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Abu Bakr: A Man Among Men (Part Two)

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Throughout most of the important events of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, his companion Abu Bakr was by his side.

The Quraish had devised every possible plan to kill the Prophet, but all their attempts were in vain.

The Migration to Madinah

On the occasion of the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr, the Quraish had planned to surround the Prophet’s house with a group of strong young men, one from each tribe, to kill him when he left his house. Allah revealed their plans to the Prophet and so `Ali ibn Abi Talib agreed to sleep in the Prophet’s house that night. The Prophet walked right past the young would-be killers while they were waiting for him. He threw some sand at their faces and recited the verse from the Qur’an that means [And We have put a barrier before them, and a barrier behind them, and We have covered them up, so that they cannot see] (Yasin 36:9) and they were unaware of him passing by them.

The next morning the young men who had been chosen to kill the Prophet discovered `Ali in the Prophet’s house and they were confused, wondering how Muhammad had escaped. When the Prophet left his house under Allah’s protection, he headed straight to the house of Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr had been waiting for some time until the Prophet finally said that it was time to leave Makkah and make the important journey to Madinah (Al-Mubarakphuri, 165-69).

As he was eagerly waiting, Abu Bakr had been preparing for their journey. He had two camels that were fed and rested so as to be ready to carry himself and the Prophet on their long journey.

Madinah lies to the north of Makkah, but the Prophet and Abu Bakr left Makkah with their guide heading south in the hope of tricking the Quraish and thereby gaining ground. They went to a small cave called Thawr where they sought safety.

Abu Bakr loved the Prophet dearly and was committed to the cause of Islam from the very beginning. He was a tenderhearted man and all his concern, at that time especially, was centered on the safety of the Prophet. Abu Bakr carried the Prophet up the mountain to the cave of Thawr in an attempt to conceal their footsteps. When they were ready to enter the cave, Abu Bakr entered first to check that it was safe. He didn’t fear danger to himself but wanted to ensure the Prophet’s safety. He cleaned the cave as best he could and bid the Prophet enter. This action of Abu Bakr was recorded in the Qur’an [If you will not aid him, Allah certainly aided him when those who disbelieved expelled him, he being the second of the two, when they were both in the cave, when he said to his companion: Grieve not, surely Allah is with us] (At-Tawbah 9:40). They stayed there for three nights and Abu Bakr’s pregnant daughter Asma’ brought them food. She risked great danger in doing so. Because she tore her belt in two to use one piece to tie shut the food bag, she gained the epithet the One with Two Belts.

Meanwhile the Quraish were baffled about where the Prophet was. They beat `Ali, trying to get any information out of him concerning the whereabouts of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They also threatened Asma’ and slapped her, trying to do the same. But neither uttered a word. In the end, the Quraish offered a reward for anyone who found the Prophet. As a consequence, a number of bounty-hunters sought the prize of a few camels in hope of catching the Prophet Muhammad (Nadwi, 62).

In the midst of all this turmoil and strife, Abu Bakr remained steadfast beside the Prophet until the very end. He, as usual, was calm and committed, ever kind and generous.

One group of bounty-hunters came so close to the mouth of the cave where the Prophet and his companion were hiding that Abu Bakr asked the Prophet, “What if they were to look through the crevice and detect us?” The Prophet, ever calm and self-assured in his perfect faith, replied, “Silence, Abu Bakr! What do you think of two with whom the third is Allah!” (Al-Mubarakphuri, 171).

Allah had ensured the safety of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr by sending a spider to spin its web across the entrance of the cave.

Across the mouth of the cave, a spider had spun its web and two doves built their nest and laid some eggs in the entrance. When the bounty-hunters saw this, they naturally believed that the unbroken web and the undisturbed nest was proof that no one had entered the cave.

Abu Bakr witnessed many significant events in the Prophet’s life. The migration was one of these events. When the Prophet entered Madinah and the crowds were chanting and singing with joy and happiness, Abu Bakr was his quiet and noble companion.

The Battles of the Early Period

Abu Bakr participated in all the battles with the Prophet and did the best he could for the sake of spreading Islam. He was kind, yet brave. Many incidents show some of his characteristics. One of them was in the Battle of Badr, and another in the Battle of Tabuk.

The Battle of Badr was a great test for the Muslims. They were small in number and had undergone many hardships. They were greatly outnumbered by the Quraish. The Prophet prayed to Allah for assistance and to keep their feet firm. He continued to pray and supplicate until the cloak he was wearing slipped from his shoulders. Then his ever-faithful companion Abu Bakr picked up the cloak and put it back around his shoulders and said, “Prophet of Allah, you have cried out enough to your Lord. He will surely fulfill what He has promised you” (Al-Mubarakphuri, 220).

The Battle of Badr was a test for all the Muslims. Abu Bakr even had to face his own son `Abdur-Rahman in the fight because he had not as yet embraced Islam. Abu Bakr did not hesitate to confront him and even shouted at him asking where was his wealth (Al-Mubarakphuri, 77).

Later when the Prophet gathered money for the Battle of Tabuk, the Muslims gave whatever they could give, but Abu Bakr exceeded all the records by giving all that he had to the Prophet without leaving anything for his own family. When the Prophet asked him what he had left for his family, he replied, “Allah and His Messenger are enough for them.”

The Death of the Prophet

In the days before the Prophet’s death, Abu Bakr was always near him. Around this time the Prophet was heard to say, “The fellow in whose company I feel most secure is Abu Bakr. If I were to make friendship with anyone other than Allah, I would have Abu Bakr a bosom friend of mine. For him I feel affection and brotherhood of Islam. No gate shall be kept open in the mosque except that of Abu Bakr” (Al-Bukhari).

As the time of his death approached, the Prophet suffered a lot of pain. When the time came that he could no longer lead the prayer, he asked that Abu Bakr lead the Muslims in prayer. `A’ishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr, knew how tenderhearted her father was and she was afraid he would be too upset to do this, but the Prophet insisted and so it was. On the last day of the Prophet’s life, the Muslims were being led by Abu Bakr in the Fajr Prayer. The Prophet felt a little better so with the help of two of his companions he looked at the Muslims praying behind Abu Bakr. He smiled happily and returned to his room.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) died just a few hours later. Everyone in Madinah felt the great loss and experienced immense sadness. When Abu Bakr heard the news he came immediately to `A’ishah’s house where the Prophet was. He gently uncovered his face and kissed him and cried. Then he said, “I sacrifice my mother and father for your sake. Allah, verily, will not cause you to die twice. You have just experienced the death that Allah had ordained” (Al-Mubarakphuri, 77).

Despite his sadness, the stance and attitude of Abu Bakr was filled with confidence when he saw some Muslims confused and bewildered at how their beloved Prophet could die. He stood before the Muslims boldly and said, “And now, he who worships Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. But he who worships Allah, He is Ever Living and He never dies. Allah says, [Muhammad is no more than a messenger, and indeed many messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels as disbelievers? 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] (Aal `Imran 3:144).”

In this way Abu Bakr reminded the people of their true condition: to worship and obey Allah. It did not take long until the Ansar (natives of Madinah) and the Muhajirun (Immigrants from Makkah) acknowledged Abu Bakr as the rightful caliph and thereby began a new phase in the history of Islam: that of the rightly guided caliphs.

Abu Bakr the Caliph

After the death of the Prophet, the Muslims were to choose a head of their state. The Muhajirun and the Ansar agreed that the caliph should be from the Muhajirun. Abu Bakr suggested either `Umar ibn Al-Khattab or Abu `Ubaidah `Amir ibn Al-Jarrah. `Umar rose quickly and said, “Abu Bakr, how can I or Abu `Ubaidah be preferred over you? You are undoubtedly the most excellent of the Muslims. You were the Second of the Two in the Cave. You were appointed to lead the prayers during the Prophet’s illness. Of all the Companions you were the closest and the dearest to the Prophet. As such you are dear to us. Stretch out your hand so that we may offer our allegiance to you.” Yet Abu Bakr did not. `Umar thought that this delay from Abu Bakr might cause disagreement among the Muslims, so he took Abu Bakr’s hand and pledged loyalty to him. The second was Abu `Ubaidah and after him were all the Muslims.

Abu Bakr then summoned the Muslims and delivered this remarkable speech to them:

Help me if I am in the right; set me right if I am in the wrong. The weak among you shall be strong with me till, Allah willing, his rights have been vindicated, and the strong among you shall be weak with me till, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from him. Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Prophet; when I disobey Him and His Prophet, obey me not.

When an expedition led by Usamah bin Zaid was to depart to Syria, Abu Bakr directed it to depart on its mission. Abu Bakr went to bid farewell to the army and addressed them in the following terms:

See that you avoid treachery. Depart not in any wise from the right. Do not mutilate any one. You should not kill children, women or old men. Do not injure the date palm; do not burn it. Do not cut down any tree wherein there is food for men and beasts. Do not slay the flocks of herds of camels save for needful sustenance. You may eat of the meat that the men of the land may bring to you in their vessels, making mention thereon of the name of Allah. Do not molest the monks in the churches, and leave them to themselves. Now march forward in the name of God. Fulfill the mission entrusted to you. May Allah protect you from sword and pestilence!

Abu Bakr died at the age of 63. He was buried on the right side of the Prophet.

References
  • Al-Mubarakphuri, Safi-ur-Rahman. Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar). Riyadh: Dar-us-Salam Publications, 1996.
  • Nadwi, Abul Hasan. Muhammad the Last Prophet – a Model for All Time. UK: Islamic Academy, 1993.
Latiefa Achmat is an Islamic counselor and social worker in Capetown, South Africa.

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