention with regards to Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu that on one occasion when Rasulullah (ﷺ) spoke about the people who will be driven away from the pond, Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu asked:
فقال ابو بكر لعلي منهم يا نبي الله! لعلي منهم يا نبي الله!
Perhaps I am amongst them, O Nabi of Allah? Perhaps I am amongst them, O Nabi of Allah?
قال لا، ولكنهم قوم يخرجون بعدكم ويمشون القهقرى
Rasulullah (ﷺ) replied: “No, you are not from those people, but they are a nation who will come after you and they will turn back, away from Islam.”
It is clear from this narration that in accordance to the statement of Rasulullah (ﷺ), Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu is not from amongst those who will be removed from the Pond of al Kowthar.
Similarly, Allah mentions a great number of virtues of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in the Qur’an, He explains their great status and He has given glad tidings of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum being true believers. Moreover, He has promised His pleasure for them, the guarantee of them entering Jannat, acquiring perpetual bounties and a great reward.
There are many verses with this subject matter. A few verses will be presented below:
وَالَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَهَاجَرُوْا وَجٰهَدُوْا فِیْ سَبِیْلِ اللّٰهِ وَالَّذِیْنَ اٰوَوْا وَّنَصَرُوْٓا اُولٰٓئِكَ هُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ حَقًّاؕ لَهُمْ مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَّرِزْقٌ کَرِیْمٌ
Those who believe, made hijrah and strove in Allah’s way, as well as those who granted shelter and assisted, these are the true believers. For them shall be forgiveness and bountiful sustenance.
اَلَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَهَاجَرُوْا وَجٰهَدُوْا فِیْ سَبِیْلِ اللّٰهِ بِاَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاَنْفُسِهِمْۙ اَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً عِنْدَ اللّٰهِؕ وَ اُولٰٓئِكَ هُمُ الْفَآئِزُوْنَ ﴿20﴾ یُبَشِّرُهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِّنْهُ وَ رِضْوَانٍ وَّجَنّٰتٍ لَّهُمْ فِیْهَا نَعِیْمٌ مُّقِیْمٌ ﴿21ۙ﴾ خٰلِدِیْنَ فِیْهَآ اَبَدًاؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عِنْدَهٓ اَجْرٌ عَظِیْمٌ ﴿22
Those who believe, who make hijrah and exert themselves in Allah’s path with their wealth and their lives, are superior in rank according to Allah. These are the successful ones. Their Rabb gives them the good news of His mercy, pleasure and such Jannat where they shall have everlasting bounties. They will live there forever. Undoubtedly with Allah is a great reward.
یَوْمَ لَا یُخْزِی اللّٰهُ النَّبِیَّ وَ الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا مَعَهۚ نُوْرُهُمْ یَسْعٰی بَیْنَ اَیْدِیهِمْ وَ بِاَیْمَانِهِمْ یَقُوْلُوْنَ رَبَّنَآ اَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُوْرَنَا وَ اغْفِرْلَنَاۚ اِنَّكَ عَلٰی كُلِّ شَیْءٍ قَدِیْرٌ ﴿8
On that day, Allah shall not disgrace the Nabi and the believers with him. Their light shall travel ahead of them and on their right and left side.
The scholars have clarified:
فامنهم الله من خزيه ولا يامن من خزيه في ذالك اليوم الا الذين ماتوا والله سبحانه ورسوله عنهم راض فامنهم من الخزي صريح في موتهم على كمال الايمان وحقائق الاحسان وفي ان الله لم يزل راضيا عنهم وكذالك رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم
Allah protected the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum from disgrace (on the Day of Qiyamah) and only those people will be saved from disgrace on that Day with whom Allah and His Rasul are pleased. Their being saved from disgrace clearly proves that their death came upon complete iman and the reality of ihsan; and in such a state that Allah and His Rasul (ﷺ) never ceased being pleased with them.
Similarly, Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz rahimahu Llah has written under the commentary of this verse:
This points out that they (the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum) will not be punished in the hereafter and after the demise of Rasulullah (ﷺ) the light of their iman did not extinguish; if this were the case then what favour is there in such light that can be taken away and what benefit can it give?
In another verse, Allah Ta’ala states:
لَا یَسْتَوِیْ مِنْكُمْ مَّنْ اَنْفَقَ مِنْ قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَ قٰتَلَؕ اُولٰٓئِكَ اَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِّنَ الَّذِیْنَ اَنْفَقُوْا مِنْۢ بَعْدُ وَ قٰتَلُوْاؕ وَكُلًّا وَّعَدَ اللّٰهُ الْحُسْنٰیؕ وَ اللّٰهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُوْنَ خَبِیْرٌ﴿10
Those who spent before the conquest of Makkah and fought are not at par (with others). Those are much greater in rank than those who spent later and fought, though Allah has promised the good (reward) for each. Allah is well aware of what you do.
Together with this, Allah says:
اِنَّ الَّذِیْنَ سَبَقَتْ لَهُمْ مِّنَّا الْحُسْنٰٓیۙ اُولٰٓئِكَ عَنْهَا مُبْعَدُوْنَ﴿101ۙ
As for those for whom the good news from us has come earlier, they will be kept far away from it.
In the above verses, which establishes the virtue of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, there is ample verification of their perfect iman, promises of forgiveness and Jannat, as well as glad tidings of divine pleasure, great reward, eternal bounty, salvation from disgrace on the Day of Qiyamah and acquisition of the light of iman. All this is abundantly clear.
There are plenty more virtues and merits mentioned for them in other verses of the Qur’an as well as authentically reported ahadith, such as the ‘Asharah Mubasharah being from the dwellers of Jannat and glad tidings of divine pleasure for those who pledged the allegiance of Ridwan, etc. All these virtues are proven for the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. Also, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum made a great effort for the propagation of Islam, kept its flag flying high and establish its teachings. They migrated for the sake of Islam and they fulfilled the right of striving in the path of Allah with their lives and wealth bringing the great empires of Chosroes and Caesar under the dominion of Islam. Hundreds of thousands became Muslim through their efforts, and they taught them the Qur’an and salah, tutoring them along the path of shari’ah; an unparalleled service for the religion and Islamic nation. The rank and status of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in the sight of Allah and His Rasul (ﷺ) is something glaringly evident which cannot be denied.
In the presence of such proofs, how then can it ever be correct to assume that the noble Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum are meant in the Hadith of the Pond. On the contrary, one would be correct in stating that those who turned away from the religion of Islam are meant by it and they are the ones in a total loss, as the Muhaddithin have expounded.
What we have quoted above opposes the assumption of the critics and establishes that this in no way refers to those noble Sahabah who sacrificed their wealth and lives for the mission of Rasulullah (ﷺ). When so many virtues are emphatically proven from the Qur’an and Sunnah guaranteeing them Jannat, it can never be correct to assume that such a group will be driven away from the Pond of al Kowthar.
Therefore, the thoughts and views of the Shia with regards to the hadith of the pond are baseless, utterly incorrect and can never be correct in any condition.
The Strange Method of Drawing Conclusions of the Shia
When the innumerable clear verses and ahadith are placed before the Shia, which mentions high praise for their noble efforts in enlivening and spreading Islam, proving their virtues and truthful nature, and testifies to their complete iman; they reply that all these texts refer to the most special and elite and sincere followers of Rasulullah (ﷺ), and not the Sahabah ﷺradiya Llahu ‘anhum in general. When, according to their view, the elite and sincere followers are sought, they say that it is the ‘itrah (family) of Nabi (ﷺ) — Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as well as Sayyidina Miqdad ibn al Aswad, Sayyidina ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, Sayyidina Salman al Farsi and Sayyidina Abu Dhar al Ghifari radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
It is as though according to them, innumerable verses of the Qur’an and countless ahadith of Rasulullah (ﷺ) were only for these five or six and the religion of Islam was enlivened through them only and the achievement of spreading Islam is due to them only and the rest of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum had turned away from religion, to be driven away in the hereafter from the Pond of al Kowthar. We seek the protection of Allah and we seek the forgiveness of Allah.
An intelligent and understanding person will realise this warped logic of the Shia, there is no need for our study and scrutiny.
An Overview of the Hadith of the Pond
Firstly: We find that Rasulullah (ﷺ) will call out to those who will be driven from the Pond with either the words “my Ummati’s”, “my Sahabah”, or “Usayhabi” (the diminutive of Sahabi) and there is no difference or contradiction in them, but rather it all refers to those whom the meaning of these words incorporates. It refers to any one of these groups:
- Those people who left Islam after the demise of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, they accepted Islam in his lifetime, and they saw him while they were Muslims.
- Those people who renounced Islam during the latter part of his life and he did not know of their kufr.
- Hypocrites outwardly portrayed to embrace Islam but concealed their kufr.
- Those people who followed their desires changed the Sunnah of the Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his ways, such as the Rawafid and the Khawarij.
- Some ‘ulama’ include amongst them those who commit major sins, which is corroborated by a hadith. Imam Ahmed ibn Hambal narrates in his Musnad from Ibn ‘Umar, who says that Rasulullah (ﷺ) said:
There will be over you leaders who command you with that which they do not practice upon. Whoever attests to their lies and helps them in their oppression they are not from me and I am not from them and they will never come close to me at the Pond of al Kowthar.
The word “ummati” in the narration attests to the fourth and fifth category. And the word “Sahabah” or “Usayhabi” refers to the third and first category.
Amongst those things that indicate that they will be from his — Nabi’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam — ummah is that he will recognise them by the radiant mark on their faces, it is a sign specific only to this ummah. Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will recognise them on account of this mark since this is unique to this ummah.
These are some of the opinions from the ‘ulama’ with regard to these ahadith:
Imam al Nawawi rahimahu Llah says when explaining the hadith:
There is difference of opinion amongst the scholars with regards to who is implied in this hadith. The first opinion is that it refers to the hypocrites and renegades, and it is possible that they too will be raised with these radiant marks (on account of them having performed wudu’. Thus, Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will call out because of the mark that they will carry. It will then be said these are not those who fulfilled their pledges to you; instead they changed after you and did not leave this abode upon the religion of Islam.
The second meaning expounded is that it refers to those who embraced Islam during the life of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but then apostatised after him. In this case, Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will call them — even though they might not carry the mark of wudu — because he will recognise them from his lifetime. It will then be said that they became apostates after your demise.
The third meaning that has been expounded is that it refers to those guilty of major sins but died upon towhid as well as the innovators in religion (such innovation that did not lead them to exit the fold of Islam).
Hafiz Ibn Hajar rahimahu Llah says:
Al Khattabi says: “None from the Sahabah apostatised, except the Bedouin Arabs who never contributed to the development of Islam, thus this does not necessitate vilification against the well-known Sahabah. Nabi’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam words “أصيحابي” in diminutive form indicates to their minute number.
Sheikh ‘Abdul Qahir al Baghdadi radiya Llahu ‘anhu says:
The is consensus amongst the Ahlus Sunnah that all those who apostatised after the demise of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were from the tribes of Kindah, Hanifah, Fazarah, Bani Asad and Bani Bakr ibn Wa’il, and not from the Ansar and Muhajirin (who migrated before the Conquest of Makkah). The word Muhajirin has been used in the shari’ah to refer to those who migrated to Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam — in Madinah — before the Conquest of Makkah. These people (i.e. the Muhajirin and Ansar) with the favour and grace of Allah remained steadfast upon the true din and upon the straight path.
There is also consensus amongst the Ahlus Sunnah that those who witnessed the Battle of Badr with Rasulullah (ﷺ) are from the people of Paradise, and likewise all those who witnessed Bay’at al Ridwan in Hudaybiyyah with him (Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
Al Shatibi rahimahu Llah says:
The truth is that they (the renegades who) are amongst the lot of this ummah, because of the signs that were given of them, namely the marks of radiance on account of wudu’. This (mark of radiance) will not be apparent upon those who were outright disbelievers, whose kufr was on account of outright rejection or on account of them apostatising.
Also indicating to this (that it is members of the ummah who will be driven away and not disbelievers) is the words that will be mentioned to Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, namely, “they changed after you”, because if those who apostatised were being referred to then it would have been said that “they became disbelievers after you.” The closest that can relate to it would be alteration of the Sunnah, which is evidence against the innovators. Whoever says hypocrisy is implied then that also is not foreign to our meaning, because the hypocrites practiced upon the tenets of din outwardly and not sincerely, thus not carrying it out as prescribed which is the actual definition of innovation.
This will also include all those who practice upon the Sunnah as a means of embellishment or as a medium for attaining the vanities of this world, they too will suffer the same fate. As this too, is changing the Sunnah.
Al Qurtubi rahimahu Llah says:
Our ‘ulama’ — may Allah have mercy on every one of them — say whoever apostatises from the din of Allah or innovates in it what does not please Allah or was not permitted by Allah will be amongst those who will be driven away from the Pond, and distanced from it. Those who will be driven away most harshly will be those who opposed the way of the majority of Muslims and strayed from their path — such as the Khawarij, Rawafid and Mu’tazilah, who went against the Sunnah, followed their desires and left the path of the Muslims. All of these groups are innovators. Likewise will be the treatment to those who were excessive in wrong doing, oppression, injustice, eradicating the truth, killing its people, disgracing them, open transgression, people of falsehood, desires and innovation.
It can be possible that this will be their initial condition and will be granted proximity later on account of them having been forgiven, as long as the change had occurred only in action and not in ‘aqa’id (belief). In light of this explanation it will be on account of the radiant marks of wudu’ that they will be recognised. It will then be said to them. “Woe on you.”
If they were from the hypocrites present during the time of Rasulullah (ﷺ) who pronounced their iman but hid their disbelief then Rasulullah (ﷺ) called out to them on account their apparent show of faith but then they will be exposed and it will be said to them, “woe on you.” No person will stay forever in the Fire except for an outright disbeliever and infidel who does not even possess in his heart iman equal to a mustard seed.
Secondly: amongst that which exposes the lies of the Shia in their claim that great and noble Sahabah such as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhum are among those who apostatised is the fact that open apostasy did occur and the apostates were fought and killed? Now we ask who were those who fought the apostates? It is apparent that those who apostatised were those who we have mentioned from the various Arab tribes and those who fought and killed them were Abu Bakr al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his brothers from the Muhajirin and Ansar. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu supported their stance in killing these apostates; he also took a slave girl from Banu al Hanifah, who later bore for him a child who later became a very well versed scholar (Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyyah). If the honourable Sahabah — Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and those who were with them from the Muhajirin and Ansar radiya Llahu ‘anhum are regarded as the apostates then what will be said of Musaylamah al Kadhdhab and his followers, al ‘Anasi and his followers, and their like? This is sheer hypocrisy, disbelief, futile speech and false witness. Ibn Taymiyyah writes:
Allah is Greater than these deceitful renegades and their followers who go against the ways of Allah, His Rasul, Qur’an and His Religion. They renounce Islam, throwing it behind their back. They disassociate from Allah, His Rasul, and His believing bondsman and associate with the renegades and disbelievers. This testimonial and the likes of it are from their speech. It is clear that these obsessive people deem Abu Bakr and his group to be the actual disbelieving renegades, equating them to the actual renegades who were killed by al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
He also says:
In short; the matter of Musaylamah al Kadhdhab, his claim of nubuwwah and the support from Bani Hanifah to him in Yamamah — and al Siddiq fighting them on that basis; it is a well-known established matter (mutawatir and mash-hur), known to the scholar and layman alike just as other mutawatir incidents. This is not something which was known to him only but as a matter of fact it was better known to the people than the details of Jamal and Siffin. It is mentioned that some of the scholars of theology rejected the occurrence of Jamal and Siffin, even though this rejection is baseless, we do not know of anyone one who rejected the Battle of Yamamah and that Musaylamah al Kadhdhab claimed nubuwwah, and he was fought on that basis.
However these Rafidah in their denial of this, and their ignorance of it; is the same as their rejection that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar are buried alongside Rasulullah (ﷺ) (on account of their virtue), and that they were the friends and companions of the Rasulullah (ﷺ). They claim that he — Rasulullah (ﷺ) — declared the khilafah for ‘Ali, some of them deny that Zainab, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum K were daughters of Rasulullah (ﷺ), but rather claim that they were the children of Khadijah from her previous disbelieving husband, before marrying Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
He further states:
They — the Rafidah — claim that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and their followers were apostates, whilst it is a known fact — to the scholars and laymen —that Abu Bakr was the one who fought the apostates. So if they claim that the people of Yamamah were ill-treated and killed unjustly, rejecting (the reasons for) this battle justifying their actions (i.e. of Musaylamah and his followers) it will establish that this later generation (of the Shia) are in actual fact followers of their predecessors (Musaylamah and the other apostates), while Abu Bakr and his followers after him will always be fighting the renegades in every era.
The statement of Ibn Mutahhar al Hilli al Rafidi that “they called the Banu Hanifah renegades because they did not carry out zakat to Abu Bakr,” is one of the most ostensible lies because the truth of the matter is that he only fought them because they brought faith in Musaylamah al Kadhdhab and believed in his so called nubuwwah. As for those who refused to give zakat they were from other tribes other than Banu Hanifah, and it was with regards to them that the other Sahabah had reservations in fighting. As for the Banu Hanifah; no one had any doubt in it being necessary to fight them.
Thirdly: We wish to pose a question to the Rawafid, how are the first three khulafa’ referred to in this narration and not ‘Ali (in their accusation of apostasy)? Furthermore, what prevents them from including the likes of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, Miqdad ibn al Aswad, Abu Dhar and Salman al Farsi radiya Llahu ‘anhum from also being included? Is this fairness or nothing but heretic tendencies?
We on the other hand believe that the Muhajirin and Ansar will remain in Jannat forever. Allah Ta’ala says:
وَالسّٰبِقُوْنَ الْاَوَّلُوْنَ مِنَ الْمُهٰجِرِیْنَ وَالْاَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِیْنَ اتَّبَعُوْهُمْ بِاِحْسَانٍۙ رَّضِیَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوْا عَنْهُ وَ اَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنّٰتٍ تَجْرِیْ تَحْتَهَا الْاَنْهٰرُ خٰلِدِیْنَ فِیْهَآ اَبَدًاؕ ذٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِیْمُ﴿100
And the first forerunners (in the faith) among the Muhajirin and the Ansari and those who followed them with good conduct — Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment. 
We believe that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhum will all be in Jannat, likewise, all those whom Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave glad tidings to, in his lifetime. All of these together will drink front the Pond of al Kowthar a very pleasant drink. Woe and destruction to all those who curse and call them disbelievers. They are more worthy of being with the apostates on the Day of Judgement who these pure souls fought.
 Surah al Hujurat: 7
 Surah al Baqarah: 137
 Mishkat p. 30
 Mishkat p. 29, 30, al Mustadrak al Hakim vol. 1 p. 95, 96, al Sunan al Kubra vol. 10 p. 114
 Musnad al Imam al A’zam p. 180
 Kitab al Kifayah of al Baghdadi p. 49, al Isabah p. 18, Fath al Mughith vol. 3 p. 101, 300
 Tuhfah Ithna ‘Ashariyyah p. 338, 339
 Al Mustadrak al Hakim vol. 1 p. 77, 78
 Surah al Anfal: 74
 Surah al Towbah: 20-22
 Surah al Tahrim: 8
 Al Sawa’iq al Muhriqah p. 209
 Surah al Hadid: 10
 Surah al Ambiya’: 101
 Fulk al Najat vol.1 p. 123, Lahore
 Musnad Ahmed Hadith: 514 vol. 9
 Sharh Muslim, p. 136-137 vol. 3.
 Fath al Bari, p. 385 vol. 11.
 Al Farq Bayna al Firaq, p. 353.
 Al I’tisam, p. 96 vol. 1.
 Al Tadhkirah fi Ahwal al Mawta wa l-Dar al Akhirah, p. 352.
 Minhaj al Sunnah al Nabawiyyah, p. 490 vol. 4.
 Minhaj al Sunnah al Nabawiyyah, p. 492-493 vol. 4.
 Minhaj al Sunnah al Nabawiyyah, p. 493-494 vol. 4.
 Whichever criteria was employed to exclude ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu from being included in the purport of this narration can be found equally in favour of the first three khulafa’ as well as the Muhajirin and Ansar.
 Surah al Towbah: 100.