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Abu Bakr

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For other people with the name, see Abu Bakr (disambiguation).
Abu Bakr
Personal Information
Full Name 'Abd Allah b. 'Uthman
Lineage Quraysh, Banu Taym
Well-Known Relatives Aisha (daughter), Asma' bt. 'Umays (wife)
Birth About 50 years before Hijra
Muhajir/Ansar Muhajir
Place(s) of Residence Mecca, Medina
Death Jumada II 22, 13/August 26, 634
Cause of Death disease
Burial Place Masjid al-Nabi, Medina
Religious Information
Presence at Ghazwas Most of ghazwas
Notable Roles First Caliph after the Prophet (s)
Early Islam
Hira cave-entrance.jpg

Abū Bakr b. Abī Quḥāfa (Arabic: أبو بكر بن أبي قُحافة) (d. 13/634) was one of the companions of the Prophet (s). Shortly after the Prophet's (s) demise, Abu Bakr and some other companions of the Prophet (s) gathered in Saqifa Bani Sa'ida to choose the caliph of Muslims against the will of the Prophet (s) regarding the caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a).

Those present in Saqifa Bani Sa'ida finally gave allegiance to Abu Bakr as the caliph of the Prophet (s). He is the first caliph of Rashidun Caliphs in the view of Sunni people. According to the famous views of historians, he immigrated with the Prophet (s) and hid in the Cave of Thawr. During his short rule, controversial events happened, including the event of Fadak, Ridda Wars (wars erupted due to apostasy), and beginning of the conquests.

Birth, Lineage, Kunya, and Titles

According to some hadiths and evidences (life span and the date of his death), he was born in Mecca two years and some months after 'Am al-Fil (probably 50 years before Hijra/573 CE). His father was Abu Quhafa 'Uthman (d. 14/635) and his mother was Umm al-Khayr Salma, Bint Sakhr b. 'Amr b. Ka'b, both of whom were from the clan of Taym and were a relative of the Prophet (s) through Marra, their fifth generation forefather.

In some sources, there are some poems quoted from some infidels slandering Abu Bakr, in one of which Bakr is mentioned as the son of Abu Bakr, but in none of the references where the names of the children of Abu Bakr have been listed, no one named Bakr has been mentioned. His opponents such as Abu Sufyan have altered Abu Bakr ("Bakr" meaning as "young camel") to "Abu Fusayl" ("Fusayl" meaning "baby camel kept from his mother's milk") in order to mock him.

The name of Abu Bakr at the Age of Ignorance was 'Abd al-Ka'ba and after Islam, the Prophet (s) called him 'Abd Allah. In some Sunni traditions, his name is mentioned as 'Atiq, but most Sunni traditions have regarded 'Atiq a title for him and have said that the Prophet (s) called him 'Atiq due to the beauty of his face. According to a narration from Aisha, the Prophet (s) called Abu Bakr "'Atiq Allah min al-nar" [meaning "The one kept away from fire by God"]. There are other causes mentioned as well for calling him 'Atiq.

Another famous title of him among Sunni people is Siddiq. According to Sunni sources, he was called so due to his unquestioned approval of the news of the Prophet's (s) ascension. In a narration from Abu Hurayra's mawla, it is said that Angel Gabriel called Abu Bakr "Siddiq" in the night of Isra'. Some have said that he was famous with this title since the Age of Ignorance, so that 'Atiq was also shadowed by it. Due to his clemency and empathy, the title "Awwah" and also the title "Sahib Rasul Allah" [meaning "the one who accompanied the Prophet (s)"] were given to him by Sunni people.

Shi'a scholars not only reject the title "Siddiq" for Abu Bakr, but referring to Sunni sources, say that "Siddiq" and "Faruq" have been titles of Imam 'Ali (a) and believe that these titles must have been given to Abu Bakr the early days of Islamic history because Imam 'Ali (a) claimed them during his caliphate and on the minbar of Basra.

Wives and Children

Historical sources have listed the names of the wives of Abu Bakr as below:

  • Umm Ruman, daughter of 'Amir b. 'Uwaymar (or 'Umayr b. 'Amir) from Banu Kinana who was the mother of 'Abd al-Rahman and Aisha
  • Qutayla daughter of 'Abd al-'Uzza b. As'ad from Banu 'Amir b. Lu'a, who was the mother of 'Abd Allah and Asma' (mother of 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr)
  • Asma' daughter of 'Umays, the mother of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr
  • Habiba daughter of Kharija b. Zayd b. Abi Zuhayr, the mother of Umm Kulthum

Acceptance of Islam

There is a disagreement among Sunni sources about acceptance of Islam by Abu Bakr. Some Sunni scholars consider Abu Bakr the fourth Muslim after Lady Khadija (a), Imam 'Ali (a), and Zayd b. Haritha. Therefore, some Sunni scholars have said that Abu Bakr was the first of the four who was a free man and became Muslim. Al-Tabari narrated from Muhammad b. Sa'd that Abu Bakr became Muslim after 50 others and Sayyid Ja'far al-Murtada al-'Amili regards this opinion as the researchers' opinion.

It seems the claim that he was the first who became Muslim has been made after the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), and apparently Mu'awiya ordered to create that and promote in all Islamic territories. Sayyid Ja'far al-Murtada rejects this claim supporting with many proofs. Abu Ja'far al-Iskafi al-Mu'tazili, also, said: "If Abu Bakr was the first Muslim, why he never stated that as one of his virtues, even on the Day of Saqifa, and none of his supporters from the companions claimed that?"

Presence in Mecca

In some Sunni books, it is stated that due to the social position of Abu Bakr among Quraysh, some people in Mecca became Muslim after him including 'Uthman b. 'Affan, Al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam, 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and Talha b. 'Ubayd Allah; however, some have questioned the validity of this report and that this group became Muslim following the invitation of Abu Bakr and believe that the age difference of some of them (Zubayr, Sa'd and Talha) with Abu Bakr was about 20 years and they could not be his associates. Moreover, from comparison of the reports of Ibn Sa'd, it can be inferred that 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf was among those who became Muslim together with 'Uthman b. Maz'un, not with Abu Bakr.

It can also be possible that their membership in 'Umar's Six-Member Council and some other considerations made later narrators take their acceptance of Islam following the guidance of Abu Bakr and prior to others.

With the beginning of the enmity of polytheists and annoying Muslims, Abu Bakr also received sufferings. Sunni sources have reported that he was injured by the polytheists. When such annoying escalated, he took permission from the Prophet (s) and left Mecca to Ethiopia, however, by the suggestion of Jiwar and support of Ibn al-Dughunna (an influential person from Quraysh), he returned to Mecca and when once again began preaching openly, annoying him also resumed.

Immigrating to Medina

Main article: Hijra

The most significant event in the life of Abu Bakr in Mecca was his company with the Prophet (s) during immigration to Medina and hiding in the Cave of Thawr. This event happened on the eve of Thursday, Rabi' I 1, 1 AH (14 years after beginning of the Prophet's (s) mission, September 13, 622 CE). The famous report is that when the Prophet (s) became aware about the plot of his assassination through revelation, went out of Mecca with Abu Bakr who was already prepared for immigration and went toward Yathrib through a detour until they arrived at the cave. No one was aware about immigration of the Prophet (s) except his family, Abu Bakr and his family. Immigration of the Prophet (s) began from the house of Abu Bakr who prepared the provisions for the journey.

Sunni people have considered a great importance for the company of Abu Bakr with the Prophet (s) in his immigration to Medina, especially the few day staying in the cave. They have considered the expressions "the second of two" (thani ithnayn), "Grieve not" (la tahzan) and "Then Allah caused His peace of reassurance to descend upon him" (fa anzal Allahu sakinatahu fi qalbihi) from verse 40 of the chapter Sura al-Tawba among the merits of Abu Bakr and have referred to "the second of two; when they two were in the cave," as a proof for his competence for the caliphate.

Shi'a exegetes and some Sunni scholars have explained about the address "Grieve not" that when Quraysh chased the Prophet's (s) track after they found out about his journey and arrived at the cave, they began speaking there and Abu Bakr was frightened. Al-Tabari clearly mentions the fear and distress of Abu Bakr. About the reference in "upon him" in "Then Allah caused His peace of reassurance to descend upon him", Sunnis believe that the references for pronouns before and after this verse such as "you help him", "helped him", "expelled him", "he said", "to his companion" and "strengthened him" are about the Prophet (s). Thus, it is impossible that without any reason or explicit evidence, pronoun in "upon him" refers to anyone else (i.e. Abu Bakr).

After immigration to Medina, Abu Bakr resided in Sunkh, a neighborhood around Medina. According to some sources, he was with the Prophet (s) everywhere in Medina and eight months later that the Prophet (s) established brotherhood contract among the Immigrants and the Helpers, he (s) called Abu Bakr and 'Umar brothers; however, in Rafi' al-Din Hamadani's Persian translation of Sira Ibn Ishaq, it is mentioned that "Abu Bakr…became brother with Kharija b. (Zayd b. Abi) Zuhayr who was among the Helpers."

In Medina, Abu Bakr visited the Prophet (s) every other day and according to some reports, he was with the Prophet (s) in all battles.

Presence in the Prophet's (s) Battles

Al-Waqidi has explicitly mentioned the presence of Abu Bakr in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Hamra' al-Asad, Bani al-Nadir, Badr al-Maw'id, Muraysi', Khandaq, Bani Qurayda, Bani Lihyan, Hudaybiyya, Khaybar, Conquest of Mecca, Hunayn, Ta'if, Tabuk and also Saraya of Najd and Dhat al-Salasil. But, according to Ibn Abi l-Hadid's quotation from his teacher Abu Ja'far al-Iskafi, "Abu Bakr neither threw an arrow, draw a sword nor spilt any blood."

In the Battle of Khaybar, the Prophet (s) sent both Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. al-Khattab for taking Khaybar castle, but neither of whom were successful. Then, the Prophet (s) said, "tomorrow, I will give the banner to a person who loves God and His messenger (s) and God and His messenger (s) love him and he will take Khaybar castle." Afterwards, he (s) called Imam 'Ali (a) and gave the banner to him and he (a) could take the castle.

Toward the end of the Prophet's (s) life, he (s) prepared an army to fight with Romans and while there were famous people such as Abu Bakr in the army, the Prophet (s) appointed Usama b. Zayd as the commander of the army.

Story of Delivering the Sura al-Bara'a to People

One of the controversial mission of Abu Bakr was leading hajj in 9/631 and delivering Sura al-Bara'a to people. According to Ibn Ishaq, after the Battle of Tabuk, the Prophet (s) sent Abu Bakr in Dhu l-Hijja 9 AH to Mecca as the leader of hajj. When he went out of Medina, Sura al-Bara'a was revealed to the Prophet (s) and saying that "only a man from my relatives delivers this message to people", he (s) sent 'Ali (a) riding his the Prophet's (s) camel to Mecca to deliver the message. There are different opinions among the exegetes and historians about the number of verses recited in hajj, their reciting place, time of their revelation (before moving of Abu Bakr or after it) and removing Abu Bakr from leading hajj and appointment of 'Ali (a) in his place.

Story of the Army of Usama

The last mission of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah and some others among the elders of the companions before the demise of the Prophet (s) was participating in the army of Usama heading Mu'ta of Syria. According to al-Waqidi and Ibn Sa'd, on Monday, four days before the end of month of Safar, after Hajjat al-Wida', and few days before his demise, the Prophet (s) ordered that they prepare for the battle with Romans. The next day, he (s) called Usama and appointed him as the commander of the army, but the movement of this army regardless of the prophet's (s) great emphasis did not take place. First, they delayed due to the objection of some of the companions about Usama's youth and then with the excuse of preparation of the provisions of the journey and then due to receiving the news of the aggravation of the illness of the Prophet (s) and Usama's return to Medina. Regardless of the explicit orders of the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr, 'Umar and some others returned to Medina from Jurf camp.

Story of the Congregational Prayer Towards the End of the Prophet's (s) Life

When the Prophet (s) was trying to send the army of Usama to Syria, his illness so aggravated that when Bilal called for the prayer, he (s) could not get up for prayer and attend the mosque, so he (s) decided to send someone instead of himself for the prayer. There are disagreements regarding the way of holding this prayer, its leader, the number of prayers held without the presence of the Prophet (s), and that if a complete prayer was ever held by Abu Bakr or not.

With all such differences in reports, it is said that Abu Bakr stood to lead the prayer instead of the Prophet (s). However, the reaction of the Prophet (s) about this prayer has been reported differently. There is a report from Aisha that when Abu Bakr was in the middle of this prayer, the Prophet (s) got better, got up and came to the mosque while he (s) leaned on two people and his feet were being dragged on the ground. As soon as Abu Bakr found that the Prophet (s) was there, stood aside, but the Prophet (s) pointed that he should stay where he was. Then the Prophet (s) came and sat on his left. So, the Prophet (s) prayed while sitting and Abu Bakr prayed normally. Abu Bakr followed the Prophet's (s) prayer and people followed Abu Bakr's.

Some Sunni scholars have so much highlighted the importance of the Abu Bakr's leading of prayer instead of the Prophet (s) that they used it as an important proof for superiority of Abu Bakr in leading the people, i.e. caliphate and said that the Prophet (s) followed Abu Bakr in this prayer. This opinion was unacceptable even for some great Sunni scholars and made Abu l-Faraj 'Abd al-Rahman b. al-Jawzi, the great Hanbali faqih and exegete of the Qur'an (511/1117-1118 – 597/1201) write a book called Afat ashab al-hadith to reject it.

Shi'a View

Shi'a scholars have questioned different aspects of the story of Abu Bakr's prayer in the days of the Prophet's (s) illness. They believe that although Aisha's reports are unanimous about this issue, but this report does not reach tawatur (frequency) and they cannot provide justification. On the other hand, there is a possibility that Aisha has made a use of this report for herself.

Also, as agreed by all historians and biographers, in those days, Abu Bakr had to be in Jurf camp and in the army of Usama by the order of the Prophet (s), not in Medina. Therefore, if he has held prayer for the people in Medina, it could not be by the order of the Prophet (s).

Several evidences support this,

  • A report, according to which, the Prophet (s) ordered to call Imam 'Ali (a) but it was not obeyed and instead Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Abbas were called.
  • The Prophet's (s) presence in the mosque with all his weakness and by the help of two people ('Ali (a) and Fadl b. 'Abbas) and praying himself.

However, according to Shi'a scholars, assuming that the authenticity of the reports about the prayer of Abu Bakr in the illness of the Prophet (s) is approved, this would not provide a reason for superiority of Abu Bakr for caliphate; because, for many times previously, the Prophet (s) had ordered other companions such as Abu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah, 'Amr b. 'As, Khalid b. Walid, Usama b. Zayd, 'Ali (a) and even Abu Bakr in another occasion to hold the prayer with people.

Event of Saqifa

Imams Caliphs
Imam 'Ali (a)
(b.3 BH/600 - d.40/661)
Duration of Imamate: 11/632 - 40/661
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam al-Hasan (a)
(b. 3/625 - d. 50/670)
Duration of Imamate: 40/661 - 50/670
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam al-Husayn (a)
(b. 4/626 - d. 61/680)
Duration of Imamate: 50/670 - 61/680
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Yazid b. Mu'awiya
Imam al-Sajjad (a)
(b. 38/658 – d. 94/713)
Duration of Imamate: b. 61/680 – 94/713
Imam 'Ali
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Baqir (a)
(b. 57/677 – d. 114/733)
Duration of Imamate: 94/713 - 114/733
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Sadiq (a)
(b. 83/704 – d. 148/765)
Duration of Imamate: 114/733 - 148/765
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Walid b. Yazid
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Ibrahim b. Walid
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Imam al-Kazim (a)
(b. 128/745 - d. 183/799)
Duration of Imamate: 148/765 - 183/799
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi
al-Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Imam al-Rida (a)
(b. 148/766 – d. 203/818)
Duration of Imamate: 183/799 - 203/818
Al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Mahdi al-'Abbasi
Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Jawad (a)
(b. 195/811 - d. 220/835)
Duration of Imamate: 203/818 - 220/835
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Hadi (a)
(b. 212/828 - d. 254/868)
Duration of Imamate: 220/835 - 254/868
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
al-Wathiq bi Allah
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
Imam al-'Askari (a)
(b. 232/846 - d. 260/874)
Duration of Imamate: 254/835 - 260/874
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Mahdi (a)
(b. 255/869 - alive)
Duration of Imamate: 260/874 - alive
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tadad al-'Abbasi
al-Muktafi al-'Abbasi
al-Muqtadir al-'Abbasi
al-Qahir al-'Abbasi
al-Radi al-'Abbasi
Main article: Event of Saqifa

On Monday Rabi' I 12 11 AH (June 10 632) and according to Shi'a hadith scholars, on Monday 28th of Safar of the same year (28th of May 632), the Prophet (s) passed away. The news of the Prophet's (s) demise soon spread in the small Medina of those days and while 'Ali (a), Fadl b. 'Abbas and some others were washing the body of the Prophet (s), some others almost instantly after receiving the news gathered to appoint the caliph after the Prophet (s).

The news about the Event in Saqifa and the dialogues between the Immigrants and the Helpers are famous. Sources clearly state that choosing Abu Bakr happened with a lot of arguments and disputes, so much that Habab b. Mundhir from the Helpers draw a sword against the Immigrants and Sa'd b. 'Ubada was about to be trampled underneath the crowd and got a hold of 'Umar's beard and was pulling. Finally, the tribe of Banu Aslam came to Medina and their allegiance with Abu Bakr eased the allegiance of people with him. It is narrated from 'Umar that allegiance with Abu Bakr was something unjustified and hurried that God saved people from its evil.

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid concisely has stated the summary of the reasons for their achievement as below:

  • That 'Ali (a) was busy with the rituals of the Prophet's (s) body;
  • Banu Hashim's distance from the Event of Saqifa due to the tragedy they had faced;
  • Disagreement among the Helpers.

Beginning of Caliphate

One day after the Event of Saqifa, Abu Bakr went to the mosque and after praising God said that he was not the best of people and asked people to help in good works and if he makes any mistake, they should guide him. He also said that he was not an inventor and in his caliphate, he would follow the Prophet's (s) method.

In the views of Sunni scholars and researchers, such sermons are signs of his politeness, humbleness and obedience from prophetic traditions and they have been regarded as valuable guidance for the way of ruling for the people in the future, but Shi'a scholars regard some of them as criticisms against Abu Bakr and a reason for his incompetence in caliphate and in this regard, they have discussed (the principle of imamate) based on their beliefs.

Although, the caliphate of Abu Bakr was confirmed in that gathering, but some of the Immigrants and the Helpers avoided allegiance with him; names of some of whom which are mentioned in different sources are:

From among the above-mentioned people, except Sa'd b. 'Ubada who himself claimed the caliphate and until the end of his life did not give allegiance to Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. al-Khattab, and Abu Sufyan and his supporters, others regarded 'Ali (a) rightful for caliphate referring to the reasons below and believed in the exact order and the Prophet's (s) appointment of the caliph:

  • 'Ali's (a) records in Islam
  • His brilliant services and his blood relationship with the Prophet (s)
  • The verses "Indeed Allah chose Adam and Noah, and the progeny of Abraham and the progeny of Imran above all the nations; some of them are descendants of the others…." (3:33-34) and that the Prophet (s) and his family are from descendants of Prophet Abraham (a) and possess the same virtues and merits and also referring to the verse "Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakāt while bowing down." (5:55) and other verses.
  • Frequent reports such as hadiths of Yawm al-Dar, Manzila and al-Ghadir on 'Ali's (a) right for caliphate.

Taking Allegiance of Imam 'Ali (a)

Reports on avoidance of Imam 'Ali (a) from giving allegiance and the manner and time of his allegiance with Abu Bakr are different and sometimes contradictory. These reports can be classified into two major classes:

  • Reports suggesting that some hours after people gave allegiance to Abu Bakr, 'Ali (a) willingly and without force gave allegiance to Abu Bakr.
  • Reports suggesting his avoidance from allegiance and exploiting force and aggression towards him, his family and his friends in order to take his allegiance and implicitly or explicitly mention his avoidance from allegiance.

Although in his sermon on the minbar of al-Masjid al-Nabawi, 'Umar b. al-Khattab admitted to 'Ali's (a) avoidance and joining of some of his companions, except few, Sunni historians do not want to mention or explain this issue. However, details of this event have been reported in different places. Since every report about that have been recorded separately and irrelevant to other reports and the order of events is not known, it is not clear that the request of allegiance from Imam 'Ali (a) and his followers has been made just after the gathering in Saqifa and coming to the mosque, after the allegiance of people or after burial of the Prophet (s).

According to Shi'a narrations and trustable Sunni reports, 'Ali (a) avoided giving allegiance to Abu Bakr for six months. Even according to some reports, none of Banu Hashim gave allegiance until 'Ali (a) gave allegiance and a group of his followers and supporters such as Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman, Khuzayma b. Thabit, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Salman, Abu Dhar, Khalid b. Sa'id and others gave allegiance with Abu Bakr after Imam 'Ali (a) or little before him and upon their allegiance, each of them expressed their beliefs about Imam 'Ali (a) and his caliphate.

It seems that what made 'Ali (a) to give allegiance to Abu Bakr was quick spreading of apostasy, revolt of tribes, and emergence of people who claimed to be prophet in the peninsula. Some sources, also mentioned this possibility that the atmosphere of pressure and life threats were not without influence in giving allegiance.

Event of Fadak

Main articles: Fadak and Sermon of Fadakiyya

One of the actions of Abu Bakr in the early days of his caliphate was aggressive confiscation of Fadak. Some Sunni sources have pointed to the confiscation of Fadak, objection of Lady Fatima (a) and claiming her right, Abu Bakr's answer and the anger of Lady Faitma (a) towards him and some sources have mentioned more detailed reports about it.

Having based their arguments on Sunni sources, Shi'a researchers have shown that since the time Fadak was confiscated by the order of Abu Bakr, many times before her short life, Lady Fatima (a) argued against him for her rights before the eyes of the people of Medina. Manner and also treatment of the agents of Abu Bakr upon attacking the house of Imam 'Ali (a) for taking his allegiance made Fatima (a) so angry of him that she never again talked to Abu Bakr and forbade Aisha and Abu Bakr's attendance upon her body for funeral.

It is said that once after hearing Fatima's (a) reasons while she was crying, Abu Bakr wrote a document of her ownership of Fadak, but when 'Umar found out about it, objected to Abu Bakr and torn the document.

Some Sunni scholars considered confiscation of Fadak an instance of judgment and within the competence of the caliph; but, Shi'a, with regards to the fact that the confiscation has only happened during the rule of Abu Bakr and in sources, there are reports about his abundant giving from the national treasury to people in order to reinforce his caliphate, they seriously criticized this action of Abu Bakr and offending Fatima (a) which according to the Prophet (s) was equal to offending God and His messenger (s) and regarded it a great sin of Abu Bakr and among criticisms leveled against him.

Sending the Army of Usama

The first or second official and governmental action of Abu Bakr after confiscating Fadak was equipping the army of Usama. Despite the chaos in Arab peninsula (apostasy of some tribes, emergence of false prophets, revolts of Jews and Christians and other possible uprisings) and opposite to the opinions of his two consultants 'Umar and Abu 'Ubayda who deemed sending of the army of Usama in such a critical situation unwise, Abu Bakr thought of it as necessary apparently to follow the orders of the Prophet (s).

Ridda Wars

Main article: Ridda Wars

Before the news of the Prophet's (s) demise reached the whole peninsula, different reactions were seen in many parts of it. Some sources suggest that many of those whom Abu Bakr fought with in the name of apostasy, performed daily prayers, i.e. they believed in the Unity of God and the prophethood. Apparently, they did not acknowledge Abu Bakr's caliphate or they refrained from paying Zakat to him.

According to Ibn Kathir, except Ibn Maja, all people of hadith have reported that 'Umar objected to Abu Bakr why he fought people who had attested to the unity of God and the mission of the Muhammad (s) against the tradition of the Prophet (s), but Abu Bakr answered that he would fight with one who makes difference between the prayer and paying Zakat.

Al-Tabari also has reported that a group of Arabs came to Medina who acknowledged prayer, but they refrained from paying Zakat and were among those who objected to the caliphate of Abu Bakr and refrained from paying Zakat to him.

Some scholars believe that in those days, people of the Arab peninsula except steadfast Muslims were three groups:

  1. A group who had completely turned away from Islam
  2. A group who just refrained from paying Zakat but accepted daily prayer
  3. A majority were waiting

Some regarded some of these battles and also Abu Bakr's approval of Khalid b. Walid in killing Malik b. Nuwayra against the Book and the tradition of the Prophet (s) and a criticism leveled against Abu Bakr. Opinions of some elders of the Companions and Sunni people such as Abu Qatada al-Ansari, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar and even 'Umar himself about the murder of Malik b. Nuwayra was the same as Shi'a.

As Abu Bakr had ordered the commanders of armies, despite his moderate appearance, he himself was also very serious in suppressing the rebels and punishing them.

This way, Abu Bakr began suppressing dissidents of his caliphate and enemies of Islam and by the helps of Muslims, he could soon, almost two month and half (since Jumada I or Jumada II 11 AH until the end of the same year) suppress revolts in nearer regions and suppress more distant regions and the trouble of false prophets Aswad 'Anasi, Tulayha b. Khuwaylid, Sajah and Musaylama until the half of the next year and in just one year made the whole Arab peninsula under the banner of Islam, the way it was back at the time of the Prophet (s).

Victories Outside Arab Peninsula

Attacking Iran

Main article: Conquest of Iran

In those days, due to chaos inside Iran and the quick replacement of kings in Tisfun, Sassanid Empire was weakened and was declining.

According to a report from al-Baladhuri, Abu Bakr first appointed Muthanna b. Haritha as commander but then ordered Khalid b. Walid who had just finished the battle with Musaylama in Yamama to go to Iraq and wrote to Muthanna to join Khalid and follow his orders.

These battles led to quick victory over Sassanid commanders such as Hurmuzd (in the battle of Salasil), Qubad, Qaran, Nushjan or Anushjan, Hizar sawar, Bahman Jaduya and Jaban, and to killing and capturing of many Iranians and Arabs depending on them in places such as Kazima, Madhar, Thanna, Walaja, Ulis, Ameghishiya and Hira.

Attacking Syria

Main article: Conquest of Syria

According to the report of Ibn Ishaq, after returning from hajj in 12 AH/633, Abu Bakr began collecting soldiers and equipping them to send to Syria. Following the announcement for beginning of the war, many volunteers joined the army and during Muharram of 13 AH/634, soldiers settled in two camps in Jurf. On the other hand, Heraclius, emperor of Byzantine went to Hums and quickly gathered a great army (about 200 thousand soldiers) from Romans, people of Syria, Algeria and Armenia and sent them to fight Muslims. The two armies faced in Yarmouk.

After three months of encounter (Safar, Rabi' I, and Rabi' II of 13/ April, May, and June 634 CE) and some unimportant clashes, Muslims asked Abu Bakr for help and he ordered Khalid b. Walid to go to Syria from Iraq. Khalid put Muthanna b. Haritha in his place and went to Syria in Rabi' II of 13 AH/June 634 and finally arrived in Yarmouk in Jumada I/July 634.

During the war, a messenger came to him from Medina delivering a letter from 'Umar giving the news about the death of Abu Bakr, caliphate of 'Umar, dismissal of Khalid from the command of the army and appointment of Abu 'Ubayda's command for leading the battles of Syria; however, he hid the news until the victory of Muslims.

Compiling the Qur'an

After the demise of the Prophet (s) and events such as the Event of Yamama (11 AH/632-633) and the massacre of many of the companions and reciters of the Qur'an, Muslims felt the need to compile the Qur'an more than ever. Knowing the exact steps made in this regards through different reports is very difficult, so that even the role of Abu Bakr cannot be found with confidence.

According to a report from al-Bukhari through Zayd b. Thabit, after the massacre of Yamama, following an advice of 'Umar, Abu Bakr called Zayd and ordered him to compile the Qur'an and Zayd after a while reflecting on this task, began to work on it and collected suras and verses from everywhere. According to this report, this compilation was with Abu Bakr until he died. Then, it was with 'Umar and then with his daughter Hafsa.

Manner of Ruling

In the short period of his caliphate most of which was spent in war, Abu Bakr did not establish any program or important foundation. Along with reinforcing his caliphate, he tried to show that he was following the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet (s) in ruling. Some of his actions such as sending the army of Usama despite the objection of other companions supports this idea. However, whenever ruling required, he would solve issues with his personal judgment.

According to Ibn Sa'd and Ibn al-Athir, before transferring his treasury to Medina, it was in Sanh and he had appointed guards on it, because whatever reached there, he shared among Muslims and did not remain anything. After transferring treasury to Medina, he put it in his house. Ibn Sa'd says that after the death of Abu Bakr, 'Umar opened the treasury in the presence of the elders and there he found nothing but a Dinar left from a money bag.


Two years and some months of Abu Bakr's caliphate was spent at war and while the war with Iran and Syria was not finished, he died. Therefore, most of his agents except few were commanders. In sources, his agents have been introduced as below:

Whenever Abu Bakr was not in Medina, he would leave leading the prayer to 'Umar and appoint someone such as 'Uthman or Usama in his place in Medina. Al-Ya'qubi has listed fiqh scholars of the time of Abu Bakr as following:

Appointing a Successor

Like other reports of that time, reports about choosing and appointment of 'Umar for successorship are different. Although in most of such reports, there is a mention of Abu Bakr's consultation with some of the companions such as 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf and Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and others and also his wife and daughter Aisha and his sons. If all these reports are taken into account, it can clearly be inferred that Abu Bakr was determined about appointment of 'Umar for the caliphate, because he rejected all objections of his counselors about 'Umar. There are other evidences available showing that Abu Bakr had decided it since the beginning, including the following:

  • The Event of Saqifa and his suggestion for the caliphate of 'Umar
  • Leaving the leadership of prayer and judgment to 'Umar which were in his view, among the most important reasons of his superiority over others and a requirement of the leadership of the society
  • Asking Usama for permission on staying of 'Umar in Medina as the assistant of the caliph

Appearance, Character, and Lifestyle

Abu Bakr was tall, slim, white faced with projected forehead, hollow eyes, sunken cheeks and scraggly beard which he dyed with henna and sometimes looked red.

He was described as lenient and friendly and according to what is mentioned in some historical sources, he was soft-hearted and tender-minded.

It is said that except for a few cases, he was not seen to show an aggressive manner and his forbearance towards apostates was the cause of bringing calmness to the Arab peninsula.

Opposite to this view, with regards to some Sunni sources, Lammens had a fully different view about Abu Bakr and believed that he was powerful, serious and aggressive or angry and would sometimes push back even an obstinate person like 'Umar.

Referring to a report from al-Baladhuri, he believes that the Prophet (s) had the same opinion about Abu Bakr and had called Aisha in aggression "true daughter of her father". Lammens believed that Abu Bakr not only due to higher age, but also due to a calmer, milder, more insightful and more tolerant appearance was superior to 'Umar and on the day of Saqifa led him like a student; and also, in the story of suppressing apostate rebels, having a determined decision despite the opinion of the elders of the companions, he did not fear about the invasion of rebels to Medina.

According to Lammens, an image of the personality of the first successor of the Prophet (s) which has been described in Islamic reports has been made out of different factors and that different religious, political, relationship and tribal means have been used to spread it widely and quickly.

This image does not show the true personality of Abu Bakr and since regarding ideological principles, the caliph needs to be the best and most perfect Muslim, the powerful school of Medina and influential writers from Zubayrid family (relatives of Abu Bakr) draw such an image of him and finally succeeded to accompany the name of Abu Bakr with "virtues" and "merits".

In Sunni sources, including books of history and biography, chapters and sections have been dedicated to Abu Bakr's virtues and merits and to do so, they refer to some verses of the Qur'an which they think were revealed about Abu Bakr and hadiths they believe the Prophet (s) said about his merits.

'Allama Amini dedicated most of the seventh volume of al-Ghadir to review of the hadiths about Abu Bakr's merits.

Some reports suggest that Abu Bakr knew about interpretation of dreams and also interpreted the Prophet's (s) dream.

In a report, al-Waqidi has also pointed to Abu Bakr's knowledge of poetry.

Ibn al-Athir has mentioned some of the companions such as 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali (a), 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Ibn Mas'ud, etc. among the narrators from Abu Bakr.

However, although he was among the few people who associated with the Prophet (s), only 142 narrations from the Prophet (s) have been quoted from him.

According to some historical reports, when Abu Bakr was in Sanh, he lived with his wife Habiba, daughter of Kharija in a room made of dead branches of date palm and until six or seven months after allegiance when he went to Medina, he did not add anything to it. During the day, he went to Medina sometimes on foot and sometimes riding a horse and returned to his family after 'Isha prayer. In Sanh, he milked for his neighbors and took the sheep for pasturing and continued to do so long after the allegiance.

From the same reports, it can be found that for a while after caliphate, he went to the market in the morning putting on some clothes on his shoulder. This continued until Abu 'Ubayda, the responsible for treasury determined a salary for him. There is a disagreement regarding the amount of his salary. It is said that for him an amount of salary similar to that of one of the Immigrants was determined, equal to half or according to a report, a part of a sheep for daily food as well as summer and winter clothes. Also, there is a mention of 2500 to 6000 Dirham in a year.


According to some historical reports, Abu Bakr performed a ritual bath (Ghusl) on Monday, Jumada II 7 of 13 AH/August 11 of 634 which was a cold day and then had a fever and went to bed and could not lead the prayer. During this illness which lasted 15 days, 'Umar led the prayer instead of him and people went to visit him in his house until the eve of Tuersday 22nd/26th of the same month, he died at the age of 62 after being caliph for 2 years, 3 months and 22 days. According to the will of Abu Bakr, his wife Asma' washed his body and the same night, 'Umar prayed at his body at the al-Masjid al-Nabawi and according to his will to Aisha, he was buried beside the grave of the Prophet (s) with the help of 'Uthman, Talha and others.

Words Before Death

In the bed of illness, some words have been quoted from him as his will, some of which are about the successorship of 'Umar and objections people made to him and some others are about personal affairs, what would be left of him and clearing his account with the treasury. Beside these words, there is a word which is distinguished from them with little disagreement about it regarding the wording and the meaning in sources which has a special value with regards to knowing him towards the end of his life and explanation of some events in the Islamic history.

'Abd al-Rahman had told Abu Bakr, "…you have always been righteous and a reformer, [so] do not be upset for anything in this world." And Abu Bakr had answered,

"Yes, I do not be upset for anything in this world, except three things I have done and I wish I hd not done them and three things I have not done and I wish I had done them and three things I wish I had asked the Prophet (s). But what I wish I had not done, first is that I wish I had not opened the house of Fatima (a) even if they closed it to me for war, second is that I wish I did not burn Fuja'a Sullami and instead I either killed or released him. The third is that I wished on the Day of Saqifa, I left caliphate on either of these two men 'Umar or Abu 'Ubayda that one of them would become the caliph and I would become his minister;… I wish I asked the Prophet (s) that who is right for caliphate so that no one would rise up for it and I wish I asked him if daughter of brother and father's sister receive a share of inheritance because I am not sure about it."

In His Own Words

It is reported that Abu Bakr said, "I took your responsibility [for ruling], while I am not the best of you. If I am doing right, help me and if I do wrong, stop me, because I have a devil who always deceives me."

This narration has been mentioned in many Sunni sources with similar message including:

After narrating this hadith, Ibn Kathir has regarded it an authentic hadith.