Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Abu Bakr's companionship with the Prophet

It has to be mentioned right from the beginning that both Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr Assiddeeq had similar temperaments. Both were kind, lenient, merciful truthful and honest. Both found comfort in solitude and abstained from drinking alcohol, even before Islam was established. Abu Bakr's complexion was fair, and he was rather slim. He was tender, wise and solemn and seldom joined in the polytheistic celebrations of his countrymen.

After the Prophet had married Khadeejah, the wealthy, 40-year-old landlady from Mecca, his lodging was very close to that of Abu Bakr. According to `Aishah, Abu Bakr's daughter and the prophet's wife after the death of Khadeejah, her father was frequently visited by the Prophet, with whom he developed a strong friendship.

When God's message was revealed to Muhammad, the first man to believe in him was Abu Bakr. In fact, Abu Bakr had always doubted the validity of idolatry and had very little enthusiasm for worshipping idols. So when he accepted Islam he did his best to attract other people to it. Soon `Othman bin Affan, Abdul-Rahman bin Awf, Talhah bin Obaydillah, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas, Al-Zubayr bin Al-'Awwam and Abu Obaydah bin AI-Jarrah all flocked to join Muhammad (May God bless him and give him peace). The Prophet once said: ''`Abu Bakr was the only person who accepted Islam immediately, without suspicion.

Abu Bakr's occupation was drapery. Adraper, in order to be successful in his trade should not go against his customers' wishes. Nevertheless, he preached the new religion ardently without considering how it might affect his business. When the infidels started torturing their poor Muslim slaves 32 , Abu Bakr intervened. As he was unable to release them by force, he paid their masters money and set them free. Bilal bin Rabah was one of those who were tortured in the sun, by being brutally whipped and covered with heavy rocks while lying on the burning sand in the summer heat. When Islam started, Abu Bakr had 40,000 dirhems but by the time he emigrated to Madina he had only 5,000 left.

When the Prophet spoke with contempt of the disbelievers' gods, the infidels got very irritated and attacked him violently when he was on his way to the Ka'ba. Had it not been for Abu Bakr's intervention, something bad might have happened to him.

As the Qurayshites rejected the Prophet's message, he started to look for another tribe which would give him refuge. He was accompanied on this search by Abu Bakr. The only shelter which they could find was in Yathreb, or Madina, which was then inhabited by two warring tribes, the Aws and Khazraj. Later, through the Prophet's good offices, the two tribes became united and were given the name of "Ansar" or "Helpers".

Abu Bakr was known as "Assiddeeq' after the incident on the Prophet's midnight journey to Jerusalem. The Qurayshites, being experienced merchants knew that such a journey, if it ever happened, would take two months by camel. When Muhammad told them he had accomplished his round trip to Jerusalem in one night, they scoffed at him and began to doubt his sanity. As for Abu Bakr, when he first heard of it he thought that they were telling a tale; he then said, "I have always believed his words about heavenly revelation how can I disbelieve him about such a secondary wordly matter?"

Because of the ruthless torturing of the Prophet's followers, many of them emigrated to Abyssinia. Yet Abu Bakr would not leave. He preferred to stay with the Prophet to support him in his time of need and help the new converts. When many Muslims emigrated to Madina, Abu Bakr asked the Prophet's permission to follow suit. He was told to wait because the Prophet himself might leave with him. So he got two camels ready and waited anxiously A few days later, while the Prophet's house was besieged by a group of swordsmen from all the tribes of Mecca, who had plotted together to kill him, he left his cousin, `Ali bin Abi Talib, in his bed, slipped unnoticed from the house, and departed with Abu Bakr in the early hours of the morning. Their journey from Mecca to Madina was full of romance and adventure. As soon as the besieging swordsmen discovered that they were tricked, they went in search of the two men. A public prize of a hundred camels was offered to anyone who might find them. However, it happened that when they hid in a cave named Thawr, a spider spun its web at the opening of the cave, and a pigeon built its nest there. The swordsmen followed their tracks until they reached their hiding place, but, seeing the web and the early hours of the morning. Their journey from Mecca to Madina was full of romance and adventure. As soon as the besieging nest, they went home, telling everyone that further pursuit was fruitless.

Later when the battle of Badr took place between Muslims and non-Muslims, and the latter out numbered the former by three to one, some sort of canopy was erected for the Prophet at the battle lines. Abu Bakr alone was entrusted with his safety. This shows the very close relationship between the two; and when the Prophet's mantle fell from his shoulders during his earnest prayer to God, his intimate companion put it courteously back.

In the battle of Ohod, which took place the following year after Badr, the disbelievers won the battle because the archers left their places on the top of the mountain. Only a dozen people stayed with the Prophet on this occasion, one of whom was the staunch believer Abu Bakr.

This loyalty was evident in all the campaigns which the Prophet led, especially those waged against the Jews of Banu Nadier and Banu Qaynoqa', and against the Jews of Fadak, Tayma' and Khaybar, not to mention the heroic battle of the Trench. In fact, from the very start of the Islamic era he was playing the role of vizier advising and supporting the Prophet.

In the year 6 A.H. the Muslims attempted to take Mecca itself, the stronghold of polytheism. When they reached the Hodaybiya Valley, Quraysh sent negotiators to persuade them not to attack the city and agreed to let them in for pilgrimage the following year. The Prophet agreed, but some of his followers refused. They were determined to conquer Mecca immediately. Abu Bakr stood firmly by the side of the Prophet; but it was only when a full Qur'anic chapter entitled "Fath" or "Conquest" was revealed that they were finally convinced.

When Mecca was at last subdued, all the tribes of Arabia were convinced that Muhammad was a true apostle sent to them by God. They stopped resisting and sent delegates to Madina proclaiming their allegiance to him. While he was busy receiving delegates, he let Abu Bakr preside over the 300 pilgrims. This incident proved of vital importance later when a caliph was chosen after the death of the Prophet.

The 10th year A.H. was called "the valediction year", because the Prophet, with 100,000 followers, including Abu Bakr and all the Prophet's household, performed his last pilgrimage and from the top of `Arafat mountain gave his everlasting speech in which he summarized the numerous commandments of Islam.

After his return to Madina the Prophet became ill and could not lead the prayers in the Grand Mosque. He gave instructions to 'Aishah' to tell her father to lead the prayers. She pointed out that Abu Bakr's voice was rather low and the worshippers might not hear his recitation of the Qur'an. She also said that he often wept while praying, and suggested Omar bin al-Khattab as being fitter for the task. The Prophet became extremely angry, and gave emphatic orders that Abu Bakr should lead the prayers. This was taken by the Muslims as another sign to choose Abu Bakr to be their caliph after the Prophet's death.

Abu Bakr's character

It is reasonable to ask how a man who held power for only 27 months could lay the foundations of such a far flung empire which contained the most enlightened parts of the ancient world.

There is nothing striking in the early life of this man. Abu Bakr's sub-tribe was called Taym, before Islam. He himself was the head of his sub-tribe. He was the best-informed genealogist in Mecca and he was an honest and trustworthy merchant.

He is known by five different names, which is a mark of activity and efficiency 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 released 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 belief in all that the Prophet had said.

Abu Bakr is known to have had an attractive personality 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 eyes and a high forehead. His daughter `Aishah described him as being of a lenient temperament, with a sober attitude and a good sense of humour. Being endowed with such qualities, he had a wide circle of acquaintances, 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-hearted and compassionate. He sympathized with the poor and pitied the miserable. Usually, when reciting the Qur'an, he was deeply touched and wept. After the battle of Badr, when the Prophet took a lot of captives from the Qurayshites, the captives 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 and set them free.

Though Abu Bakr was kind-hearted, 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 over to their side, hoping that the two warring Madinan tribes of Aws and Khazraj would continue their feuds 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 who was called Finhas. Abu Bakr went to Finhas and advised him to accept Islam, pointing out that Muhammad was undoubtedly a prophet, and Finhas must realize this as it was definitely mentioned in the Old Testament. 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 slapped Finhas on the face shouting "By God, were it not for the contract between us, I would cut off your head!" At that time there was an agreement of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Jews.

But Abu Bakr's main characteristic was his strong religious belief. From the moment he embraced Islam he never suspected anything that the Prophet said or did. He followed his teachings meticulously offered all he possessed in order to launch the new religion, and was never afraid to fight for its sake in the fiercest battles. During the twenty years of his friendship with the Prophet neither his enthusiasm nor his belief wavered HHe was so spiritually uplifted that, in following the example of the Prophet, he got very close to perfection. In the presence of the Prophet he was practically eclipsed, but 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 to enlighten the world.

Nothing can illustrate his staunch belief better than his wager with the Qurayshite infidel. This took place when the Romans, during their incessant wars 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, prophesying that 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. Ironically enough, the Muslims had their own brilliant victory on that day (17th Ramadhan, 2 A.H.), when they defeated the Qurayshites in the most significant battle of Badr.

Among Abu Bakr's many virtues were impartiality 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 from oppression 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 then you can disobey me."

Abu Bakr did not differentiate between nationalities as he was fully aware of the internationalism of Islam. He left in office Bazan, the Persian ruler of Yemen, because since his conversion to Islam during the life of the Prophet he had never shown any sign of defection. Salman was also a Persian who was treated with great respect. Suhayb, who was of Greek origin, was no less esteemed Bilal the Abyssinian, Zayd bin Harithah, the Prophet's freed slave, and his son Osamah, were all treated with reverence and respect. In the following chapters we will examine some of these challenges; but here it is enough to mention his obstinacy in fighting the apostates When the Prophet died, most of the Arabian tribes stopped paying the Zakat. They considered it a heavy burden which they all wished to shed It seemed impossible for Abu Bakr to face such a huge 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 to oppose the rebels even though he had to tackle the tremendous alone. He swore, "I will not forgo even a rope which they used to give to the Prophet."

Finally, his prudence and firmness were among his outstanding characteristics. He used to consider every problem thoughtfully, and he was always willing to hear from his counsellors; but when he had reached a decision, he used to bring it into effect as efficiently and quickly as he could.

His clemency was well known to everybody. Yet when the safety of the state was at stake he became extremely firm and tough. Many insurgents were put to death when they refused to repent or pay the Zakat. Many people spoke badly of Khalid bin al -Waleed, the Prophet's appointed leader, whom Abu Bakr trusted implicitly, only to admit in the end that Abu Bakr was a better judge of men and was right about him. After great deliberation he 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 attitude. He sat up angrily in 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 path At the time of prayers, he let his wife Asma' help him to the door, and addressed the congregation, praising his successor and asking for their opinion. They all agreed with his choice and the decision was approved.

It should be stressed here 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 devoted 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 empires.

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