Muhammad b. Abi Bakr

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Companion of Imam (a)
Muhammad b. Abi Bakr
Muhammad b. Abi Bakr's tomb.jpg
Mausoleum of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr in Egypt
Full Name Muhammad b. Abi Bakr b. Abi Quhafa
Companion of Imam Ali (a)
Lineage Quraysh
Wellknown Relatives Abu Bakr, Asma' bt. 'Umays, 'A'isha
Birth 10/632
Place of Birth Medina
Place(s) of Residence Medina, Egypt
Death/Martyrdom 38/658
Cause of
Death/Martyrdom
He was killed by Mu'awiyya b. Hudayj
Burial Place Fustat, Egypt
Activities Participating in the Battle of Jamal and Battle of Siffin, ruler of Egypt

Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr b. Abī Quḥāfa (Arabic: محمد بن أبي بکر بن أبي قحافه) (Dhu l-Qa'da 10/February 632–Safar 38/July 658) was one of the closest companions of Imam Ali (a), appointed by him as the governor of Egypt.

He was the son of the first caliph and Asma' bt. 'Umays, but after the demise of Abu Bakr, his mother married Imam Ali (a) and thus Muhammad was raised in the Imam's (a) home. The Imam (a) loved him and regarded him as his own son. The place that he had in the Imam's (a) heart is sometimes compared to that of Abu Dhar in the heart of the Prophet (s).

He was one of the prominent critics of the conduct of 'Uthman, the third caliph. During the caliphate of Imam Ali (a), he was one of the Shurtat al-Khamis and the commander of a section of the Imam's (a) army in the battles of Jamal and Siffin. He is praised in historical and hadith sources. He was martyred when that Syrian army invaded Egypt.

Birth, Genealogy, and Teknonym

Muhammad b. Abi Bakr was born in Dhu l-Qa'da, 10 AH (February 632) in a place called Dhu l-Hulayfa (18 km from Medina on the way to Mecca), when the Prophet (s) was on his way to Mecca for his last Hajj.

His father, Abu Bakr, was the first caliph after the Prophet (s). He passed away when Muhammad was only two years and several months old. His mother, Asma' bt. 'Umays, was one of the prominent women of early Islam. She was first married to Ja'far b. Abi Talib, and after the martyrdom of Ja'far, she married Abu Bakr.

Growing Up in Imam Ali's (a) Home

After the death of Abu Bakr, Asma' Married Imam 'Ali (a) and thus Muhammad came to live and be raised by the Imam (a). Muhammad was closely acquainted with the Imam's (a) lifestyle and character, which made him love the Imam (a) abundantly. The Imam (a) also loved Muhammad and would call him "My son". In Nahj al-balagha, it is reported that the Imam (a) said, "He was my friend, and I raised him like my own child."

Personality and Beliefs

Most sources of early Islamic history acknowledge Muhammad's honesty, righteousness, and nobility. According to a hadith, "Although he [i.e., Muhammad] was not of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), he was a noble person like them; he was the blest and purest person among his own family." Imam Ali (a) is reported to have said, "May Allah forgive Muhammad! He strived as much as he could and fulfilled his duty." Muhammad always wanted good for people. He would accept criticisms and would ask people to inform him of any wrong conduct they may notice from him.

The place that he had in the Imam's (a) heart is comparable to that of Abu Dhar in the heart of the Prophet (s). He is one of the close disciples of Imam Ali (a).

With regard to the first three caliphs, he believed that they violated Imam Ali (s) right to caliphate. He believed that 'Uthman had turned away from God's laws and the sunna of the Prophet (s). He regarded Imam Ali (a) as the first person who believed in the Prophet (s) and supported him throughout his life. He believed that fighting against Mu'awiya was a battle for the sake of God that promoted His religion.

During 'Uthman's Caliphate

The presence of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr in the political and military activities started in the caliphate of 'Uthman. Although some western historians have regarded him as one of those who plotted the murder of 'Umar, this viewpoint does not seem to be right, especially considering that he was only thirteen years old at that time, in addition to the fact that there is no mention of this in the sources of early Islamic history.

Opposition to the Conduct of 'Uthman

After reaching adulthood, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr participated in the battles against non-Muslims during the caliphate of 'Uthman. Muhammad's opposition to the latter began in one of these battles, known as the Suwara Battle, in which 'Uthman made Abd Allah b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh the commander of his naval forces, whereas the Prophet (s) had excommunicated this person and banished him from Hijaz and the Quran had affirmed his unbelief. Muhammad criticized this decision of 'Uthman and his leaving aside the true companions of the Prophet (s).

Moreover, toward the end of 'Uthman's caliphate, Muhammad would criticize him harshly for a number of reasons, such as not observing justice with regard to the Companions— 'Uthman had given his relatives such as Marwan b. al-Hakam, important positions but had neglected the Prophet's prominent companions—ignoring the sunna of the Prophet (s) and the first two caliphs, and indifference towards his governors' unlawful conducts in different parts of Islamic territories.

Participation in the Murder of 'Uthman

Muhammad b. Abi Bakr participated in the 40-day besiege of 'Uthman's home (form Dhu l-Qa'da 7th until Dhu l-Hijja 18th, 35 AH/May 10th, 656 until June 20th, 656) and insisted on his opposition to 'Uthman. As to the role of Muhammad in murdering 'Uthman, different viewpoints have been expressed by the historians:

  • Together with some other people, he went in and hit 'Uthman first. Then Sawran b. Humran and 'Amr b. Hamiq hit and killed him
  • Muhammad went in together with thirteen other people and after rebuking 'Uthman, ordered one of those people to murder 'Uthman
  • Although Muhammad had a role in instigating people to revolt against 'Uthman and had an active participation in besieging his home, he did not murder 'Uthman. Rather, 'Uthman was murdered by other people after Muhammad left him.

Historical evidence supports the third viewpoint.

During the Caliphate of Imam Ali (a)

Muhammad was one of the shurtat al-khamis during the caliphate of Imam Ali (a).

In the Battle of Jamal

Main article: Battle of Jamal

Muhammad believed that Nakithun used revenging for 'Uthman as an excuse to pursue their political agendas. He would say about them, "By God, no ones are the murderers of 'Uthman except them."

As the battle was about to start, the Imam (a) appointed Muhammad as the commander of the infantry. During the battle, Muhammad showed great bravery; he killed Thawr b. 'Adi, one of the commanders of the army of Jamal. When the battle was over, he treated the defeated army with kindness. By the Imam's command, he respectfully took his sister, Aisha, in the company of forty Basran women to Mecca and from there to Medina.

In the Battle of Siffin

Main article: Battle of Siffin

Although Muhammad had been appointed by Imam 'Ali (a) as the governor of Egypt prior to the Battle of Siffin, evidence shows that Muhammad participated in this battle against Mu'awiya. In a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), it is reported that in the Battle of Siffin, five men from Quraysh accompanied the Imam (a), and one of them was Muhammad b. Abi Bakr. According to some reports, Muhammad was appointed by the Imam (a) as the commander of the infantry or of the left side of his army.

As the Governor of Egypt

In Ramadan 1, 36/February 24, 657, Imam Ali (a) appointed Muhammad as the governor of Egypt. Most sources maintain that Muhammad was sent to Egypt before Malik al-Ashtar.

Challenges in Egypt

The first problem Muhammad b. Abi Bakr faced in Egypt was the problem of "Deserters"; that is, those who gathered in Khirbita (a place in Egypt) after the murder of 'Uthman to condemn his murder, refusing to pay allegiance to Imam Ali (a).

By the command of Imam Ali (a), one month after Muhammad arrived in Egypt, he wrote a letter to Deserters and ordered them to accept his rule or go out of Egypt. The Deserters did not accept that and responded: "Do not rush in fighting with us." Muhammad tolerated them for some time until the Battle of Siffin finished. At the beginning, the Deserters were also afraid of getting into conflict with Muhammad, but later when the situation became increasingly unstable, they rebelled. A number of wars occurred between them and Muhammad's army. Apparently, the latter came to the conclusion that he couldn't defeat them, so he signed a peace treaty with them which made them stay away from Fustat, the capital of Muhammad's rule. Later, the deserters emigrated to the lands under Mu'awiya's rule and joined him. However, the situation got more complicated and Muhammad was unable to keep everything under his control, so Imam 'Ali (a) decided to replace Muhammad with someone more powerful and experienced—that is, Malik al-Ashtar.

Syrian Army's Invasion of Egypt

When the Battle of Siffin ended, Mu'awiya decided to invade Egypt. He wrote a letter to the chiefs of the Deserters and invited them to join him, and so more than ten thousand men from the Deserters joined the army of Mu'awiya, whose commander was 'Amr b. al-'As. In an unequal battle between the Syrian army and the army of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, which consisted of only two thousand soldiers, the latter was defeated in al-Musannah.

Martyrdom and Burial Site

Grave stone of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr in Egypt

There are different viewpoints as to how Muhammad b. Abi Bakr was martyred. Most sources maintain that when his army was defeated by the Syrian army, his companions left him and fled. Muhammad alone sought refuge in a ruined place, where he was found and killed by Mu'awiya b. Hudayj, one of the chiefs of the Deserters, and his body was burned by him. Some have said that he was killed by Mu'awiya b. Hudayj during the battle. It is also said that 'Amr b. al-'As captivated and killed him.

The date of his martyrdom is reported to have been Safar, 38/July 658.

When the news of his martyrdom reached Imam 'Ali (a), the Imam wept and said, "He was a righteous servant for Allah and a righteous son for us."

It is also reported that after Muhammad's martyrdom, his sister Aisha would constantly curse Mu'awiya, 'Amr b. al-'As, and Mu'awiya b. Hudayj.

Muhammad's mother, Asma', is also reported to have dies as a result of grieving for his son.

Regarding the burial place of Muhammad, it is reported that he was buried outside Fustat in a mosque called Zimam, but some believe that only his head was buried there.

Wife and Children

According to the majority opinion, a daughter of Yazdgerd (the last Sasanian king) was Muhammad's wife, another daughter being married to Imam al-Husayn (a).

One of the children of Muhammad was Qasim (d. 92/710-11 or 108/726-27), a jurist and scholar of Medina, who was one of the close companions of Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Imam al-Baqir (a). Qasim had a daughter called Umm Farwa, who married Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) and became the mother of Imam al-Sadiq (a).

Correspondence with Imam Ali (a)

During Muhammad's rule on Egypt, several letters were exchanged between him and the Imam (a). Two of these letters are recorded in Nahj al-balagha and the rest in historical and jurisprudential sources. These letters encompass different topics, including law, ethics, and politics.

When 'Amr b. al-'As invaded Egypt, he send this and other letters of Muhammad to Mu'awiya in Damascus. Mu'awiya preserved these letters in the Umayyad treasury. 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, the 8th Umayyad caliph, disclosed these letters at his time.

References