The Prophet’s (PBUH) closest companion & the first Caliph of Islam
“Prophets alone bring new faiths. Yet, it’s the disciples and friends who distinguish the new faith. Moses (AS) had his brother Aaron (AS). Jesus (AS) had the 12 apostles. And, Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had Rashidun (Great) caliphs, the first of whom was Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) best friend and father-in-law. Known for his honest and frank character, the first caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), was the closest friend of the Prophet (PBUH). He served Islam by keeping Muslims together after Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) demise.” — Hakan Arslanbenzer
Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was the closest friend and a faithful companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). His real name was Abdullah whereas Abu Bakr was his Kuniyah (patronymic name). Siddiq and Ateeq were his titles. He was the son of Uthman, also known as Abu Quhafah, and his mother was Salma whose patronymic identity was Ummul Khair. He belonged to Banu Tamim clan of Quraish tribe and at his sixth grandfather, his lineage meets with that of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Even before embracing Islam, he was held in high esteem and enjoyed a respectable place in the political and tribal setup of Makkah. He was a trader by profession.
Services for the cause of Islam before becoming caliph
i. He was the first man to embrace Islam.
ii. Due to his endeavours, many prestigious companions like Hazrat Usman (RA), Zubair (RA), Abdul Rehman bin Auf (RA), Saad bin Abi Waqas (RA) and Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah (RA) entered the fold of Islam.
iii. He got freed many slaves like Hazrat Bilal (RA), Hazrat Amir (RA), et al, who later rendered exemplary services for the cause of Islam.
iv. He was the first person who testified the Meraaj i.e. the miracle of Ascent of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in which he (PBUH) was taken from Makkah to Jerusalem and then to heavens in a small portion of the night, two years before the Migration (Hijrah).
v. He took part in major battles during the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) like Badr, Uhad, Khyber, Hunayn, Conquest of Makkah and exhibited great feats of valour and steadfastness.
vi. He accompanied the Holy Prophet (PBUH) during the migration journey and made all the requisite arrangements like hiring the guide, provision of food, and so on. During that journey, he set unprecedented standards of friendship and loyalty in the Thawr Cave. This journey has been mentioned in the Holy Quran in verse 40 of Surah At-Tawbah (the Repentance) which states: “If you do not aid the Prophet – Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, ‘Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us’.”
vii. On the occasion of the Battle of Tabook, when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sought financial assistance from the Muslims, Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA) brought all his belongings for the cause of Islam. When the Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked him that had he left something for his family, he said, “I have left the name of Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) for them.”
viii. After migration, he paid the amount for purchasing land for building the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.
ix. In 9th AH, when Hajj was made obligatory, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sent him as the head of 300 Muslims for the purpose of performing Hajj. Next year, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself led Muslims to Makkah for the only Hajj he (PBUH) performed in his life.
x. In 11th AH, when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) fell seriously ill and was unable to lead the congregational prayers, he (PBUH) nominated Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) to lead the prayers and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself offered the prayer behind him.
xi. He was the father-in-law of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as he tied the nuptial knot of his daughter Hazrat Ayesha (RA) with the Holy Prophet (PBUH). She is the only previously-unmarried woman to become the wife o f the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Mother of Believers.
Services as Caliph
i. The demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a great shock to the Muslims and many Muslims including Hazrat Umar-e-Farooq (RA) refused to accept that. On this critical juncture, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) came forward and recited verse 144 of Surah Aal-e-Imran which states: “And Muhammad (PBUH) is not but a Messenger, and indeed (many) messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful.” Thus, he played a pivotal role in convincing the Muslims about that tragic incident and saved them from internal rifts.
ii. Saqifa Bani Saidah and his election as caliph: After Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) demise, some Ansaar asserted that they also had the right to be chosen as caliph. So, they gathered in a quarter of Madina called Saqifa Bani Saidah in order to elect from amongst them a successor to the Prophet (PBUH). Soon after coming to know about that, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) went to that place with Hazrat Umar (RA) and Hazrat Abu Ubaydah bin Jarrah (RA). Sensing the gravity of the situation, he asked them to choose any one from Hazrat Umar (RA) and Hazrat Ubaydah (RA) as caliph. But, both of them declared that there was no one better than him for caliphate; hence, they took the oath of allegiance to him. Then, the Ansaar also followed the suit. Next day, all the people of Madina assembled in the Prophet’s Mosque and confirmed the nomination of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) as caliph. When the people took oath of allegiance to him, he addressed them in these words: “O people! You have chosen me as your chief, although I am not the best amongst you. I will need all your advice and all your help. If I do well, support me; if I make a mistake, set me right. As long as I obey Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), do obey me; wherein I disobey, obey me not.”
iii. Usama’s expedition: During the last days of his worldly life, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had prepared an army under the command of Hazrat Usama bin Zayd (RA) to deal with the rebellious tribes on the Syrian border. That army was about to leave for Syria when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) passed away. At that critical moment, some people advised Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) that as caliph he should halt sending that expedition for the time being. But, he replied that he couldn’t even think of reversing the decision taken by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). By sending that army, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) dispelled the impression that Islamic state had weakened after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
iv. Bedouin Attack on Madina (632 AD): Soon after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Bedouin tribes living around Madina attacked the city. Some of them were incited by Tulyaha, the false prophet of Najd. After the departure of Usama’s army, they launched their offensive on the city. Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was ready for this and he himself led the Muslim army against them. The Bedouin tribes were defeated in the battles of Dhu’l Qassa and Rabadha.
v. False Prophets and wars against Apostasy (RIDDAH): After the Holy Prophet (PBUH) passed away, four persons in different parts of Arabia started claiming to be a prophet. They were Musaylima the liar from Central Arabia, Aswad al-Ansi of Yemen, Tulyaha of Najd and Sajah of Mesopotamia – Sajah also was a false prophetess. Besides the rise of false prophets, another mighty problem emerged and that was the renunciation of Islam by one tribe after another. They revolted against the caliph and returned to the period of ignorance. With a mission to crush these apostates and rebels, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) summoned the army of Usama and all other Muslims to assemble at Dhu’l Qassa. He divided them into eleven battalions and placed each one of them under a distinguished commander. Through an effective strategy, apostasy was quelled and Islamic spirit was reinvigorated. It was, indeed, one of the greatest achievements of Abu Bakr (RA).
vi. Compilation of the Holy Quran: Another distinction and credit to Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was the compilation of the Holy Quran. During his caliphate, he constituted a commission under Hazrat Zaid bin Thabit (RA) for the purpose of preparing a manuscript of the Holy Quran. The need for compiling a complete written copy of the Holy Quran was strongly felt after the battle of Yamama that was waged against Musaylima the liar. Although the Muslims won the war, they had to face about 2000 casualties and majority of the victims were Huffaz (those who had learned the Holy Quran by heart).
The commission that was tasked to compile the Holy Quran comprised those companions who had memorized the Holy Quran and who had served as scribe with the Holy Prophet (PBUH). With the beat of drums, it was announced in Muslim territories that those having verses of the Holy Quran in black and white must bring them before the commission for veracity. After a hectic exercise spanning many months, the commission completed the first manuscript of the Holy Quran during the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA).
vii. Conquests: Apart from internally stabilizing the Islamic state, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) also gave considerable attention on the external front. Nefarious designs of Roman and Persian empires and their unwarranted patronage of mutineers and rebels of Islamic state compelled Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) to take prompt action against them. Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed (RA) inflicted a serious blow to Persians in the battle of Chains or Dhat-as-Salasil in 633 AD. The Byzantine army was defeated in the battle of Ajnadayn in 634 AD. These triumphs laid the foundation for the future conquests of Iraq and Syria. So, under the enabling leadership of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), the fear of Muslims was sowed in the hearts of Romans and Persians.
viii. Impartial government based on consultation: In consonance with Islamic teachings, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) conducted affairs of the state by consulting with the Muslims around him, commonly known as “Shura” or consultative body. He formed an efficacious and impartial government where governors, commanders and other government functionaries were appointed only on the basis of merit, integrity and services for the state of Islam.
After an exemplary life as a revered companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and a glorious rule spanning two years and three months, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) breathed his last on 23rd August 634 AD and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) grave in the apartment of Hazrat Aysha in consonance with his will. His profound love and regard for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has been expressed by the great poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal in the following words: