Children’s Page (The Golden Era of Islam): Glorious Achievements of the First Caliph
by Masud Beg Mirza
The Light (Pakistan), 8th/16th May 1976 Issue (Vol. 56, Nos. 18–19, pp. 15–17)
Hazrat Abu Bakr was duly elected as the first successor of the Holy Prophet, and he amply proved that he was the right man for that great office. During the short tenure of his caliphate, just two years and three months, he had performed great deeds for the stabilisation of Islam, and also set the standard for future caliphs. He made kingship subordinate to the will of the people, and in his very first public address be exhorted the audience to help him if he was in the right and to set him right if he was in the wrong. Thus he laid it down as the corner-stone of administration that all power ultimately vested in the people. In the same address he described the functions of the state as preservation of peace and order and safeguarding the rights of citizens. He declared:
“The weak among you shall be strong in my eye till I have vindicated his just rights, and the strong among you shall be weak in my eye till I have made him fulfil his obligations due from him.”
The principle of legislation was also decided and was not left to the discretion of the head of the state. All legal measures were to be based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. But if no explicit ruling was available on the question in hand, the matter was to be decided by the majority of votes. Hazrat Abu Bakr thus laid the foundations of a truly democratic government as also of liberty and equality in the truest sense of these words.
As soon as the Holy Prophet closed his eyes, the whole of Arabia was plunged into anarchy. Towards the close of the Holy Prophet’s life, some false prophets appeared, who pretended to be in communication with God and started beguiling ignorant people. They also wanted a share in the government. As the news of the Holy Prophet’s death spread, many tribes under the influence of these pretenders, rose in revolt against the central authority at Medina. Some had also renounced the Faith and became apostates. They were the people who had just entered the fold of Islam, a little before the death of the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Some other tribes, who wanted to remain in the fold of Islam, refused to pay Zakat and tried to take advantage of the general confusion.
Abu Bakr thus had a real hard time in combating all these evil forces. However, he stood like a firm rock against all these dangers and difficulties. His first action after assuming charge of his office was to despatch the army under Usama to the Syrian frontier, the orders for which had actually been given by the Holy Prophet. In view of the unrest and serious conditions at home, he was advised not to despatch this army and keep it for the defence of Medina. But Hazrat Abu Bakr said:
“Medina may stand or fall, the caliphate may live or die, but the Prophet’s word must be fulfilled.”
Similarly, he was advised to make a compromise on the question of Zakat and grant exemption to the tribes concerned. But he said that even if such an ordinary thing as a string to tie a camel was withheld from Zakat, he would wage a war for it. He fully realised that the slightest relaxation of this public duty at that early stage, would have meant the disintegration of the power of Islam.
Hazrat Abu Bakr then despatched troops under the command of veteran soldiers like Khalid ibn Waleed to exterminate the insurrection of the false prophets. Khalid first defeated Tulaiha and then he defeated Musailimah — the two principal impostors. Of the four pretenders (three men and a woman), who rose in Arabia, two were killed, and the remaining two ultimately embraced Islam. Thus within a year Abu Bakr crushed all the forces of disorder and revolt in the territory which had come under the sway of Islam during the Holy Prophet’s lifetime. Having set the house in order, he next addressed himself to the strengthening of the Persian and Syrian frontiers. This led to the long chain of wars that ended in the subjugation of the Persian and Roman Empires during the reign of Hazrat Umar.
Abu Bakr did immense service to the cause of Islam during his reign. Not only the power of Islam was firmly re-established, but a new vigour was instilled into it. Another great achievement of his time was the collection of the Holy Quran. As soon as a verse or a chapter of the Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet, it was preserved in two ways. There were scribes at hand who committed it to writing, and there were others who committed it to memory. The Holy Prophet himself directed in what chapter and in what context the fresh revelation was to be inserted. This arrangement was also the result of Divine guidance. Thus the whole of the Quran was arranged and recited in the very order in which we find it today. What Hazrat Abu Bakr did was to collect all the material bearing the manuscripts and put them in one volume. He only compiled the Holy Book. During the reign of Hazrat Uthman several copies of this volume were made and sent out to all centres of the empire.
He also laid down most humane rules for the guidance of the Muslim army. An old man, a child and a woman were not to be slain. No hermit was to be molested, nor a house of worship to be demolished. Dead bodies were not to be disfigured. Fruit-bearing trees were not to be cut, nor crops to be burned. Treaty obligations were to be honoured under all circumstances. Those who surrendered were to be treated at par with Muslim subjects.
Hazrat Abu Bakr was a man of gentle disposition. He was tender-hearted, but also firm and brave. He was wise, sagacious, simple and sincere. His love of God and His Prophet was the deepest ever cherished by a disciple towards his Master. In the words of (late) Maulana Muhammad Ali:
“His piety and devotion, his simplicity of life, his sublimity of morals, his iron determination, his unflagging perseverance and, above all, his unshakable faith were the many qualities that have won him a place in Islam second only to that of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).”