Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (Arabic: أَبُو بَكْرٍ الصديق, romanized: Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq; 27 October 573 – 23 August 634) was an Arab political and religious leader who founded the Rashidun Caliphate and ruled as its first caliph from 632 until his death in 634. He was the most prominent companion, closest advisor and a father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Abu Bakr is one of the most important figures in Islamic history.
Abu Bakr was born in 573 CE to Abu Quhafa and Umm Khayr. He belonged to the tribe of Banu Taym. In the Age of Ignorance, he was a monotheist and condemned idol-worshipping. As a wealthy trader, Abu Bakr used to free slaves. He was an early friend of Muhammad and often used to accompany him on trading in Syria. After Muhammad’s invitation of Islam, Abu Bakr became one of the first Muslims. He extensively contributed his wealth in support of Muhammad’s work and also accompanied Muhammad, on his migration to Medina. By the invitations of Abu Bakr, many prominent Sahabis became Muslims. He remained the closest advisor to Muhammad, being present at almost all his military conflicts. In the absence of Muhammad, Abu Bakr led the prayers and expeditions.
Following Muhammad’s death in 632, Abu Bakr succeeded the leadership of the Muslim community as the first Rashidun Caliph, being elected at Saqifah. During his reign, he overcame a number of uprisings, collectively known as the Ridda wars, as a result of which he was able to consolidate and expand the rule of the Islamic state over the entire Arabian Peninsula. He also commanded the initial incursions into the neighboring Sassanian and Byzantine empires, which in the years following his death, would eventually result in the Muslim conquests of Persia and the Levant. Abu Bakr also had an essential role in the compilation of the Quran during his reign. The first finished codex of the Quran was kept with Abu Bakr. All modern versions of the Quran are derived from Abu Bakr’s codex.
Abu Bakr’s caliphate lasted for only two years, ending with his death after an illness in 634. On his deathbed, he dictated his last testament to Uthman ibn Affan, in which he appointed Umar ibn al-Khattab as his successor. Abu Bakr’s ghusl was performed by Ali ibn Abi Talib and the funeral prayer was performed by Umar. Along with Muhammad, Abu Bakr is buried in the Green Dome at the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, the second holiest site in Islam.
Though the period of his caliphate was short, it included successful invasions of the two most powerful empires of the time, a remarkable achievement in its own right. He set in motion a historical trajectory that in a few decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history. His victory over the local rebel Arab forces is a significant part of Islamic history. Abu Bakr is widely honored among Muslims.
As Caliph, Abu Bakr brought all of central Arabia under Muslim control and was successful in spreading Islam further through conquest. He also played a major role in compiling and preserving the Quran, which, according to Sunni Muslim tradition, was later completed by Uthman.
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Abu Bakr died in his sixties, possibly from poison but just as likely from natural causes. Before his death he named a successor, establishing a tradition of government by chosen successors. Several generations later, after rivalries led to murder and war, Islam would be split into two factions: the Sunni, who followed the Caliphs, and the Shi’ite, who believed that Ali was the proper heir of Muhammad and would only follow leaders descended from him.
Also Known As
El Siddik or Al-Siddiq (“The Upright”)
Abu Bakr was the closest friend and companion of Muhammad and the first Muslim caliph. He was one of the first men to convert to Islam and was chosen by the Prophet as his companion on the Hijrah to Medina.
Places of Residence and Influence
Born: c. 573
Completed Hijrah to Medina: Sept. 24, 622
Died: Aug. 23, 634
Quotation Attributed to Abu Bakr
“Our abode in this world is transitory, our life therein is but a loan, our breaths are numbered and our indolence is manifest.”
With Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, disagreement broke out among his followers over deciding his successor. Muhammad’s prominent companion Umar ibn al-Khattab nominated Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s friend and collaborator. With additional support, Abu Bakr was confirmed as the first caliph (religious successor to Muhammad) that same year. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad’s companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated the successor by Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm.
Ali and Fatemah
He was Muhammad’s first cousin and closest living male relative, as well as his son-in-law, having married Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah. Ali would eventually become the fourth Sunni caliph. These disagreements over Muhammad’s true successor led to a major split in Islam between what became the Sunni and Shi’a denominations, a division that still holds to this day.
Sunni Muslims believe and confirm that Abu Bakr was chosen by the community and that this was the proper procedure. Sunnis further argue that a caliph should ideally be chosen by election or community consensus. Shi’a Muslims believe that just as God alone appoints a prophet, only God has the prerogative to appoint the successor to his prophet. They believe God chose Ali to be Muhammad’s successor and the first caliph of Islam.
Rise of the Caliphates
After Muhammad’s death, many Arabian tribes rejected Islam or withheld the alms tax established by Muhammad. Many tribes claimed that they had submitted to Muhammad and that with Muhammad’s death, their allegiance had ended. Caliph Abu Bakr insisted that they had not just submitted to a leader, but joined the Islamic community of Ummah.
To retain the cohesion of the Islamic state, Abu Bakr divided his Muslim army to force the Arabian tribes into submission. After a series of successful campaigns, Abu Bakr’s general Khalid ibn Walid defeated a competing prophet and the Arabian peninsula was united under the caliphate in Medina. Once the rebellions had been quelled, Abu Bakr began a war of conquest. In just a few short decades, his campaigns led to one of the largest empires in history. Muslim armies conquered most of Arabia by 633, followed by north Africa, Mesopotamia, and Persia, significantly shaping the history of the world through the spread of Islam.
The first Khalifa of the Muslims
Abu bakr was the son of abu qahafa, and made his living as a merchant in Makkah. He accepted Islam after Khadija, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Zayd bin Haritha.
It is said that Abu Bakr gave more material support to Muhammad than anyone else. In Makkah, he freed many slaves but there is no evidence that he gave any help to Muhammad. Muhammad, of course, did not want any help from Abu Bakr or from anyone else, but at one time in Makkah, his clan, the Banu Hashim, was in a state of siege for three years, and was in great distress.
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There is no evidence that Abu Bakr made any attempt to relieve the distress of the beleaguered clan but there is evidence that several unbelievers brought essential supplies to it, and they did so at grave peril to their own lives.
When Muhammad was ready to migrate from Makkah to Yathrib, Abu Bakr offered him a camel. But Muhammad refused to ride the camel without paying its price. First he paid the price of the camel to Abu Bakr, and then he rode it.
Abu Bakr accompanied Muhammad in the journey, and was with him in the cave.
Abu Bakr’s daughter, Ayesha, was married to Muhammad, and she was one of his many wives in Medina.
Dr. Montgomery Watt writes in his article on Abu Bakr in the Encyclopedia Britannia, Vol. I, page 54 (1973), as follows:
“Before the Hegira (Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina, A.D. 622), he (Abu Bakr) was clearly marked out as second to Mohammed by the latter’s betrothal to his young daughter ‘A’isha and by Abu Bakr’s being Mohammed’s companion on the journey to Medina.”
According to this article, these then were the two essential qualifications of Abu Bakr to become the “second” to Muhammad, viz. (1) his daughter was married to Muhammad, and (2) he traveled with Muhammad from Makkah to Medina!
Are the heads of states and leaders of nations chosen on the basis of qualifications like these? If they are, then Abu Bakr had no fewer than sixteen competitors for the throne of Arabia. There were at least sixteen other men whose daughters were married to Muhammad at various times; one of them was Abu Sufyan himself, and two of them were Jews.
The second argument in this article is no less “forceful” than the first. According to this argument, Abu Bakr became the head of the state of Medina because once upon a time he traveled with Muhammad from one city to another – a truly remarkable exercise in “scientific logic.”
In Makkah, the Prophet had made Abu Bakr the “brother” of Umar bin al-Khattab; in Medina, he made him the “brother” of Kharja bin Zayd.
At the siege of Khyber, Abu Bakr was given the banner, and he led troops to capture the fortress but without success.
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In the campaign of Dhat es-Salasil, Muhammad Mustafa sent Abu Bakr with 200 other ranks under the command of Abu Obaida bin al-Jarrah to reinforce the troops of Amr bin Aas. The latter took command of all the troops. Abu Bakr, therefore, served two masters in the same campaign – first Abu Obaida and then Amr bin Aas.
There were many battles and campaigns of Islam but there is no evidence that Abu Bakr ever distinguished himself in any of them.
In the Syrian campaign, the Apostle of God placed Abu Bakr under the command of Usama bin Zayd bin Haritha.
The Apostle never appointed Abu Bakr to any position of authority and responsibility, civil or military. Once he sent him to Makkah as the leader of a group of pilgrims to conduct the rites of Hajj (pilgrimage). But after Abu Bakr’s departure, the Apostle sent Ali ibn Abi Talib to promulgate, in Makkah, the ninth chapter of Al-Qur’an al-Majid (Surah Bara’ah or Immunity), the newly revealed message from Heaven. Abu Bakr was not allowed to promulgate it. Ali promulgated it.
The only other distinction of Abu Bakr was that just before the death of the Apostle, he led the public prayers.
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