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Abu Bakr

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Template:Islam

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (Template:Lang-ar, alternative spellings, Abubakar, Abi Bakr, Abu Bakar) (c. 573August 23, 634) ruled as the first of the Muslim caliphs (632634).

Abu Bakr was born in Mecca, a Quraishi of the Banu Taim clan. According to early Muslim historians, he was a merchant, and highly esteemed as a judge, as an interpreter of dreams, and as one learned in Meccan traditions. He was one of the last people anyone would have expected to convert to the faith preached by his kinsman Muhammad. Yet he was one of the first converts to Islam (see below) and instrumental in converting many of the Quraish and the residents of Mecca.

Originally called Abd-ul-Ka'ba ("servant of the house of God"), on his conversion he assumed the name of Abd-Allah (servant of God). However, he is usually styled Abu Bakr (from the Arabic word bakr, meaning a young camel) due to his interest in raising camels. Sunni Muslims also honor him as Al-Siddiq ("the truthful", or "upright"). He is also alluded to in the Qur'an as Muhammad's companion (see 9:40).

He was one of Muhammad's constant companions. When Muhammad fled from Mecca in the hijra of 622, Abu Bakr alone accompanied him. Abu Bakr was also linked to Muhammad by marriage: Abu Bakr's daughter Aisha married Muhammad soon after the migration to Medina.

During the prophet's last illness, Muhammad designated Abu Bakr to lead prayers in his absence: many took this gesture as an indication that Abu Bakr would succeed Muhammad. Upon the latter's death (8 June 632), Abu Bakr was elected the first caliph, by the acclamation of the people present at the meeting of Saqifah.

The Shi'a sect of Islam disputes this election. According to them, before Muhammad died he had publicly appointed his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib to be his successor as a command from God, and this nomination happened at Ghadir Khum when Muhammad and a convoy of Muslims had finished the performance of Hajj (Pilgrimage).

Muslim scholars of the Sunni sect argue that it is highly unlikely that the electors of the first Caliph would have disregarded such a public endorsement, had it been factual. They further point to the Prophet's injunction to the Faithful to settle their matters through shura, or consultation, thereby establishing the elective office of the Caliphate which endured for the first four occupants. However, Shi'a scholars hold that the Caliphal office was ordained by God to remain in the bloodline of the Prophet in perpetuity, and therefore no election to the contrary is valid.

This controversy is the cause of the first schism in Islam, between Sunni and Shia. Whatever the truth of the matter, Ali, though he actively campaigned for the first three elections, did not contest Abu Bakr's rule, nor the rule of the two later caliphs, served under them, and was in his turn elected to the office in 656. These facts are believed by some historians to be the reason why the first four "Rightly Guided" Caliphs are respected across the sectarian divides. The Sunni/Shi'a schism did not erupt into open warfare until much later.

Troubles emerged soon after Abu Bakr's election, threatening the unity and stability of the new community and state. Various Arab tribes of Hejaz and Nejd rebelled against the caliph and the new system. Some withheld the Zakat, the alms tax. Others apostatized outright and returned to their pre-Islamic religion and traditions, classified by Muslims as idolatry and forbidden by Islamic law. The tribes claimed that they had submitted to Muhammad and that with Muhammad's death, they were again free. Abu Bakr insisted that they had not just submitted to a leader but joined the Muslim religious community, of which he was the new head. Apostasy is a capital offense under Islamic law, and Abu Bakr declared war on the rebels. This was the start of the Ridda wars, Arabic for the Wars of Apostasy. The severest struggle was the war with Ibn Habib al-Hanefi, who claimed to be a prophet and Muhammad's true successor. The Muslim general Khalid bin Walid finally defeated al-Hanefi at the battle of Akraba. Abu Bakr's swift action in suppressing these revolts is credited with keeping the nascent Islamic state together and laying the foundation of the empire(s) to come.

After suppressing internal dissension and completely subduing Arabia, Abu Bakr directed his generals to foreign conquest. Khalid bin Walid conquered Iraq and Persia in a single campaign, and a successful expedition into Syria also took place.

Some traditions about the origin of the Qur'an say that Abu Bakr was instrumental in preserving Muhammad's revelations in written form. It is said that after the hard-won victory over al-Hanefi, Umar ibn al-Khattab (the later Caliph Umar), saw that many of the Muslims who had memorized the Qur'an from the lips of the prophet had died in battle. Umar asked Abu Bakr to oversee the collection of the revelations. The record, when completed, was deposited with Hafsa bint Umar, daughter of Umar, and one of the wives of Muhammad. Later it became the basis of Uthman ibn Affan's definitive text of the Qur'an. However, other historians give Uthman the sole credit for collecting and preserving the Qur'an.

Abu Bakr died on August 23, 634 in Medina. Shortly before his death (which one tradition ascribes to poison, another to natural causes) he nominated Umar ibn al-Khattab to be his successor, who was duly elected thereafter.

Abu Bakr lies buried in the Masjid al Nabawi mosque in Medina, alongside Muhammad and Umar ibn al-Khattab.

Was Abu Bakr the first man to adopt Islam?

Muslim scholars agree that the first woman to adopt Islam was Khadijah, Muhammad's first wife. However, there is some disagreement as to whether Ali ibn Talib or Abu Bakr was the first male to convert. Many Muslims learn only that "Abu Bakr was the first adult male; Ali was the first boy". This glosses over the difficulty. One of the earlier sources we have for Islamic history is a work called the Sirat Rasulallah, by Ibn Ishaq, known only from excerpts quoted by Ibn Hisham and Tabari. Ibn Ishaq tells two stories about Abu Bakr's and Ali's conversion. One story puts Abu Bakr first in time, another puts Ali. Since the Sunni/Shi'a schism was hardening just at the time Ibn Ishaq wrote, it seems predictable that two stories would be current: one, Shi'a, putting Ali first, and one, Sunni, putting Abu Bakr first. Without any further evidence, it is impossible to say which story is correct.


Preceded by:
The Prophet
Caliph
632–634
Succeeded by:
Umar

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