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Abu Bakr
أبو بكر
Rashidun Caliph Abu Bakr as-Șiddīq (Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafa) - أبو بكر الصديق عبد الله بن عثمان التيمي القرشي أول الخلفاء الراشدين.svg
Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq's name in Arabic calligraphy
1st Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate
Reign8 June 632 – 23 August 634
PredecessorEstablished position
SuccessorUmar ibn al-Khattab
Bornc. 573
Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
Died23 August 634(634-08-23) (aged 60)
Medina, Rashidun Caliphate
FatherAbu Quhafa
MotherUmm Khayr
TribeQuraysh (Banu Taym)

Abu Bakr (Arabic: أبو بكر, romanizedAbū Bakr; c. 573 – 23 August 634) was the founder and first caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate ruling from June 632 until his death. He was the most prominent companion, closest advisor and a father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (c. 570–632).

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. Following his conversion to Islam in 610, Abu Bakr served as a close aide to Muhammad, who bestowed on him the title al-Siddiq ('the Truthful'). The former took part in almost all battles under the Islamic prophet. 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.

After Muhammad's death in 632, Abu Bakr succeeded the leadership of the Muslim community as the caliph. His election was opposed by a large number of rebellious tribal leaders, who had apostatized from Islam. Abu Bakr's commanders kept the rebels in check and subsequently defeated them in the Ridda Wars, as a result of which he was able to consolidate and expand the rule of the nascent caliphate over the entire Arabia. Abu Bakr ordered the initial incursions into the neighboring Byzantium and Sasanian Empire, initiating the Muslim conquests of Levant and Persia respectively. Apart from politics, Abu Bakr is also credited for the compilation of the Quran, of which he had a personal caliphal codex. Abu Bakr nominated his principal adviser Umar (r. 634–644) as his successor before dying in August 634. 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.

Origins and early life

Abu Bakr was born in Mecca in c. 573. His father Abu Quhafa was a prominent merchant of the Banu Taym clan of the Quraysh. He initially opposed the Islamic prophet Muhammad until the Islamic conquest of Mecca in c. 630 when he embraced Islam.[1] Abu Bakr's mother Umm Khayr also hailed from the Banu Taym and converted to Islam in c. 614.[2]

Abu Bakr's real name is uncertain with Abd Allah, Abd al-Ka'ba and Atiq cited by the early sources.[3] He was much commonly known by the kunya (teknonym) Abū Bakr, meaning "Father of Young Camels". He reportedly received the title due to his caring and love for camels in childhood.[4][5]

Like other children of the rich Meccan merchant families, Abu Bakr was literate and never developed a fondness for poetry. He had great knowledge of the genealogy of the Arab tribes, their stories and their politics.[6] Regardless, it recorded that prior to converting to Islam, Abu Bakr practiced as a hanif and never worshipped idols.[7] He also avoided alcohol.[8]

Lineage and titles

Abu Bakr's full name was Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafa ibn Amir ibn Amr ibn Ka'b ibn Sa'd ibn Taym (Arabic: عَبْدُ ٱللهِ بْنِ ابي قحافة بن أمير بن عمرو بن كعب بن سعد بن تيم بن مرة بن كعب بن لؤي بن غالب بن فهر).[9] Preceding his conversion to Islam, Abu Bakr's title was Atiq, meaning "saved one". Muhammad later restated this title when he said that Abu Bakr is the "Atiq".[10] He was called Al-Siddiq (the truthful)[11] by Muhammad after he believed him in the event of Isra and Mi'raj when other people did not, and Ali confirmed that title several times.[12] He was also sometimes called Ibn Abi Quhafa meaning the 'son of Abu Quhafa'.[note 1]

Companionship of Muhammad

Life in Mecca

Unlike other companions of Muhammad, Abu Bakr was a childhood friend of the Islamic prophet.[13] In 590, both were present at the signing of the Hilf al-Fudul ('Pact of the Virtuous'), as cited by early Islamic sources.[13] Following Muhammad's declaration of prophethood in 610, Abu Bakr embraced Islam, becoming one of the earliest believers, possibly the first male Muslim.[a] The latter began preaching Islam to his close business associates, relatives and tribal kinsmen, succeeding in gaining more converts to the religion.[b]

After he announced his faith, he delivered a speech at the Kaaba. This was the first public address inviting people to offer allegiance to Muhammad was delivered by Abu Bakr.[19] In a fit of fury, the young men of the Quraysh tribe rushed at Abu Bakr and beat him till he lost consciousness.[20]

His preaching brought many people to Islam as he persuaded his intimate friends to convert.[21] Many Sahabis, prominently including Uthman, Zubayr, Talha, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, Abu Ubayda, Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf, Abu Hudhaifah ibn al-Mughirah and many others converted to Islam by the invitations of Abu Bakr.[22] Abu Bakr's acceptance proved to be a milestone in Muhammad's mission. Slavery was common in Mecca, and many slaves accepted Islam. When an ordinary free man accepted Islam, despite opposition, he would enjoy the protection of his tribe. For slaves, however, there was no such protection and they commonly experienced persecution. Abu Bakr felt compassion for slaves, so he purchased eight slaves, four men and four women, and then freed them, paying 40,000 dinar for their freedom.[23][24] The slaves were Bilal ibn Rabah, Abu Fukayha, Ammar ibn Yasir, Lubaynah, Al-Nahdiah, Harithah bint al-Muammil and Umm Ubays. Most of the slaves liberated by Abu Bakr were either women or old and frail men.[25][2]

Abu Bakr's daughter Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad; however, it was decided that the actual marriage ceremony would be held later. In 621, Abu Bakr was the first person to believe in Muhammad's Isra and Mi'raj (Night Journey).[26] Muhammad bestowed the honorific epithet Siddiq (lit.'Truthful, Upright or Righteous') upon the former.[27][28]

Migration to Medina

The Mount Thawr in Mecca, where Abu Bakr and Muhammad refuged for three days
The Mount Thawr in Mecca, where Abu Bakr and Muhammad refuged for three days

In 622, the newly-converted Muslims of Medina invited Muhammad to emigrate to their city. He subsequently accepted the request and the migration began in batches. In July 622, Muhammad secretly fled from Mecca to Medina along with Abu Bakr while Ali was entrusted with responsibility for settling any loans the Muslims had taken out, and famously slept in the bed of Muhammad when the Quraysh, led by Ikrima, attempted to murder Muhammad as he slept.

Due to the danger posed by the Quraysh, Muhammad and Abu Bakr did not take the road, but moved in the opposite direction, taking refuge in a cave in Jabal Thawr, some five miles south of Mecca. Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr, the son of Abu Bakr, would listen to the plans and discussions of the Quraysh, and at night he would carry the news to the fugitives in the cave. Asma bint Abi Bakr, the daughter of Abu Bakr, brought them meals every day.[29] Aamir, a servant of Abu Bakr, would bring a flock of goats to the mouth of the cave every night, where they were milked. The Quraysh sent search parties in all directions. One party came close to the entrance to the cave, but was unable to see them. Due to this, Quran verse 9:40 was revealed. Muhammad's wife Aisha, Abu Saʽid al-Khudri and Abdullah ibn Abbas in interpreting this verse said that Abu Bakr was the companion who stayed with Muhammad in the cave.[11]

After arriving in Medina, Muhammad instituted brotherhood between the Ansar (lit.'Helpers'), the natives of Medina, and the Muhajirun (lit.'Emigrants'), the natives of Mecca who migrated to Medina. Consequently, Abu Bakr was paired to Kharija ibn Zayd, a chieftain of the Banu Khazraj. The 9th-century historian al-Baladhuri (d. 892) reports that Abu Bakr paid for the land on which the Prophet's Mosque was built.[30] Early in 623, Abu Bakr's daughter Aisha, who was already married to Muhammad, was sent on to Muhammad's house after a simple marriage ceremony, further strengthening relations between Abu Bakr and Muhammad.[31]

In March 624, Abu Bakr guarded Muhammad in the Battle of Badr. Following the Muslim victory, Muhammad accepted Abu Bakr's suggestion to ransom the captives.[32]

Military campaigns under Muhammad

Battle of Badr

In Sunni accounts, during one such attack, two discs from Abu Bakr's shield penetrated into Muhammad's cheeks. Abu Bakr went forward with the intention of extracting these discs but Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah requested he leave the matter to him, losing his two incisors during the process. In these stories subsequently Abu Bakr, along with other companions, led Muhammad to a place of safety.[31]

Battle of Uhud

In 625, he participated in the Battle of Uhud, in which the majority of the Muslims were routed and he himself was wounded.[33] Before the battle had begun, his son Abdul-Rahman, at that time still non-Muslim and fighting on the side of the Quraysh, came forward and threw down a challenge for a duel. Abu Bakr accepted the challenge but was stopped by Muhammad.[34] Later, Abdul-Rahman approached his father and said to him "You were exposed to me as a target, but I turned away from you and did not kill you." To this Abu Bakr replied "However, if you had been exposed to me as a target I would not have turned away from you."[35] In the second phase of the battle, Khalid ibn al-Walid's cavalry attacked the Muslims from behind, changing a Muslim victory to defeat.[36][37] Many fled from the battlefield, including Abu Bakr. However, he was "the first to return".[citation needed]

Battle of the Trench

In 627 he participated in the Battle of the Trench and also in the Invasion of Banu Qurayza.[31] In the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad divided the ditch into a number of sectors and a contingent was posted to guard each sector. One of these contingents was under the command of Abu Bakr. The enemy made frequent assaults in an attempt to cross the ditch, all of which were repulsed. To commemorate this event a mosque, later known as 'Masjid-i-Siddiq',[38] was constructed at the site where Abu Bakr had repulsed the charges of the enemy.[31]

Battle of Khaybar

Abu Bakr took part in the Battle of Khaybar. Khaybar had eight fortresses, the strongest and most well-guarded of which was called Al-Qamus. Muhammad sent Abu Bakr with a group of warriors to attempt to take it, but they were unable to do so. Muhammad also sent Umar with a group of warriors, but Umar could not conquer Al-Qamus either.[39][40][41][42] Some other Muslims also attempted to capture the fort, but they were unsuccessful as well.[43] Finally, Muhammad sent Ali, who defeated the enemy leader, Marhab.[41][44]

Military campaigns during final years of Muhammad

In 629 Muhammad sent 'Amr ibn al-'As to Zaat-ul-Sallasal, followed by Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah in response to a call for reinforcements. Abu Bakr and Umar commanded an army under al-Jarrah, and they attacked and defeated the enemy.[45]

Battles of Hunayn and Ta'if

In 630, the Muslim army was ambushed by archers from the local tribes as it passed through the valley of Hunayn, some eleven miles northeast of Mecca. Taken unaware, the advance guard of the Muslim army fled in panic. There was considerable confusion, and the camels, horses and men ran into one another in an attempt to seek cover. Muhammad, however, stood firm. Only nine companions remained around him, including Abu Bakr. Under Muhammad's instruction, his uncle Abbas shouted at the top of his voice, "O Muslims, come to the Prophet of Allah". The call was heard by the Muslim soldiers and they gathered beside Muhammad. When the Muslims had gathered in sufficient number, Muhammad ordered a charge against the enemy. In the hand-to-hand fight that followed the tribes were routed and they fled to Autas.

Abu Bakr was commissioned by Muhammad to lead the attack against Ta'if. The tribes shut themselves in the fort and refused to come out in the open. The Muslims employed catapults, but without tangible result. The Muslims attempted to use a testudo formation, in which a group of soldiers shielded by a cover of cowhide advanced to set fire to the gate. However, the enemy threw red hot scraps of iron on the testudo, rendering it ineffective.

The siege dragged on for two weeks, and still there was no sign of weakness in the fort. Muhammad held a council of war. Abu Bakr advised that the siege might be raised and that God make arrangements for the fall of the fort. The advice was accepted, and in February 630, the siege of Ta'if was raised and the Muslim army returned to Mecca. A few days later Malik bin Auf, the commander, came to Mecca and became a Muslim.[46]

Expedition of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq

Abu Bakr led one military expedition, the Expedition of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq,[47] which took place in Najd, in July 628 (third month 7AH in the Islamic calendar).[47] Abu Bakr led a large[vague] company in Nejd on the order of Muhammad. Many were killed and taken prisoner.[48] The Sunni Hadith collection Sunan Abu Dawud mentions the event.[49]

Expedition of Usama bin Zayd

In 632, during the final weeks of his life, Muhammad ordered an expedition into Syria to avenge the defeat of the Muslims in the Battle of Mu'tah some years previously. Leading the campaign was Usama ibn Zayd, whose father, Muhammad's erstwhile adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah, had been killed in the earlier conflict.[50] No more than twenty years old, inexperienced and untested, Usama's appointment was controversial, becoming especially problematic when veterans such as Abu Bakr, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah and Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas were placed under his command.[51][52] Nevertheless, the expedition was dispatched, though soon after setting off, news was received of Muhammad's death, forcing the army to return to Medina.[51] The campaign was not re-engaged until after Abu Bakr's ascension to the caliphate, at which point he chose to reaffirm Usama's command, which ultimately led to its success.[citation needed]

Muhammad's final years

In 631, Muhammad sent a delegation of around three hundred Muslims to perform the Hajj in Mecca and appointed Abu Bakr as the leader of this delegation, who notably became the first Commander of the Pilgrimage (amīr al-ḥajj) in Islam.[53] In 632, as Muhammad was ailing, he was confined to bed by Abu Bakr.[54] Muhammad found himself unable to lead prayers as he usually would and subsequently instructed Abu Bakr to take his place, ignoring concerns from Aisha that her father was too emotionally delicate for the role. Muhammad ordered all doors leading to the mosque be closed aside from that which led from Abu Bakr's house.[55]

Upon Muhammad's death, the Muslim community was unprepared for the loss of its leader and many experienced a profound shock. Umar was particularly affected, instead declaring that Muhammad had gone to consult with God and would soon return, threatening anyone who would say that Muhammad was dead.[56] Abu Bakr, having returned to Medina,[57] calmed Umar by showing him Muhammad's body, convincing him of his death.[58] He then addressed those who had gathered at the mosque, saying, "If anyone worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead. If anyone worships God, God is alive, immortal", thus putting an end to any idolising impulse in the population.[citation needed] He then concluded with a verse from the Quran: "Muhammad is no more than an apostle, and many apostles have passed away before him."[56] [Quran 3:144]



Modern view of Saqifah where Abu Bakr was elected
Modern view of Saqifah where Abu Bakr was elected

After Muhammad's death in June 632, a gathering of the Ansar (lit.'Helpers'), the natives of Medina, took place in the Saida clan's courtyard.[59] They made an abortive attempt to elect the caliph amongst themselves, with the common choice being Sa'd ibn Ubada. The Ansar might have intentionally excluded the Muhajirun (lit.'Emigrants'), the natives of Mecca who migrated to Medina.[60] Upon learning of this meeting, Abu Bakr hastened to the gathering, along with two other prominent Muhajirun, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah and Umar ibn al-Khattab. The former addressed the assembled men, warning that an attempt to elect a leader outside of Muhammad's own tribe, the Quraysh, would result in dissension, as only they can command the necessary respect among the community. He presented Abu Ubayda and Umar as two potential candidates for the caliphate.[60][61]

Habab ibn Mundhir suggested that the Ansar and the Muhajirun choose a leader each from among themselves, who would then rule jointly. An argument then began amongst the two groups.[62] In a decisive move, Umar took Abu Bakr's hand and swore his allegiance to the latter, an example eventually followed by the gathered men.[63] This may indicate that the choice of Abu Bakr may not have been unanimous, with emotions running high as a result of the disagreement.[64] The orientalist William Muir gives the following observation of the situation as "The sovereignty of Islam demanded an undivided Caliphate; and Arabia would acknowledge no master but from amongst Koreish".[65]

Abu Bakr's first address as caliph

I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, you owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you.

— The address was delivered at The Prophet's Mosque

Abu Bakr was almost universally accepted as head of the Muslim community, under the title of caliph, as a result of Saqifah, though he did face contention because of the rushed nature of the event.[59] Ali and his supporters initially refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr's authority, claiming that Muhammad had earlier designated him as the successor.[66] Among Shia Muslims, it is also argued that Ali had previously been appointed as Muhammad's heir, with the election being seen as in contravention to the latter's wishes.[67] Abu Bakr later sent Umar to ask allegiance from Fatimah, which resulted in an altercation that may have involved violence.[68] However, after six months the group made peace with Abu Bakr and Ali pledged him his allegiance.[69] After Ali pledged his allegiance, Ali used to help Abu Bakr on government and religious matters.[70]

Ridda Wars

Abu Bakr's caliphate at its territorial peak in August 634.
Abu Bakr's caliphate at its territorial peak in August 634.

Most tribes in Arabia, except those inhabiting the environs of Mecca, Medina and Taif, discontinued their allegiance to the nascent Muslim state after Muhammad's death and never established formal relations with Medina. Islamic historiography describes Abu Bakr's efforts to reestablish Islamic rule over the rebellious tribes as the Ridda Wars.[71] The modern historian William Montgomery Watt agrees with the Islamic characterization of the tribal opposition as anti-Islamic in nature. In the view of Leone Caetani and Bernard Lewis, the opposing tribes who had established ties with Medina regarded their religious and fiscal obligations as being a personal contract with Muhammad; their attempts to negotiate different terms after his death were rejected by Abu Bakr, who proceeded to launch the campaigns against them.[72]

Some of the revolts of this type took the form of tax rebellions in Najd among tribes such as the Banu Fazara and Banu Tamim. Other dissenters, while initially allied to the Muslims, used Muhammad's death as an opportunity to attempt to restrict the growth of the new Islamic state. They included some of the Rabīʿa in Bahrayn, the Azd in Oman, as well as among the Kinda and Khawlan in Yemen.[71] Abu Bakr, likely understanding that maintaining firm control over the disparate tribes of Arabia was crucial to ensuring the survival of the state, suppressed the insurrections with military force. He dispatched Khalid ibn Walid and a body of troops to subdue the uprisings in Najd as well as that of Musaylimah, who posed the most serious threat. Concurrent to this, Shurahbil ibn Hasana and Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami were sent to Bahrayn, while Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, Hudhayfah al-Bariqi and Arfaja al-Bariqi were instructed to conquer Oman. Finally, Al-Muhajir ibn Abi Umayya and Khalid ibn Asid were sent to Yemen to aid the local governor in re-establishing control. Abu Bakr made use of diplomatic means in addition to military measures. Like Muhammad before him, he used marriage alliances and financial incentives to bind former enemies to the caliphate. For instance, a member of the Banu Hanifa who had sided with the Muslims was rewarded with the granting of a land estate. Similarly, a Kindah rebel named Al-Ash'ath ibn Qays, after repenting and re-joining Islam, was later given land in Medina as well as the hand of Abu Bakr's sister Umm Farwa in marriage.[73]

At their heart, the Ridda movements were challenges to the political and religious supremacy of the Islamic state. Through his success in suppressing the insurrections, Abu Bakr had in effect continued the political consolidation which had begun under Muhammad's leadership with relatively little interruption. By wars' end, he had established an Islamic hegemony over the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula.[74]

Battles against Tulayha

Few days after Abu Bakr's election, in July 632, Tulayha ibn Khuwaylid, from the Banu Asad tribe, was preparing to launch an attack on Medina.[75] Abu Bakr raised an army primarily from the Banu Hashim.[76] He appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib, Talha ibn Ubayd Allah and Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, each as commander of one-third of the newly organized force.[77] Tulayha's forces was defeated and driven to Zhu Hussa.[78] Though, few months after, Tulayha again launched an attack on the Muslim forces. Abu Bakr appointed Khalid ibn al-Walid as the main commander.[78] Khalid had an army of 6,000 men whereas Tulayha had an army of 30,000 men.[78] However, Tulayha's forces were crushed by Khalid ibn al-Walid and his forces. After the battle, Tulayha accepted Islam and asked forgiveness from Abu Bakr.[78] Though, Abu Bakr forgave Tulayha, he refused to allow Tulayha to participate in wars on the Muslim side since Tulayha killed a Sahabi called Akasha ibn Mihsan in the battle.[78]

Battle of Yamama

Musaylimah, from the Banu Hanifa tribe, was one of the biggest enemies of Abu Bakr.[71] He is denounced in Islamic history as "false prophet".[71] Musaylimah, along with his wife Sajah from Banu Taghlib and Banu Tamim, claimed prophethood and gathered an army of 40,000 people to attack against Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr appointed Khalid ibn al-Walid as the primary commander and appointed Ikrimah and Shurahbil as the commander of the corps.[79] In the battle, Musaylimah's forces were crushed by Khalid and his forces. However, Musaylimah's forces killed about 360 huffaz (memorizers of the Quran) were killed.[80][81] Wahshi ibn Harb killed Musaylimah in the battle. After the battle, Musaylimah's wife Sajah became a devout Muslim.[82]

Preservation of the Quran

Abu Bakr was instrumental in preserving the Quran in written form. After the Battle of Yamama in 632, numerous memorizers of the Quran had been killed. Umar fearing that the Quran may become lost or corrupted, Umar requested that Abu Bakr authorise the compilation and preservation of the scriptures in written format. The caliph was initially hesitant, being quoted as saying, "How can we do that which the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless and keep him, did not himself do?" He eventually relented, however, and appointed Zayd ibn Thabit, who had previously served as one of the scribes of Muhammad, for the task of gathering the scattered verses. The fragments were recovered from every quarter, including from the ribs of palm branches, scraps of leather, stone tablets and "from the hearts of men". The collected work was transcribed onto sheets and compiled in the sequence that had been instructed by Muhammad, as opposed to the order in which they had been revealed.[83] The complete work was then verified through comparison with Quran memorisers.[84][85] The finished codex, termed the Mus'haf, was presented to Abu Bakr, who prior to his death, bequeathed it to his successor Umar.[86] Upon Umar's own death, the Mus'haf was left to his daughter Hafsa, who had been one of the wives of Muhammad. It was this volume, borrowed from Hafsa, which formed the basis of Uthman's legendary prototype, which became the definitive text of the Quran. All later editions are derived from this original.[note 2][88][84][86]

Expeditions into Persia and Levant

With Arabia united under a single centralized state with a formidable military, the region could now be viewed as a potential threat to the neighboring Byzantine and Sasanian empires. It may be that Abu Bakr, reasoning that it was inevitable that one of these powers would launch a pre-emptive strike against the youthful caliphate, decided that it was better to deliver the first blow himself. Regardless of the caliph's motivations, in 633, small forces were dispatched into Iraq and Palestine, capturing several towns. Though the Byzantines and Sassanians were certain to retaliate, Abu Bakr had reason to be confident; the two empires were militarily exhausted after centuries of war against each other, making it likely that any forces sent to Arabia would be diminished and weakened.[89]

A more pressing advantage though was the effectiveness of the Muslim fighters as well as their zeal, the latter of which was partially based on their certainty of the righteousness of their cause. Additionally, the general belief among the Muslims was that the community must be defended at all costs. Historian Theodor Nöldeke gives the somewhat controversial opinion that this religious fervour was intentionally used to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum of the ummah:[89]

It was certainly good policy to turn the recently subdued tribes of the wilderness towards an external aim in which they might at once satisfy their lust for booty on a grand scale, maintain their warlike feeling, and strengthen themselves in their attachment to the new faith… Muhammad himself had already sent expeditions across the [Byzantine] frontier, and thereby had pointed out the way to his successors. To follow in his footsteps was in accordance with the innermost being of the youthful Islam, already grown great amid the tumult of arms.[90]

Though Abu Bakr had started these initial conflicts which eventually resulted in the Islamic conquests of Persia and the Levant, he did not live to see those regions conquered by Islam, instead leaving the task to his successors.[89]


The Green Dome in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi where Abu Bakr is buried
The Green Dome in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi where Abu Bakr is buried

Abu Bakr died of natural causes in 634, having nominated Umar, his most able supporter, as his successor.[91]

During the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi was expanded to include the site of Abu Bakr's tomb.[92] The Green Dome above the tomb was built by the Mamluk sultan Al Mansur Qalawun in the 13th century, although the green color was added in the 16th century, under the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.[93] Among tombs adjacent to that of Abu Bakr, are of Muhammad, Umar, and an empty one reserved for Isa.[94][95][96]

Wives and children

Abu Bakr had four wives. His first wife Qutaylah bint Abd al-Uzza bore him a daughter Asma and a son Abdullah. Though Asma and Abdullah became Muslims, their mother Qutaylah didn't become a Muslim and Abu Bakr divorced her.[97] Abu Bakr's second wife was Zaynab bint Amir, who bore him Abdul-Rahman and Aisha. Zaynab and her daughter Aisha converted to Islam whereas Abdul-Rahman didn't convert until the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in 628 CE.[98][99] Abu Bakr's third wife was Asma bint Umais, who bore Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. Before her marriage with Abu Bakr, Asma was a wife of Jafar ibn Abi Talib, and after Abu Bakr's death, Asma married Ali ibn Abi Talib.[100] Abu Bakr's fourth wife was Habibah bint Kharijah. She bore Umm Kulthum, who was born after Abu Bakr's death. Abu Bakr's descendants are called Siddiquis. The Sufi Naqshbandi spiritual order is believed to be originating from Abu Bakr.[101][102][103][104]


The historian Al-Tabari, in regards to Abu Bakr's appearance, records the following interaction between Aisha and her paternal nephew, Abdullah ibn Abdul-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr:[105]

When she was in her howdah and saw a man from among the Arabs passing by, she said, "I have not seen a man more like Abu Bakr than this one." We said to her, "Describe Abu Bakr." She said, "A slight, white man, thin-bearded and bowed. His waist wrapper would not hold but would fall down around his loins. He had a lean face, sunken eyes, a bulging forehead, and trembling knuckles."

Referencing another source, Al-Tabari further describes him as being "white mixed with yellowness, of good build, slight, bowed, thin, tall like a male palm tree, hook-nosed, lean-faced, sunken-eyed, thin-shanked, and strong-thighed. He used to dye himself with henna and black dye."[105]

Assessment and legacy

The name of Abu Bakr, inscribed in Islamic calligraphy at the Hagia Sophia in Turkey
The name of Abu Bakr, inscribed in Islamic calligraphy at the Hagia Sophia in Turkey

Abu Bakr adopted the state title Khalifat Rasul Allah ('successor of the messenger of God').[106] Though the period of his caliphate covers only two years, two months and fifteen days, it included successful invasions of the two most powerful empires of the time: the Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Empire. Abu Bakr's reign lasted for 27 months, during which he crushed the rebellion of the Arab tribes throughout the Arabian Peninsula in the successful Ridda Wars. Abu Bakr's main objective was to extend the caliphate over the entire Arabia and defeat the rebel tribes, in which he succeeded.[107] In the last months of his rule, he sent Khalid ibn al-Walid on conquests against the Sassanid Empire in Mesopotamia and against the Byzantine Empire in Syria. This would set in motion a historical trajectory, continued later on by Umar and Uthman, that in just a few short decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history.[107] He had little time to pay attention to the administration of state, though state affairs remained stable during his Caliphate. On the advice of Umar and Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, he agreed to draw a salary from the state treasury and discontinue his cloth trade.

Abu Bakr had the distinction of being the first caliph in the history of Islam and also the first caliph to nominate a successor. He was the only caliph in the history of Islam who refunded to the state treasury at the time of his death the entire amount of the allowance that he had drawn during the period of his caliphate.[108]

Muslim view

Abu Bakr is amongst the only few companions of Muhammad to be referred to in the Quran, being called the al-Sahib ('the Companion') of Muhammad in the ninth chapter at-Tawba.[13] In this same verse, Abu Bakr is also mentioned as the Second of the Two (thānīya ithnayn), which later became an honorific for the caliph.[109] These two verses are related to Abu Bakr's three-day refuge with Muhammad in the Cave of Thawr, an event for which Abu Bakr received the Persian epithet yār-i-ghār meaning the "Friend of the Cave".[13][110] The Sunni Muslims consider Abu Bakr a 'rightly-guided' (rashid) and the most superior caliph.[111] Abu Bakr is also believed to be the 'Greatest of the Truthful' (Siddīq Akbar), a rank which comes after the prophets.[112] Purported hadiths related about Abu Bakr include Muhammad's testifying of Abu Bakr for paradise. Moreover, Muhammad appointing Abu Bakr to lead the prayers during his last days is associated to justify Abu Bakr's later ascension to the caliphate as they display the regard with which Muhammad held the former.[59] However, M.A. Shaban disregards these reports and considers this to have nothing to do with Abu Bakr's caliphate.[113] Abu Bakr is regarded among the best of Muhammad's followers. Muhammad reportedly said: "If the faith of Abu Bakr was weighed against the faith of the people of the earth, the faith of Abu Bakr would outweigh the others."[114] Abu Bakr used to solve disputes by looking at the Quran and Sunnah.[citation needed] He was also the most knowledgeable Sahabi regarding the genealogy of Arabs.[citation needed]

Abu Bakr's succession as caliph was initially opposed by Ali, whom the Shia believe to be the rightful successor of Muhammad, appointed at Ghadir Khumm.[115] Abu Bakr is reviled by Twelvers (largest Shia branch) primarily for refusing to grant Muhammad's daughter and Ali's wife, Fatimah, the garden of Fadak in Khaybar. She claimed that the garden was gifted as inheritance to her by Muhammad, though Abu Bakr maintained that Muhammad once told that prophets of God do not leave as inheritance any worldly possessions.[116] However, as Sayed Ali Asgher Razwy notes in his book A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims, Muhammad inherited a maid servant, five camels, and ten sheep. Shia Muslims believe that prophets can receive inheritance, and can pass on inheritance to others as well.[117] In addition, Twelvers accuse Abu Bakr of participating in the alleged attack on Fatimah's house. Some Twelvers also believe Abu Bakr had no role in the preservation of the Quran, claiming that they should have accepted the copy of the book in the possession of Ali.[118] Early sources report that Ali's compiled Quran was lost and he praised Abu Bakr for preserving the Quran.[87]

Zaydi Shias (second-largest Shia branch),[119][120][121] believe Abu Bakr's caliphate to be legitimate.[122] In the last hours of Zayd ibn Ali (the uncle of Jafar al-Sadiq), he was betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Quran and the Sunnah".[123][124][125]

See also



  1. ^ In the early Islamic sources, there are conflicting narrations, each of which introduces Abu Bakr, Ali ibn Abi Talib, or Zayd ibn Haritha as the first male convert to Islam.[14] In accounts preserved by the historian al-Tabari (d. 923), Muhammad's prominent companions Hassan ibn Thabit (d. 674), Ibn Abbas (d. 687) and the Kufan scholar al-Nakhai (d. 714) claim Abu Bakr to be the first male convert.[15] The 8th-century historian Ibn Ishaq (d. 767) identifies Abu Bakr as the third male convert, though the first to proclaim his faith publicly.[16] Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that Abu Bakr was the first adult male convert and the first outside of Muhammad's family to embrace Islam.[13][17]
  2. ^ The most well-known converts to Islam at the insistence of Abu Bakr include Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf, Abu Hudhayfa ibn al-Mughira, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, Uthman ibn Affan, Zubayr ibn al-Awwam.[18]
  1. ^ "Abu Bakr". Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd ed.). His father was Abu Quhafa ..., and he is therefore sometimes known as Ibn Abi Quhafa. ... The names ‘Abd Allah and ‘Atiq ('freed slave') are attributed to him as well as Abu Bakr, but the relation of these names to one another and their original significance is not clear. ... He was later known by Sunni Muslims as al-Siddiq, the truthful, the upright, or the one who counts true.
  2. ^ Many early sources, especially but not exclusively Shi'ite, believe that there was also a version of the Quran which had been compiled by Ali, but which has since been lost.[87]


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    See also Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 5, Book 57, Number 60, which says: "Fatima sent somebody to Abu Bakr asking him to give her her inheritance from the Prophet from what Allah had given to His Apostle through Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting). She asked for the Sadaqa (i.e. wealth assigned for charitable purposes) of the Prophet at Medina, and Fadak, and what remained of the Khumus (i.e., one-fifth) of the Khaibar booty." Abu Bakr said, "Allah's Apostle said, 'We (Prophets), our property is not inherited, and whatever we leave is Sadaqa, but Muhammad's Family can eat from this property, i.e. Allah's property, but they have no right to take more than the food they need.' By Allah! I will not bring any change in dealing with the Sadaqa of the Prophet (and will keep them) as they used to be observed in his (i.e. the Prophet's) life-time, and I will dispose with it as Allah's Apostle used to do," Then 'Ali said, "I testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle," and added, "O Abu Bakr! We acknowledge your superiority." Then he (i.e. 'Ali) mentioned their own relationship to Allah's Apostle and their right. Abu Bakr then spoke saying, "By Allah in Whose Hands my life is. I love to do good to the relatives of Allah's Apostle rather than to my own relatives" Abu Bakr added: Look at Muhammad through his family."
    See also Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 8, Book 80, Number 722, which says: "Aisha said, 'When Allah's Apostle died, his wives intended to send 'Uthman to Abu Bakr asking him for their share of the inheritance.' Then "Aisha said to them, 'Didn't Allah's Apostle say, Our (Apostles') property is not to be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity?'"
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  124. ^ The waning of the Umayyad caliphate by Tabarī, Carole Hillenbrand, 1989, p37, p38
  125. ^ The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243. "They were called Rafida by the followers of Zayd"


External links

Abu Bakr
Cadet branch of the Quraysh
Born: October 573 Died: 22 August 634
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded byas Final prophet First Caliph of Islam
Rashidun Caliph

8 June 632 – 22 August 634
Succeeded by
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