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Abu Bakr

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Abu Bakr

Depending on the group of Muslims, Abu Bakr is regarded very differently. Some groups of Sufis, like the Naqshibandis, regard him as a central religious personage, and a spiritual authority. Sunnis consider him affectionately because he is the first Muslim leader after Muhammad passed away. The Shi'is object generally to any Caliph except Ali, but Abu Bakr is one of those they tolerate most. Still, they consider him to be a symbol of profound injustice, because his rule is a human one and not divinely guided, hence illegitimate and tyrannical.

Abu Bakr's early days, he is supposed to have been of the same age as Muhammad, and he was either the first or second male to covert to Islam

Abu Bakr was born in Mecca, a Quraishi of the Banu Taim clan. According to early Muslim historians, he was a merchant, and highly esteemed as a judge, as an interpreter of dreams, and as one learned in Meccan traditions. He was one of the last people anyone would have expected to convert to the faith preached by his kinsman Muhammad. Yet he was one of the first converts to Islam (see below) and instrumental in converting many of the Quraish and the residents of Mecca.

Originally called Abd-ul-Ka'ba ("servant of the house of God"), on his conversion he assumed the name of Abd-Allah (servant of God). However, he is usually styled Abu Bakr (from the Arabic word bakr, meaning a young camel) due to his interest in raising camels. Sunni Muslims also honor him as Al-Siddiq ("the truthful", or "upright"). His full name was Abd-Allah ibn Abi Quhaafah.

He was one of Muhammad's constant companions. When Muhammad fled from Mecca in the hijra of 622, Abu Bakr alone accompanied him. Abu Bakr was also linked to Muhammad by marriage: Abu Bakr's daughter Aisha married Muhammad soon after the migration to Medina. Once a wealthy man, he was known to have impoverished himself by purchasing the freedom of several Muslim slaves from polytheist masters.

During the prophet's last illness, it is said by some traditions that Muhammad allowed Abu Bakr to lead prayers in his absence, and that many took this as an indication that Abu Bakr would succeed Muhammad. Soon after the latter's death (on 8 June 632), a gathering of prominent Ansar and some of the Muhajirun, in Medina, acclaimed Abu Bakr as the new Muslim leader or caliph. What happened at this meeting, called Saqifah, is much disputed.

Abu Bakr's assumption of power is an extremely controversial matter, and the source of the first schism in Islam, between Sunni and Shia Islam. Shi'a believe that Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abu Talib, was his designated successor, while Sunnis believe that Muhammad deliberately declined to designate a successor. They argue that Muhammad endorsed the traditional Arabian method of shura or consultation, as the way for the community to choose leaders. Designating one's successor was the sign of kingship, or mulk, which the independence-minded tribesmen disliked. Whatever the truth of the matter, Ali gave his formal bay'ah, or submission, to Abu Bakr and to Abu Bakr's two successors. (The Sunni depict this bay'ah as enthusiastic, and Ali as a supporter of Abu Bakr and Umar; the Shi'a argue that Ali's support was only pro forma, and that he effectively withdrew from public life in protest). The Sunni/Shi'a schism did not erupt into open warfare until much later. Many volumes have been written on the affair of the succession. A detailed treatment can be found at Succession to Muhammad.

After suppressing internal dissension and completely subduing Arabia, Abu Bakr directed his generals towards the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. Khalid bin Walid conquered Iraq in a single campaign, and a successful expedition into Syria also took place. Fred Donner, in his book The Early Islamic Conquests, argues that Abu Bakr's "foreign" expeditions were merely an extension of the Ridda Wars, in that he sent his troops against Arab tribes living on the borders of the Fertile Crescent. Given that the steppes and deserts over which Arabic-speaking tribes roamed extended without break from southern Syria down to Yemen, any polity that controlled only the southern part of the steppe was inherently insecure.

Some traditions about the origin of the Qur'an say that Abu Bakr was instrumental in preserving Muhammad's revelations in written form. It is said that after the hard-won victory over Musailimah, Umar ibn al-Khattab (the later Caliph Umar), saw that many of the Muslims who had memorized the Qur'an from the lips of the prophet had died in battle. Umar asked Abu Bakr to oversee the collection of the revelations. The record, when completed, was deposited with

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