When Prophet Muhammad (S) announced his Prophethood, his tribe Quraish didn’t pay much attention. But when they saw that people were continuously embracing Islam day by day, and the new converts were refuting the customs and traditions of their forefathers, the people of Quraish tribe started oppressing them hoping that this would stop them. But the oppressions didn’t stop the new converts. Now this became a serious issue for Quraish. They tried all the tactics they could think of to stop the new religion. They offered wealth, rank, women and everything they could think of to Prophet Muhammad (S). At that time, the Muslims numbered in few hundreds only.
These few hundred Muslims were the reason for the worries of Quraish. They remained attached to the message of Islam ignoring all worldly desires and offers to them. If they were not sincere, they would have become the victims of the tactics used by Quraish. But they remained steadfast. Allah ordered these people to migrate towards Abyssinia because of the oppressions against them. Later on, Allah allowed them to migrate towards Madinah for the same reason. This was only due to their sincerity and steadfastness due to which Quraish were oppressing them and Allah was ordering them to migrate. Allah named those who migrated as ‘Muhajiroon’ or the ‘Immigrants’.
Ali (ra) said regarding them:
ولعمري ما كنت إلا رجلا من المهاجرين … وما كان الله ليجمعهم على ضلالة، ولا ليضربهم بالعمى
By my life, I am just a person from the Muhajireen … Allah will not gather them upon falsehood and Allah will not make them blind.
Nahj al-Sa’ada fi Mustadrak Nahj al-Balagha, Vol. 4, p. 93
They migrated to Madinah after they were invited by few converts from Madinah. Madinah at that time was composed of different tribes, and the Jews had a prominent position. When the Muhajiroon migrated to Madinah, the people of Madinah welcomed them wholeheartedly. Allah named these people of Madinah as the ‘Ansar’. Those people protected Muhajiroon from not only Quraish, but also the Jews and other enemies within Madinah with their wealth and lives. If they were not sincere, Muslims couldn’t survive in Madinah and Allah wouldn’t have allowed the Muslims to migrate there.
Ali (ra) said regarding them:
وَقَالَ (عليه السلام) فِي مَدْحِ الْأَنْصَارِ: هُمْ وَاللَّهِ رَبَّوُا الْإِسْلَامَ كَمَا يُرَبَّى الْفِلْوُ مَعَ غَنَائِهِمْ بِأَيْدِيهِمُ السِّبَاطِ وَأَلْسِنَتِهِمُ السِّلَاطِ
Eulogising the Ansaar: By Allah, they nurtured Islam with their generous hands and eloquent tongues as a year old calf is nurtured.
Nahjul Balagha, English Translation, Saying # 474, p. 695
This is a historical reality which can’t be questioned by any knowledgeable person. No tradition, historical narration or the saying of any scholar can prove them hypocrites. These Muslims who were the first the embrace Islam are believers without any doubt. If we declare majority of them as disbelievers or hypocrites, it doesn’t match with the context. The oppression of Quraish on them and the battles of Quraish against them look absurd, and Ansar’s sacrifices for them look without any purpose. And Allah’s order to them to migrate from Makkah looks meaningless. Even the presence of hypocrites in Madinah and all their plots against Muslims look unreal. Because if majority of these people were enemies of the Prophet (S) at heart, all they had to do was not to participate in any war, which the enemies waged upon the Prophet (S). If majority were hypocrites, then the hypocrites wouldn’t plot to kill the Prophet (S) during the Tabuk event, when it could have been done much more easily in Madinah.
Hence, it is clear that the earliest Muslims were sincere companions of the Prophet (S), whether someone considers the companions who embraced Islam later on as sincere or not. Now how many of these earliest Muslims agreed with the Shia view that Ali (ra) is the first divinely appointed Caliph? There are plenty of traditions in Shia books which testify that only three, or seven, remained on the view that Ali (ra) is the first divinely appointed Caliph. So when those earliest sincere companions didn’t consider Ali (ra) to be the first divinely appointed Imam, it really puts a big question mark on this belief. Shias definitely have got no satisfactory answer to it.