“No one has been a better companion to me than Abu Bakr”
said the messenger of God (May the Peace and Blessings upon him). What a great position! Indeed Abu Bakr earned it. All his life he stood by the Prophet (PBUH). He was a wealthy man and when the Prophet (PBUH) started receiving revelations and the Muslims faced hardship, Abu Bakr’s wealth became an unlimited ATM which enabled the Muslims to withdraw from at will. In any conflict Abu Bakr was in the front rows to fight the enemies of God and His message. Abu Bakr’s only concern was to serve God, His messenger, and the believers. And for this he was elected as the first successor or [Caliph] of the Prophet and he was also placed to his final rest at the side the Prophet (PBUH).
Abu Bakr was two years younger than the Prophet. From early years, Abu Bakr was known for a good and upright nature. He was honest and truthful. He came from a noble family. These things won him respect among the people. His goodness also won him the friendship of young Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The two became fast friends in early boyhood. The friendship was to prove lifelong and history-making.
When he grew up, Abu Bakr became a rich merchant. But he used to be very kind-hearted. When he saw someone in trouble, his heart melted. He did his best to help him. He was so honest in his dealings that people kept their money with him. Above all, Abu Bakr had a sincere heart and a firm will. Nothing could stop him from doing what he thought was the right thing to do.
These great qualities were soon to serve the noblest cause known to the world. Abu Bakr was to become the strongest supporter of the Redeemer of mankind (PBUH). He was to become the first among the Companions of the Last Prophet of God.
The First of the Best
Abu Bakr was always very close to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He knew him better than any other man. He knew how honest and upright his friend had always been. So he was the first among men to believe in the Prophet’s mission. He was the first adult male to accept Islam. After the first revelation, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) told him what had happened at Mount Hira. He told him that God had made him His Messenger. Abu Bakr did not stop to think. He at once became a Muslim. Once the Holy Prophet himself remarked, “I called people to Islam. Everybody thought over it, at least for a while. But this was not the case with Abu Bakr. The moment I put Islam before him, he accepted it without any hesitation.”
Abu Bakr did more than that. As soon as he became a Muslim, he began to preach Islam to others. He had many friends who knew that Abu Bakr was sincere and truthful. They knew he would never support a wrong cause or falsehood. He called them to Islam and they became Muslims. Among them were great noble men like Uthman ibn Affan, Zubair ibn Awam, Talha ibn Ubaydaillah, Abdur Rahman bin Auf and Saad bin Waqqas. These men later became the foundations of Islam among mankind.
The message of Islam made the people of Mecca very angry. The idols were their gods. The holy Prophet openly reproached them for worshipping these gods. He declared they could do neither any good nor harm. Among the chiefs of Mecca was one Abu Jahl. He became the greatest enemy of the holy Prophet. He was always on the lookout to hurt him or even kill him, if he could. Abu Bakr kept an eye on this man, lest he should do a grave harm to Islam.
One day the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was praying in the Ka’ba. He was totally lost in his concentration. Abu Jahl and some other chiefs of Mecca were sitting in the courtyard of the Kaaba. “I must finish with Muhammad today,” said Abu Jahl. So saying, he took a long piece of cloth. He put it around the holy Prophet’s neck. Then he twisted it hard. He was going to strangle the Messenger of God to death. The other chiefs looked on and laughed.
Abu Bakr happened to see this from a distance. He at once ran to the help of the Prophet (PBUH). He pushed Abu Jahl aside and took off the cloth from around the holy Prophet’s neck. Thereupon Abu Jahl and other enemies of Islam came down upon Abu Bakr. They beat him up very bad.
Indeed, the beating was so severe that Abu Bakr fell down senseless. He was carried home. He could not regain his senses till after several hours. And when he did come to himself, the first question he asked was, “Is the Prophet OK?” Abu Bakr did not care for his own suffering. He was glad that he was able to save the Prophet’s life. Abu Bakr knew full well that if any harm came to the Prophet, the only hope of mankind would be gone. This made him risk everything he held dear, for the safety of the Prophet and for the spread of his message.
Liberation of Slaves
As years went by, the people of Mecca became more and more hard upon the Muslims. They made life difficult for them. Muslim slaves who had non-Muslim masters were the worst sufferers. They were subjected to unimaginable tortures and many were killed.
Abu Bakr’s wealth came to the rescue of many helpless Muslim slaves. He bought them from their inhumane masters and set them free. Bilal, the african, was one of such slaves. He was the slave of Omayya bin Khalaf. Omayya was a heartless man. He would strip Bilal of all clothes, make him lie on the burning sand at mid-day and then lash him mercilessly. Despite this torture Bilal would go on saying, “God is one! God is one!” One day Abu Bakr happened to pass by. He was greatly moved by the sight. “Why are you so cruel to this helpless man?” he asked Omayya. “If you feel for him, why don’t you buy him?” retorted Omayya. So Abu Bakr at once bought Bilal at a heavy price and set him free. Bilal afterwards became the well-known caller to prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque.
The Title of “Siddiq”
In the tenth year of his mission, the angel Gabriel came with the word that God Almighty wanted the holy Prophet to come all the way up to the highest heaven. The Prophet (PBUH) undertook a journey, in which he met many of the Prophets, saw the bliss of Paradise and the torment of Hell and received the decree of the five obligatory prayers directly from the Most High.
In the morning, after the ascension had taken place, the holy Prophet (PBUH) talked to people about the Mi’raj. This drew the jeers of his enemies.
“Look!” they howled out, “What nonsense he talks! Surely, now his followers too will laugh at him. Who is going to believe in such a midsummer night dream?”
The talk was going on when Abu Bakr came up. “Do you know, Abu Bakr, what news your friend has for you in the morning?” said one of the mean. “He says he was on the highest heaven last night, having a talk with God Almighty. Would you believe it?”
“I am convinced that he is receiving revelations from Heaven and therefore I would believe anything that the Messenger of God says,” replied Abu Bakr.
When the holy Prophet (PBUH) learnt of this, he at once said, “Abu Bakr is the `Siddiq’.” `Siddiq’ is a person so sincere of heart that he is always truthful and never doubts the Truth. In this case the truth is the message of God. Abu Bakr earned this title because of his faith was too strong to be shaken by anything. He stayed this way until he died.
Migration to Medina
When the Makkans were intent on putting out, once and for all, the light of Islam, God commanded the holy Prophet to move to Medina. In the burning heat of the midday sun, there was a knock at Abu Bakr’s door. He ran to the door and found the Messenger of God standing outside. “I must leave for Medina tonight,” said he.
“Will I also have the honor of going with you?” asked Abu Bakr eagerly.
“Of course,” came the reply. “Set about getting things ready.”
Abu Bakr was beside himself with joy. “I have been looking forward to this day for months,” he exclaimed. “I have specifically kept two camels to carry us to Medina.”
The Makkans were searching for the holy Prophet like mad hounds. Once they came right to the mouth of the cave where they were hiding. Abu Bakr grew pale with fright. He feared, not for himself, but for the Prophet. However, the holy Prophet remained perfectly calm.
“Don’t worry,” he said to Abu Bakr, “certainly God is with us.” This story is in the (Qur’an 9:40)
Of all the companions, Abu Bakr had the honor of being with the Prophet during the most critical days of his life. Abu Bakr knew full well what this honor meant. And he did full justice to the trust put in him.
Participation in Battles
Abu Bakr took part in all the battles in defense of the Muslims from the constant Pagan and Jewish plots and onslaughts. All his life, he fought bravely under the banner of Islam. At Uhud and Hunain, some of the men showed weakness. They forgot to do their duty. But Abu Bakr’s faith never wavered. He always stood like a rock by the side of the Prophet.
When peace talks at Hudaibiya were going on, Abu Bakr sat by the side of the Prophet. During conversation, the spokesman of the Quraish ever now and then gave a jerk to the beard of the Prophet, after the Arab fashion. This was too much for Abu Bakr. He took out his sword and looked angrily at the man. “If that hand touches the beard of the Prophet again,” he warned, “it will not be allowed to go back.”
This amazed the Makkan agents. “What a change in Abu Bakr!” they whispered to one another. “He was known for soft-heartedness. How strong and firm he is now become! He is no longer the same Abu Bakr.”
Tabuk was the last expedition of the holy Prophet when he was commanded to fight the Roman army for their murdering the courier the Prophet sent them. He was keen to make it a great success. He asked people to help the expedition with whatever they could. This time Abu Bakr beat all past records. He took all his money and household articles and heaped them at the Prophet’s feet.
“Have you left back anything for your wife and children?” asked the holy Prophet.
“God and His Messenger are enough for them,” replied Abu Bakr calmly. Those standing around were stunned. It was impossible to outdo Abu Bakr in the field of service to Islam.
The holy Prophet felt much pleased at this answer. He made Abu Bakr the standard-bearer of the expedition.
Abu Bakr’s closeness to the Prophet (PBUH) and his boundless devotion to Islam won him universal respect. Not only was he the first man to accept Islam, he was also the foremost among Muslims to uphold the cause of Islam.
Mecca fell in the eight year of Hijra. Kaaba was, for the first time, in the hands of Muslims. It had to be cleaned of the traces of idol-worship and the silly practices of pagan days. Hitherto pagan Arabs had done absurd things at the time of Hajj. They went around the House of Allah naked. They did many other foolish and unclean things. All this had to be stopped.
The first Hajj under Islam fell in the ninth year of Hijra. The holy Prophet was too busy at Medina to lead the Hajj himself. So he sent Abu Bakr as his agent. He was to lead the Hajj in place of the Prophet. Ali was also sent with Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr read the Khutba (Sermon) of Hajj. Then Ali stood up and read out to the people the commandments of God concerning the idol worshippers. From that year on, they were forbidden to go to the Kaaba.
Ever since he came to Medina, the holy Prophet himself led prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque. During his last illness, the holy Prophet could no longer lead prayers. He grew too weak to go to the mosque. He had to appoint someone to act in his place. This honor also fell to the lot of Abu Bakr and he led the last 17 prayers which took place before the death of the Prophet (PBUH).
Abu Bakr shows deep maturity and wisdom
The Holy Prophet occupied a unique place among his people. He was everything to them. From warring ignorant pagans, he had made them a nation of peaceful, God-fearing people. They were “dead” as the Qur’an puts it and the holy Prophet had “raised them to life.” So they rightly came to look upon him as the giver of life. Life without him seemed to be an empty thing.
The news of the Prophet’s (PBUH) death came as a stunning shock to everyone. How could it be? He had been ill for some days, they all knew. But death was unbelievable. That simply could not be. Huge crowds gathered in the mosque. No one knew what to do. There was utter confusion. Umar was so overcome with emotion that he drew his sword and declared, “If anyone says that the Messenger of God is dead. I will cut off his head!”. Uthman, the son in law of the Prophet and great companion, couldn’t speak when approached. Ali the other son in law of the Prophet and great Muslim went and locked himself in his house and didn’t leave or answer the door when people came to him.
Things were in this state when Abu Bakr entered the mosque. Earlier that morning, he had gone a few miles outside of Medina, but had come back on hearing the sad news. He took his stand in a corner of the courtyard and called out to the people. All eyes were turned towards him. Then he began his famous address:
“O people! If anyone among you worshipped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead. But those who worship God, let him know that He lives eternally and will never die. Let all of us recall the words of the Qur’an. It says, `Muhammad is only a Messenger of God, There have been Messengers who lived and died before him. If he dies or is killed, would you turn back from Islam?”(Qur’an 3:144)
These words of Abu Bakr worked magic. In no time the confusion was gone. The words of the Qur’an swept of all doubts from people’s minds. They got ready to face facts.
Election of Abu Bakr as Caliph (Leader of the Muslims after the Prophet)
The first problem before the people was the election of a new leader. There had to be a head of the State of things could not work. The need was too urgent to allow delay. Delay might have meant disorder and the undoing of all that the Messenger of God had done. The prophet of God had died but the head of the state had to live on.
The two big groups among Muslims were the Muhajirin (refugees from Mecca) and the Ansar (helpers or the people of Medina). The Ansar gathered together at Thaqifa Bani Saida, their meeting place, near the house of Sa’d bin Abada. The talk naturally centered around the election of a Caliph. Saad, the Ansar leader, stood up and said that the Caliph must be from among them. Many voices seconded him. One man, however, stood up and said, “But how about the Muhajirin? They have perhaps a better claim.” “Then let there be two caliphs,” suggested someone, “one from among the Ansar and the other from among the Muhajirin.”
Someone told Abu Bakr what was going on at this gathering. He saw the need to act quickly or confusion might set in again. So taking with him a group of Muhajirin he went to Thaqif Bani Saida. He addressed the gathering and said, “Both the Muhajirin and the Ansar have done great services to Islam. But the former were the first to accept Islam. They were always very close to the Messenger of God. So, O Ansar, let the Caliph be from among them.”
To this a man from the Khazraj tribe replied, “If you don’t want a Caliph from among us, let there be two Caliphs, one an Ansari and the other a Muhajir.”
“That won’t work,” said Abu Obaida bin Jarrah. “O Ansar, you are the people who made Islam strong now, don’t do anything that may undo your work.”
Hearing this, another man said, “O Ansar, if we did anything for Islam, we did it to please God and His Messenger. We did not thereby oblige anybody. This should not be made a plea to win office. Listen, the holy Prophet belonged to the Quraish tribe. The Quraish have a greater right to fill his place. By God, I do not think it right to quarrel with them over this matter. Fear God, and do not oppose them.”
This speech of a man from among them silenced the Ansar. They agreed to have a Muhajir as the Caliph. So Abu Bakr said, “Friends, I think either Umar or Abu Ubaida should be the Caliph. Chose one of these two gentlemen.”
Hearing this both Umar and Abu Ubaida jumped to their feet, and exclaimed, “O Siddiq, how can that be? How can anyone else fill this office as long as you are among us? You are the top man among the Muhajirin. You were the companion of the holy Prophet in the Cave. You led prayers in his place, during his last illness. Prayer is the foremost thing in Islam. With all these qualifications, you are the fittest person to be the successor of the holy Prophet. Hold out your hand that we many pledge loyalty to you.”
But Abu Bakr did not stretch out his hand. Omar saw that delay might lead to the reopening of the whole question. That could easily create difficulties. So he himself took Abu Bakr’s hand and pledged loyalty to him. Others followed his example. Men from all sides rushed to pledge loyalty to the successor of the Prophet. Abu Bakr became Caliph by the general consent of the people.
The First Address
On the following day, Abu Bakr went to the Prophet’s mosque Here people took the general oath of loyalty. When this was over, Abu Bakr mounted the pulpit as the Caliph of Islam. Then he spoke to the gathering as follows:
“O people, I have been elected your leader, although I am not better than anyone from among you. If I do any good, give me your support. If I go wrong, set me right. Listen close, truth and honesty is our trust and responsibility and lying is treachery and disloyalty to Islam and the Muslims. To me, the weak (financially) among you are powerful in my eyes, especially when I give them their due, God willing. And to me, the powerful among you are weak, especially when I take from them and give to the others. God willing”
“If people give up striving for the cause of God, then God sends down disgrace on them. If a people become immorality and evil becomes common among a people, then God sends down tribulations upon them.”
“You must obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger. If I disobey God and His Messenger, then you must not obey me.”
Such was the Magna Carta granted by the first Caliph of Islam to his people, on the first day of his rule, without their asking. Abu Bakr showed by his example that in Islam government means government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Some weeks before his death, the holy Prophet has nominated Usama to lead an expedition against the Roman army of Syria. He was to avenge the death of his father, Zaid, the freed slave of the holy Prophet. Zaid was killed by the Syrians in the battle of Muta. The preparations of the expedition were under way when the holy Prophet (PBUH) fell seriously ill and passed away. That held up Usama’s expedition for some weeks. As soon as Abu Bakr became Caliph, the first thing he thought of was the sending out of the expedition.
The death of the holy Prophet (PBUH) led some people to think that Islam was going to end with him. Many tribes had entered the fold of Islam only a short time before. They were by no means firm in the new faith. Many of them, now, showed signs leaving the fold of Islam. Abu Bakr was facing a difficult situation. Some rejected certain acts of worship and others claimed that the chief of their tribe had also become a Prophet. Chaos started to arise.
But Abu Bakr wanted to carry out the commands of the Prophet at all costs. He was determined to send out the expedition planned by the Messenger of God. Some of the companions said that he had better drop the idea for the time being. Trouble was brewing all around, they said. It was unwise to send troops out when they were urgently needed at home. But Abu Bakr would not listen to them. “How can I fold up the flag,” he asked, “which the holy Prophet (PBUH) himself spread out? It is simply unthinkable.”
Then someone suggested that Usama was too young – he was below twenty – to lead the expedition. It was wiser to put a more experienced man in command. The suggestion made Abu Bakr angry. “What right have I,” he demanded, “to dismiss a man appointed by the Messenger of God?”
So the expedition left under Usama, about three weeks after the passing away of the holy Prophet. Abu Bakr accompanied Usama some distance out of Medina. The youthful commander was riding a horse, while the Caliph walked by his side. Usama said, “O successor of the holy Prophet, ride my horse and I will get down.”
“By God,” replied Abu Bakr, “I will agree to neither of the two things. What harm is there is there if a little dust falls on my feet, while I go some steps in the sake of God? For every step one takes in path of God, one gets the reward of seven hundred good deeds.”
Umar was also one of the men under Usama’s command. But Abu Bakr needed him, at Medina, for purposed of advice. So he made a request to Usama, to allow Umar to remain in Medina. The request was granted.
Before the Caliph bade farewell to Usama, he gave him much useful advice. Some of it was:
“Don’t be treacherous or disloyal. Don’t be careless. Do not deceive anyone. Do not hide the booty you get. Do not mutilate anyone. Do not kill the elderly, the children, or the women. Do not set fire to date-palms. Do not cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter a goat, or a cow, or a camel, except for food. You will come across people who have give up the world and are sitting in monasteries. Leave them be.”
Usama’s expedition proved very successful. He and the Muslim army broke down the armies of Rome in Syria and returned to Medina after forty days with a great war booty.
The expedition had another good result. It proved an eye-opener to many of those tribes who thought Islam was dying out. They had a clear proof that Islam was still able to challenge one of the greatest powers of the world. This inspired and awed the wavering tribes. Some of the tribes which had left Islam actually, reentered its fold.
Abu Bakr soon found the country in the grip of a civil war. The outlying provinces, like Nejd, were the first to create trouble. They had accepted Islam when it seemed to be the only safest way to follow. They hadn’t learned much at all of the Qur’an and the true spirit of Islam. For centuries they had known no outside authority. They were accustomed to be as free as the winds that sweep across the desert. Islam put them under discipline. They had to live by the moral laws of Islam. The drinking and gambling of the “days of ignorance” were no more. The wild spirit of the desert rebelled against this moral control. It saw its opportunity in the death of the holy Prophet. Now was the time to throw off the hold of Islam.
The one thing which was especially annoying to the chiefs of these tribes was the obligatory alms. The government at Medina took away from them, each year, two and a half per cent of their total wealth. True, this money was spent on the poor of their own tribe. But all the same, it was a burden on their pockets. If only Medina would stop collecting the poor-rate, they could continue to be Muslims.
A more serious trouble also raised its head at the same time. People who had spent no time with the holy Prophet, nor studied him closely, thought of him as a mere ruler. The more clever among such people began to dream of a similar career. “All we have to do,” they thought to themselves, “is to claim to be prophets and get a following.” Thus they hoped to rise to power and fame. Many fell prey to this ambition. Presently, a host of imposters appeared in different parts of Arabia. They all claimed to be Messengers of God.
The situation was serious. Utmost care was needed to handle it. Abu Bakr called a meeting of the Advisory Counsel and sought its advice. Many of the members were for slow action. “It is not wise,” they said, “to start fighting on all fronts at one and the same time. Ignore those, for the time being, who refuse to pay the poor-rate. We can settle with them when the imposters have been dealt with.”
Abu Bakr would not listen to such counsel. “By God,” he declared, “even if a single goat is due from a man, he must give it. If he refuses. I will wage war against him. If others do not support me, I will fight alone. No one has the power to change the clear commandment of God.”
However, the situation was extremely difficult. Among the non-payers of the poor-rate were the neighboring tribes of Abs and Zabyan, Asad and Toy. They thought of squeezing a concession from the Caliph before Usma’s army was back in Medina. They sent a deputation to the Caliph, offering to stay within the fold of Islam if they were exempted from paying the poor-rate.
True to his determination, Abu Bakr firmly turned down the proposal. At the same time, he set about strengthening the defenses of Medina, for he expected a treacherous attack from the rebel tribes.
On the third night the treacherous blow came. But Abu Bakr was ready for it. He hit back so hard that the enemy fled back headlong.
In a few days Usama was back in Medina. The Caliph decided to march in person against the treacherous tribes who rejected Zakat. People begged him not to risk his life but Abu Bakr would not listen. Leaving Usama in Medina as his deputy, the Caliph led an army against Abs and Zabyan and utterly defeated these tribes. Their pastures were taken over for army use.
This firm action on the part of the Caliph convinced many that it was impossible to accept part of Islam and reject part of it. That saved the integrity of Islam as a way of life. Abu Bakr’s invincible faith helped Islam keep its foundation in tact.
It was now time to strike at the imposters. Usama’s army had rested and was ready to go into action again. Abu Bakr marched the army about twelve miles along the road to Nejd. Here he divided it into eleven battalions. Each battalion was put under the command of an experienced commander. The commanders were then told to march against different tribes of heretics.
Before these armies left, Abu Bakr sent delegations to diplomatically solve the situation. When it failed, a general warning was given to the apostates and their followers. They were assured of pardon if they came back to Islam. The Caliph gave the following instructions to his commanders:
“I request the soldiers of Islam to be conscious of God, under all conditions. They should do their best to obey the commandments of God. They should fight against those who have left Islam and have fallen in the trap of the devil. But before taking out swords, they must declare the message of Islam. If the apostates accept it, they must at once hold back their hands. But if the message is rejected, they must attack and fight till these people give up disbelief and anarchy. When the apostates re-enter the fold of Islam, the commander of the Muslim army must explain to them their rights and duties under Islam. They should be given their rights and should be made to do their duties. The commander should keep his men from hasty action and mischief. He should avoid a headlong plunge into enemy settlements. He should rather enter them after making sure of all precautions, lest Muslims suffer a loss. Whether he is on the march of in the camp, the commander should be kind and considerate towards his men. He should look to their comfort and should be gentle in speech.”
The armies were successful within a couple weeks of restoring peace and order to the Islamic state. Many tribes came back to Islam by simply learning more about the miraculous nature of Islam and the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad, others were highly impressed with the Muslims victory against the Romans, and others were stuck to their old Bedouin tribal allegiance and fought the armies claiming their chief to be their own Prophet.
Compiling the Qur’an as a bound book
There was a fierce battle between the army of the Islamic state where a man named Musailamah claimed to be a Prophet. His village was quite large and from them over 10,000 men was prepared to fight against a Muslim army of maybe 5,000. After three days Musailamah himself was killed after great losses from both sides and the rest of the village gave up.
In that battle hundreds of those who had memorized the whole Qur’an had been martyred. When the news of this got to Abu Bakr he prayed to God for guidance. Umar had suggested that they have the Qur’an gathered as a book. In the life of the Prophet (PBUH) he used to command certain companions to write the revelation on wood, leather, and bones. He would keep some of these written copies with himself and the companions would keep their own. In the Ramadan before he (PBUH) died, Gabriel came to him and recited to the Prophet the final order of the Qur’an twice and the Prophet (PBUH) memorized it.
Because most Arabs were illiterate and there was no printing press the Qur’an was originally just a memorized book and there was never a command by the Prophet to make it into one bound book. First because God promised to preserve it himself and second because the eager believers were always recited and memorizing it.
In the end Abu Bakr agreed that In Islam we rely on God, but we also do our part. He ordered the scribe Zaid ibn Thabit (who was a memorizer of the Qur’an and had been commanded by the Prophet to write it) to gather all written copies of the Qur’an and organize one clear legible copy in the order we were taught to memorize it. He was then to read over it with the remaining companions who memorized it. They all agreed that he did a perfect job and the bound that copy. This copy was given to Umar before Abu Bakr died then Umar gave it to his daughter (the wife of the Prophet) and she kept it until ‘Uthman started printing copies and sending them to the far governorates of the Islamic state.
The Era of Conquest Begins
The kings of Persia had done all they could to crush Islam. In fact, the infamous Khusro Parvez had ordered the arrest or assassination of the holy Prophet. This ruling came after the Prophet had sent him a convoy with a letter about his Prophethood and calling him to Islam. Khusro ripped the letter with Qur’an written on it and told the convoy that the Arabs are simply the slaves of Persians and that he will put a stop to their Prophet (PBUH) once and for all. But a few days after, he Khusro was killed by his own son, Sharuya. Since that day, the Persians (Iran) had known no peace. Abu Bakr had to take account of the ever-present danger on the eastern frontiers.
In the first month of the year 12 A.H., Abu Bakr sent Khalid bin Walid sent with an army to challenge the might of Persia. Another army under Qaqaa bin Amr was to reinforce him. Khalid was to attack Kamla, the southern outpost of the Persian empire.
A second army, under Ayaz bin Ghanam, was to strike at the norther boundary of Iraq.
The proud Persian Commander paid no heed to the warning. He was slain in the battle that followed. The Iranian army was utterly routed. After this a number of well-known Iranian generals came to fight Khalid. Bahman and Jahan were two of them. But they all met defeat. The Persian losses were heavy.
Hira, on the Persian border, was the stronghold of the Christian Arabs. They had so far fought on the Persian side because they knew of the Persian side. Khalid conquered Hira. Soon after, the other frontier chiefs also submitted to Khalid, after seeing the might of the Muslims.
After Hira, Khalid conquered Anbar and Ain-ut-Tamr, two important outposts of the Persian empire. He now received a letter from Ayaz, calling him to his help in North Iraq. Ayaz was hard pressed at Dumat-ul-Jundal. Khalid rushed to his help and sent the following message to Ayaz:
“Wait for a while. Camels carrying fierce lions are shortly reaching. Wave after wave of troops are on their way.”
One of the enemy generals, Akidar, knew from his own experience how impossible it was to halt Khalid’s attack. He advised the other generals to stop fighting against the Muslims. When the advice went unheeded, he quietly left. His friends saw the truth of his remarks when they met humiliating engagement took place at Faraz. A huge force made of Iranians and Arabs crossed the Euphrates. On the 15th of Dhul-Qaad, 12 A.H., Khalid routed this host at Faraz. From here he went back to Hira.
Abu Bakr had no more than ten thousand troops when he took over as Caliph. With this small force, he had to put down a country-wide revolt. To all appearance the task was hopeless. But Abu Bakr met with amazing success. Much of this success was due to his unshakable faith in. “Islam is the path of truth revealed by Almighty God,” he said, “so God will defend it against its enemies.” It was not so much on troops as on God’s help that Abu Bakr depended. Results proved that he was right in his faith.
There was, however, another important factor which helped Abu Bakr. This was Khalid bin Walid, the greatest general of Islam. His courage and tactics made the small forces of Islam look ten times stronger. The results were simply astonishing. With a handful of troops Khalid was able not only to overcome all internal enemies, but also to make Arabia safe for Islam. He was then able to jump on Iraq and conquer it to live under the safety and justice of the Islamic state. From Iraq he marched against the Byzantine forces and put them to rout. All this took place in the space of two years. Throughout the campaign not even once did Khalid retreat. By forced marches, he often gave a surprise to the enemy and did not rest till he overpowered them. This made Khalid the dread of the enemy. The truth is that Khalid’s exploits put to shame the victories of an Alexander or a Napolean.
The Sword of God
Khalid bin Walid was born a general. At Uhud, he was still a disbeliever and so he fought on the side of the Pagan Quraish. It was he who turned the tide of that battle. Muslim victory was clearly in sight. Quraish leaders were on the run. Suddenly Khalid saw the pass at the back of the Muslim army undefended. At the head of a strong party, he dashed through the pass and took the army of Islam by surprise.
After the peace of Hudaibiya Khalid embraced Islam. His military talent soon began to outshine others. The Holy Prophet at once saw his worth and gave him the title of “Saif Allah” or “The Sword of God.” But it was not till Islam overleaped the boundaries of Arabia that the world saw Khalid’s unequalled military talent.
Abu Bakr was quick to see Khalid’s ability. So he put him in charge of the Iraqi campaign. Khalid’s exploits in this campaign have few equals in history. In about eleven months, he over-ran the whole of Iraq and brought it under the banner of Islam. He had no more than ten thousand men. With this small force he defeated hosts twenty times as big. These hosts had superior arms and equipment. But Khalid knew how to win with smaller numbers and inferior arms.
In Iraq Khalid fought fifteen battles in all. He won complete victory in all of them. He never allowed the standard of Islam to leave the battlefield until the enemy was completely beaten. Towards the later part of the campaign, Khalid became the dread of the enemy. The mere fact that Khalid commanded an army made the enemy tremble.
A Good Administrator
Khalid was not only a great conqueror but also a first-rate administrator. He saw to it that things were managed well in the cities and territories he conquered. He never marched on until this had been done. He left behind a deputy to look after things. He also appointed a judge to settle people’s disputes.
Khalid was extremely kind hearted and just to the people. His army had strict orders not to do any harm to farmers and other civilians. “They are the real strength of society,” he said. “They should always be treated with kindness and respect.” This was something new for any conquered people. The Iranian and Byzantine officers had been very hard on them. Khalid’s treatment won their hearts. So much so that they came to hate their old masters and many embraced Islam from their experience with the justice of Islam.
War with Byzantian
The need for military operations against Byzantium (a Roman empire in the middle east) began to be felt in the life-time of the Holy Prophet. So Abu Bakr was bound to do something about this danger. In the year 13 A.H., he prepared a big army and divided it into four battalions. Each battalion was put under a separate commander. Each of them was to strike at a different point on the Syrian border. Abu Ubaida bin Jarrah was to march on Hims, Amr bin al-Aas on Palestine, Yazid bin Abi Sufyan on Damascus and Shurjil bin Hasna on Jordan.
These battalions were to strike at the enemy at once and the same time. The aim was to keep the enemy from hitting with full force on anyone of the battalions.
Before these armies left, Abu Bakr gave the following instructions to their commanders:
1. Always be conscious of God. He knows what is in the men’s hearts.
2. Be kind to the men under you and treat them well.
3. Directions given should be brief. If too long, they are likely to be forgotten.
4. Improve your conduct first others will improve when they see your example
5. Honor the representatives of the enemy.
6. Keep your own arrangement a secret.
7. Be always truthful so you can get good advice.
8. At night when you are free, sit among your men. This will keep you in touch with them.
9. Make good arrangements for the watch and ward of the army.
10. Keep away from untruthful men. Be intimate with truthful and faithful companions.
11. Be sincere to all whom you have dealings.
12. Beware of cowardice and dishonesty.
13. You will come across people who have given up the world and are spending their days in place of worship. Leave such people alone.
The news of the Muslim invasion upset Emperor Heracleus. He was in Jerusalem at that time. He sought the advice of his nobles. He himself was in favor of coming to terms with the Muslims. “It is better to give up half of Syria,” he said, “than lose the whole of it.” To this the nobles did not agree.
So four huge armies were sent by the emperor to fight the Muslims. His own brother was leading one of the armies. Each army was several times more numerous than the Muslim army it had to fight. This made the Muslim commanders give thought to the matter. They met together for mutual counsel. One of them pinpointed the folly of fighting separately. “We will be crushed under the sheer weight of numbers,” he said, “if we fight separately.” The other generals saw the point. They agreed upon a plan to merge the four battalions into a single army. Thus, they thought, the Muslim army would stop looking too small in its own eyes. They informed the Caliph of their decision. He approved of it and sent the following written message:
“Muslims can never be defeated because of small numbers. But if their own sins overwhelm them, they will meet defeat. So let you all keep away from sins of all kinds.”
The Battle of Yarmuk
Heraclius learnt that the four Muslim armies had merged into one. He also ordered a similar move. The four Byzantine armies combined to form a gigantic mass of men. They dug up trenches in the valley of Yarmuk. By the Caliph’s orders the Muslim forces, too, took up position on the opposite side. For weeks the two armies lay facing each other. Neither of the two sides dared to touch on the fighting.
The Byzantine forces had every advantage on their side. In addition to numbers, they had the river in front and the mountains at their back. So the Muslim commanders requested the Caliph for reinforcements. He at once wrote to Khalid to rush to Syria.
Khalid handed over the charge of affairs in Iraq to Muthanna bin Haritha. He then hastened to Syria at the head of ten thousand men. Despite all his haste, Khalid conquered many forts and cities on the way. At last he reached Yarmuk. Almost at the same time, the Byzantine army received a reinforcement. The brought their total strength to two hundred and forty thousand. The Muslim army numbered just thirty-six thousand.
As the two armies stood facing each other, a Muslim soldier remarked. “How numerous the enemy is!” Khalid overheard the remark. “It is not the numbers that matter,” he exlaimed, “it is rather the final outcome of the battle.”
At long last the battle began. Khalid took some troops with him. He made a wild charge and was soon in the heart of enemy forces. He succeeded in driving a wedge between the enemy cavalry and infantry. The two were cut off from each other.
Fighting unto Death
Ikrama bin Abu Jahl was fighting at Yarmuk. Soon after the battle began, the Muslim troops began to real under the weight of numbers. Ikrama saw this. “Before today, I fought all battles against the Messenger of God,” he shouted out. “This is the first time I am fighting for the cause of God. In no case will I turn my back on the battlefield. Now who is going to fight unto death with me?”
Saying this, Ikrama held out his hand to receive the pledge of others. His son, Amr, was the first go give the pledge. He was followed by four hundred more. Like wild cats, these men pounced upon the enemy hordes. They dealt such telling blows that the sea of man cleared before them. Their desperate attack caused confusion among enemy ranks.
Rout of the Enemy
Soon the enemy cavalry found itself walled between Khalid’s troops and the main Muslim army. Confusion spread and they fled. The Muslim army made was for them to flee.
Now Khalid fell on the enemy infantry. The shield of the cavalry being no more, the infantry was take by surprise. In utter confusion it fell back. But the mountain blocked the way. In despair men ran back to the river. Here a watery death awaited them. Most of the men had tied themselves with iron chains to rule out the possibility of flight. The chains proved traps of death. When a few of the men fell into the river, they also dragged their companions into the watery grave. The Byzantine rout was complete. The Muslims loss was three thousand killed.
Muslim women played a notable role in this battle. They formed a battalion which stood at the back of the army. They supplied water to the men. They also dressed their wounds. They shouted words of courage when the army showed signs of weakness. These words put a new heart into retreating men. They dashed forth like lightning and sowed death among enemy lines.
The Byzantine army at first forced the Muslims to fall back. Muslim women stood on a bridge. Khalid came to them and said, “O daughters of Islam, if anyone turns his back on the battlefield, kill him at once.”
The women did what Khalid bade them to do. They stood at their post of duty. They had stones at their post of duty. They had stones in their hands and their eyes were fixed on the battlefield. If anyone fled for life, he was met by a shower of stones. Back he ran into the thick of battle and fought to the last.
Many Muslim soldiers had brought their families with them. The women stayed in tents at the back of the troops. Their words of courage for the brave and their taunts for the weak of heart, made a real difference in the tempo of fighting and in the outcome of the battle. Victory of Yarmuk was in no small measure due to the courage of Muslim women.
Unparalleled Selflessness of Khalid
The battle of Yarmuk was on when a letter arrived from Medina. It was delivered to Khalid. It said that Abu Bakr had passed away and Umar has succeded him as Caliph. It also said that the new Caliph had dismissed Khalid from his command and replaced him by Abu Ubaida bin Jarrah. Khalid read the letter. He then informed Abu Ubaida that the command had passed to him. But the news was not made public, lest the army should lose heart. The letter had no effect whatever on Khalid. He went on fighting as desperately as ever.
After the battle was over, Khalid’s dismissal became known. Someone said to him, “How is it that the news did not damp your spirit at all?” “I was not fighting for Umar,” replied Khalid, “I was fighting for the cause of God.”
Abu Bakr’s Last Illness
On the 7th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 13 A.H., Abu Bakr was taken ill. He had a severe fever. Everything was done to bring down the fever, but all in vain. It became clear to the aged Caliph that his end was come.
Even in these last days, the thought that troubled Abu Bakr was the future of Islam. He wanted to make sure that nothing would go wrong with the affairs of Muslims, after he was no more. He had to spend every ounce of his energy to put down the violent storms of unrest that broke loose after the Prophet’s death. He did not want this to happen after his own death.
Welfare of Muslims had always been the first care of Abu Bakr. He would allow nothing that would make Islam weak. The thing he feared most was division among Muslims. He remembered what had happened after the death of the Holy Prophet. He wanted to make sure that no differences should divide Muslims after he was no more. Unity was the secret strength. Unity must be had at any price.
As his sickness grew, Abu Bakr gave more and more thought to the matter. Who should be the Caliph after him? Should he himself name the best man? Or should he leave the matter to the people? In the latter case, quarrels might arise. These would certainly shake the very foundations of Islam. IT was too great a risk. Abu Bakr was not willing to take that risk.
After careful thought, he chose to nominate Umar. He put his proposal before the leading Companions. Most of them liked the proposal. But someone said, “Umar is no doubt the best man, but he is rather too tough.”
To this Abu Bakr replied, “As soon as the burden of Caliphate falls on his shoulders, he will become more mild.”
When all Companions agreed, Abu Bakr called Uthman. He dictated to him Umar’s nomination. It was read out to the people. It said:
“This is the will of Abu Bakr, the Caliph of the Holy Prophet. He is making the will when he is about to leave for the next world. This is the time when even a non-believer begins to believe and even a sinner begins to trust in God. I appoint Umar bin Khattab as your ruler. In appointing him, I have kept your welfare fully in mind. I hope he will be truthful and just. But if he leaves his path and becomes unjust, I know nothing about the unseen, I have only the well-being of Muslims at heart. Everybody is responsible for what he does.”
The will was read out to the people. After this Abu Bakr went to the top of his house, supported by two men. Addressing the people he said:
“My brethren in-faith, I have not appointed any of my own brothers and relatives as your Caliph. I have appointed a man who is the fittest person among you. Do you approve of him?”
“Of course we do,” went up a shout from hundreds of men.
Next he called Umar to his bedside and spoke to him thus:
“Umar! I have nominated you my successor. My parting advice is that you fear God and work for the well-being of the Muslims. Remember, Umar, the duties you have been given by are to be discharged at the proper time. Some of these are to be discharged at night and some during the day time. First things must come first. On the Day of Judgment only those will come out successful whose good deeds are weighty. Those whose evil deeds out-weigh the good deeds, will have a terrible time. For success and salvation, you have to make the Qur’an and the truth your guides. You know, Umar, that the verses of the Qur’an speak of good reward and punishment side by side. This is to put the greatness of God in the believer’s heart and to make him pray for forgiveness. Umar, when you read in the Qur’an about the inmate of fire, pray to God not to make you one of them. But when you read about the dwellers of Paradise, pray for being one of them Umar, if you follow the path I have chalked out for you, you will find me by your side.”
When Umar had left, the dying Caliph raised his hands in prayer and said:
“Lord! I have taken this step in the best interest of the Muslims. I feared disunion among them, so I took this step, the consequences of which are best known to You. After careful thought I have appointed a man who is the sincere and the most energetic worker for the well-being of the people. I am at death’s door now, so help the Muslims, Lord after I am no more. They are Your servants. Their future is in Your hands. Lord, keep their rules on the right path. Make Umar one of the noblest Caliphs and help the Muslims help him.”
Abu Bakr Passes Away
After an illness of two weeks, Abu Bakr passed away. He was sixty-three at the time. He was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet.
Before his death he said, “Do not use new cloth to cover my dead body. The sheet of cloth I have on will do for me. Wash it clean.”
“But this is too old and worn, father,” said his daughter Aisha.
“This old and worn sheet will do for me,” he replied.
This parting wish was acted upon. The second wish of the dying Caliphs was, “Sell my land and pay back in the public treasury all the money I got as my salary.” This was also done. Before he became the Caliph, Abu Bakr was a well-to-day merchant. The affairs of the Caliphate left him no time to look after his own business. The matter was put before the Companions. They allowed the Caliph a salary of six thousand dirhams a year. All this money was paid back to the Bait-ul-Mal (the Public Treasury) after the Caliph’s death.
Thus Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, left behind a noble example of selfless service. He lived and worked for Islam to the last breath. And for his tireless labors, he sought no worldly reward. Abu Bakr was Caliph for only two years, three months and ten days. This was a relatively short period of time in the life of people. But during this short period, Abu Bakr was able to do great things for Islam. These achievements have made his name immortal. They have placed him among the greatest men of all time.