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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Abu Bakr

The First Caliph of Islam

Early Life

"No one has been a better companion to me than Abu Bakr," said the holy Prophet in his last sermon.A great reward indeed! Abu Bakr had earned it. All his life he stood by the side of the Prophet. He did not care for his life. He did not care for his riches. He did not care for what others said about him. His only ambition was to serve the Prophet more than anyone else. The cost did not matter. The ambition was fulfilled. And Abu Bakr got his reward in full. The Messenger of Allah was well pleased with him. He gave him the first place among the Companions. Abu Bakr was to be the first man to fill the place of the Prophet. He was also to lie in eternal rest by the prophet's side.
Abu Bakr was two years younger than the Prophet. His parents named him Abdul Kaaba, which means the servant of the Kaaba. When he became a Muslim, the Prophet changed his pagan name to Abdullah. Howevr, in early youth he had adopted the surname of Abu Bakr. He had come to be known by this name among people. Even to this day, the world generally knows him as Abu Bakr.
The name of Abu Bakr's father was Uthman, but he was known as Abu Qahafa. Salma was Abu Bakr's mother. She was also known as Umm-ul-Khair. Abu Bakr belonged to a branch of the Quraish.
From early years, Abu Bakr was known for good and upright nature. He was honest and truthful. He came of 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 merchang. But he used to be very kind-hearted. When he saw someone in trouble, his heart melted. He did his best to help him. If his money could remove suffering, he did not care home much he had to spend. Once he gave away thirty-five dirhams out of his total fortune of forty thousand. 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. He was to become the first among the Companions. He was to make Arabia and thereby the world safe for Islam after the Prophet has passed away.

Khalid's Exploits

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 Allah. "Islam is the path of truth revealed by Allah," he said, "so Allah must defend it against enemies." It was not so much on troops as on Allah'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 tact and courage 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 win it for Islam. 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 meet with a reverse. 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.

Allah's Sword

Khalid bin Walid was born a general. At Ohud, he fought on the side of the 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 "Allah's Sword." 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 hearded 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 the 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.

Hard on the Enemy

Khalid was very hard on people who took up arms against Islam. He believed that such people should have only two choices. They should either give in or fight to death. If they fled from the battlefield, he would not let them go. He followed them wherever they went, until they either begged for mercy or were killed.
This policy of Khalid proved very sound. He dealt with the beaten enemy once and for all. He did not allow them to take up arms a second time. Muslim forces were too small to deal with repeated risings.
There is hardly another general in history who combines as many qualities as Khalid. Khalid is unquestionable the greates general produces by Islam.

War with Byzantian

The need for military operations against Byzantium 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 Obaida 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:
Always fear Allah. He knows what is in men's hearts.
Be kind to the men under you and treat them well.
Directions given should be brief. If too long, they are likely to be forgotten.
Improve your conduct first; others will improve when they see your example>
Honor the representatives of the enemy.
Keep your own arrangement a secret.
Be always truthful so you can get good advice.
At night when you are free, sit among your men. This will keep you in touch with them.
Make good arrangements for the watch and ward of the army.
Keep away from untruthful men. Be intimate with truthful and faithful companions.
Be sincere to all whom you have dealings.
Beward of cowardice and dishonesty.
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 smiliar move. The four Byzantine armies combined to fomr 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.

Khalid Reorganizes the Army

Khalid at once saw that he must properly organize the army, in order to win. It meant a single command, in place of the four commands. So he called the other commanders and said, "We are fighting for the sake of the faith. We must all forget ourselves. We cannot afford to be split under many commanders. That would be a help to the enemy. Let there be just one commander, by turns if you please. If you agree to that let me be the commander for the first day of the battle."
All liked the plan. Khalid took the chief command. He divided the army into several sections. Each section was put under a commander. It was further subdivided into many troops, each with a leader. Abu Sufyan was appointed the fiery herald. He went about the army, speaking words of courage to men.
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. "Heretofore I fought all battles against the Apostle of Allah," he shouted out. "This is the first time I am fighting for the cause of Allah. In no casse will I turn my back on the battlefield. Now who are 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 infrantry. 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. According to one estimate, one hundred and twenty thousand of them were drowned in the river. The Byzantine rout was complete. The Muslims loss was three thousand killed.

Women's Courage

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.

Two Great Martyrs

On the following morning Khalid took stock of his losses. Ikrama and his son, Amr, were brought to him. They were seriously wounded. Their condition was grave. Khalid put their heads on his lap. In a few minutes, the souls of both of them winged their way to heaven.
Ikrama was the son of Abu Jahl, the archenemy of Islam. When Mecca fell, Ikrama fled away for fear of life. But hearing that the Prophet had forgiven all enemies, he came back to Mecca. To his surprise, the Prophet ran out to greet him. From that day on, Ikrama was a true son of Islam. He laid down his life fighting for the glory of Islam.

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 Omar has succeded him as Caliph. IT also said that the new Caliph had dismissed Khalid from his command and replaced him by Abu Obaida bin Jarrah. Khalid read the letter. He then informed Obaida 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 desperatley as ever.
After the battle was over, Khalid's dismissale became known. Someone said to him, "How is it that the news did not damp your spirit at all?" "I was not fighting for Omar," replied Khalid, "I was fighting for the cause of Allah."

Abu Bakr's Last Illness

On the 7th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 13 A.H., Abu Bakr was taken ill. He had sever 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.

Omar's Nomination

Welfare of Muslims had always been the first care of Abu Bakr. He would allow nothing that made 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.

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.
After careful thought, he chose to nominate Omar. He put his proposal before the leading Companions. Most of them liked the proposal. But someone said, "Omar is no doubt the best man, but he is rather too strict."
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 Othman. He dictated to him Omar'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 Allah. I appoint Omar 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 Omar to his bedside and spoke to him thus:
"Omar! I have nominated you my successor. My parting advice is that you fear Allah and work for the well-being of the Muslims. Remember, Omar, the duties you own to Allah 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, Omar, that the verses of the Qur'an speak of good reward and punishment side by side. This is to put the fear of Allah in the believer's heart and to make him pray for forgiveness. Omar, when you read in the Qur'an about the inmate of fire, pray to Allah not to make you one of them. But when you read about the dwellers of Paradise, pray for being one of them Omar, if you follow the path I have chalked out fo ryou, you will find me by your side."
When OMar 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 sinceristy 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. THye are Your servants. Their future is in Your hands. Lord, keep their rules on the right path. Make Omar one of the noblest Caliphs and help the Muslims help him."

Two Years of Abu Bakr's Calpihate

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.
When Abu Bakr too over, Islam was confined to Arabia alone. And here, too its hold was rather shaky. In many parts of the country, Islam was but a name. It was not a way of life with most people. Scores of tribes had thought of the Holy Prophet has a mere king. They tried to throw off his yoke as soon as he was no more. Abu Bakr taught these people a lasting lesson. He taught them that Islam was a way of life.
Abu Bakr was able to do this because of his unshakable faith. No difficulties could take him off the path of the Prophet. Usama might be youthful and inexperienced, but Abu Bakr would not hear a word against him. He was appointed by the Prophet. There might be rising in the country, but Abu Bakr would not put off the expedition to Tabuk. The Prophet had ordered it. Abu Bakr stood unequalled in his love for Allah and His Apostle. This was the secret of his unbending strength. It was this inner strength that carried him through the darkest hours of his Caliphate.
Abu Bakr was as sincere as he was firm in faith. He lived up to every word of what he said at the beginning of his Caliphate. He was never anything but the faithful agent of Allah and His Apostle, and the humblest servant of his people. It was this fact which won him the deepest love and respect for all classes of his people. The result was that Islam took an unshakable hold on the coutrny of its birth. Soon it gathered enough strength to overlap its boundaries. It struck at the two most feared powers of the time. And lo! it was successful. Abu Bakr had put Islam on the road to worldwide expansion.
Islam means total submission to the will of Allah. It means that utter absence of all selfishness. The Holy Prophet showed by his example hwo that goal could be reached. He showed how the power of the State should not be used for private ends but for the public good. Abu Bakr was the first among his followers to live up to the Prophet's example. He go tno personal gain out of the Caliphate. He spent every minuted of the last two years of life in the service of his people, but got not a penny as wages.
Abu Bakr had several sons and many near relatives. For public offices, he did not choose anyone of them. He rather chose other people who were more fit for public service. He had to nominate his own successor to prevent quarrels. But his choice fell on none of his own relatives. His choice was rather the man whom he honestly believed to be the best among the Companions. All the same, he did not force his choice on people. He put his proposal before the Companions. When they had agreed to it, he put it before the people.
In short, Abu Bakr showed the world what government of the people, for the people, and by the people really meant. Neither the East nor the West had ever known such a form of government before. The mighty empires of Iran and Byzantium were based upon naked force.
In short Abu Bakr kept going the great work of the Prophet. For that he had to fight hard. He fought with a will and with a faith that amazed everyone. Islam is for ever gratefule to him for the great services he rendered to it.

The End


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