Monday, July 7, 2014

The Rashidun Caliphate: Abu Bakar

Abu Bakar
632, Medina – an election was being held. The Prophet Mohammad had passed away. Four Companions of the Prophet were nominated to become deputies of the new religion of Islam. The future of the religion and the political entity that Mohammad left hang in the balance. The man that rose as result of the election was one of the closest to Mohammad, his father-in-law, Abu Bakar. From him a caliphate would rose, the Rashidun. But who is Abu Bakar? What were his achievements? What were his contributions to the growth of Islam?

Abu Bakar was one of the top Companions of the Prophet Mohammad. He was few years younger to the prophet, born either 572 or 573. His real name was Abi Quhafa, but he was well-known for his nickname Abu Bakar. He was a member of one of the clans of Quarysh Tribe, the Taym. According to tradition, he worked as a merchant like most of those living in Mecca. He was generous man. He donated 40,000 dinars for the freedom of slaves. The deed earned him the name al-Atiq or freed slaves. When Mohammad began to preach of the one true god, Allah, Abu Bakar were among the first to follow the Prophet. He was also among those who believed to Mohammad’s Isra and Mi’raj or the Night Journey. This then gave him the name al-Shiddiq or the Truthful.  In 619, The Prophet and Abu Bakar became relatives, when the latter’s daughter, Aisha, became the wife of the former. Abu Bakar was very loyal to Mohammad, he followed him during the Hijira in 622. He also joined the battles that the Prophet fought to destroy polytheism in Mecca.  After the battles, when the Prophet became ill, Abu Bakar was placed in charge of the prayers.  With his close affiliation to Mohammad, it was no surprise that he was among the nominated successor of the Prophet.

In 632, the Prophet Mohammad passed away. The Prophet left no instruction to who would succeed him. Two groups would form. One group believed that direct relatives of the Prophet should succeed him. This group later became the Shi’ite group. Another believed that it must came from his Companions. This later on became the Sunni. Those who believed that one of the Companions should succeed Mohammad came together in a Saqifah of the Banu Sa’ida tribe. An election was held to vote for the successor of the Prophet. Four nominees were placed forward. The nominees were Abu Bakar, Uthman ibn Affan, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, and Ali Abu Talib. Eventually, Umar gave his support to Abu Bakar. This resulted to the victory of Abu Bakar. Abu Bakar was then given the title of Shakyb or chief or judge. He was also called the Amir al-Mu’minin or Leader of the Faithful. He was also called Kalifah or Successor. Lastly, he was called the Rightly Guided Caliph or Rashidun. It was the beginning of the Rashidun Caliphate.

First challenge that Abu Bakar must face was the disintegrating control over Muslims across the Arabian Peninsula. When Mohammad died, many tribes converted back to polytheistic tradition before. Some became heretic, giving rise to pretending prophets. In Central Arabia, Musailima called himself a prophet. Another was Tulaiha in north. Another problem was the breaking away of tribes from the government in Medina. Some tribes began to refuse to pay taxes or al-Zakat. The Islamic government in Medina was losing control.

But Abu Bakar was firm to solidify Islam’s hold in the Arabian Peninsula. The Apostasy or al-Ridda an al-Islam began. The Caliph created 11 corps, each led by a general, to quell the rebellions. Talented generals like Khalid ibn al-Walia, Amr, ibn al-As, Hudifa ibn Mihsan, and Ala bin al-Hadharami.Side by side victories were scored by these generals. Khalid defeated Tulaiha. Hudifa defeated those in Oman. Ala scored victory against those in Bahrain. The al-Ridda lasted for a year, ending in 633.

Other acts of Abu Bakar included the decision to announce that the Prophet’s property belong to the Ummah or the Islamic Community and not his relatives. He also launched campaigns against the Byzantines and the Sassanids. It would provide access to the fertile grounds, as well as, the first step to take the holy city of Jerusalem. He also appointed governors to the newly held areas in order to maintain order.

Abu Bakar’s Caliphate, however, was short lived. Two years after taking power. Abu Bakar passed away in 634. He was then succeeded by his supporter Umar.

For his short reign, Abu Bakar contributed hugely to the security of Islam. His steadfastness and decision making skills allowed him to choose best generals to fight for him. His decision led to the cementing of the new religion in the Arabian Peninsula. It was through him that the Rashidun Caliphate began its path to greater glory.

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Wynbrandt, J. A Brief History of Saudi Arabia. New York: Facts On File, 2010. 

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