It is reasonable to ask how a man who held power for only 27 months could
lay the foundations 1
of such a far flung2empire
which contained the most enlightened 3
parts of the ancient world.
There is nothing striking 4in
the early life of this man. Abu Bakr's sub-tribe 5was
called Taym, before Islam. He himself was the head of his sub-tribe. He
was the best-informed genealogist 6in
Mecca and he was an honest and trustworthy7
He is known by five different names, which is a mark of activity and efficiency8
Before Islam he was called `Abdul-Ka'ba (servant of the Ka'ba). Then the
Prophet changed it to `Abdullah (servant of God). Then he was called 'Ateeq',
i.e. the one released9
from hell. Later he was named Abu Bakr because he was the first man to
accept Islam. Finally he was called Assiddeeq owing to his unwavering 10
belief in all that the Prophet had said.
Abu Bakr is known to have had an attractive 11personality
and this is why he was liked by everyone who met him. He had a fair complexion,
a slim body and a thin face, with rather sunken 12
eyes and a high forehead 13.
His daughter `Aishah described him as being of a lenient temperament, with
a sober attitude and a good sense of humour. Being endowed 14
with such qualities, he had a wide 15
circle of acquaintances 16,
who admired his kindness, humility and knowledge.
He married four times. Qutaylah, his first wife, gave birth to two children,
Abdullah and Asma'. Umm - Ruman, his second wife, gave birth to two more
children, Abdul-Rahman and `Aishah. After his emigration to Madina he married
two other wives, Habeebah and Asma'.
Abu Bakr was tender-hearted17and compassionate18
. He sympathized 19
with the poor and pitied 20
the miserable. Usually, when reciting the Qur'an, he was deeply touched
and wept. 21After
the battle of Badr, when the Prophet took a lot of captives from the Qurayshites,
the captives 22
were defended by Abu Bakr. He spoke kindly on their behalf and managed
to calm the Prophet's anger against them and then persuaded him to accept
a ransom 23and
set them free.
Though Abu Bakr was kind-hearted,24
he sometimes lost his temper and became extremely angry, especially when
there was some sort of attack on Islam. When the Muslims emigrated to Madina,
the Jews tried to win them over25
to their side, hoping that the two warring Madinan tribes of Aws and Khazraj
would continue their feuds26
When they realized that Islam managed to unite the two warring tribes,
the Jews started plotting against them. They used to meet in the house
of one of their rabbis 27who
was called Finhas. Abu Bakr went to Finhas and advised him to accept Islam,
pointing out that Muhammad was undoubtedly 28a
prophet, and Finhas must realize this as it was definitely mentioned in
the Old Testament 29.Finhas
scoffed at his words and accused Allah of being poor as he, in the words
of the Qur'an, demanded a loan and promised a manifold recompense to those
who would lend him money. Hearing the Qur'an's words wrongly interpreted,
Abu Bakr got angry and slapped30
Finhas on the face shouting 31"By
God, were it not for the contract32
between us, I would cut off 33
your head!" At that time there was an agreement 34
of peaceful co-existence 35between Muslims and Jews.
But Abu Bakr's main characteristic 36
was his strong religious belief. From the moment he embraced 37
Islam he never suspected anything that the Prophet said or did. He followed
his teachings meticulously38 offered all he possessed in order to launch
39the new religion, and was never afraid to fight for its sake40
in the fiercest41
battles. During the twenty years of his friendship with the Prophet neither
his enthusiasm nor his belief wavered 42He
was so spiritually43
that, in following the example of the Prophet, he got very close to perfection.
In the presence of the Prophet he was practically eclipsed, 45but
in his absence he shone like a star. When the Prophet was alive he al ways
supported him, and after his death he took over the torch of Islam and
advanced with it steadfastly 46to
enlighten the world.
Nothing can illustrate47
his staunch belief better than his wager 48with
the Qurayshite infidel. This took place when the Romans, during their incessant
with the Persians, were defeated just a few years before the Muslims emigrated
to Madina. The disbelievers celebrated the occasion because the losers
were people of the Book, whose Bible was revealed from heaven like the
Qur'an. Soon after, Chapterof the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet,
the Romans would be victorious in less than ten years. The Qurayshite infidel
laid a ten-camel wager against a Roman victory, and Abu Bakr accepted the
wager. Seven years later (2 A.H 623 A.D.) the Persians were badly routed
and the Romans won a decisive victory. Ironically52
enough, the Muslims had their own brilliant victory on that day (17th Ramadhan,
2 A.H.), when they defeated the Qurayshites in the most significant53
battle of Badr.
Abu Bakr's many virtues were impartiality54
and justice. He considered all individuals equal in the eye of the law,
and thought that the only way for anyone to excel was through piety and
good works. The first day he became caliph, he delivered this oration:
"I have been chosen caliph, though I am not the best of you. If I prove
to be good, please help me. But if I prove to be to the contrary, then
don't hesitate to put me right. Truth means honesty; and lies mean dishonesty.
The weak among you is strong before the law until he is redeemed 55
from oppression 56
and the strong among you is weak before the law until he abstains from
oppression. As long as I obey God and His Prophet, you have to obey me.
But if I become disobedient 57
then you can disobey me."
did not differentiate58
he was fully aware60
of the internationalism 61
of Islam. He left in office Bazan, the Persian ruler of Yemen, because
since his conversion62to
Islam during the life of the Prophet he had never shown any sign of defection63.
Salman was also a Persian who was treated with great respect. Suhayb, who
was of Greek origin, was no less esteemed 64
Bilal the Abyssinian, Zayd bin Harithah, the Prophet's freed slave, and
his son Osamah, were all treated with reverence 65and
In the following chapters we will examine some of these challenges; but
here it is enough to mention his obstinacy 67
in fighting the apostates68When the Prophet died, most of the Arabian tribes stopped paying the Zakat.
They considered it a heavy burden 69which
they all wished to shed70It seemed impossible for Abu Bakr to face such a huge71
revolt, and many advisers, among whom was Omar bin al-Khattab, tried to
persuade him to give in. Yet, he wouldn't. Instead, he vowed 72to
oppose the rebels 73even
though he had to tackle the tremendous 74
alone. He swore, "I will not forgo even a rope which they used to give
to the Prophet."
Finally, his prudence and firmness75
were among his outstanding 76characteristics.
He used to consider every problem thoughtfully77
, and he was always willing to hear from his counsellors 78;
but when he had reached a decision, he used to bring it into effect as
efficiently and quickly as he could.
His clemency 79
was well known to everybody. Yet when the safety of the state was at stake80
he became extremely firm and tough. Many insurgents 81
were put to death when they refused 82
to repent or pay the Zakat. Many people spoke badly of Khalid bin al -Waleed,
the Prophet's appointed leader, whom Abu Bakr trusted implicitly83
, only to admit in the end that Abu Bakr was a better judge of men and
was right about him. After great deliberation 84he
decided to appoint `Omar bin al-Khattab his successor. Talhah bin `Obaydillah
and others went to him during his illness and complained that' Omar was
unfit for the post owing to his harsh attitude85.
He sat up angrily86in
bed and said, "I can see that every one of you wants to be caliph; but
I have chosen the one whom God likes best, the one most suitable to guide
you along the right path87
At the time of prayers, he let his wife Asma' help him to the door, and
addressed the congregation 88,
his successor and asking for their opinion. They all agreed with his choice
and the decision was approved.
It should be stressed 90here
that by following the godly teachings of Islam to the letter, and by keeping
those teachings always in mind, Abu Bakr proved well able to do justice
to the grand post of caliph. He whole-heartedly 91devoted
himself to his job, so much so that he neglected the affairs of his family.
In this way, he accomplished a significant task: - the linking of the prophetic
era of heavenly revelation and the era of the fast extending empire of
Islam. When he died, he passed the responsibility of controlling his already
settled state to'Omar bin al-Khattab, who proved no less capable of the
post.'Omar bin al-Khattab extended his realm further than anyone had expected
by pushing his frontiers to the edge of both the Roman and the Persian