CALIPHATE OF HADHRAT ABU BAKR (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)


 The misunderstanding about the issue of Caliphate resulted in the first division in Muslims ranks.  History records that it was the beginning of the emergence of two extreme Groups among Muslims, (i) Shia, and(ii) Kharijis (present day Salafis).  Shia groups claim excessive love of Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and members of Ahle Bait and in the process use abusive language for the majority of Sahabah.  Kharijis/Salafis hide their hate for Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and other members of Ahle Bait, but openly hold them responsible for the early tribulations in Islamic State. They show a lot of respect towards the enemies of Ahle Bait and try to degrade the respect of members of Ahle Bait in the eyes of the people.     

The majority of the people among Muslims are Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaa,  who walk on the middle path. 

The issue of Caliphate is very important in Islam because a slight misunderstanding will have profound affect on your Sahih Iman. It is important that Ahle Sunnah safeguard their  Iman from extreme opinions of Shias, Salafis and their like minded groups. 

We have described facts as contained in authentic History books/Islamic literature. Ahadith, Quranic verses and scholars’ opinions have been cited all through the article. We have refrained from expressing our personal opinions.  Please note that the article  is aimed at clearing the misunderstanding on historical issues. We hope our readers will greatly benefit from this effort. 

There are 13 articles in this series which cover various misunderstandings and differences of opinions about the happenings during 48 years, immediately after the death of Prophet Mohammad(صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم).  For better understanding, it is important that you read these articles in the same sequence, from part 1 to 13.



There is a long Hadith in Bukhari, narrated by Ibn Abbas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)  in which Hadhrat Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) described the sequence of events in which Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) took over as Khalifa-e-Islam.


It is in Hadith – Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) : I used to teach (the Qur’an to) some people of the Muhajir (emigrants), among whom there was ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). While I was in his house at Mina, and he was with ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab  (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) during ‘Umar’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) last Hajj, Abdur-Rahman (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)  came to me and said, “Would that you had seen the man who came today to the Chief of the Believers (Umar – رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), saying, ‘O Chief of the Believers! What do you think about so-and-so who says, ‘If ‘Umar(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) should die, I will give the pledge of allegiance to such-and-such person, as by Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr  (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)was nothing but a prompt sudden action which got established afterwards.’ ‘Umar  (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) became angry and then said, ‘Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) willing, I will stand before the people tonight and warn them against those people who want to deprive the others of their rights (the question of ruler-ship).”

‘Abdur-Rahman (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) said, “I said, ‘O Chief of the believers! Do not do that, for the season of Hajj gathers the riff-raff and the rubble, and it will be they who will gather around you when you stand to address the people. And I am afraid that you will get up and say something, and some people will spread your statement and may not say what you have actually said and may not understand its meaning, and may interpret it incorrectly, so you should wait till you reach Medina, as it is the place of emigration and the place of Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) Traditions, and there you can come in touch with the learned and noble people, and tell them your ideas with confidence; and the learned people will understand your statement and put it in its proper place.’ On that, ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) said, ‘By Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی)! Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) willing, I will do this in the first speech I will deliver before the people in Medina.”

Ibn Abbas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) added: We reached Medina by the end of the month of Dhul-Hijja, and when it was Friday, we went quickly (to the mosque) as soon as the sun had declined, and I saw Sa’id bin Zaid bin ‘Amr bin Nufail (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) sitting at the corner of the pulpit, and I too sat close to him so that my knee was touching his knee, and after a short while ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)came out, and when I saw him coming towards us, I said to Said bin Zaid bin ‘Amr bin Nufail (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) “Today ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) will say such a thing as he has never said since he was chosen as Caliph.” Said bin Zaid (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) denied my statement with astonishment and said, “What thing do you expect ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) to say the like of which he has never said before?”

In the meantime, ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) sat on the pulpit and when the call makers for the prayer had finished their call, ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) stood up, and having glorified and praised Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) as He deserved, he said, “Now then, I am going to tell you something which (Allah -سبحانہ و تعا لی) has written for me to say. I do not know; perhaps it portends my death, so whoever understands and remembers it, must narrate it to the others wherever his mount takes him, but if somebody is afraid that he does not understand it, then it is unlawful for him to tell lies about me.


Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) sent Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی)  revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married person (male & female) who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah’sApostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, ‘By Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah’s(سبحانہ و تعا لی) Book,’ and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) has revealed. And the punishment of the Rajam is to be inflicted to any married person (male & female), who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if the required evidence is available or there is conception or confession. And then we used to recite among the Verses in Allah’s (سبحانہ و تعا لی) Book: ‘O people! Do not claim to be the offspring of other than your fathers, as it is disbelief (un-thankfulness) on your part that you claim to be the offspring of other than your real father.’ Then Allah’s Apostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said, ‘Do not praise me excessively as Jesus (علیھ السلا م), son of Marry was praised, but call me Allah’s (سبحانہ و تعا لی) Slave and His Apostles.’


(O people!) I have been informed that a speaker amongst you says, ‘By Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), if ‘Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)should die, I will give the pledge of allegiance to such-and-such person.’ One should not deceive oneself by saying that the pledge of allegiance given to Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)was given suddenly and it was successful. No doubt, it was like that, but Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) saved (the people) from its evil, and there is none among you who has the qualities of Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). Remember that whoever gives the pledge of allegiance to anybody among you without consulting other Muslims, neither that person, nor the person to whom the pledge of allegiance was given, are to be supported, lest they both should be killed.

And no doubt after the death of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) we were informed that the Ansaar disagreed with us and gathered in the shed of Bani Sa’da.  ‘Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)and Zubair (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and whoever was with them, opposed us, while the emigrants gathered with Abu Bakr(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). I said to Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), ‘Let’s go to these Ansari brothers of ours.’ So we set out seeking them, and when we approached them, two pious men of theirs met us and informed us of the final decision of the Ansar, and said, ‘O group of Muhajirin (emigrants) ! Where are you going?’ We replied, ‘We are going to these Ansari brothers of ours.’ They said to us, ‘You shouldn’t go near them. Carry out whatever we have already decided.’ I said, ‘By Allah, we will go to them.’ And so we proceeded until we reached them at the shed of Bani Sa’da. Behold! There was a man sitting amongst them and wrapped in something. I asked, ‘Who is that man?’ They said, ‘He is Sa’d bin ‘Ubada.’ I asked, ‘What is wrong with him?’ They said, ‘He is sick.’ After we sat for a while, the Ansar’s speaker said, ‘None has the right to be worshiped but Allah(سبحانہ و تعا لی),’ and praising Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) as He deserved, he added, ‘To proceed, we are Allah’s (سبحانہ و تعا لی) Ansar (helpers) and the majority of the Muslim army, while you, the emigrants, are a small group and some people among you came with the intention of preventing us from practicing this matter (of caliphate) and depriving us of it.’

When the speaker had finished, I intended to speak as I had prepared a speech which I liked and which I wanted to deliver in the presence of Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), and I used to avoid provoking him. So, when I wanted to speak, Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) said, ‘Wait a while.’ I disliked to make him angry. So Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) himself gave a speech, and he was wiser and more patient than I. By Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), he never missed a sentence that I liked in my own prepared speech, but he said the like of it or better than it spontaneously. After a pause he said, ‘O Ansar! You deserve all (the qualities that you have attributed to yourselves), but this question (of Caliphate) is only for the Quraish as they are the best of the Arabs as regards descent and home, and I am pleased to suggest that you choose either of these two men, so take the oath of allegiance to either of them as you wish.  And then Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) held my hand and Abu Ubada bin Abdullah’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) hand who was sitting amongst us. I hated nothing of what he had said except that proposal, for by Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), I would rather have my neck chopped off as expiator for a sin than become the ruler of a nation, one of whose members is Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), unless at the time of my death my own-self suggests something I don’t feel at present.’

And then one of the Ansar said, ‘I am the pillar on which the camel with a skin disease (eczema) rubs itself to satisfy the itching (i.e., I am a noble), and I am as a high class palm tree! O Quraish. There should be one ruler from us and one from you.’

Then there was a hue and cry among the gathering and their voices rose so that I was afraid there might be great disagreement, so I said, ‘O Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)! Hold your hand out.’ He held his hand out and I pledged allegiance to him, and then all the emigrants gave the Pledge of allegiance and so did the Ansar afterwards. And so we became victorious over Sa’d bin Ubada (whom Al-Ansar wanted to make a ruler).

One of the Ansaar said, ‘You have killed Sa’d bin Ubada.’  I replied, ‘Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) has killed Sa’d bin Ubada.’ Umar(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) added, “By Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی), apart from the great tragedy that had happened to us (i.e. the death of the Prophet – صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم), there was no greater problem than the allegiance pledged to Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) because we were afraid that if we left the people, they might give the Pledge of allegiance after us to one of their men, in which case we would have given them our consent for something against our real wish, or would have opposed them and caused great trouble. So if any person gives the Pledge of allegiance to somebody (to become a Caliph) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed. (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, # 817)


The important points of the above Hadith:

(i) Sa’ad bin Ubada, a relatively unknown person from Ansaar organized a separate meeting of Ansaar which was kept secret as no one from the Ahle Bait, close associates of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) and Muhajirin (رضئ اللھ تعالی عنہم اجمعین ) were invited.  He organized the secret gathering when everyone was struck from the grief of Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) separation. He did not allow Sahabah to come out of the shock and organize a broad based gathering to plan for a smooth transition. His actions created confusion. Hadhrat Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was a great visionary and it was because of his timely intervention and wisdom in leading the process of allegiance on the hands of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), that the Islamic nation was saved from an unpleasant situation at a most inopportune time.  Realizing the wisdom of Hadhrat Umar’s(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) action, other Sahabah, both from Muhajirs and Ansaars, followed suit.

(ii) Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Hadhrat Zubair (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)were not supporting Sa’ad bin Ubada or his Secret meeting. We cannot interpret or even visualize that Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was supporting Sa’ad bin Ubaada, an unknown sick person from Ansaar, to be the Caliph of Islamic nation. The fact of the matter is, both Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Hadhrat Zubair (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) were in favor of a broad based consensus among Sahabah. They neither supported Ansaar nor opposed Muhajirin. They did not want Muhajirs or Ansaar to hold separate meetings for selection of a Caliph. This was the reason they opposed any separate moves by Muhajirs or Ansaars.  Shia misinterpret this action and claim that (nauzubillahi) Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was against Hadhrat Abu Bakr’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) Caliphate.  Shias have cooked up misleading stories on this issue and have gone astray. 

(iii) It is established beyond doubt that Hadhrat Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), other Khulafa-e-Rashideen, Ahle Bait and Sahabah (رضئ اللھ تعالی عنہم اجمعین) all believed in a democratic process in electing a consensus candidate to rule the Islamic nation.  This is the reason, Hadhrat Umar(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) emphasized in his address (in the above Hadith Bukhari) that no one should attempt to give allegiance to anyone for the Caliphate unless he consults with the rest of Sahabah. If someone attempts, it should be treated as null and void. Sa’ad bin Ubaada did now allow a broad based consensus to emerge among Sahabah.  However, Hadhrat Umar’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) timely action saved the Ummah from division in their ranks. If Sa’ad bin Ubaada had not convened a secret meeting, the Sahabah would have got an opportunity to select the Caliph by a unanimous decision. In such a scenario also, the end result would have been the same as Sahabah would have selected Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) without any hesitation since he was the best choice among them for the august responsibility. There cannot be a second opinion in this context.  

(iv) Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was regarded as the best among Sahabah for Caliphate after Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم).  This was manifested clearly when Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) asked Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) to lead the congregation prayers in his absence.

It is in Hadith – The Prophet  (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)  said “Tell Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) from my side to offer Salat to people (in my absence). (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirimzi, Ibn-e-Majah)

It is in Hadith – Narrated Ummul Momineen Aisha (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہا) : The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said  “It does not behoove a people (not expected of my Sahabah) who have Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) among them to have anybody other than him as their Imam (Caliph) (Tirmidhi)

It is in Hadith – Narrated Ummul Momineen Aisha (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہا) : The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) asked her : “Call your father (Abu Bakr – رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)  and brother (Abd al-Rahman – رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) here so I will put something down in writing, for truly I fear lest someone forward a claim or form some ambition, and Allah (سبحانہ و تعا لی) and the believers refuse anyone other than Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ).” (Muslim)


(v) The best person to rule the Islamic nation after Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was Hadhrat Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). The Islamic history is a witness to this fact.

(1) It is in Hadith – Narrated by Hudaifa and Ibn Mas’ud(رضئ اللھ تعالی عنہم):  The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said : “I don’t know up till when I remain with you, so follow the ones (who will become Caliphs) after me. [Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) pointed towards Abu Bakr(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)].  (Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Ibn Maja)

(2) It is in Hadith – Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) spoke from the pulpit in Kufa : “The best of this Community after its Prophet are Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Hadhrat Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). (Narrated by Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyya – Bukhari, Abu Dawud;  Narrated by Abd Khayr – Ahmad; Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Salama – Ibn Majah; Narrated by Shurayh – Ibn Shadhan, al-Khatib, Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Lalika’i, Ibn Mandha, Ibn Asakir and others)Ad-Dhahabi said it is a mass narrated Hadith.

(3) It is in Hadith – Narrated Ibn Abbas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ): When Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was placed on his deathbed, the people gathered around him, invoked Allah, and prayed for him before the body was taken away, and I was among them. Suddenly I felt somebody taking hold of my shoulder and saw that it was Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ).  Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) invoked Allah’s Mercy for Umar(رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and said: “O Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)! You have not left behind you a person whose deeds I like to imitate more than yours, nor would I more prefer to meet Allah with other than your deeds. By Allah! I always thought that Allah would keep you with your two companions, for very often I used to hear the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) saying: I, Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) went somewhere; I, Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) entered someplace; and I, Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and Umar went out (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ).” (Bukhari)

(4) It is in Hadith –  Narrated Anas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ): Allah’s Apostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) ascended the mountain of Uhud with Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), Umar (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), and Uthman (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ), and the mountain shook. Allah’s Apostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) said: “Be calm, O Uhud!” I think he stroked it with his foot and added: “There is none on you but a Prophet, a siddiq, and two shahid.”(Bukhari) 


(vi) It is wrong to say that Hadhrat Ali’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) right of Caliphate was usurped. 

It is in Hadith – Narrated by Sa’id Ibn Amr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)- On the day of the battle of the Camel Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) said: “In truth, Allah’s Apostle ( صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم )did not give us a covenant concerning leadership (after him), but we did see something on our own (concerning his preference). Then Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was made to follow him, and he kept to a righteous path, then Hadhrat Umar, (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) and he kept to a righteous path, then the Religion was stabbed in the throat (with the killing of Hadhrat Uthman – رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ).” (Ahmed)


Authentic accounts from Islamic History have recorded that Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) was never an eager contestant for the Caliphate. As a matter of fact, no one from among the Khulafa-e-Rashideen was an eager contestant for the Caliphate.  The Caliphate was entrusted to them by the people as they were best suited to shoulder this important responsibility. Several accounts of Islamic history and literature have documented that Hadhrat Ali (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)  resisted to take up the responsibility of Caliphate for a long time.  He eventually accepted it after Hadhrat Uthman’s (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) martyrdom when he was forced by the people under compulsive circumstances.