July 30, 2005 Saturday Jumadi-us-Sani 22, 1426
First Caliph's exemplary role
ON the sad demise of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) the vacuum caused was neither then, nor it could ever be conceived, to be filled in. He was the prophet and the last one. However to run the affairs of the nascent state founded by the Holy Prophet (SAW) and to continue the mission of propagating Islam a successor was indispensable.
There was no precedent or established mode for the occasion except the parochial tribal ways and the hereditary monarchy, in vogue, in the neighbouring countries Hazrat Abu Bakr was installed as Caliph in an unconventional, rather a novel and peerless manner, through general consciousness of the people in a democratic way.
The venerable Caliph was the lifelong and the most trusted companion of the Holy Prophet (SAW). He had unshakable confidence and unswerving faith in the words and deeds of the Holy Prophet (SAW). He was the only fellow traveller and the companion in the cave of Mount Thaur referred to in the Holy Quran on way to Madina at the time of Hijrat. He was deputed to lead the prayers in the grand mosque of Madina during the days when the Holy Prophet (SAW) himself could not lead the prayers being extremely weak due to sickness.
Even before accepting Islam he commanded great respect among the Makkans and was held in high esteem due to his unblemished character, unflinching courage and steadfastness. Being an elite he was also an honest businessman. At the time of embracing Islam, as mentioned by Ibn-Athir, he had an enormous amount which he generously spent for the cause of Islam.
He got franchised about seven slaves including Hazrat Bilal, the famed Muazzin of the grand mosque of the Holy Prophet, who were the prey of tyranny and persecution at the hands of their pagan masters. He paid the cost of the land where the Masjid-i- Nabavi was built. Not only that but on the occasion of preparation, for the battle of Tabuk, contributions towards sinews of war were being made by the devoted and sincere Muslims according to their means. Hazrat Abu Bakr volunteered all whatsoever he possessed.
He participated in all the battles along with the Holy Prophet (SAW). When Haj was made obligatory, he was sent as the Amir-i- Haj and it was on this occasion that declaration to purify Kaba from all idols and abominations was announced.
After his election as Caliph and receiving oath of allegiance, he declared his policy of governance which was based on equity and fair play: O people! I have been made your Amir, but I am not the best amongst you. If I do right, help me, if I err, correct me. It evidently shows his humility as head of the state. He accepted counselling, an aspect uncommon among the rulers.
Elaborating his views further, he advised, Truthfulness is a sort of trust and falsehood is defalcation. Manifesting his policy of justice he assured, The weak amongst you will be strong before me, I will get his right restored and the strong in my eyes is weak and I will get from him the others' dues and restore to the weak.
Since the nascent state of Madina was yet in infancy but destined to bring a broad-based change in the time to come by spreading Islam, he also exhorted, Not to abandon Jihad (not necessarily Qital; the scholars pen or preachers' voice or wealthy men's contributions are also a form of Jihad).
Winding up his address to honour the people who exercised their vote in his favour, he with the core of his heart uttered, Obey me till I obey Allah and His Prophet (SAW) and if I disobey Allah and His Prophet (SAW) I shall have no right to claim your obedience. Every word of his address vividly reflects his sincerity, austerity and political sagacity.
On assumption of office as Caliph he faced several formidable challenges both internal as well as external. During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (SAW) almost whole of the Arabian peninsula had come under the sway of Islam right from al-Yaman and Uman in the extreme south to the border of Syria in the north but some of the tribes broke away from Madina due to tribal discord.
Consequently there arose a sort of uprising on the provocation of the self-styled false prophets. It was the most critical time and immediate focus on the alarming issue was absolutely necessary. But even more important in the view of Hazrat Abu Bakr was to dispatch the expedition towards Syria to fulfil the wishes of the Holy Prophet (SAW) without any loss of time. The orders for the dispatch of the expedition were actually given by the Holy Prophet (SAW) himself.
When Hazrat Abu Bakr assumed the office of the caliphate he fared rousing influence of the false prophets, the defiance of secessionists and impending threats of attack on Madina. In the wake of the emerging scenario he was advised not to send the expedition, but he did not yield to the advice and without least hesitation took the bold decision and asked Usamah to march.
He preached the war ethics of Islam fervently saying: not to mutilate anybody; not to slay any child, aged or woman; not to cut date-palm or burn it, not to destroy any fruit-bearing tree or kill any of the flocks, herds of camel.' Wanton destruction during war is as such strictly forbidden in Islam. The military power of the nascent state as such was established beyond doubt.
Overwhelming the secessionists, Hazrat Abu Bakr turned towards external enemies. Though it is quite manifest that expansion of newly conquered territories knew no bounds during the caliphate of the second pious Caliph, Hazrat Umar, but it had started right from the period of the first pious Caliph.
In day to day matters relating to state affairs, he took counsel from the companions of the Holy Prophet (SAW). During his caliphate Hazrat Umar was the Qazi, but reportedly not a single case came for hearing. Hazrat Usman was the scribe.
In his personal life he was very simple, gentle, generous, humble and an helping hand to the needy. After hijrat he took his abode at al-Sanh where he lived with his wife Habibah in a modest house and earned his livelihood through business. To devote full time to the state affairs he discontinued his business and shifted to Madina where for his subsistence he took a sort of stipend from the Bait-ul-Maal for which he advised on his death- bed to replenish after disposing of the piece of land owned by him.
After the reign of two years and three months he breathed his last on 22nd of Jamadi-us-Sani 13th A.H.
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