Abu Bakr. One of the first to join Islam; the best friend of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the father of one of the mothers of the Believers. When you delve deeper into the story of this incredible man’s life you begin to see why he was so loved by our Prophet ﷺ and how a man like him could raise daughters like Aisha and Asmaa (ra). How such a believer would go on to become the first of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, and play a pivotal role in holding the Ummah together and ensuring Islam’s continued growth in the difficult times following the Prophet’s ﷺ death.
Born Abdullah Ibn Uthman, Abu Bakr was given many names during his life. His most famous moniker ‘As-Siddiq’, comes from the root word sidq meaning truthful, and is meant to covey a sense of constancy i.e. a person who is constantly truthful or constantly believes in the truthfulness of something or someone. It was given to him by the Prophet ﷺ himself after the journey to the heavens, the Israa’ wal Mi’raaj.
When many struggled to believe that the Prophet ﷺ could have completed such a journey, Abu Bakr never wavered in his belief of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ truthfulness. Not once did he ever doubt anything the Prophet ﷺ said or did after accepting his prophethood.
Rasulullah ﷺ highlighted Abu Bakr’s belief as an example to the rest of his companions:
“Verily, when Allah sent me to you, you said, “You are lying”. Meanwhile, Abu Bakr said, “He has spoken the truth”. He then consoled me by sacrificing himself and his wealth [for the cause of Islam]. So will you not then leave my Companion alone for me [and abstain from bothering or harming him]?” he implored twice.
His life was one so full of goodness it is impossible to condense it into a single article, so here we will focus on two: one during the beginning of Prophethood and one after the Prophet’s ﷺ death.
An open declaration of faith
During the early days of Islam, when the Muslims were few, Abu Bakr (ra) stood and delivered a sermon inviting the Quraysh to Islam. Enraged by this, the non-believers began attacking them; Abu Bakr in particular was badly injured by Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah who repeatedly and viciously struck his face to the point that you could not distinguish the back of his head from his face. Had it not been for his fellow clansmen from Banu Taeem who eventually protected him, he could have died.
However, even in this state he was completely unconcerned about his own condition, and as soon as he regained consciousness of his surroundings, asked about the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He eventually learned that the Prophet ﷺ was in the House of Al-Arqam, when Abu Bakr vowed not to eat or drink until he made sure Rasulullah ﷺ was well.
When things had finally calmed down in the streets outside, his mother took him to see the Prophet ﷺ where Abu Bakr’s first words were,
“May my mother and father be held ransom for you, O Messenger of Allah. The only hurt I feel is a result of the blows from Al-Fasiq (the evildoer Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah) to my face. And here (with me) is my mother, who is faithful to her son. And you are blessed, so invite her to Allah, and supplicate to Allah for her, for perhaps, through you, Allah will save her from the Hellfire.” The Messenger of Allah supplicated for her and invited her to Allah and she responded by embracing Islam.
During the first three years of revelation, Rasulullah ﷺ spent most of his time educating the early Muslims; strengthening their aqeedah – their understanding that Allah ﷻ is one and that the only nobility and status to be gained is from Islam, trumping any previous ties of blood or clans. Cultivating their understanding that the reward of the hereafter is greater than any material riches in this world and the punishment of the hellfire worse than any physical tortures on this Earth.
This understanding is clearly illustrated here. It shows in the fearlessness with which Abu Bakr (ra) delivered the sermon, and how he was more concerned about the Prophet ﷺ than his own well-being.
Critics may read the account above and deem it foolish on Abu Bakr’s part to have even tried to invite the Quraysh to Islam when they were so outnumbered and knowing what their likely reaction would’ve been. Fear of reprisals should not stop us from speaking the truth. Whilst we should not act without wisdom – Allah ﷻ tells us to invite to Islam with the best of speech – we should not keep silent for fear of how we will be perceived because of what we say. If the action performed is from the Quran and Sunnah and done solely for the sake of Allah ﷻ, there will always be benefit, worldly and spiritually.
Abu Bakr may have been humiliated by the Quraysh but how many degrees was he raised in the sight of Allah ﷻ? The Quraysh may not have all taken up Islam that day but how many seeds were planted? How many Muslims did he inspire, and continues to inspire, with that act of courage?
Strength in the face of calamity
The death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the greatest calamity to fall on mankind. His death shattered his companions, despite their faith, with weaker Muslims renouncing Islam altogether, and even the great Umar ibn Al-Khattab, declaring that he would kill anyone who dared tell him the Prophet ﷺ was dead.
On this day, despite the absence of the man who had guided him in all aspects of Islam, who he loved more than his own mother and father, Abu Bakr had the strength and clarity of thought to deliver the following speech:
“Whoever used to worship Muhammad (SAW) then indeed Muhammad has died. And whosoever worships Allah, then Allah is alive and does not die.
“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 disbeliever). And he who turns back on his heels, not the leats harm will he do to Allah, and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful. [Qur’an 3:144]”
Aisha (ra) said, “By Allah it was as if people didn’t know that Allah revealed this verse until Abu Bakr recited it.” In a time when the Muslims needed such a reminder more than ever, Abu Bakr stepped up to the challenge.
He served as leader of the Muslims, the khalifah, for two years, during which he countered the masses of Arabs apostatising following the Prophet’s ﷺ death, sent out military expeditions to continue the spread of Islam and oversaw the affairs of the expansive Islamic state, including distribution of wealth and teaching of Islam. It was no small task.
Yet he remained unfalteringly humble, in one sermon stating:
“By Allah, not on any day of my life did I aspire to become a ruler. I never desired any such position, and I never invoked Allah, openly or secretly, to make me a leader. I accepted your appointment only because I feared the onset of strife and discord [had you continued to disagree with one another over who should be appointed to the Caliphate]. As a leader, I cannot have peace or comfort, for I have been charged with a tremendous duty, which I will never be able to fulfil unless Allah, the Possessor of Might and Majesty strengthens me, And I would love it if the strongest of people (Umar or Abu Ubaidah) were able to take my place.”
Abu Bakr’s words and actions in those difficult times were pivotal. It demonstrates clearly how important it is for the Mulsims to have a leader. To spread the message of Islam and to protect it from threats both internal and external. It shows the great responsibility held by the leader of the Muslim Ummah and the immense accountability to Allah ﷻ involved.
How many Muslim leaders today would survive that accounting – or even bear it in mind? It highlights how important have a leader of the Ummah is not only then, but in today’s world, when the threats against the Ummah are both physical and intellectual. Where int the West, our aqeedah is challenged from childhood, such that belief in Islam is now on par with belief in Santa Claus. Where women are either banned from wearing the hijab, or encouraged to wear hijab as a promotion of freedom of belief, instead of belief in Allah ﷻ. Where thought and introspection should only go so far as our own personal needs and wants, and to think otherwise is deemed “radical”.
Abu Bakr (ra) is an inspiration in ways I have not even scratched the surface of. Here we discussed two particular times, when the Muslims were facing periods of change and potential crises, in which he bravely played a part and made a difference in, both by words and action.
The Muslim world is currently in such a crisis. We are watching history flash across our smartphone screens and scrolling past events we will be one day be asked about. If we cannot physically change things, then let us follow the example of Abu Bakr, and use our words to make a difference. To raise awareness of the plight of those who are oppressed, to strengthen the Islam of those who’ve lived without it for so long. And do not measure the impact of those words by how many likes or accolades it gets on social media. Do it solely for Allah ﷻ, for the love of Islam and the Ummah and God-willing, may your rewards multiply.