Sahabah Profile: Lessons from the life of Abu Bakr

Aishah A.

Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him: one of the first to accept Islam, the best friend of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and 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 the Prophet ﷺ and how a man like him could raise daughters like Aisha and Asmaa (ra). It is no surprise that such a believer would go on to become the first of the Rightly Guided Caliphs and play a pivotal role in ensuring Islam’s continued growth by holding the ummah together 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. It is meant to convey 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 his journey to the heavens, al 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 conviction in the Prophet’s ﷺ truthfulness. Not once did he doubt anything the Prophet ﷺ said or did after accepting his prophethood.

Rasulullah ﷺ highlighted Abu Bakr’s sidq 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]?

Abu Bakr’s life was so full of instructive examples that it would impossible to condense them into a single article, so we will instead focus on two events: one during the beginning of the era 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, Rasulullah ﷺ stood and delivered a sermon inviting the Quraysh to Islam. Enraged by this, the non-believers began attacking him and Abu Bakr who came to his defense. Abu Bakr in particular was badly injured by Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah, who repeatedly and viciously struck his face to the point that one could scarcely distinguish his facial features. Had it not been for his fellow clansmen from Banu Taeem who came to him aid, he could have died.

However, even in such a state he was completely unconcerned about his own condition; as soon as he regained consciousness of his surroundings, he asked after the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He eventually learned that the Prophet ﷺ was in the House of Al-Arqam, and 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. When Abu Bakr saw him, his 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.[1]

During the first three years of revelation, Rasulullah ﷺ spent most of his time educating the early Muslims by strengthening their aqidah — 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. The early companions understood 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 is reflected in the fearlessness with which Abu Bakr defended the Rasulullah ﷺ, 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. If the action performed is from the Qur’an and Sunnah and done solely for the sake of Allah ﷻ, there will always be benefit, both 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 accepted Islam that day, but how many seeds were planted? How many Muslims did he inspire, and how many continue to be inspired, with that act of courage?

Strength in the face of calamity

The death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the greatest calamity to befall humanity. His death devastated his companions. Even the great Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, was initially in denial and declared 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 and who he loved more than his own mother and father, Abu Bakr gathered the strength and clarity of thought to deliver the following speech:

Whoever used to worship Muhammad, 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 a disbeliever)? 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.’ [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.

Abu Bakr served as leader of the Muslims for two years, during which he countered the masses of Arabs apostatising following the Prophet’s ﷺ death. He sent out military expeditions to continue the spread of Islam and oversaw the affairs of the expansive Islamic state, including the distribution of wealth and teaching of Islam.

Even whilst granted such immense responsibility, he remained unfalteringly humble. He stated in one sermon:

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. [2]

Abu Bakr’s words and actions in those difficult times serve as a crucial example, and demonstrate how important it is for the Muslims to have a leader who can spread the message of Islam and protect it from threats, both internal and external. Abu Bakr’s example 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? So few are willing or capable in an time when our aqidah is challenged from childhood, such that belief in Islam is now on par with belief in Santa Claus. Particularly in the West, where women are either banned from wearing the hijab or encouraged to wear hijab as a promotion of freedom instead of belief in Allah ﷻ, where thought and introspection should only go so far as our own personal needs and wants, and where to think otherwise is deemed “radical” — here we can truly appreciate the need for a leader to guide us.

Abu Bakr (ra) is an inspiration in ways I have not even scratched the surface of.  Here we discussed two instances where the Muslims were facing periods of change and potential crises in which he bravely played a part and made a difference, both through words and actions.

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. Let us raise awareness of the plight of those who are oppressed, to strengthen the Islam of those who’ve lived without it for so long. Let us not measure the impact of our words by how many accolades we receive. Do it solely for Allah ﷻ, for the love of Islam and the ummah. Your rewards will be multiplied, God willing.

[1]As-Sirah Ab-Nabawiyyah, Ibn Katheer 1/439-441

[2]Al-Mustadrak 3/66

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