Abu Bakr Al Siddiq (d. 13H) أبو بكر الصديق
When the Prophet said that there were eight gates to Paradise, Abu Bakr asked, “Will there be anyone invited entry from every of its gate?” “Yes,” he got the answer, “and it is hoped that you will be one of them.”
That testimony is worthier which comes from a non-partisan. John Dewy wrote about Abu Bakr: “A man whose faith was as strong as a mountain.”
A mountain of faith he was. The Prophet said, “There was none whom I invited to Islam but he hesitated and wavered, except Abu Bakr. He did not hesitate for a moment.”
Indeed, his inner conviction was of a far greater intensity than what was apparent at ordinary times. And he was made for extraordinary times. Within 24 hours of acceptance of Islam, this first adult free Muslim had convinced six of his friends and brought them to the Prophet for declaration of submission. And no ordinary persons were they. As the caravan of faith advanced, they proved to be of such outstanding order as to remain unwaveringly submitted until death. They were among the ten later named by the Prophet as the “Al-`Ashara al-Mubashsharah” (the Ten given glad tiding (of Paradise)): `Uthman ibn Affan, Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam, Talha ibn `Ubaydullah, Sa`d ibn abi Waqqas, Abu `Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah and `Abd al Rahman ibn `Awf. (Five of these were in the Shura panel that `Umar had set up to select a Khalifah after him).
The depth and intensity of Abu Bakr’s faith could be considered the other side of the coin of his personality: a part of him. For example, a man is not a man if he does not get angry when struck. The trait to react, retaliate, is part of a man’s personality. Abu Bakr could not be thought of but as a mountain against every tide of unbelief. Storms came and went but the mountain remained: “When everyone told me,” said the Prophet, ‘I do not believe,’ Abu Bakr said, ‘I believe.’” At Makkah, when the Prophet's journey to the heavens was greeted with nods of indifference, winks of denial and guffaws of ridicule, an event when some Muslims thought it was the occasion to say goodbye to the new faith, Abu Bakr said, “Why should I not believe in his journey to the heavens when I believe in an angel’s frequent journeys down to earth?” Straightforward logic, but which is delivered by minds of those who have a straight mind. When everyone disagreed with him over Usama’s army consisting of the most able men of Madinah starting off towards Syrian lands, immediately after the Prophet's death, while the fire of apostasy lit over half of the Peninsula, and the repudiators of zakah taunting the authority at Madinah from another half, were threatening to tear down the tiny Islamic state if it dared to impose its authority, it was Abu Bakr who stood alone - against all advice, against all odds - to insist that the army will definitely march out - because none other than the Prophet had readied it - and that the Islamic tenets will be defended even if it ended in dogs tearing his corpse. So he said. When everyone disagreed, down to the last man, Abu Bakr started to mount his horse saying, “Then I go alone.” He was begged retreat by `Umar for less emotional discussions. But Abu Bakr was in no heightened emotional state. He maintained his position, “Should Islam extinguish while Abu Bakr is alive?” He was dead cool. “No, by Allah,” he added, “I shall wage war against those Muslims who differentiate between Salah and zakah, offering one and refusing another.” And he added, “If they gave a camel and a rope at the time of the Prophet, I shall not accept a camel without the rope after him.” What would those who draw great comfort from targeting criticism against mild believers of our own age (e.g. Sayyid Qutub), say about the first fundamentalist successor of the Prophet?
History sometimes produces men like snow-clad mountains. When it is warm, the ice melts. Such was Abu Bakr. He wept so often that one would imagine he was an effeminate weeper. But anyone who thought in those terms was misled by the snow that covered the mountain. There was a pile of solid rock beneath that withstood massive storms that left the peaceniks shaking in fear. The Prophet said, “If Abu Bakr’s faith is weighed against the faith of the rest of the Ummah , it would overweigh the rest.” He was asked, “Who among men is most beloved to you?” He responded, “Abu Bakr.”
Actual name `Abdullah, son of Quhafa, titled al-Siddiq (the Truthful) and al-`Ateeq (the freed of the Fire), Abu Bakr was born in Makkah, some three years after the Prophet, to die some three years after him. He was a merchant and a man of good repute and connections with goodly people. Altogether, he married four women. First was Qutaylah who gave him two children, `Abdullah and Asma’. He had divorced her before Islam and so her fate is not known. His second wife was Umm Ruman. Her husband had migrated to Makkah in pre-Islamic times and had entered into alliance with Abu Bakr. When he died Abu Bakr married his widow. Was Abu Bakr chivalrous too? She gave birth to `A'isha and `Abd al-Rahman. Umm Ruman was an early convert to Islam. She died some five years after Hijrah. His third wife Asma’ was an early Muslim who had migrated to Abyssiniyyah along with her husband Ja`far ibn abi Talib. Ja`far fell martyr at Mutah in 5H, and Abu Bakr promptly married her. She gave him a son named Muhammad. His fourth wife was Habibah who gave him Umm Kulthum. She was the daughter of Kharijah ibn Zayd. Abu Bakr had been his guest immediately after arriving at Madinah at the termination of the Hijrah journey.Do we see a second example of chivalry? Surely, there must have been a noble reason for divorcing his wife in the pre-Islamic days.
He was an expert at the much respected, but tough,science of genealogy. Those who prided in their forefathers, respected him who knew exactly how they were connected to the ancients in an extricate maze of the genealogical tree. It was he, naturally, who guided the Prophet to various tribes around Makkan highlands, informing him how the tribe and its leaders were connected with other tribes, the position each held, the importance that each was bestowed by others, the strong and weak points of each, and the kinds of allegiance, oaths and promises that bound one to others. The Prophet, seeking allies for his mission, could prepare the contents of his talks in the light of this information to get the best appeal.
Generous before Islam, Abu Bakr became more so after Islam, freeing a number of slaves undergoing torture: Bilal, `Aamir ibn Fuhayrah, Umm Umays, Zinneerah, Nahdiyyah, her daughter, and a young female slave of the Banu Mu’ammil clan, to earn his father’s rebuke: “What’s the point in setting free the weak ones, who are not likely to be of any use to you?” Abu Bakr’s reply was simple and straightforward too: “I do it for the sake of God.” We do not know how much he spent on freeing slaves, but a man of 40,000 Dirhams was left with 5,000 at the time of his emigration. He bought Bilal for 40 pieces of silver. After the deal was done, he was told, “We would have sold him for one silver piece, (if you had not raised the price).” Abu Bakr answered, “I would have bought him for a higher price (if that had been the condition).” His generous grants continued at Madinah; he regularly funded Mistah ibn Athathah even after he was involved in the slander of his daughter `A'isha.
Early in Islam at Makkah, Abu Bakr urged the Prophet that the time had come to invite the Quraysh openly. Along with a few other Muslims, they began to explain Islam to the people in the Holy Haram. As feared, the Makkans pounced upon them. `Utbah ibn Rabi`ah beat Abu Bakr with his shoes so severely that they thought he was dead. His swollen face was unrecognizable and his tribesmen (the Banu Tameem) vowed that if he died they would kill `Utbah. Carried home, when he came to his own, the first thing he asked - to the disappointment of his mother - was, “How is the Prophet,” and would accept no medication or food until they supported him right up to the Prophet's house to be sure he was alright. Though the Prophet had also been beaten and rescued by his own tribe Banu Hashim, he was, to Abu Bakr’s relief, in a better state.
Protected by his uncle, Abu Talib, and quietly but powerfully backed by his wife Khadijah, the Prophet could in the beginning face off the opposition; but by the seventh year both these pillars fell to the call of death within a week. Thereafter, the emboldened Quraysh left no method untried to block the mission’s progress. With the severity of persecution increasing, and two batches having already left for Abyssiniyyah (today’s Ethiopia), Abu Bakr too decided to leave for any place of refuge. However, circumstantial details lead us to believe that there could have been more than one reason. He had not been up to Bark al Ghimad, a place five days journey from Makkah, but encountered Ibn al Dughna, a powerful man of the Qara tribe. Upon learning that his people had thrown him out and that he had decided to go about in the land worshiping none but his Lord, Ibn al Dughna remarked, ‘A man of your sort should not leave and should not be expelled.’ He offered his protection and said, ‘Get back to your place and worship your Lord in the manner you see fit.’ Ibn al Dughna, in fact decided to travel back with him to repeat his words of protection in front of the Quraysh. The possibility exists that the Prophet (saws) had known of Ibn al Dughna’s regard for Abu Bakr and had sent the latter across to Bark al Ghimad to gain the former’s sympathy and protection. A study of the Hijrah route, and the tribal situation around, could have been yet another reason. In any case, forced to accept the protection, the Quraysh imposed the condition that Abu Bakr was not to Pray or recite the Qur’an in public so as not to irk them or influence their women and children. Ibn al Dughna placed these conditions on Abu Bakr who agreed. But, subsequently, Abu Bakr constructed a little niche for worship in the front yard of his house where he recited the Qur’an and Prayed much. That attracted pagan women and children what with Abu Bakr’s crying and sobbing during the recitation, and what with the Qur’anic recitation accompanied with love, regard and a profound understanding! That alarmed the Quraysh who would not give liberty to their women – in the Western style – to listen to anything that did not have machoplyp approval. They reminded Ibn al Dughna of their conditions pointing that his client had half-kept, half-broken his promise by constructing a Mosque in his yard.Ibn Dughna spoke to Abu Bakr who promptly returned his protection to face whatever would come. W. Montgomery Watt was known for cracking jokes while writing on Islam and Muslims. He wrote about Abu Bakr’s emigration:
During those chaotic years at Makkah, when on several occasions it seemed like it was all lost … when only tragedies seem to be unfolding, and, but for the heavenly promises, the Islamic cause seemed to be all but lost, the Prophet struck a strange alliance. He sought `A'isha's hand. Except for a report that says that the Prophet was shown an illustration of `A'isha in a casket, neatly placed in silk, by Jibril and told, “This is your wife,” reason goes against the marriage with a six-year old still clutching a doll, at a time when his 25-year-old companion, the only true wife he would ever have, was dead, leaving four daughters to manage as best as he could. Although it was well understood that being that young, the alliance was of no practical use, Abu Bakr immediately agreed to the proposal. How much is there unknown to us but known to the two, is difficult to guess. But surely, strange are the ways of Prophets and Siddiqun.
Some time later, when it became clear that the Prophet would be ordered to migrate, and perhaps having realized that it will be a route other than the common highway, Abu Bakr had got ready two camels well-fed for months so as to last through the arduous terrain. The day came, and the Prophet visited Abu Bakr at an odd time and informed him of the migration and that he was allowed company. That was the only time`A'isha saw tears of joy in her father’s eyes. Abu Bakr demonstrated that if you intend well, Allah rewards with the opportunity and the ability to perform a deed. Indeed more. His whole household was to get involved in the journey that turned a new page in the history of humankind. As they started off, they hid themselves in a cave some five kms outside Makkah, staying put for three nights. Abu Bakr’s young sharp son,`Abdullah, slept with them, leaving them before dawn to mingle with the Quraysh and bring back news by the evening. `Amir ibn Fuhayra, Abu Bakr’s freed slave, tended his flock near about, watching movements, and feeding them with milk and meat by night. On the third evening, Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma’ brought the famous lunch packet, which, having forgotten a rope, (how poetically natural of a maiden!), she had to tie to the luggage by tearing one half of her girdle, to earn the nick-name Dhat al-Nitaqayn (“she of the two girdles).” `Abdullah ibn Urqud, the hired trusted pagan guide, took them through an unknown route, occasionally crossing the highway, but otherwise remaining within the treacherous mountains and dry deserts.
At the cave they were almost discovered. In the words of Abu Bakr, if one of the pagans had simply looked down he could have spotted them. But Allah blinded them. When Abu Bakr said, “We are discovered,” the Prophet asked, “What do you think of the two whose third is Allah?” A later revelation echoed these historical words:
Abu Bakr remained the faithful scout that he had perhaps planned to be, serving someone who had always disapproved of service to his person. But Abu Bakr was something more. He invented ways to serve. The Prophet asked him why he placed himself while they trod on to Madinah, in front sometimes, while at others at the rear? “That is because, may my parents be sacrificed for you,” answered Abu Bakr, “when I fear that you could be attacked from the front, I place myself there, and when I feel you could be attacked from the rear, I place myself there.” And attacked they were. A man called Suraqah had been chasing them for a 100 camels that the Quraysh had promised him who brought the Prophet dead or alive. After a chase that couldn’t have been easy, when he sighted the Prophet, Suraqa’s joy turned into a grimace when his horse sank to its feet. Thrice, and Suraqa knew what he had only heard: Prophet perform miracles. He gave a promise, took a promise, and went back home with no regrets. He returned in peace for the promise that he would not reveal their whereabouts.
“Here is your man, O Madinas,” shouted a Jew who sighted the little caravan approaching the town. The Madinas raced out to welcome the party that had taken fifteen days to arrive instead of the usual ten. But they were unable to recognize who was who until Abu Bakr held a cloth over the Prophet to protect him from the sun. While the Prophet stayed with Abu Ayyub Ansari, Abu Bakr stayed with Kharijah ibn Zayd al-Ansari. (This is the one whose daughter he later married). Shortly thereafter, his son `Abdullah arrived with `A'isha and Asma’. But he, Bilal, many others, and even `A'isha who was nursing them, fell quite seriously ill until they got acclimatized to the Madinan climate. Laws of nature do not differentiate – by Allah's will – between a Siddique and non-Siddique.
The second of the two, almost always remained the second of the two at Madinah. If one was looking for Abu Bakr, he could as well locate the Prophet. He was there in every battle with him. He was there with him in the little hut constructed for him at Badr, and when the Prophet's desperate supplication became noticeably long, he said, “Enough, O Messenger of Allah,Allah will keep His promise.” Down in the battlefield, he remained close to the Prophet's side to defend any attack on him. When his son, `Abd al-Rahman, a courageous young man challenged the Muslims in a dual, Abu Bakr decided to take him on, but the Prophet prevented him. Later he remarked to his son that had he come in his range he would have surely killed him. When it came to dealing with the prisoners, he showed his softer side by recommending that they be spared their lives. `Umar, who had by then become the third of the three, had recommended what the Divine wish had been: do away with them all. At Uhud Abu Bakr was there with the Prophet at the top of the hill of refuge, as also by his side in the Hunayn battle, (along with the third of the three). The campaigns called Hamra’ al-Asad, Banu Nadir, Banu Mustaliq, Banu Qurayzah, Khayber and others all saw him giving company. He was asked to lead the onslaught on Banu Fuzarah, while in that of Dhat al-Salasil, he and `Umar both were placed under the much younger `Amr ibn al-`As, who was hardly 20 then. Surely, the Prophet had trained his followers to remain true whether as leaders or as followers.
Abu Bakr was the second of the two at Hudaybiyyah. When the Prophet struck the famous Treaty, on what everyone thought, humiliating terms, everyone was upset but Abu Bakr.
“Is he not a true Prophet?” `Umar asked in anger and frustration. “Of course,” answered Abu Bakr. “Are we not on the Truth, and our enemy on falsehood?” persisted `Umar. “Of course,” Abu Bakr replied. “Then, why should we take it lying low in an affair involving our religion?” asked `Umar. Abu Bark replied, “Man. He is a Messenger of Allah. He will not disobey Him. He is his Helper. Therefore, hold fast unto him for, by Allah, he is upon the Truth.”
Only twice did `Umar prove truer than Abu Bakr. He advised the Prophet to slaughter the pagans taken prisoners at Badr. The revelation went in his favor. The Prophet and Abu Bakr were in tears, and the former said, “Allah's punishment was as close as that tree, for us having decided to spare the lives of the prisoners.” The second occasion was when `Umar suggested after thousands got killed during the “riddah war” that the Qur’anic revelations be collected together before the rest of the memorizers are also picked up by death. Abu Bakr hesitated to do “something the Prophet had not done.” But `Umar persisted. Even Zayd ibn Thabit, when asked to do the job remarked in astonishment, “How can you do what the Prophet did not do?” (The Qur’anic revelations were already there from the time of the Prophet, inscribed on a variety of writing material. Zayd’s job was to re-write from the same from the memory of two Companions of the Prophet and perhaps collate it with the written material).
The Tabuk expedition once again revealed a hidden part of Abu Bakr. He was a generous man alright, but to what extent? The Prophet appealed for funds: it was peak summer time, a few dry years had already been, and economic activity was low. Having brought half his wealth, that was one time `Umar thought he could outdo Abu Bakr. But when the Prophet asked Abu Bakr what he had brought, the reply came, “I have (emptied the house) leaving behind Allah's and His Messenger’s names.” `Umar promised himself that he shall never again attempt to outdo the second of the two. Yet another hidden part of Abu Bakr’s character remained hidden throughout his life: interpretation of dreams. `A'isha dreamt that three moons had fallen into her house. When the Prophet was buried in her house, he told `A'isha, “That was your (first) moon.” And, true enough, he himself and `Umar proved to be the second and third moons to be buried in her house.
Tabuk expedition was followed by the conquest of Makkah. When Abu Sufyan arrived at Madinah, seeking to renew the treaty after the Makkans broke it by helping their ally Banu Bakr in their slaughter of Khuza`ah, an ally of the Prophet, he found Abu Bakr an angry man. He told him point blank: “By Allah! If I find a little ant fighting against you, I shall help it.” Abu Sufyan had no audience. The Prophet had already decided to march against Makkah. Victory followed and the next year , 9H, Abu Bakr was deputed by theProphet to lead in Hajj: to set right the Pilgrimage rituals before the Prophet would come down the next year, and an indication of who would lead the Muslims after his death. He had given other indications too. When a woman asked him who they were to refer to if he was dead, the Prophet answered, “If you do not find me, go to Abu Bakr.” He ordered before his death that doors of all houses opening into the courtyard of his Mosque were to be closed except that of Abu Bakr. Indeed, history has recorded one of the strangest of episodes. Some harsh words were exchanged between Abu Bakr and `Umar. Abu Bakr felt sorry and followed `Umar to his house. But `Umar, too angry, closed the door in his face. Abu Bakr repaired to the Prophet's assembly and narrated the story. He was very upset. Abu Bakr knelt before him and said, “Messenger of Allah, it was my mistake.” But the Messenger’s face had turned crimson in anger. He said, “Will you not spare me Abu Bakr? When people said, ‘You have lied,’ he said, ‘You have spoken the truth.’”
The Prophet's quick demise was quite unexpected. He had fallen ill, nothing strange in the cold climate of Madinah. When it prolonged and he grew pretty weak, he appointed Abu Bakr to lead in the Prayers. At the hour of his death, Abu Bakr was with his wife Habibah among the Banu Kharijah quarters in a place called Sunh, north-east of Madinah, a kilometer and a half away, perhaps because a little earlier, the Prophet's recovery had brought sighs of relief to all around him. `Umar was one of those who could not come about to believing that the Prophet was dead. He unsheathed his sword promising to strike anyone who said he was dead. He thought he would come back. When Abu Bakr arrived, he went straight to the dead body, uncovered the face, kissed it and said, “How beautiful, dead and alive!” Then he entered the Mosque to encounter `Umar. He told him, “Take it easy.” (What a thing to say in a situation when the least affected by the death was too stunned to know where he stood!). Then he climbed the pulpit and said, “People, whoever worshipped Muhammad should know that he is dead, while whoever worshipped Allah, should know that He is Alive. He does not die.” `Umar collapsed.
To the senior Companions, the Ummah came before the burial of the Prophet. The Ansar gathered in the courtyard of Banu Saa`idah to ponder over the suggestion that they may choose one of theirs to succeed the Prophet as the head of the State. Being in majority, it was natural for them to think that the new leader should be from among them. But Abu Bakr knew the Arabs better than they. Earlier, the Prophet had known the Arabs better than they. He had remarked, “The Arabs will never accept a leader other than one of the Quraysh.” Abu Bakr followed them along with `Umar and reminded them of the statement. `Umar saw that the full impact of the Prophet's words was not being appreciated. There were talks of two-party system: a term for the Muhajiroon and a term for the Ansar. He saw the danger that further discussions promised. He got up and made the irrefutable statement: “None of us will dare lead a people among whom is Abu Bakr.” Everyone agreed. Then he turned to Abu Bakr and said, “Stretch your hand.” When he did, he bore allegiance to his leadership. The rest rushed on without any demur, rather, quite gladly.
The affair was then taken to the Mosque and the oath of loyalty extended to the senior Companions there. There was none who would disagree and there was none who did not present himself. `Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin was an exception. But he was tending his wife, the Prophet's grief-stricken daughter, Fatimah. He swore allegiance later. When somebody addressed Abu Bakr as the Khalifatullah , he retorted: “I am not Allah's Khalifah. I am Khalifah (follower) of the Messenger of Allah.” His first sermon will remain in the history pages until history lasts. No ruler ever uttered such words after being elected to rule: “People! I have been appointed to lead you although I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; if not, straighten me up. The weak among you is strong for me until I have rendered his rights to him; and the strong among you is weak for me until I have relinquished from him the rights of others on him.” On another occasion he said, “I never aspired to take on the leadership. I accepted it only because I feared strife and discord. I have been charged with a tremendous task which I will never be able to fulfill unless Allah helps me on; although I wish a stronger person (meaning `Umar) could take over.”
The Prophet's death brought out the steel hidden within Abu Bakr. No leader in history has faced the kind of daunting tasks Abu Bakr faced; and no leader solved them as quickly and efficiently as he did In `A'isha's words, “Had the troubles that descended upon Abu Bakr, descended upon a mountain, it would have cracked.” The great majority of the Arabian Peninsula had embraced Islam just a year or so earlier. For many, it was more of a political submission to the Prophet, which did not contradict their religious submission to him. The religious submission remained, but the political submission was for his times. A second class (lovers of the glorious Jahiliyy period) thought the other way round. Religious submission was due only to the Prophet. After his death, they were not obliged to remain true to Islam. A third class assumed that Islam was the name of rituals; therefore, payment of zakah was not a religious obligation. These were in great numbers. A fourth class was of those who were never true Muslims. If they had submitted politically or religiously, it was by the force of circumstances. With changed circumstances, the time had come for them to express their true inner feelings. A fifth category was of those apostates who fell victim to the influence of left-over Jews, Christians, Magians, Zoarastrians and others.A sixth class was composed of those who followed a few opportunistic false Prophets that were waiting for a catastrophe to befall Madinah. The Prophet's death was one, and a good one. A seventh and eighth setback came from within the sparse Muslim community at Madinah. They were against Usama’s army marching out to Syria under those dangerous circumstances. They were also opposed to any action against the six classes of apostates mentioned above. Abu Bakr was in the minority in his policy of confrontation against all those who had rebelled against the state as well as sending out Usama’s army.The minority party facing the six classes of opposition consisted of as many people as one, and that one was Abu Bakr.
The Prophet had felt the threat from the Romans in the north. A couple of days before his death he was getting an army ready to face them off in their lands, rather than wait for them to advance. Usama ibn Zayd was to be the commander. Abu Bakr and `Umar had also been named as members of the army. Volunteers were reporting at the encampment at Jurf - a place outside Madinah - while logistic preparations were going on, when the Prophet fell ill and the marchers hung around in wait. At the Prophet's death, When Abu Bakr assumed the reins Usama sent `Umar as his representative to Abu Bakr seeking his permission for him and the army to return to Madinah. With no city safe except perhaps Madinah and Makkah, because of the in-coming reports of apostasy and rebellion against the Madinan authority, the Companions were unanimous that Zayd’s army – consisting of the best and most of Madinan men - should not leave. It would play a crucial role if the apostates attacked Madinah. But Abu Bakr was resolved on the army marching out. The only concession he made was that in view of the unanimous opposition, he held a meeting of the Muhajiroon and Ansar followed by a second one, but the matter could not be resolved. Abu Bakr could not win anyone to his cause. At last, he told them point blank that there was going to be no change in his resolve, even if it was certain that wild animals would drag their bodies in Madinah (after the apostates had killed them all). He also disagreed that in view of Usama’s youth (he was perhaps in the final days of his teens), he be replaced by one of the senior Companions. He said he was not going to depose someone appointed by the Prophet. The only change that he thought fit was to request Usamah to leave behind `Umar, to which of course Usama readily agreed.
Following the Prophetic practice, he went to the army to say farewell; and following the Prophetic habit, walked by Usama’s horse, giving him the final instructions while Usama remained mounted. On that occasion, he also addressed the army saying: “People, listen: Never be treacherous (to anyone), nor in matters involving the booty, nor yet be deceptive (in any way). Do not mutilate, do not cut down a fruit-bearing tree, and do not disturb those in monasteries who have dedicated their lives to worship. Go on now, to the places designated for you by the Prophet and turn not back without accomplishing what he wished you to accomplish.”
It was a brilliant move in the heavens and a brilliant move on the land. When Usama’s army, though modest it was, appeared at the Syrian borders of the Roman empire, they could not believe their eyes. To be there to face the Roman might even as the Prophet's body was not yet cold, spoke of their strength, resolve and confidence. The Christian Arabs of the area were no less impressed and became easy fodder for Usama’s army when they attacked them in Quda`ah and Aabil area. The Muslim army was rewarded with great amount of booty, loaded with which, and having planted awe in the hearts of the enemy, they returned to Madinah in forty days time. The victorious return not only drove fear into the hearts of the Romans – who were earlier planning to invade Muslim lands – but it also planted fear into the hearts of the apostates spread all over the Peninsula, at a time when, in actual fact, the state at Madinah hardly had a tenth of comparable material and manpower to defend itself from an attack by either. Following the Prophetic Sunnah had fetched tremendous results.
Meanwhile, Musaylimah, the Liar (in the Yemen), Tulayha ibn Khuwaylad, who was originally a soothsayer, but also a poet, an eloquent speaker, and courageous (all the qualities Arabs admired, and hence of great influence in Tayy, Asad, Ghatafan and Fuzarah); and Sajah the Christian pious woman who aspired to be a Prophetess (for her piety) and who ultimately declared herself one, were gathering strength. Taking cue from them, `Uyayna ibn Hussayn, chief of the Ghatafan and Banu Asad (of the central area and Najad) declared that after the Prophet's death the two tribes will not accept any Prophet but one from among themselves and so decided to follow Tulayha. Initially, Tulayha (as well as a few others) sent delegations to Abu Bakr announcing that he would not pay any zakah. Abu Bakr declared that he would fight them. The Companions thought that that was not the time to fight and so they be given a free rein for a while. But Abu Bakr remarked, “Will the religion of Allah suffer damage while I am alive?” When `Umar also asked him to go a bit slow, he taunted him: “Were you strong in pre-Islamic days to have become a coward now?” That was perhaps the last time `Umar would disagree with him. The delegates had closely observed Madinah. Its weakness was apparent to them. But somebody else had looked into their eyes and seen what could be expected of them. After they had left, having experienced an uncompromising attitude, Abu Bakr spoke to the Madinans: “The delegates have perceived weakness in us, and I believe the apostates will attack us sooner than we expect them to destroy the Khilafah lock, stock and barrel.”
He took the following steps: The Madinans were to spend their nights in the Prophet's Mosque, to be readily available at any given moment; women and children were moved to safe areas of the town; (this was the time the wisdom of the Prophet was realized who had expelled two of the three tribes of the Jews of Madinah, while a third had to be obliterated for its treachery); groups of guards were placed at various entry points of the city and a battle-hardened person was placed over every group: `Ali, Talha, Zubayr, Ibn Mas`ud and others of that caliber. With his updated knowledge which informed him that some of the surrounding tribes (Aslam, Ghifar, Muzaynah, Ashja`, Juhaynah and others) had not turned apostates, he sent word for reinforcement to Madinah. In hours Madinan streets and lanes were filled with soldiers and their camels and horses, Juhayna alone contributing 400 soldiers. Incredibly aware that even among the apostate tribes there were people who had remained true to Islam, although concealing their faith, Abu Bakr got in touch with them to assure them of his succor. Those days he wrote a moving letter to the Makkans: “Will you be the last to enter into Islam and the first to leave?” Makkans anyway, had never thought of treason. He who was an expert at the genealogical and political connections of the tribes, also wrote to the Governors of those tribes that had not abandoned Islam to immediately start wars against adjacent apostate tribes. It was another brilliant move. The engagement of distant tribes in local battles prevented them from sending forces against Madinah.
True to Abu Bakr’s sight penetrating into the eyes of the delegates, it was not three days but apostate tribes close to Madinah began an assault on the city. An advance party marched on Madinah with more resourceful reinforcements stationed a few miles at the rear. When Abu Bakr was informed of the approaching forces, he gathered all those in the Grand Mosque and led them out. The advance party had not expected a larger party than theirs to emerge out of Madinah. Moreover, they were facing men who had fought at Badr and Uhud. Soon they were routed. Muslim forces chased them right up to the places where their rearguards were stationed. But traps were laid for their camels there, and catastrophe would have befallen if they had not extricated themselves somehow. Having escaped without any loss of life, the Muslim army thought it best to return to Madinah. The apostates saw weakness in the escape and decided to launch another assault on Madinah, strengthened by reinforcements that arrived from Tulayha. But they were no match to Abu Bakr’s courage and brilliance. He assembled an army at night and marching out of Madinah by the same night struck terror into the hearts of Tulayha’s followers at Dhi Hussa by attacking them before dawn. The enemy had not expected the Muslims to escape back to Madinah by the evening, and attack them before dawn the next day. They fled leaving behind their dead, riding beasts, animals, and other booty, before dawn could break, carrying with them as their own booty Abu Bakr’s dread, while Abu Bakr chased them out until Dhu Qussah. They had carried with them a message. Banu Tameem, Banu Tayy and others read the message written on their faces and quietly sent their zakah to the man of steel they had thought a mere womanish weeper (as some Orientalists have insinuated) while in the company of the Prophet. How little they had understood the full implications of Allah's .words: “The second of the two?”
Abu Bakr’s faith began to pay back. In the course of a few days, around a dozen tribes followed suit and expressed their submission and loyalty by sending their zakah to Madinah. While this was going on, Usama returned. The goodly amount of booty that he had brought was distributed among all. Then, appointing Usama as his deputy at Madinah, Abu Bakr marched out with a small contingent, (although the Muslims pleaded that he should not be risking the life of the Ummah which seemed to be hanging by his life). He ignored the advice and went as far as Dhu Qussah to chase the apostate tribes out into the fields and mountains, some of whom went and joined their CEO Tulayha who had by then advanced into the lands of the Banu Asad.
A short while later, Abu Bakr organized eleven battalions to head towards various parts of the land, leaving no area escape attention. They were headed by: (1) Khalid ibn Walid (towards Tulayah, and, when finished with him, towards Malik ibn Nuwayrah in Butaah), (2) `Ikrimah ibn abi Jahal (the arch infidel Abu Jahal’s son to the arch infidel, Musaylimah the Liar), (3) Al-Muhajir ibn Abu Umayyah to the forces of Ansi and others and then proceed to Kindah in Hadramawt, (4) Khalid ibn Sa`id (to the Syrian Highlands), (5) `Amr ibn al-`Aas (towards Quda`ah and Wadi`ah), (6) Hudhayfah ibn Muhsin (to the people of Dabbaa’), (7) Arafjah ibn Haythanah (to Maharah), (8) Shurahbil ibn Hasanah (to follow `Ikrimah ibn abi Jahal, and then to Khuza`ah lands), (9) Ma`an ibn Hajiz (to Banu Sulaym and their allies from among the Hawazin), (10) Suwayd ibn Muqrin (to Tihamah) and (11) `Alaa’ ibn Hadrami (towards Bahrayn (today’s eastern province of Saudi Arabia)).
Abu Bakr left no room for doubt that he had declared war on Arabia. He sent his troops with the instruction to accept the Islam of anyone who declared his Islam, but the rest, put them to the sword. If any of the apostates repented, his repentance was to be accepted, and his tenure in Islam was to be made easy, but if he refused, he was to be done away with mercilessly, and his women and children taken slaves.
`Adiyy ibn Hatim had been sent in an advance party. He was able to win back two major tribes before Khalid ibn Waleed could strike. When he arrived, a fierce battle took place which the apostates lost ultimately. `Uyayna ibn Hisn was there with his 700 men. But when, upon repeated request, Tulayha could not summon down Jibril, and the battle seemed to be lost, `Uyayna cried out to his men, bitterly, “Leave the battlefield, O men. This is a liar.” Tulayha fled to Syria on a horse along with his wife advising anyone he came across to do the same. There he learnt of Asad and Ghatafan returning to Islam, so he too renounced his Prophethood and re-entered into Islam. It was at the end of Abu Bakr’s caliphate, some two years later, that Tulayha intending an `Umrah passed by Madinah. Abu Bakr was informed, but he refused any action on grounds that he was now a Muslim. Sajah too had fled to Syria. She is said to have embraced Islam during the reign of Mu`awiyyah, some four decades after Abu Bakr.
Having dispatched his several forces marching out in several directions, placing Khalid ibn al-Waleed as the overall commander, Abu Bakr kept himself – almost hour by hour - abreast of their movements, actions and results of their assaults. His deep knowledge of the Arabian tribes spread all over the Peninsula, and his network of news-carriers which carried back and forth messages at a pretty fast pace, set him at an advantageous position. He commandeered them with great skill. But that was not all the action from Abu Bakr. Yemen being a large province, he wrote to the Muslims there, situated as minorities dominated by the men of Musaylimah, Aswal al-Anasi, the hypocrite Qays, and others, to form groups within the tribes and wait for the opportune moment. When it arrived, they were to gather together under one of the several leaders nominated by Abu Bakr and wage battles against the rest. That, of course, led to an identity crisis among the apostates and hypocrites, (while the Muslims knew each other well), and a confused situation arose in which it was unclear who was on whose side and who could or could not be trusted. By placing Fayroze as the Governor of San`a, he won the loyalty of all the Muslims of Persian origin, who were not too few. They, in turn, having had married Arab women, became the cause of division among the locals, thus weakening their resolve to follow those of their rulers who were trying to break loose of Madinan rule.
The detailed story of how the apostates were overcome, belongs to the pages of history. A brief list of tribes that fought against the Madinan authority gives us the creeps today: Asad, Ghatafan, `Abs, Dhibyan, Bakr, Banu Haneefa, Banu Saleem, Quda`ah, Banu Anas, Muzhijj, Banu Harith, Hamdan, Fuzara, Tameem, Bajeelah, the people of: Najran, Hadrmawt, Tihamah, Bahrayn, Umman, Mahra, Zubayd, Awad, Masliyah, San`aa, Kinda, and others.
In brief, in a matter of a few months, Abu Bakr was able to cleanse the lands of Arabia of the corrupt elements, and restore the rest to the path of Islam. With his brilliant strokes, personal piety and firm faith, he saved not only the day for Islam but won millions back to Islam. After the apostasy trial was overcome, the whole of Arabia was divided on new lines, not tribal, but geographical. A man was judged for what he was rather than what his tribe was. All were united under the banner of Islam, and piety was the password. Had not Abu Bakr achieved that, a couple of years later `Umar would not have been able to send the erstwhile apostates, as soldiers of Islam, voluntarily raised from all over the distant lands, and direct them to destroy the ungodly rules of Rome and Persia, to give millions of souls in foreign countries a chance at slavery to God, in place of slavery to man.
If the Prophet had the credit of winning over the entire Peninsula within an incredible decade, Abu Bakr holds the credit for restoring order when the situation was becoming so dark that the on-lookers thought that it was the evening of Islam. Yet, it was none but Allah who had kept the promise preserved in the Qur’an, which explains the miraculous restoration: “It was He who sent His Envoy with guidance and the religion of Truth in order to make it overcome all other religions, even if the pagans disapprove of it.”
But Abu Bakr did not seek a vacation thereafter. He remained vigilant, worked hard, slept little, kept watch on his Governors, and paraded the streets at night so that others could sleep in peace. He took from the Treasury just what was enough for him to survive. According to some reports, even that he returned from his private wealth to the Treasury at the time of his death. (`Umar remarked that he had made it tough for those who would take up the reins after him). He wore coarse cloth and sweets were not an item on his dinner table. During his caliphate somebody said some pretty harsh things about Abu Bakr. Abu Barzah said, “Should I not behead this man?” Abu Bakr answered, “That is not allowed for anyone after the Prophet.” If his halter fell down, he would make the animal kneel to pick it up. He was told, “Had you asked us, we would have picked it up for you.” He answered, “My beloved prohibited that we ask the people anything.”
The steel in him showed itself every now and then. When the Ghatafan, Asad and other tribes that had once turned apostates, came to him seeking peace after their false Prophet, Tulayha, fled to Syria leaving them to face the consequences of his misadventure, the otherwise soft Abu Bakr was tough as steel. He told them that they shall have no peace except on conditions that they relinquish to the state all their arms and horses, pay the blood-money for every Muslim that had fallen to their swords, return all the booty they had taken from the Muslims, bear witness that their fallen were in Hell and that the Muslims that fell against them were in Paradise, and, the most difficult condition, live like Bedouins in the lands (not settling down anywhere) until he, Abu Bakr, felt that they were true in their repentance and worthy of pardon. The other alternative was, he told them, the sword. No Sayyid Qutub, (a brilliant and renowned exegete of the Qur’an declared a radical and extremist, because he censored the East and the West for their Jahiliyy ways), would ever be born to adopt the uncompromising attitude that Abu Bakr adopted when it came to fundamentals of Islam. Otherwise, Abu Bakr remained the humble servant of Allah , milking the goat of a widow he used to milk before assuming caliphate, visiting Umm Ayman, another widow, simply because the Prophet used to visit her.
Whoever thought that apostasy was an accidental phenomenon that had brought the best of Abu Bakr out, was in for a surprise. Abu Bakr had new plans for the planet. No sooner had the fire of apostasy turned into ashes that, upon request, he allowed Muthanna ibn Haritha (a man of Iraqi origin) who was through with his Bahrayn assignments (having taken the town of Qateef) to proceed with incursions into Iraq. Next, as soon as Khalid sent him the news of his triumph against Musaylimah, the Liar (the mad man who led his 10,000 followers in the orchard to death, and hundreds of Muslims to martyrdom), he sent him the following message: “March on to Iraq (then under Persian control, and about 1000 km from the starting point, Yamamah), offer the Iraqis Islam. If they refuse: neither embrace Islam, nor submit to pay Jizyah, fight them accepting no third alternative. (That is, peace was ruled out). But, to start with, deal with them softly and try to win their hearts.” He instructed him to take along none of the former apostates: only those were to go who had stayed true through and through, however few. Further, among them too only those would go, who chose to go; those who did not, could return with no blame on them. This showed not only that the man at Madinah had more steel in him than previously thought, but also that he was following a Divine Plan: booty, or resources of the lands were not on the cards. Had he material objects before him, he would not have taken measures to cut down the numbers to so few as the huge Persian armies could cut down like carrots in no time. He was with the Prophet when they were going round among the tribes begging their support. He had heard from one of the tribal chiefs that he was not ready to support someone, supporting whom would evoke the ire of the Romans and Persians. But here was the same Abu Bakr, without the first of the two, taking on Persia! It is useless looking in historical channels for a second man of such courage, and such merciful ambitions. He was dead sure of his men too. He was dead sure that they will overcome. And, he was dead sure that when that happens, the conquered will embrace Islam.
While he instructed Khalid to attack Iraq from a coastal town called al-Ubullah (perhaps Umm al-Qasr of today) at an extreme south-eastern flank, he ordered another commander, `Iyad ibn Ghanam to proceed from the edges of Hijaz to Iraqi borders and make incursions into its western flank. The two armies of Khalid and `Iyad were to meet at Heerah (about 5 km away from Kufa, a town which did not exist then). Previous to any major encounter, Khalid sent to Hurmuz, the regional Persian Commander, a tough message: “Come into the fold of Islam or pay Jizyah. Or, meet those in the battle who love to die as much as you love to live.” If such were the sentiments of the Muslim army, Hurmuz could only lose his life and the Persians suffer defeat after defeat: Dhat al-Salasil (200 camels were required to load the booty), Mazhar, al-Waljah, Ilyas, al-Heerah, al-Anbar, `Ayn al-Tamar, al-Aseed, al-Maseekh, al-Furadh, `Udwatu al-Surah al-`Ula, all bore witness to the valor of the Muslim. After the victory at Furadh, (a town on the borders of Iraq and Shaam), where Khalid faced a combined army of Persians, Romans and Arabs, Abu Bakr’s relentless drive against Kufr brought the following message to Khalid: “Proceed now to Syrian territories.”
Muthanna remained behind and faced off Kisra’s army at `Udwatul al-Sura al-`Ula, defeated it, and the Persians retreated to their regional capital Mada’in. Muthanna wrote to Abu Bakr about his victory and requested that he be allowed to penetrate right into Mada’in. But .. he needed to take in the former apostates. With delay in reply, Muthanna himself traveled to Madinah. He met with Abu Bakr while he was in the last lap of his life. But he was still all-steel. He listened to Muthanna with full attention and then ordered `Umar to help him with manpower in order to push the tyrant ruling class of Persia out of Mada’in, giving the locals a chance at liberty, equality, peace and prosperity. He instructed `Umar: “I might die this day or night. Therefore, seek volunteers for Muthanna’s expedition before nightfall.” That was Abu Bakr!
Having given a wake-up call, accompanied by some foreboding of what could be expected to come, to the centuries-old Persian Empire, Abu Bakr had decided to take on the equally old, equally formidable, equally entrenched, and equally fearful Roman Empire. Already, towns at the southern edges of Syrian confederate and Dumatu al-Jandal had been run over by the Muslims. These early shots delivered by Usama and Khalid woke them up faster than the Persians. This, indeed, is an enigma. Why did Abu Bakr open a new front? He had already instilled fear into the hearts of the Persians and had gone deep into their territories. Further Muslim penetration into Iraq would have, with reinforcements already awaiting orders to march, also helped them close in on the Romans. The Romans would then be trapped from two of the three land areas, facing an arch of crisis from the south and west of their prize lands in Syria. So, why was Abu Bakr opening a new front against the Romans instead of continuing to assault the already scared Persians who seemed to have lost their wits and quite a few generals too?
We do not have any explanation from Muslim scholars. They have been busy since last 200 years studying history of the West, with no lessons to draw, since it has been the history of violence, occupation, rape, murder, mass destruction, and now secret prisons of torture. But some guesswork leads us to believe that Abu Bakr was aiming at an arch of faith around the two empires; giving their people equal chance at re-establishing their relations with God. Further, by seizing control of some of the land of the Persians, and then some of the lands of the Romans, would enlarge the area under Muslim control shaping it into a bigger arch, rather than an odd shaped empire creating logistic problems. Moreover, both the southern sectors of the Persian and Roman empires had large Arab populations, who were, as more or less autonomous areas, had not been not too heavily influenced by the perverting cultures of either, but indeed with a grudge against them, especially for the Romans, for not treating them fairly, but instead with disdain. They could far more easily be convinced of Islam being of clear vision, straight logic and quick at adopting ways that sounded reasonable. In simpler words, these half-Christian, half-pagan Arabs of the border areas of the two empires were expected to succumb to the charm of Islam faster than their occupiers.
However, Abu Bakr thought it fit to take others into confidence. A series of meetings involving senior Muhajirun and Ansar took place in the Mosque. History has not preserved but a sketchy account of them. But Abu Bakr’s invitation of the Badr participants leads us to believe that it was more of a religious nature than military: expansion of Islamic faith was the objective and not territorial gains. In his opening speech, Abu Bakr also mentioned something about defense of Islam, implying that he had some information about Romans’ planning to move south. It also appears that most of them agreed with Abu Bakr’s suggestion, seconded by `Umar, `Ali, and others that it was a religious duty to open the Syrian front. `Umar had already been thinking on the same lines and said that, once again Abu Bakr had outraced him. He added, in response to Abu Bakr’s suggestion, that it was going to be either victory or martyrdom, and that (either way) it was going to be victory for Islam. `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf added that the Romans being a powerful enemy, Abu Bakr shouldn’t be sending a single large army, but rather, small battalions at a time, one following the heels of another. The smaller fights, with small units would, he suggested, result in they gaining experience without risking (large numbers), and prove to be irksome to the Romans. They could even bag booty to add strength to strength.
The suggestion accepted and the common consensus obtained, Abu Bakr began to gather forces. He sent letters to the Governors of the provinces to seek volunteers for Jihad against the Romans. Despite the fact that the government did not bear the costs of the individual soldiers, the volunteer individuals had to do it for themselves, (as well as for the family they were leaving behind), which included provision, riding animal and weapons, and, despite the fact that the enemy was formidable, with no guarantees of victory, the response was quite encouraging. At Yemen, when Anas ibn Malik read out Abu Bakr’s letter, one of the men in the audience, Dhu al-Kila` stood up, summoned for his horses and weapons and declared that he was marching off right away; except that he pitched a camp outside the town and awaited others to join him. Within days of Anas’ return to Madinah, Dhu al-Kila` arrived with his men followed by a steady stream of groups and individuals from all over Arabia with most headed by their chieftains and leaders.
At Madinah, however, they were in for a big surprise. While the leaders, who were mostly former rulers of independent tribes and regions, had taken care to present themselves in the best form possible: wrapped in brocaded mantles, adorned with gold and jewels, rich footwear, and topped by expensive crowns, they were amazed by the stark simplicity of Abu Bakr, clad in a mantle torn in places and patched up in others. He had no guards around him, and could be seen freely mixing with just about everyone, without any distinction whatsoever. Nothing on him said that he was commanding rule over the entire Arabia. Yet, incredibly simple though he appeared, and humble too, his person inspired awe and commanded respect. Dhu al-Kila` was one of those who were greatly impressed by him and was seen the next day without the trappings and paraphernalia of the ruling class, replaced by a proud goatskin.how to use
The first division to leave Madinah was under the leadership of Yezid ibn abi Sufyan. (He may not be confused with Yezid ibn Mu`awiyyah during whose reign Hussain was murdered). He had around 7000 men under him and was required to head to Dimashq (Damascus). Abu Bakr’s last words to him as he led him by his horse were: “You are under test; do well, and I shall send more men to you. Remember: a person closest to Allah is one who is most obedient and honest to Him. Beware of a return to the ways of the Jahiliyyah. Improve yourself, and people will be made to improve for you. Consult the wise and intelligent around you hiding nothing from them. Be true to your word. Trust your men and do not spy on them. When delegates from the enemy arrive, honor them, but be brief, letting them not tarry long. And, you will find some people in monasteries, devoted to whatsoever they are devoted. Disturb them not.”
Three days after the departure of Yezid, Shurahbeel ibn Hasanah (out to play important roles even after Abu Bakr) was dispatched with an army of 3-4000 men. Taking another route, he was to go to Tabuk, Bulqaa’, and finally to Busra which town he could not subdue try as he may because of the fortifications. Abu `Ubaydah ibn Jarrah’s army was also 3-4000 strong and was to go to Hims. Abu Bakr reminded him that “in pre-Islamic times they fought with a sense of tribal loyalty, but now it is Islam: seek help from Allah , and you will triumph.” Abu `Ubaydah happened to be the maker of first truce with the Syrians at Maa’ Moaab (waters of Moab) whose people fought but sought a truce. From there he proceeded to Jaabiyyah, keeping himself between the two columns that had marched out before him. Next to leave was an army of around 7000 under the leadership of `Amr ibn al-`Aas. He was to invade areas that are now known as Palestine. He had such distinguished men under him as Harith ibn Hisham, Suhayl ibn `Amr and `Ikrimah ibn abi Jahl. `Abdullah ibn `Umar was another notable Companion with them.
As feared, territories under Roman control were far from easy to overcome. They began to raise a huge army, but decided to cut the three Muslim battalions that had so far arrived, by first allowing them deep into their territories, then surround them and annihilate them one after another. Having got wind of the plans, and the alarming numbers, Muslim commanders informed Abu Bakr of the situation and requested for reinforcements. He wrote back that numbers did not matter. After all, hadn’t they overcome their enemies in big numbers during the time of the Prophet? Subsequently, however, he yielded and promised to send more troops, reminding them in the meanwhile that their piety will drive fear into the hearts of the unbelievers; they must stop sinning. Today it might sound mere rhetoric. Apparently, the dire situation in which the Muslims were then in Syria, did need some real material help, arriving quickly. They were in a death trap. But Abu Bakr did have greater trust in Allah and was sure of Divine help if the objectives remained pure, and the heaven dearer than the earth. But, to balance his acts, Abu Bakr chose Hashim ibn `Utbah to lead a new battalion, and made a moving appeal for fighters to join. The speech moved the people and they began to enlist. Hashim was to strengthen Abu `Ubaydah. Yezid had also applied for help and so when Hashim had departed, Abu Bakr was once again up there in the pulpit appealing for more volunteers. It was his trust in Allah that spoke, so that, although the situation was not at all bright, more people responded and Sa`id ibn `Aamir was chosen to lead the campaign. He was to join Yezid.
To give an idea of the spirit of Jihad which aimed at nothing but winning Allah's pleasure, and, either martyrdom or pitching the tents of Islam in enemy hearts, Bilal’s response may be noted. He wasn’t young at all; but he volunteered to go. This was, however, not the first time. To all earlier requests Abu Bakr had said, “Bilal, will you abandon me in my old age?” But this time Bilal persisted and he had to give in.
In Syria itself, the four commanders organized a meeting and decided that they were too paltry in numbers to be able to face the huge Roman armies. Withdrawal from areas that had fallen to them, after all the hard fighting, back to southern Syrian borders was the only solution, however unpleasant. This was also the direction they received from Abu Bakr who had remained in close contact. He appointed Khalid as the overall commander of the joint forces.
Already, `Amr ibn al-`Aas was in deep trouble having gone deep into the Roman territories. He saw the futility in advancing any further and avoided to fight the massive army that the Romans had stationed before him. Having informed Khalid, he began to gradually inch back towards the south. Khalid approved of the withdrawal but promised to come to his aid. While `Amr was retreating, the Roman army was in pursuit. At last, head-on conflict was unavoidable. But Khalid arrived at Ajnadayn just when the battles had begun. The combined Muslim force was around 30,000 men against a much larger and better-equipped and experienced Roman force. But the valor of the Muslim soldiers made the difference. One of them pierced right through the Roman columns, arrived at the tent in which the Roman commander was resting, killed him and brought back his head. That spread panic among the Roman soldiers who fled.
Hiraql (Heraclius), the Roman emperor, had placed himself at a safe distance far north of Syria, but kept himself updated of the progress. He had ordered the raising of a very large army and was able to draw in a quarter million fighters. The army began to move towards the combined army of Muslims now at Yarmuk. They had their priests and monks reciting the Bible in their midst. Muslims had such prominent figures in their ranks whose very presence was considered a fortune: Abu Sufyan, Mu`adh ibn Jabal, Miqdad ibn al-Asward, Abu Dardaa’ and Abu Hurayrah. They were urging them to seek Paradise. Truce negotiations failed. The Romans offered the Muslims 10 Deenars and suitable clothing to every soldier if they would return plus an equal amount the next year. But the simple reply they received was, “We have not come for these things.” A fierce battle, that widely swung this and that way, took place. Muslims were outnumbered 1 to 6. But, although they fought hard, three times their right-wing retreated to the rear, to be stoned and clubbed by their women in the tents, to shame them into returning. Although the left-wing fared better against the onslaught of the right-wing Romans, they had almost given to flight (`Amr’s own daughter was shaming them from the tents meant for women at the extreme end, while other women yelled: “If you do not defend us, you are not our husbands”), when Khalid’s intervention saved the day for them. He made a sudden appearance with his own soldiers and began cutting down the surprised Romans like hay stack. Six thousand fell. That spread fear among the rest. Having routed one flank, Khalid next chose a hundred horsemen and led a fierce charge directly into the central command where a hundred thousand Roman soldiers were placed. The charge was so fierce that the Romans thought a huge army must be behind him and so fled. Many had chained themselves to each other so that when one fell, many others also fell. Adverse winds and dust storm are also blamed as the cause of confusion. Muslims kept attacking the retreating army even after night fell spreading greater confusion. In their panic, many fell into the nearby river, others fled as far as Fahl and Dimashq. In the end, they lost a hundred thousand against some three thousand martyrs. Gibbon’s description should make interesting reading:
From the provinces of Europe and Asia, fourscore thousand soldiers were transported by sea and land to Antioch and Caesarea: the light troops of the army consisted of sixty thousand Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. Under the banner of Jabalah, the last of their princes, they marched in the van; and it was a maxim of the Greeks, that for the purpose of cutting diamond, a diamond was the most effectual. Heraclius withheld his person from the dangers of the field; but his presumption, or perhaps his despondency, suggested a peremptory order, that the fate of the province and the war should be decided by a single battle. The Syrians were attached to the standard of Rome and of the cross: but the noble, the citizen, the peasant, were exasperated by the injustice and cruelty of a licentious host, who oppressed them as subjects, and despised them as strangers and aliens73…A speedy messenger soon returned from the throne of Medina, with the blessings of Omar and Ali, the prayers of the widows of the prophet, and a reinforcement of eight thousand Moslems. In their way, they overturned a detachment of Greeks, and when they joined at Yermuk the camp of their brethren, they found the pleasing intelligence, that Caled had already defeated and scattered the Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan… In the neighborhood of Bosra, the springs of Mount Hermon descend in a torrent to the plain of Decapolis, or ten cities; and the Hieromax, a name which has been corrupted to Yermuk, is lost, after a short course, in the Lake of Tiberias. 74 The banks of this obscure stream were illustrated by a long and bloody encounter. On this momentous occasion, the public voice and the modesty of Abu Obeidah, restored the command to the most deserving of the Moslems. Caled assumed his station in the front, his colleague was posted in the rear, that the disorder of the fugitive might be checked by his venerable aspect, and the sight of the yellow banner which Mahomet had displayed before the walls of Chaibar. The last line was occupied by the sister of Derar, with the Arabian women who had enlisted in this holy war, who were accustomed to wield the bow and the lance, and who in a moment of captivity had defended, against the uncircumcised ravishers, their chastity and religion. 75 The exhortation of the generals was brief and forcible: “Paradise is before you, the devil and hell-fire in your rear.” Yet such was the weight of the Roman cavalry, that the right wing of the Arabs was broken and separated from the main body. Thrice did they retreat in disorder, and thrice were they driven back to the charge by the reproaches and blows of the women. In the intervals of action… Four thousand and thirty of the Moslems were buried in the field of battle; and the skill of the Armenian archers enabled seven hundred to boast that they had lost an eye in that meritorious service. The veterans of the Syrian war acknowledged that it was the hardest and most doubtful of the days which they had seen. But it was likewise the most decisive: many thousands of the Greeks and Syrians fell by the swords of the Arabs; many were slaughtered, after the defeat, in the woods and mountains; many, by mistaking the ford, were drowned in the waters of the Yermuk; and however the loss may be magnified,76 the Christian writers confess and bewail the bloody punishment of their sins.77 Manuel, the Roman general, was either killed at Damascus, or took refuge in the monastery of Mount Sinai.
(Footnote 73: I have read somewhere in Tacitus, or Grotius, Subjectos habent tanquam suos, viles tanquam alienos.Some Greek officers ravished the wife, and murdered the child, of their Syrian landlord; and Manuel smiled at his undutiful complaint.)
(Footnote 74: See Reland, Palestin. tom. i. p. 272, 283, tom. ii. p. 773, 775. This learned professor was equal to the task of describing the Holy Land, since he was alike conversant with Greek and Latin, with Hebrew and Arabian literature.The Yermuk, or Hieromax, is noticed by Cellarius (Geograph. Antiq. tom. ii. p. 392) and D’Anville, (Geographie Ancienne, tom. ii. p. 185.) The Arabs, and even Abulfeda himself, do not seem to recognize the scene of their victory.)
(Footnote 75: These women were of the tribe of the Hamyarites, who derived their origin from the ancient Amalekites. Their females were accustomed to ride on horseback, and to fight like the Amazons of old, (Ockley, vol. i. p. 67.))
(Footnote 76: ‘We killed of them,’ says Abu Obeidah to the caliph, ‘one hundred and fifty thousand, and made prisoners forty thousand,’ (Ockley vol. i. p. 241.) As I cannot doubt his veracity, nor believe his computation, I must suspect that the Arabic historians indulge themselves in the practice of comparing speeches and letters for their heroes.)
(Footnote 77: After deploring the sins of the Christians, Theophanes, adds, (Chronograph. p. 276,) does he mean Aiznadin? His account is brief and obscure, but he accuses the numbers of the enemy, the adverse wind, and the cloud of dust. (Chronograph. p. 280.)
Footnote *: Compare Price, p. 79. The army of the Romans is swollen to 400,000 men of which 70,000 perished. - M.)
(Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, vol.5, Project Gutenberg).
The Yarmuk battle was the toughest the Muslims had fought. Their victory was a kind of miracle. Western sources place Roman numbers as 400,000, although Muslims sources say they were 240,000. Yet the ratio was great - 6:1. They faced a variety of soldiers: Greek, Italian, Armenians, Arabs and others. There was no reason they should have won. Or, was it because the Romans were too many: a mass of men that ran helter and skelter at the first strike spreading confusion? That doesn’t seem to be the case either. Initially they fought very well and were quite successful both at the left as well as the right flanks; especially the left flank. Muslims were on the run. They had to be put to shame by their women at the rear. The huge cavalry’s speedy flight despite the presence of central command, which must have been Roman, is difficult to explain.
Whatever! The next day was a day of rejoicing Monday the 22nd, Jumada II, 13H; but only for a short while. It was announced that Abu Bakr was dead. They were stunned. How many of them had not planned to shake hands with him, and report to the beloved leader that he hadn’t placed his trust in the wrong man? To be appreciated by others was one thing. To win a smile from Abu Bakr was another. His caliphate had lasted a little over two years; but what a change those years wrought!?
Abu Bakr had been unwell for fifteen days after having taken a cold bath. Fever never left him. When someone suggested that a doctor be brought, he remarked, “The Doctor has given me the illness. He says He does what He will.” He consulted the senior Companions and decided that `Umar was perhaps the best to be placed in his position after him. When they had all independently agreed to it, he stood up in the Mosque and inquired whether all were agreeable to `Umar's appointment. He remarked that he did not wish the Ummah to fall into strife after him and got the nomination announced by `Uthman, and a general public consent was also obtained. On the last day of his life he asked `A'isha what day it was that the Prophet had died. She answered that it was Monday, and that they were entering into Monday. His age also matched with the Prophet's: sixty-three by the moon calendar. He instructed that new shrouds may not be used to wrap his dead body: new clothes are deserving of the living. His final instruction was that his body be washed by his wife Asma’ bint Umays. His another wish was that he be buried next to the Prophet. At last he said,
And was gone.
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