By Abdullah Mohammed (5th Year ʿĀlim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
From the many illustrious companions who followed the Prophet (upon him be peace), Abū Bakr (Allāh be pleased with him) stands out. He was the Prophet’s best friend, and he accompanied him on many expeditions and travels, the most famous being the hijrah from Makkah to Madīnah. He lived his life following in the Prophet’s footsteps and is an exemplary for those who came after.
Even before he accepted Islām, he was a man of superb conduct who maintained excellent relations with others. In Arab society prior to Islām, wine was regularly consumed. However, even in those times, he abstained from quaffing it. Abū Bakr was an affluent businessman. One studying his life will find that there are many lessons and advices that can be obtained from his example. In a famous statement, the Prophet (upon him be peace) said: “My Companions are like the stars; whomever of them you follow, you shall be guided.”
Abū Bakr’s real name was ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUthmān. His father was known by his kunyah, Abū Quḥāfah, while his real name was ʿUthmān. Abū Bakr had different titles, the most famous are “al-ʿAtīq” and “al-Ṣiddīq.” In Arabic, the word “ʿatīq” has various meanings. One of them is to be free. Some said that he took this nickname because the Prophet (upon him be peace) once told him: “You are one who Allāh freed from the Fire.”
Abū Bakr is perhaps best known by the second title, “al-Ṣiddīq.” This was given to him by the Prophet (upon him be peace) because of his truthfulness. Furthermore, he had firm faith in the Prophet (upon him be peace) and what he brought. This is the second reason for why he was named “al-Ṣiddīq.”
Abū Bakr (Allāh be pleased with him) was born sometime after the Year of the Elephant. Thus, he was younger than the Prophet (upon him be peace). This is agreed upon by the majority. However, there are differences regarding exactly when he was born. Some stated that he was born three years after. Others maintained that he was born two years and six months after. As well, some said that he was born two years and some months after; meaning, they were not sure regarding the exact number of months. Regardless, he was born and raised in a noble family, and was a well-respected and honorable figure in his community.
Abū Bakr’s physical description is unique. Historians mentioned that he was fair-skinned and slender. Some, however, mentioned that he was fair-skinned mixed with a shade of yellow. His physical stature was such that his back leaned forward slightly. And this shape, along with him being slender, resulted in his lower garment frequently coming loose. His legs were lean and muscular, but his calves were skinny. When his hair greyed, he would dye it with henna. These are some of his physical attributes.
Throughout his childhood, he was a normal kid who used to do what children do. He played with the goats and especially enjoyed playing with young camels. In fact, this is where his kunyah, Abū Bakr, came from. The name literally means “the father of young camels.”
He would also spend time with the Bedouins. From a young age, he had good friends. As he got older, he abstained from consuming alcohol. The consumption of wine was common among the Arabs at the time. They took pride in producing amazing wines. They had various vessels for all their different wines. Despite that, Abū Bakr abstained from it.
Another trend that was prevalent in those times was idol-worship. This was so prevalent that they even placed idols inside the Kaʿbah. Again, despite that trend, Abū Bakr abstained. This is a point from his life from where lessons can be taken. He was a man of good morals and high ethics, all of which contributed to him attaining a lofty status in the Tribe of Quraysh.
As he grew older, he became involved in business. By profession, he was a wealthy businessman. Some historians mentioned that he traded carpets and rugs. He would travel into Syria and the surrounding regions with the trading caravans. Some historians mentioned that his investment capital was approximately forty-thousand dirhams. Due to his business acumen and intelligence, he was successful and would not have to chase after profits; rather, the profits would come to him. He had an honorable reputation for fairness and generosity in his dealings.
Abū Bakr was the first man to accept Islām. The biggest factor was him being close to the Prophet (upon him be peace). When the Prophet (upon him be peace) presented Islām to Abū Bakr, he accepted it immediately. He was engaged in a life-long search for the truth, and as mentioned, he was not inclined to idol-worship. After he accepted Islām at the hands of the Prophet, he began preaching to others.
Abū Bakr’s conversion was a major triumph for Islām, due to his closeness with the Tribe of Quraysh. The Prophet (upon him be peace) was very happy in regards. Abū Bakr (Allāh be pleased with him) went through many different trials and tribulations to spread Islām, and he carried on doing so until he passed away. He delivered the first sermon in front of the Kaʿbah. Afterwards, the Quraysh beat him so severely that he almost died. He recovered and continued to preach openly. His own wife at the time was not willing to embrace the religion, so he divorced her and married someone else.
Throughout his life, he fought in many battles and traveled in many expeditions. Perhaps the most famous was his migration to the illuminated city of Madīnah with the Prophet (upon him be peace). This was a very difficult and tiresome journey as they went through many hardships on the way. The Quraysh plotted to assassinate the Prophet in his own home. When the Prophet (upon him be peace) received news of this through divine revelation, he quickly planned to depart with Abū Bakr. They left in the early part of the day and traveled until they reached a cave, where they took rest for three days. Allāh helped them and sent a spider to spin a web by the entrance and a pigeon to build a nest there. This fooled the disbelievers who were pursuing them, as the tracks ended at the cave’s entrance. Hence, they gave up their search. After some time, they both continued until they reached Madīnah.
When the Prophet passed away, the Companions unanimously agreed that Abū Bakr was to be his caliph. He was mourning the Prophet’s passing but realized the gravity of the task at hand and assumed the position. During his caliphate, he went through many trials. After the Prophet passed, many individuals became apostates and stopped paying zakāh. Abū Bakr decided to take up arms and fought with them until he defeated them. This was one of the many achievements that he accomplished as caliph.
Another significant accomplishment that he achieved was the compilation of the Qurʾān. Throughout the Prophet’s life, the Qurʾān had not been written down in book form, like how it is today. However, many Companions had memorized it. And, at the time, many ḥuffāẓ were dying in the various battles that were taking place. Accordingly, ʿUmar thought that it would be a good idea to compile it. He proposed the idea to Abū Bakr who hesitated at first, as it had not been done during the Prophet’s time. And he did not want to do something the Prophet had not done. But after contemplating on the matter, he decided to proceed. Thereafter, he appointed Zayd b. Thābit to begin with the project. After he completed it, he submitted it to Abū Bakr, who kept it in his possession until he passed. Completing this task is one of the many achievements that Abū Bakr accomplished during his lifetime.
Abū Bakr passed away on the twenty-second of Jumādā al-Ākhirah in AH 13. He became sick, which eventually led to his passing. He was sick for fifteen days in total. Some historians mentioned that the Jews had poisoned him. When he anticipated that his time was near, he appointed ʿUmar to lead the prayers. Thus, he appointed him to be the next caliph. Abū Bakr was concerned about Islām and its stability in his final days.. When he passed, all he left behind was a camel, a servant, and one garment.
When he passed, it was a sorrowful day in Madīnah. Abū Bakr lived a life as an exemplar and paragon for all those who would come after.
 Jāmiʿ al-Uṣūl.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān.
 Tārīkh al-Daʿwah ilā al-Islām fī ʿAhd al-Khulafāʾ al-Rāshidīn.
 al-Shamāʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah.
 al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā.
 al-Tārīkh al-Islāmī.
 Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq.
 Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ.