There is nothing striking 4in the early life of this man. Abu Bakr's sub-tribe 5was called Taym, before Islam. He himself was the head of his sub-tribe. He was the best-informed genealogist 6in Mecca and he was an honest and trustworthy7 merchant.
He is known by five different names, which is a mark of activity and efficiency8 Before Islam he was called `Abdul-Ka'ba (servant of the Ka'ba). Then the Prophet changed it to `Abdullah (servant of God). Then he was called 'Ateeq', i.e. the one released9 from hell. Later he was named Abu Bakr because he was the first man to accept Islam. Finally he was called Assiddeeq owing to his unwavering 10 belief in all that the Prophet had said.
Abu Bakr is known to have had an attractive 11personality and this is why he was liked by everyone who met him. He had a fair complexion, a slim body and a thin face, with rather sunken 12 eyes and a high forehead 13. His daughter `Aishah described him as being of a lenient temperament, with a sober attitude and a good sense of humour. Being endowed 14 with such qualities, he had a wide 15 circle of acquaintances 16, who admired his kindness, humility and knowledge.
He married four times. Qutaylah, his first wife, gave birth to two children, Abdullah and Asma'. Umm - Ruman, his second wife, gave birth to two more children, Abdul-Rahman and `Aishah. After his emigration to Madina he married two other wives, Habeebah and Asma'.
Abu Bakr was tender-hearted17 and compassionate18 . He sympathized 19 with the poor and pitied 20 the miserable. Usually, when reciting the Qur'an, he was deeply touched and wept. 21After the battle of Badr, when the Prophet took a lot of captives from the Qurayshites, the captives 22 were defended by Abu Bakr. He spoke kindly on their behalf and managed to calm the Prophet's anger against them and then persuaded him to accept a ransom 23and set them free.
Though Abu Bakr was kind-hearted,24 he sometimes lost his temper and became extremely angry, especially when there was some sort of attack on Islam. When the Muslims emigrated to Madina, the Jews tried to win them over25 to their side, hoping that the two warring Madinan tribes of Aws and Khazraj would continue their feuds26 When they realized that Islam managed to unite the two warring tribes, the Jews started plotting against them. They used to meet in the house of one of their rabbis 27who was called Finhas. Abu Bakr went to Finhas and advised him to accept Islam, pointing out that Muhammad was undoubtedly 28a prophet, and Finhas must realize this as it was definitely mentioned in the Old Testament 29.Finhas scoffed at his words and accused Allah of being poor as he, in the words of the Qur'an, demanded a loan and promised a manifold recompense to those who would lend him money. Hearing the Qur'an's words wrongly interpreted, Abu Bakr got angry and slapped30 Finhas on the face shouting 31"By God, were it not for the contract32 between us, I would cut off 33 your head!" At that time there was an agreement 34 of peaceful co-existence 35 between Muslims and Jews.
But Abu Bakr's main characteristic 36 was his strong religious belief. From the moment he embraced 37 Islam he never suspected anything that the Prophet said or did. He followed his teachings meticulously38 offered all he possessed in order to launch 39 the new religion, and was never afraid to fight for its sake40 in the fiercest41battles. During the twenty years of his friendship with the Prophet neither his enthusiasm nor his belief wavered 42He was so spiritually43 uplifted 44 that, in following the example of the Prophet, he got very close to perfection. In the presence of the Prophet he was practically eclipsed, 45but in his absence he shone like a star. When the Prophet was alive he al ways supported him, and after his death he took over the torch of Islam and advanced with it steadfastly 46to enlighten the world.
Nothing can illustrate47 his staunch belief better than his wager 48with the Qurayshite infidel. This took place when the Romans, during their incessant 49wars with the Persians, were defeated just a few years before the Muslims emigrated to Madina. The disbelievers celebrated the occasion because the losers were people of the Book, whose Bible was revealed from heaven like the Qur'an. Soon after, Chapter of the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet, prophesying 50that the Romans would be victorious in less than ten years. The Qurayshite infidel laid a ten-camel wager against a Roman victory, and Abu Bakr accepted the wager. Seven years later (2 A.H 623 A.D.) the Persians were badly routed 51 and the Romans won a decisive victory. Ironically52 enough, the Muslims had their own brilliant victory on that day (17th Ramadhan, 2 A.H.), when they defeated the Qurayshites in the most significant53 battle of Badr.
Among Abu Bakr's many virtues were impartiality54 and justice. He considered all individuals equal in the eye of the law, and thought that the only way for anyone to excel was through piety and good works. The first day he became caliph, he delivered this oration: "I have been chosen caliph, though I am not the best of you. If I prove to be good, please help me. But if I prove to be to the contrary, then don't hesitate to put me right. Truth means honesty; and lies mean dishonesty. The weak among you is strong before the law until he is redeemed 55 from oppression 56 and the strong among you is weak before the law until he abstains from oppression. As long as I obey God and His Prophet, you have to obey me. But if I become disobedient 57 then you can disobey me."
Abu Bakr did not differentiate58 between nationalities59as he was fully aware60 of the internationalism 61 of Islam. He left in office Bazan, the Persian ruler of Yemen, because since his conversion62to Islam during the life of the Prophet he had never shown any sign of defection63. Salman was also a Persian who was treated with great respect. Suhayb, who was of Greek origin, was no less esteemed 64 Bilal the Abyssinian, Zayd bin Harithah, the Prophet's freed slave, and his son Osamah, were all treated with reverence 65and respect66. In the following chapters we will examine some of these challenges; but here it is enough to mention his obstinacy 67 in fighting the apostates68 When the Prophet died, most of the Arabian tribes stopped paying the Zakat. They considered it a heavy burden 69which they all wished to shed70 It seemed impossible for Abu Bakr to face such a huge71 revolt, and many advisers, among whom was Omar bin al-Khattab, tried to persuade him to give in. Yet, he wouldn't. Instead, he vowed 72to oppose the rebels 73even though he had to tackle the tremendous 74 alone. He swore, "I will not forgo even a rope which they used to give to the Prophet."
Finally, his prudence and firmness75 were among his outstanding 76characteristics. He used to consider every problem thoughtfully77 , and he was always willing to hear from his counsellors 78; but when he had reached a decision, he used to bring it into effect as efficiently and quickly as he could.
His clemency 79 was well known to everybody. Yet when the safety of the state was at stake80 he became extremely firm and tough. Many insurgents 81 were put to death when they refused 82 to repent or pay the Zakat. Many people spoke badly of Khalid bin al -Waleed, the Prophet's appointed leader, whom Abu Bakr trusted implicitly83 , only to admit in the end that Abu Bakr was a better judge of men and was right about him. After great deliberation 84he decided to appoint `Omar bin al-Khattab his successor. Talhah bin `Obaydillah and others went to him during his illness and complained that' Omar was unfit for the post owing to his harsh attitude85. He sat up angrily86in bed and said, "I can see that every one of you wants to be caliph; but I have chosen the one whom God likes best, the one most suitable to guide you along the right path87 At the time of prayers, he let his wife Asma' help him to the door, and addressed the congregation 88, praising 89 his successor and asking for their opinion. They all agreed with his choice and the decision was approved.
It should be stressed 90here that by following the godly teachings of Islam to the letter, and by keeping those teachings always in mind, Abu Bakr proved well able to do justice to the grand post of caliph. He whole-heartedly 91devoted himself to his job, so much so that he neglected the affairs of his family. In this way, he accomplished a significant task: - the linking of the prophetic era of heavenly revelation and the era of the fast extending empire of Islam. When he died, he passed the responsibility of controlling his already settled state to'Omar bin al-Khattab, who proved no less capable of the post.'Omar bin al-Khattab extended his realm further than anyone had expected by pushing his frontiers to the edge of both the Roman and the Persian empires.