Preface: This is only a summary of the life of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq RA and in no way can it cover all the points of his story. It is not intended to be a biography, but rather a glimpse of the main incidents of his life so that we can get an idea of his character. For ease of reading, we have not inserted “May Allah be pleased with him (RA)” each time his name is mentioned or the name of each Companion, but please take it that the salutations apply to all of them, may Allah be pleased with them all.
Narrated Abu Huraira
I heard Allah’s Apostle SAW saying,
“Anybody who spends a pair of something in Allah’s Cause will be called from all the gates of Paradise, “O Allah’s slave! This is good.’ He who is amongst those who pray will be called from the gate of the prayer (in Paradise) and he who is from the people of Jihad will be called from the gate of Jihad, and he who is from those’ who give in charity (i.e. Zakat) will be called from the gate of charity, and he who is amongst those who observe fast will be called from the gate of fasting, the gate of Raiyan.”
Abu Bakr said, “He who is called from all those gates will need nothing,” He added, “Will anyone be called from all those gates, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “Yes, and I hope you will be among those, O Abu Bakr.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 57 Hadith 18
PRE CONVERSION TO ISLAM
Who is this person who has done so many good deeds in his life that he has the privilege of entering Jannah from any of the gates that he chooses?
His real name was Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafa. He was a wealthy merchant, mild mannered, obliging and upright in nature. Even during the times of Jahiliyyah (ignorance), he maintained a high degree of conduct, and he was loved and respected by his community.
He was of Quraish ancestry, and born around two years after the birth of the Prophet SAW. During this time, like most Meccans, his parents were idol worshippers and he was also raised as such.
However, he felt sad and disturbed when he saw people circling, praying and kneeling before idols. He often wondered how people with faculties of sight, hearing and thought could prostrate before inanimate idols which could neither see, nor hear nor think. He kept wondering about this and one line from a poem was always in his mind:“(Is it better for me) to believe in one god or in one thousand gods in regards to the different affairs (of the universe)?”
He then started being in the company of good men who believed in the Lord of Ibrahim AS and whenever he heard them talk, he was inspired on the truthfulness of their statements – that idols were not and could not be gods. He had a premonition that Allah would be sending down a Prophet in the near future, and this was proven true after Muhammad SAW received his first revelation.
EVENTS LEADING UPTO AND INCLUDING HIS ACCEPTANCE OF ISLAM
Abu Bakr was one of the first people to respond to the Prophet’s SAW call to Islam. Ironically, it was Abu Jahl (Father of Ignorance), who later proved to be an arch enemy of Islam, who told Abu Bakr news of the Prophet SAW’s first revelation. Abu Bakr’s heart quickened at this piece of information, and upon hearing full details of it, verbally affirmed what he had suspected all along. He declared that “If he [Muhammad saw] really said so, then, he has said the truth.”
It was not blind faith, but rather his long term friendship and intimate knowledge of Muhammad’s SAW pure and honest characteristics that made Abu Bakr believe the truth of the divine revelation without question. Abu Bakr knew that what was said was no lie as it was not possible for Muhammad SAW “the repentant, penitent, pious, righteous, honest and pure tell a lie about Allah? Never! Never! Never!”
Without wasting any time, Abu Bakr rushed to the Prophet’s SAW house and upon entry asked whether the news that had reached him from the people was true. ‘They say that Allah has sent you to us (to order us) to worship Him Alone, and not associate anything with Him’. The Prophet SAWsaid: What did you answer them O Atiq?’ He said, ‘I said: If he said so, then he has told the truth’.
At this moment, the eyes of the Messenger of Allah SAW overflowed with tears. He embraced Abu Bakr and kissed his forehead. Then he narrated to him how the revelation came to him which he was in the cave of Hira.
Abu Bakr listened to the famous first words of the revelation – “Read, in the name of the Lord who created man from a clot….” lowered his head submissively and out of piety, in greeting of the banner of Allah, which in his mind’s eye, rose before high him, as manifest in those Holy Verses, sent down to the Prophet SAW. Then he lifted his head, and with both his hands, grasped the right hand of the Messenger of Allah SAW saying:“I bear testimony that you are a truthful honest. I testify that there is no god but Allah and I testify that you are the Messenger of Allah”.
Abu Bakr was the first person outside of the family of the Prophet SAW who embraced Islam. He entered into the religion quietly and strongly with certainty of belief. From that day until his death, he preferred the love of Allah and His Messenger above all else. Years later, when recalling the conversion of Abu Bakr, the Prophet SAW said, “Whenever I offered Islam to anyone, he always showed some reluctance and hesitation and tried to enter into an argument. Abu Bakr was the only person who accepted Islam without any reluctance or hesitation and without any argument.”
CONTRIBUTIONS TO ISLAM DURING PROPHET’S SAW LIFETIME
How can one possibly recount all the qualities that would enable this man to enter Jannah through any of its gates? Below are a few key events.
He was active in the call of people to Islam, and the people who accepted his call to Islam included Uthman bin Affan RA, who would later be the third of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. His conversion to Islam had an immediate repercussion on his flourishing business, which suffered a great deal. Yet, he still spent a great part of his wealth to alleviate the sufferings of the Muslims in distress, including the liberation of many slaves who had accepted Islam. The most famous of these was of course Bilal RA, whose freedom Abu Bakr purchased while Bilal was being severely tortured by the non-believers for refusing to renounce his monotheism.
Despite his status in society, Abu Bakr was not spared the boycott, abuse, persecution and torture inflicted upon many of the Muslims in the early days of the revelation. More than once, he interposed himself between the Quraishi attackers and the Prophet SAW, enduring severe beatings in the process.
His constant companionship and unflinching loyalty to the Prophet SAW saw them through some difficult key events over the next two decades, and would, in the near future be the Messenger’s SAW first successor as the ruler of the Islamic kingdom.
The steadfastness of Abu Bakr’s character and faith in Islam was demonstrated when the Prophet SAW made a night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then ascended to Heaven and returned. People had come to Abu Bakr to mock about the Prophet’s SAW journey, asserting that these events could not have taken place within one night.
Abu Bakr was steadfast and he understood that with Allah, anything is possible. His faith was strong and unshaken. He reaffirmed the Prophet’s SAW statements and said that “If he (the Prophet SAW) said so, then he has told the truth. I have believed him in what is more distant (to reason) that that, of divine information.”It was this incident that gave him the nickname As-Siddiq (the truthful).
Migration to Medina
Abu Bakr believed that Allah would not send down His Word to the people and leave it to be thrown away, second, that his belief in Islam should hold him responsible and ready to sacrifice himself (for the sake of this religion).
He thus decided that his mission was to make his life a fence to protect Islam and its Messenger SAW. The more dangerous it became and the more horrifying, “the more he would feel he was the luckiest, the most fortunate, the most rewarded and the happiest of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
When the situations of the early Muslims in Mecca became unbearable, it was decided that they would migrate to Medina (then known as Yathrib), in batches, to begin a new life in another city. Abu Bakr sought permission to migrate, but the Prophet SAW bade him to wait so that it was possible for him to have a companion when he himself migrated. Both of them were among the last to leave Mecca, once it was clear that the majority of the Muslims had safely been evacuated from Mecca and were out of imminent danger. With each passing day, the risk of danger on those who remained increased. Abu Bakr knew that that the migration to Medina would be paved with hardship, danger and risk, not least because of the assassination attempt plotted against the Messenger.
They left for Medina in the thick of the night, the cover of darkness making it possible for them to get past the Quraishi conspirators, and thus started a new chapter in the age of Islam.
The Cave of Thawr
Instead of taking the obvious route to Medina, they instead headed towards the opposite direction in order to throw off their pursuers. They then took refuge in the Cave of Thawr, where they spent three nights. Upon entering, the Prophet SAW, deeply exhausted by the arduous journey, immediately laid his head in Abu Bakr’s lap and fell asleep. Suddenly, a scorpion (and some reports say poisonous insect) stung Abu Bakr’s foot. Instead of flinching or crying out in pain, Abu Bakr remained still and silently bore the immense pain, so as not to break the Prophet’s SAW sleep. Can you imagine his devotion to the Messenger SAW? It was Abu Bakr’s tears falling on the Prophet’s SAW face that caused him to wake up.
Meanwhile, the Quraish were still in pursuit, and trekked up to the entrance of the cave. It was only a divine miracle that the two of them were concealed from their pursuers. Reported in Sahih Muslim Book 31 Hadith 5868 : Anas b. Malik reported that Abu Bakr Siddiq reported him thus: I saw the feet of the polytheists very close to us as we were in the cave. I said: Allah’s Messenger, if one amongst them were to see at his feet he would have surely seen us. Thereupon he said: Abu Bakr, what can befall twain who have Allah as the third One with them.
In Surat Al-Tawbah, Ayat 40, Allah SWT says
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.” And Allah sent down his tranquillity upon him and supported him with angels you did not see…
What an honour was given to Abu Bakr, for being the companion of the Messenger SAW in the cave, and to have a place in the Holy Qu’ran.
Father-in-law of the Prophet
After the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija, Abu Bakr tried to console the Prophet SAW during his bereavement, and spent most of his time in the Prophet SAW’s company. He tried to fill the vacuum created by these deaths. Much later, it was suggested by Khawla bint Hakim that Abu Bakr should offer his daughter Aisha for marriage to the Prophet SAW. This request, while well received, proved to be diplomatically delicate, for Aisha was already engaged to Jubayr ibn Mut’im. However, this problem solved itself, as engagement was repudiated by the potential groom’s family on account of their disbelief in Islam. Thus, a simple ceremony was conducted to celebrate Aisha’s engagement to the Prophet SAW, although the marriage ceremony was held years later. In this way, Abu Bakr’s kinship with the Prophet SAW was cemented through the ties of marriage, and he was elated at the honour of being the Prophet’s father in law.
The Battle of Badr
The battle was difficult and the Messenger SAW kept supplicating to Allah for victory so that Allah can be worshipped on earth and supplicated so much that his voice became hoarse. Abu Bakr was with the Messenger SAW at this time and beseeched to the Messenger SAW to stop as Allah would no doubt fulfil what He has promised the Messenger SAW. Such was the faith of Abu Bakr, such was the support of Abu Bakr to the Messenger SAW.
The Death of the Messenger SAW
The death of the Messenger SAW stunned and created shockwaves throughout the community. Even Umar RA almost lost consciousness when he heard the news, and then firmly denied the truth of the report, threatening to cut off the hands and legs of those who claimed that the Prophet SAW had died.
Abu Bakr, who had already anticipated the death of the Prophet SAW, was the only one among the Companions who had the wisdom to handle this situation before it escalated into a nationwide hysteria and crisis. He spoke to no one until he went directly to Aisha’s RA room, where the lifeless body of the Messenger SAW lay. He uncovered the face of the Prophet SAW, leaned over, kissed him and said: “Let my mother and father be sacrificed for you, (O Allah’s Apostle), you are good in life and in death. By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, Allah will never make you taste death twice.”
He then went out, asked Umar to be seated and addressed the assembly: “Whoever worshipped Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, then Allah is alive and shall never die.” He then recited “(O Muhammad) Verily you will die, and they also will die.” (Qur’an39:30) “Muhammad is no more than an Apostle; and indeed many Apostles 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.” (Qur’an3:144)
Ibn Abbas said: “By Allah, it was as if the people had never heard the Qur’anic verse until Abu Bakr recited it as a reminder. So the people began reciting it until there was not a person who did not recite it.”
Hence, Abu Bakr’s wise intervention calmed unease and tension, and helped people in the transition to the next phase of Islam, where they were to live the Message without their beloved leader and Messenger SAW at the helm.
THE CALIPHATE RULE
Hence Islam entered a new era. The appointment of Abu Bakr as the first Caliph was already hinted by the Prophet SAW, who, on his illness prior to his death, had appointed Abu Bakr to lead the people in congregational prayer. We will not go into the political details of his appointment, but instead set out his achievements in securing the integrity and unity of the Muslim Ummah during his short rule below.
The First Speech
The continued humility of Abu Bakr, now the leader of a powerful people, is demonstrated in his inaugural speech:
“I’ve been appointed as ruler over you, though I’m not the best of you. If I did well (to you) then you should support me, and if I did evil (to you) then you should guide me to what is right….
Behold! The weak person amongst you would be considered as strong in my sight until I bring back to him his right (usurped by others). Behold! The strong person among you would be considered as weak in my sight until I take from him the right of others, which he usurped. You should obey me as long as I comply with (the orders and instructions of) Allah and His Messenger. But, if I deviated (from that), then you would have the right not to obey me”.
Those Who Refused to Pay Zakat/The Ridda Wars (War Against Apostates)
The beginning of Abu Bakr’s Caliphate rule started with one critical problem. Part of the Muslim community began to refuse to pay zakat (the obligatory charity) after the death of the Prophet SAW. It was a civil rebellion but was fast changing in becoming an armed rebellion. There was also a widespread threat of apostasy, initiated by the hypocrites.
There were 2 opposing views.
Some saw that the people who refused to pay zakat should not be fought so long as they committed nothing more than the refusal to pay the zakat.
The other view, the one which Abu Bakr adopted was that the payment of zakat is a pillar of Islam and the Caliph has no right to allow this rejection. If he did, that would be the beginning of many forms of rebellion on the religion.
In Sahih Muslim Book 1 Hadith 0029:
Umar b. Khattab said to Abu Bakr: Why would you fight against the people, when the Messenger of Allah declared: I have been directed to fight against people so long as they do not say: There is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was granted full protection of his property and life on my behalf except for a right? His (other) affairs rest with Allah. Upon this Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I would definitely fight against him who severed prayer from Zakat, for it is the obligation upon the rich. By Allah, I would fight against them even to secure the cord (used for hobbling the feet of a camel) which they used to give to the Messenger of Allah (as zakat) but now they have withheld it. Umar b. Khattab remarked: By Allah, I found nothing but the fact that Allah had opened the heart of Abu Bakr for (perceiving the justification of) fighting (against those who refused to pay Zakat) and I fully recognized that the (stand of Abu Bakr) was right.
The view held by Abu Bakr showed the certainty of his faith and the depth of his insight as caliph and a caller to Islam to keep away from any innovation. It was a proof of his obedience to Islam.
Compilation of the Qur’an
During the lifetime of the Prophet SAW, the revelation was a constant process and there was no occasion for compiling the various verses on the form of a book. After his death, the process of revelation ended, and there arose the need to preserve the verses in a physical form. Many of the “Huffaz” were martyred in the battle of Yamanah, and it occurred to Umar that there was a danger that no one could be depended upon as a reliable custodian of the Qur’an.
Hence, he suggested to Abu Bakr that all the revelations of the Qur’an should be collected and compiled into a systematic book. Abu Bakr was initially reluctant for the fear of committing innovation, but Umar eventually convinced him otherwise. It was a laborious process, undertook by Zaid bin Thabit with the help and counsel of various Companions. The final version was scrutinised, amended and approved of by Abu Bakr, who himself was a Hafiz. Thus, Umar and Abu Bakr were instrumental in the preservation of the most holy book that we have on earth today.
The Creation of the Treasury
A treasury was created and a stipend of food and money were given from the Treasury to the Caliph. Abu Bakr was insistent that the Treasury only give what would suffice for him and his dependents reasonably and fairly. He used to still live frugally and was very careful not to eat anything where there was suspicion and was not extravagant. He was concerned that extravagance would lead to illegal ways of living.
He once said, “Every human body which grew up from an ill-gotten property, would be more entitled to enter the fire of Hell, so I am afraid that a portion of my body might grow up from this unlawful morsel.”
So much so, that before he died he called Aisha RA, his daughter, to look at his wealth and whatever increased in his wealth after being appointed Caliph was to be returned to the Treasury.
Umar cried when he saw what was left of Abu Bakr’s assets after Aisha RA returned the wealth to the Treasury. Abu Bakr’s assets only consisted of a camel, a milking vessel and a garment. A complete change from when he first entered Islam where he was a wealthy man – at the peak of his wealth. Abu Bakr had spent everything he had for Allah.
How He Lived:
Abu Bakr was so concerned of going astray that he would continuously supplicate to Allah: “O Allah, the turner of hearts! Make my heart constantly firm in your religion” and he would say “By Allah, I would not rest assured and feel safe from Allah’s punishment even if one of my feet was in Paradise”. He lived humbly and in humility to Allah.
The circumstances of his death are unclear. There are two accounts. One he was poisoned and it took a year for the poison to be effective and the other, from an illness. He died a man, in submission to Allah, in piety to Allah, humble before Allah, in humility to Allah, in service of the Ummah, the first successor to the Messenger of Allah SAW.
The Messenger of Allah SAW talked so much about (the good merits of) Abu Bakr. From among what he said about him, a mention might be made of the following: “There is no one who did a favour to us, but that we gave him a reward for it, except for Abu Bakr, who has done a favour to us, for which Allah would give him reward on the Day of Judgement.”
Most of the information for this work has been obtained from:
“The Successors of the Messenger (Allah’s Blessing and Peace be upon Him)” authored by Khalid Muhammad Khalid (and translated into English by Muhammad Mahdi Al-Sharif)
“The Sealed Nectar”by Shaikh Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri/Abdul Malik Mujahid