When after the death of the Holy Prophet, the storm of apostasy burst in the country and most of the tribes transferred their allegiance to false prophets’ things for Islam appeared to be very dark.
Abu Bakr faced the crisis with strong determination that knew no wavering. Apostasy campaigns began in August 632 C.E. and by February 633 C.E., apostasy was totally suppressed; Arabia stood unified, and all people in Arabia joined the fold of Islam. That was a remarkable achievement which changed the course of history. One shudders to think what would have been the fate of Islam, if Abu Bakr had, God forbid, failed in suppressing apostasy.
These campaigns are labeled by the Muslim historians as Riddah campaigns, i.e. campaigns against apostasy. Some western writers have found fault with this approach.
A German scholar has advanced the view that the Riddah was a break with the leadership in Madina and not with Islam qua religion. Caetni, a French author has advanced the view that certain tribes regarded Islam as an agreement with Muhammad (peace be on him), and considered the election of Abu Bakr as a private affair in Madina with which they were not concerned. Becker, an English writer, has held that the majority of those who seceded had never adopted Islam, and as such the campaigns against them could not be regarded as apostasy campaigns.
Dr. Elias S. Shoufani, a Jewish scholar has held that contrary to what Muslim historians have claimed, the Riddah was not a religious movement; it was the Nejd tribes’ repudiation of their fiscal obligations to Madina. Dr. Shoufani argues that in fact Arabia was far from being unified at the time of the death of the Holy Prophet. In the words of Dr. Shoufani: “The appellation of Riddah was carelessly expended by early story tellers to cover all movements in Arabia which were antagonistic to Madina. Later, the Muslim jurists adopted the facts to fit in their legal discourse, thus giving their accounts, a religious turn, and after that, historians embraced the early jurists’ interpretation”.
Implications of the viewpoints of western writers.
In the ultimate analysis the implications of the viewpoints of western writers work out as follows: By holding that Arabia was far from being unified at the time of the death of the Holy Prophet, the point sought to be made out is that the Holy Prophet in spite of his claim had not succeeded in completing his mission. By holding that the Riddah was a break with the leadership in Madina, and not with Islam qua religion, the point sought to be made out is that Abu Bakr was guilty of waging war against the Muslims for political and selfish ends.
By holding that the majority of the people had not accepted Islam and as such there was no question of their apostasy, the point sought to be made out is that Abu Bakr was guilty of war of aggression against the people of Arabia and forcing Islam through the sword. By holding that the Muslim jurists adopted the facts to fit in their legal discourse, the point sought to be made out is that both the Muslim jurists and historians have distorted and perverted history.
All these are wild allegations and baseless accusations which do not stand the test of any analysis of the course of history.