The Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs: Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was the Prophet’s best friend and one of the first converts to Islam. When Prophet Muhammad needed support most of all, it was Abu Bakr that gave it to him. It is no wonder that after the Prophet’s death Allah willed it so that Abu Bakr became his successor.
When the Prophet received his first revelation from angel Jibril, he didn’t immediately appreciate the meaning of what had happened. The Lord impressed upon Muhammad in his sleep the need to go down to the Cave of Hira where an angel came to him, embraced him tightly three times and pronounced the first verses of the Quran ‘Read: In the name of your Lord Who created’.
Muhammad remained dazed and confused after the meeting with the angel, however, thanks to his wife Khadija who was 15 years his senior and were much wiser than him, he acquired the faith that he had a mission set out for him to do away with false gods and to establish the worshipping of the One God, Allah.
The whole of Mecca was there before him, filled with idol worshippers while by his side he had only his wife and his closest friends. This was the beginning of his ummah, a union of true believers who were ready to do all it took to spread throughout the earth the Word and Will of Allah. And the first one in this union was Muhammad’s friend Abu Bakr.
Abu Bakr was 2 years the Prophet’s junior. They both adopted Islam in 610 when Abu Bakr was 38 and the Prophet was 40. Same as the Prophet, Abu Bakr was a merchant. He was one of the richest men in Mecca, served for some time as a judge and was highly regarded as an interpreter of dreams. All of his wealth Abu Bakr, who assumed the Muslim name of Abdullah, turned to the ummah’s benefit.
At the very beginning the ummah was much persecuted by the idol worshippers. By Allah’s providence though, when things were really tough, news was brought to the Prophet that the residents of Medina adopted Islam and were inviting the Prophet to come over and rule as their leader. That year, 622, the first year of Hijra (the migration), the ummah migrated to Medina.
Thus, by the Will of Allah, the ummah attained not only the religious but also the political status as it became a state with subjects and an army. In this army Abu Bakr fought side by side with the Prophet, achieving glorious victories over idol worshippers, conquering Mecca and spreading the political influence of the Muslim ummah onto neighbouring tribes and regions.
After the death of Muhammad in 632 the ummah had to elect its new leader. The medinans, believing themselves to have the final say in the matter as a people who had given refuge to the Prophet in the time of trouble, proposed their candidate Saad ibn Ubada. However, the meccans had the upper hand. When Abu Bakr and Umar (forceful and peremptory companion and bodyguard of the Prophet) appeared in the room, the matter was settled in favour of Abu Bakr.
Abu Bakr called himself a ‘deputy’ of the Prophet in his earthly mission, in Arabic, a ‘caliph’.
After the Prophet’s death, many Arab tribes renounced their allegiance to the ummah. Abu Bakr’s army went forth to bring back into the caliphate the people of Oman, Yemen, Bahrain and all other dissenters in the Arabian Peninsula. Abu Bakr also laid the foundations for the further spreading of Islam and the conquering of Persia and Byzantine.
Abu Bakr remained Caliph of the Messenger of God for 2 years only. He died in 634 on the eve of the battle with Byzantium at Yarmouk, as a result of victory in which the Caliphate (as was now the name of the Prophet’s ummah) gained control over all of Palestine. On his insistence, it was his friend and companion Umar ibn al-Khattab who was elected Caliph after him.
His contemporaries described Abu Bakr as a mild person, devoid of ambition or lust for power. After converting to Islam he passed over all of his wealth to the ummah and supported himself off the proceeds of his land plot in Medina (one fifth of which was bequeathed to the state, too) and his meagre allowance from the state. Abu Bakr was buried in Aisha’s room together with the Prophet.