THE RIGHTLY-GUIDED CALIPHS Abu Bakr (r.a) 632-634

Abu Bakr (r.a), who became the first caliph after the Prophet, associated himself fully with the Prophet by having great love for him and by being loyal to him. There was a hidden path from the heart of the Prophet to the heart of Abu Bakr (r.a). The Prophet said in this regard, “I have transferred all I have in my heart to that of Abu Bakr (r.a).”[1] Such intimacy with the Prophet was the outcome of great sacrifices. We pay a high price for whatever we love, and the highest price one can pay in this finite life is the price of divine love.

Our master Abu Bakr (r.a) did his best to pay the full cost of loving and being a companion to the Prophet with great joy, so that he could be a close fellow to him. He had the privilege of accompanying the Prophet in his migration to Medina, and during that time they witnessed many divine occurrences together. When, being pursued, they took refuge in the cave of Mount Thawr for three days, many secrets and wisdoms were channeled from the heart of the Prophet into that of Abu Bakr (r.a), who there gained the level of closeness to Allah. That place became a classroom where Abu Bakr (r.a) learned divine secrets and perfected his heart so that he received the Qur’anic title the second of two, the Prophet being the first and Abu Bakr (r.a) the second. And the third was Allah! The glory of creation, the Prophet, inspired Abu Bakr (r.a) to enjoy Allah’s presence in a continuous manner. That is the occasion when he recited, “Do not grieve, for Allah is with us.” (Tawba  9:40).

This episode of divine union in the Cave of Mt. Thawr is considered to be the beginning of the ritual of invoking God’s attributes, and also the first occasion of direct satisfaction of hearts by Allah. In mystical teaching, the Cave of Thawr is believed to be the place where divine secrets were channeled from heart to heart for the first time in Islamic history; it is Abu Bakr (r.a) who was the fortunate one to be honored with such a blessing. He is, therefore, believed to be the first link in the chain, after the Prophet (pbuh), of the Golden Lineage that will continue until the end of the world.

The goal of all divine journeys can ultimately be achieved only through the love of Allah and Allah’s messenger. The precondition of profound love is to love whatever the beloved loves, as well. For immersion in love, we must identify with all aspects of our beloved. And that is exactly how Abu Bakr (r.a) proceeded with the Prophet.

“Abu Bakr (r.a) is from me and I am from him”

Abu Bakr’s immersion in divine love was so great that he sacrificed his life. He found himself only in the presence of the Prophet. At each meeting with the Prophet he lost more concern for his own affairs. The more he met with him, the more he wanted to be with him.

The Prophet (pbuh) said one day, “No one has made his property more available to me than has Abu Bakr (r.a).”

Abu Bakr (r.a) replied in tears, O Messenger! Are not I and my property for you alone?”[2]

The Prophet ended the exchange with a famous blessing: “Abu Bakr (r.a) is from me and I am from him. He is my brother in this world and the next.”[3] The Prophet, by these words, indicated their union in the spiritual world and the connection established between their hearts.

The grand confidant of the secrets of the Prophet

Abu Bakr (r.a) became a crystal mirror to reflect the Prophet’s heart. Thus, he was the prime example of unconditional surrender to the Prophet’s spirituality. Due to such great surrender, everything that belonged to the Prophet had deep significance for him, and so he became the first resource for Companions who sought to discern the true meaning of the words and acts of the Prophet. He truly understood the ultimate meaning of the messages of the Prophet.

The verse, “This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion…” (Ma’ida 5:3) was revealed during what proved to be the Farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet. Everybody but Abu Bakr (r.a) was happy. They all thought the verse was announcing the perfect state of the religion of Islam. Abu Bakr (r.a) alone discerned that the verse meant that Allah would soon take the Prophet from them.[4]

During his last illness the Prophet could no longer lead the prayers, for he was too weak to stand. He therefore chose Abu Bakr (r.a) to lead the prayers. One day he felt better and returned to the mosque. After giving advice to various Companions, he remarked, “Allah offered one of His servants a choice between this world and what He has with Himself, and that servant chose what Allah has with Himself.”

Upon hearing these words, Abu Bakr (r.a) felt downcast, and wept bitterly. With his wise and tender heart, he realized that this was a farewell speech. Since he was the prime confidant of the secrets of the Prophet, he noticed what others were unable to understand. He began to cry out like a wailing reed, “OProphet, you are dearer to methan my mother and father! We sacrifice our fathers, mothers, lives, properties, and children for you!”[5]

No one in the congregation was aware that the Prophet was in the mood to leave this world. No one understood why Abu Bakr (r.a) was crying. They asked each other, “Why should this old man cry when the Prophet merely spoke of a person who preferred to go to Allah?”[6] They did not realize that the servant who preferred to go to Allah when given the chance of staying in the world was the Prophet himself. They were unable to sense what Abu Bakr (r.a) sensed.

The Prophet kept talking, both to console Abu Bakr (r.a) and to tell the Companions to appreciate Abu Bakr (r.a). “We have returned all favors done us at the same level or a higher one except for the favors Abu Bakr (r.a) has done us!.. He has done so many favors for me that Allah Himself will return his favors on the Day of Judgment. Abu Bakr (r.a) is among those most dedicated to me in companionship and property. If I were to take an intimate friend other than my Lord, I would take Abu Bakr (r.a). But what binds us is the brotherhood of Islam.”

Then the Prophet talked about his forthcoming death: “Let no door leading to Prophet’s mosque remain open except for Abu Bakr’s, as I see a glorious sign over his door…”[7]

So, all doors were closed at that sorrowful time except for Abu Bakr’s. These words of the Prophet meant that the door of special closeness to the Messenger of Allah can be opened only by unconditional loyalty, dedication, commitment, devotion, friendship, and love.

An immovable castle of faith

Abu Bakr’s steadfast and unshakable testimony to the Mi`raj, the great Ascension of the Prophet that was so controversial when first announced, can only be explained by his strong faith. Hadrat Ali (r.a), the fourth caliph, commented about him, “Abu Bakr (r.a) is like a mountain that no wind can move.”

Abu Bakr (r.a) was one of the richest of the Companions, yet generously gave over his life and property for the Prophet. He offered all that he had to the Prophet many times, and spent in the way of Allah without hesitation and without anxiety about growing poor. Once the Prophet asked him what he had held back for his wife and children.  He replied in clear conscience, “Allah and His messenger are enough for them.”[8]

The Prophet allowed none of the Companions but Abu Bakr (r.a) to give away all of his property, for people may be easily be induced by Satan to regret such an act should they face poverty in the future. Such regret may then take away all the blessings of the earlier donations. Abu Bakr (r.a), however, was so immersed in the love of the Prophet that he was like an immovable castle of faith.

In fact, Abu Bakr (r.a) did sometimes face poverty and difficulty due to giving all he had to the cause of Allah. Yet such difficulties gave him pleasure, not pain, because it was enough for him that the Messenger of Allah was pleased with him. Abu Bakr (r.a) lived in serenity until the end of his life.

The Prophet, therefore, said about him: “Anyone who wants to see a person saved from hell should look upon Abu Bakr. (r.a)”

An aura of humility and self-effacement

Abu Bakr (r.a) lost himself in the being of Allah and His messenger, and so became a living example of Prophet Muhammad’s morality. He, like the Prophet, ignored his own troubles, and became a prime figure of charity, tenderness, and sympathy. He preferred others to himself. He once prayed: O Lord, please enlarge my body in hell so much so that no room would be left for others!”

These words indicate how he underestimated himself to the degree of self-effacement. as well as how merciful and tenderhearted he was.

When after the passing of the Prophet, he was elected caliph, he mounted the pulpit to speak to Muslims with exemplary modesty. “O people, I have been elected your leader, although I am not better than any one of you. If I do any good, give me your support. If I go wrong, set me right…”[9]

This great Companion of the Prophet was so humble that he made clear in his inaugural speech that he was open to admonishment by anyone. When people paid allegiance to him, he said, “I have had no desire to become caliph. I have never wanted it from Allah either in public or in private, because I knew that it would mean huge responsibility.”

Abu Bakr (r.a), became even more humble, modest, and otherworldly after he became caliph than he had been before. Before he was caliph, it was his custom to place himself at the disposal of orphan girls, taking care of their needs and even milking their sheep. After becoming caliph, his neighbors thought he would be so busy that he would change his habits and, therefore, cease his earlier acts. Nothing, however, changed for him. He kept on looking after orphan girls and milking their sheep.[10]

He had no inclination to worldly glory either before or after becoming caliph. He, like the Prophet, always worked up to live a life in line with the will of Allah, with no worldly barriers to salvation in the Hereafter. One of his wishes before his death was “Sell my land, and pay back to the public treasury all the money I received as salary.”[11]

An example of balance and moderation

Abu Bakr’s life was based on the divine balance. He always exhibited modesty and humility, but he never showed a sign of abjectness or incompetence. He was serious, but not solemn. He was forgiving, tolerant, sweet-natured, but he was tough and courageous when necessary.

With all these qualities, he never tolerated any interference with the directions of the Prophet. He became a staunch defender of Islam. He never compromised about the precepts of Islam. He managed to defeat the counter-movements that arose after the death of the Prophet, when some tribes proposed to secede from the community rather than pay the compulsory alms to the poor. He said, “I will declare war against anyone who withholds even a scrap of a robe due in alms.” Thus he closed all doors that might have led to the collapse of the religion. His decisive attitude as caliph was appreciated even by Hadrat `Umar (r.a), who was known as the epitome of justice and austere character.[12]

The venerable Abu Bakr (r.a) lived all his life in loyalty to Islam and paved the way for others to do the same. At the same time, he was a repository of refined spiritual wisdom. His advice and warnings therefore provide us with some valuable principles that may guide us toward the divine realm.

Words of wisdom from Abu Bakr (r.a)

“There is no special lineage linking Allah to His creatures. One may draw closer to Allah only through surrendering oneself and following His commandments.”

“Allah is not pleased with a servant whose words do not extend to acts.”

“The more one speaks, the more forgetful one becomes.”

“Think twice about what you speak, when you speak, and to whom you speak!”

“Be a slave to the wise who know Allah.”

“Make your true state known to the one who wants to guide you to the right path! Otherwise, you will delude yourself.”

“If you want others to treat you better, improve yourself.”

“Four persons are righteous servants of Allah: the one who rejoices with the repentant; the one who prays for the forgiveness of sinners; the one who prays for the faithful in their absence; and the one who helps and serves those who are in lower positions.”

“The weak among you shall be strong with me until I have secured their rights, and the strong among you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from them the rights of others.”

“Corruption comes when faith is found only in mosques, wealth with misers, weapons with cowards, and authority with fools.”

“The wise fear Allah. Only the unwise are oppressors.”

“In the Qur’an, Allah Almighty mentions the rewards and punishments together so that His servants should prefer to worship and should fear the consequences of acts.”

“If  an opportunity for charity escapes you, try to catch it. When you catch it, try to give something more, or something better.”

“Doing people favors saves one from catastrophes and misfortunes.”

“Run away from fame so that dignity may follow you. Prepare yourself for death so that you may be given life.”

“There is always more to any misfortune.”

“Patience is not followed by damage, and anxiety and despair are not followed by advantage.”

“Patience is half of faith, and full commitment is all of it.”

“Pray to Allah for a peaceful life. No one is given anything finer than a peaceful life after full commitment.”

“For me, to be at peace while being grateful for it is better than to be in the midst of trials while being  patient through them!”

“The world is the marketplace of the faithful. Day and night are their capital; good deeds are their commodity; paradise is their profit; and hell is their loss.”

“Remembering the Prophet with words of praise wipes out sins more quickly than water puts out fire. Sending greetings of peace to the Prophet with a sincere heart is better than liberating a slave. Loving the Prophet is better than living an ascetic life or fighting in the way of Allah.”[13]

“Friends of Allah are of three kinds. Each kind may be known through three signs. The first kind of friend  fears Allah. These are always modest; they are always aiming to increase their charity; they always see their small sins as large because they see a divine rule as a divine rule. Friends of the second kind hope forthe reward of Allah. They display virtue and beauty in all their acts; they spend bountifully in the way of Allah; and they do not denigrate anyone. Friends of the third kind are the wise who worship Allah with love and compassion. They give away what they love most in the way of Allah; they aim at Allah’s pleasure in all their acts and disregard the reproaches of the ignorant; and they fulfill the commands and observe the prohibitions of Allah even if their lower selves dislike it.”[14]

Abu Bakr (r.a) was a noble and exemplary Muslim who combined all the features of all three of these categories. May Allah permit us to benefit from his wise advice and follow the spirit of his virtuous character! May Allah make us links in his chain of friendship! For with the permission of Allah, the rightly-guided caliphs, the Companions of the Prophet, the friends of Allah, and those who follow them rightly, are the most fortunate of travelers on the divine path.

Let us conclude here by joining the supplications of Abu Bakr (r.a).

“O Allah! Make the last part of my life the best part of my life, the last of my acts the best of my acts, and the last day of my life the best of my days: the day when I come to You.”

“O Allah! Make the last thing You grant me Your blessing, and a high position in Paradise.”[15]

Amîn…

[1]       Ajluni, al-Kashf al-Khafa’, vol. 2, p. 419.

[2]       Ibn Maja, al-Fada’il al-ashab al-nabi, 11.

[3]       al-Tirmidhi, al-Manaqib, 20.

[4]       Elmalılı, III, 1569.

[5]       Ahmad, III, 91.

[6]       Bukhari, Salah, 80.

[7]       Bukhari, al-Ashab al-Nabi 3, al-Manaqib al-Ansar 45, Salah 80; Muslim, al-Fada’il al-ashab al-nabi 2; Tirmidhi, al-Manaqib 15; Ibn al-Sa`d: II 227.

[8]       Abu Dawud, Zakah, 40.

[9]       Ibn Sa`d, III, 182-183; al-Suyuti: Tarikh al-khulafa’, 69, 7-71; Hamidullah, İslam Peygamberi, II, 1181.

[10]      al-Suyuti, al-Tarikh al-khulafa’, 80; Sarıçam: Hz. Ebu Bekir, 82.

[11]      Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 428-429.

[12]      Ali al-Qari, al-Mirkat, X, 381-383/6034.

[13]      al-Baghdadi, Tarikh al-Baghdad, VII, 161.

[14]      Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, al-Munabbihat, 94-95.

[15]      al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-khulafa’, 103.