On the authority of Abu Saeed al-Khudree (raa), the Messenger of Allaah (saws) said: Do not curse or defame my Companions. Surely if one of you was to spend gold (in charity) an amount equal to that of (Mount) Uhud, it would not be equivalent to a Mudd or half a Mudd of one of them. 
Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (rahimahullaah) said:
They remain in this virtuous state until it becomes irrefutably established upon one of them that he performed a deed that cannot be seen as anything but a sin that is far from being associated with an interpretation (of the law to justify his or her action) is a cause for his trustworthiness to be revoked. Allaah has freed them of such things and has raised their fame. In fact if there was nothing reported from Allaah or His Messenger (concerning their virtue), they would still be deserving of the status that they are at due to their Hijrah, Jihaad, giving aid (to Allaah’s Messenger), generous spending in the path of Allaah, striving against their own fathers and brothers (who opposed the Truth), giving sincere advice in the Religion and their strength of Imaan and Yaqeen. All that would be sufficient to affirm their trustworthiness, substantiate our belief that they are pure and that they are more virtuous than any other person after them that has been declared trustworthy. That is the Madh-hab of the majority of the scholars and the acknowledged jurists. 
Some may say: There are certain hadeeth that mention that from the later generations there will be those who will attain the virtue and the reward of the first generation (in all things).
Abu Umayah ash-Shabaanee said: I asked Abu Thalabah al-Khashanee saying, O Abu Thalabah! What do you say regarding this verse:
O you who believe! Take care of your ownselves, (do righteous deeds, fear Allaah much). If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allaah, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do. [Surah Al-Maa’idah: 105]
He (Abu Tha’labah) replied: Surely, by Allaah I asked about this (verse) to one who was well-informed. I asked the Messenger of Allaah about it and he replied:
Rather you should enjoin Ma’roof (all acts or righteousness) upon one another and forbid Munkar (all acts of deviance) upon one another until you witness (a time wherein there is) widespread miserliness, evil desirous whims are followed, the Dunyaa (worldly life) is chosen (instead of the Akhira) and when the opinion-holders are impressed only by their own opinions. (When this is witnessed), then you should rely upon yourself and free yourself from the general public. Surely facing you will be days (in need of) Sabr (Patience). The one who possesses patience therein will be like the one holding onto hot coals. The doer of righteous deeds during those days is equal to fifty men who work the same righteous deeds (other than those days). 
In another chain of narration there was an increase in dialogue:
[Abdullah bin al-Mubaarak reports the increase from Utbaah bin Abee Hakeem as was reported by at-Tirmithee]
Abu Bakr bin al-’Arabee (rahimahullaah) addresses this issue by saying:
Surely if one of you was to spend each day (in charity) an amount equal to that of (Mount) Uhud, it would not be equivalent to a Mudd or half a Mudd of one of them (Sahaabah).
We thought over the statement and concluded with what I presented in ash-Sharh as-Saheeh, and what is summarized here.
The Sahaabah had many deeds that none can equal or ever eclipse. There are also other deeds that (those of later generations) may be equal to them (Sahaabah), providing their sincerity is complete and similar to the sincerity (of the Sahaabah). Being distant from all types of Bid’ah and Riyaa portrays this sincerity. Enjoining al-Ma’roof and forbidding al-Munkar are enormous gates (of Goodness). In fact, these gates are the starting point of the faith Islaam and it is also where it terminates.
Enjoining al-Ma’roof and forbidding al-Munkar was a difficult task in the early days of Islaam due to the truth being overpowered by the unbelievers. During the later generations the situation shall return to what it was like during the early stages of Islaam. The prominence of falsehood during the end of days has been foretold by the truthful one (saws). He (also mentioned) that there will be proliferation of Fitnah (trials and tribulations) and domination of falsehood. Truth shall be perverted and taken from the creation and those (Muslims) present during this time shall follow the traditions and the ancient (deviant) customs of the people of the Scriptures (and shall leave off their own traditions). This is as has been mentioned by Allaah’s Messenger (saws):
You will follow the traditions of those who came before you (People of the Scripture), hand span by hand span, arm length by arm length to the point that if they (people of the Scripture) were to enter a lizard hole, you would (blindly) follow them (in to it). 
And he (saws) said:
As such, without a doubt, and Allaah knows best, the meaning of this prophecy is that Islaam shall return to singularity as it previously was.
Enjoining al-Ma’roof and forbidding al-Munkar will weaken to such an extent that if an individual practices it during those savage days and entrusts himself to Allaah by calling to His way, he will be rewarded many times more than he who is aided and granted assistance in his call to Allaah.
This shall continue until enjoining al-Ma’roof and forbidding al-Munkar ceases to be practiced in its entirety as a result of weak faith and Yaqeen.
Allaah’s Messenger (saws) said: The hour shall not be established until, Allaah, Allaah is no longer spoken on the earth. 
[These are the end of Ibn Al-’Arabee’s words] 
I say: This shows that the superiority mentioned by Abu Thalabah al-Khashnee (raa) discusses only one specific aspect in Islaam while the superiority of the Sahaabah and their being foremost is in all aspects of Islaam; so take note.
You can also add to what has preceded that the Salaf are held to more stringent measures than those who came after them.
Allaah’s Messenger (saws) said: Surely you are in an era wherein scholars are plentiful in number while the speakers are few. The one who abandons a tenth of what he knows (to be compulsory) shall collapse. There shall come later on an era wherein the speakers will be plentiful in number while the scholars will be few. The one who clings (practices) a tenth of what he knows shall receive salvation. 
 Saheeh Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (3362) and Muslim (2541); Note: Imaam Muslim erred in reporting this statement on the authority of Abu Huraira (2540) as was affirmed by al-Bayhaqee in al-Mad-khal ilaa as-Sunnan (pg. 113), and al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr in Fath al Baaree (vol. 7, pg. 35)
 Al-Kifayah fi ilm ar-Riwaayah (Pg. 48-49)
 Hasan due to corroborating chains of narration: Reported by Abu Dawood (4341), at-Tirmithee deemed it Hasan (3085), Ibn Maajah (4014), an-Nasaa’ee in al-Kubraa (9/137 Tuhfat al-Ashraaf), Ibn Hibban (1850 Mawaarid), Abu Nu’ayim in Hulyat al-Awliyah (2/30), al-Haakim authenticated it and adh-Dhahabee agreed (4/322), at-Tahaawee in Mushkil al-Athaar (2/64-65), al-Baghawee in Sharh as-Sunnah (14/347-348) and Ma’aalim at-Tanzeel (2/72,73), Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree in Jaami’ al-Bayaan fi Tafseer-il-Qur’aan (7/63), al-Qurtubee in al-Bid’a wa an-Nahy ‘Anha (71,76-77) and Ibn Abi ad-Dunya in as-Sabr (42/1). The narration is established as acceptable and Hasan due to corroborating hadeeth narrated from Mu’aadh bin Jabal, Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas, Anas bin Malik, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah bin Mas’ood amongst others. For a more complete discussion of the hadeeth refer to my book Al-Qaabidoon ala al-Jamr (pg. 13-23)
 Saheeh: Reported by al-Bukhaaree (3456) and Muslim (2669) from the narration of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (raa). The hadeeth is corroborated with a multitude of similar narrations from an overwhelming number of Sahaabah. You can find these narrations in my book al-Wasaaya as-Sughraa (pg. 32-36)
 Mutawaatir: It shall be discussed with great detail later on in this book. Translator’s Note: This means it is narrated by such a large number of people that it is impossible that they have invented a lie.
 Saheeh: Reported by Muslim (148)
 Nafh at-Tayib fi Ghasn al-Andalus ar-Rateeb of al-Muqree (2/37-38)
 The issue of the Sahaabah being foremost in Imaan and the adherence of the Salafi Manhaj to this understanding is an issue of paramount importance with Islaam. The Sahaabah being foremost compels the later generations to recognize the virtue of the Sahaabah. Allaah says: And those who came after them say: "Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful. [Surah Al-Hashr: 10] The understanding that there are those who are foremost and of elevated status of faith is not limited to one particular generation. Allaah’s Messenger (saws) said: In every generation in my Ummah there are Saabiqoon (those who are foremost). [As-Saheehah (2001)]
 As-Saheehah (2510)