In the various accounts about Abu Bakr that have come down to us, we come across some anecdotes that illuminate certain aspects of the life of Abu Bakr. We refer to some of these anecdotes in this Chapter.
Reaction to praise.
Once, someone highly praised Abu Bakr. After the man who praised him had left, Abu Bakr prayed to God: “O Allah, You know me more than myself, and I know myself more than these people who praise me. Make me better than what they think of me, and forgive those sins of mine of which they have no knowledge, and do not hold me responsible for what they say.”
Milking the goats.
Before becoming the Caliph, Abu Bakr used to milk the goats of the widows in the neighborhood. When he passed through the street after becoming the Caliph, one of the widows remarked, “Now, he would not milk the goats for us”. Addressing the widows, Abu Bakr said, “No, the Khilafat would make no change. I would continue to milk your goats.”
The two lions.
On an occasion when Abu Bakr was busy with the preparation of plans in connection with the campaigns in Syria and Iraq, a companion presented a case concerning his tribe for the decision of the caliph. That irritated Abu Bakr, and he said: “I am busy considering plans to crush the two lions who are waiting for an opportunity to destroy the Muslims and you are diverting my attention to petty matters.”
Revelations of Musailima After the death of the false prophet Musailima, a deputation of Banu Hanifa waited on Abu Bakr. He inquired of them what were the teachings of the false prophet. As a specimen of his teaching they recited the following verse, which was alleged to have been revealed to him: “O frog! Holy are you. You’ll do not prevent the drinker, nor do you make the water dirty. Half the world belongs to us, and half to the Quraish, but the Quraish are a cruel people.” On hearing this, Abu Bakr remarked: “God be praised. Is this the divine word? It has no sublimity of divinity. To what depths he had dragged you”.
Necklace of his sister.
On the occasion of the conquest of Makkah, the necklace of his sister was wrenched from her neck by one of the horsemen. To the people assembled in the mosque, Abu Bakr said, “I call for the necklace of my sister in the name of God.” He repeated this three times, and when there was no response he said, “O sister, reckon upon your necklace as a present to God, for by Allah there is little of honesty among men now-a-days.”
Veterans of the Badr.
On one occasion, Abu Bakr was asked, “O Vicegerent of the Apostle of God, will you not employ in service those who fought at Badr?” Abu Bakr said, “I know their dignity, but I am loath to defile them with the world?”
Doing things himself.
Once when Abu Bakr was riding a camel, the reins of the camel dropped from his hands. He came down from the camel to pick up the reins. He was asked why he had not asked other persons to pick up the reins for him. He said, “My Prophet has ordered me to do my things myself, and not beg anything from any human being.”
Once Abu Bakr was sitting with a number of persons. A person came, and he said, “Peace be to you, O Caliph of the Prophet”. Abu Bakr felt irritated and said, “There is no distinction between the Caliph and other Muslims; why have you wished peace to the Caliph alone and not to the other members of the assembly?”
No train of followers.
In the second year of his caliphate, Abu Bakr went to Makkah on pilgrimage. On this occasion many persons gathered around him and began to follow in his train. Abu Bakr wanted them to disperse for he did not want to be given any undue importance to himself.
Head of defeated enemy.
Once a commander sent to Abu Bakr the head of the defeated enemy. Abu Bakr deprecated the practice as unlslamic. He issued instructions to all concerned that in future the heads of the defeated enemy should not be cut for dispatch to him. He urged that due respect should be shown to the dead, even though they were enemies.
Hunting of game.
Once a hunter hunted a raven with large wings. It was presented to Abu Bakr. He turned it over and said, “No game is hunted and no tree is felled, save it has neglected the praise of God”.
Holding the tongue.
Once in anger, Abu Bakr said something which he later regretted. He held his tongue and said, “This it is which has brought me to that to which I have come”.
More poisonous than poison.
Abu Bakr was critical of women’s passion for gold and perfume. He said, “The most deadly of things, more poisonous than poison, are the two that are red, gold and saffron.”
When Abdullah a son of Abu Bakr was on deathbed, he kept looking towards the cushion. When he was dead, the persons who were attending him said to Abu Bakr that at the time of death, his son had been looking towards the cushion.
When the cushion was moved, some dinars were found thereunder. Seeing them, Abu Bakr wrung his hands and said, “Verily we belong to God, and to Him is our return”. Thereafter he recited the verse: “You shall not cease to announce the death of a friend until you are as he is; And verily, the youth cherishes a hope and dies without attaining it.”
His reputation and decorum.
Once Abu Bakr was asked whether he ever drank wine during the days of Ignorance. He replied, “God forbid, I never touched wine even in the days of Ignorance”. He was asked “why”‘ and he said, “I sought to preserve my reputation and retain my decorum, and verily he who drinks wine destroys his reputation and his decorum”.
Joy which is not fleeting.
Once the poet Labid had a sitting with Abu Bakr when he recited the verse “Is not everything but God unprofitable?” Abu Bakr said, “You have spoken truly”. Then Labid recited, “And every joy is surely fleeting”. Abu Bakr said, “This is not correct. There is with God a joy which is not fleeting.”
Freedom from accountability.
Abu Bakr used to say that accountability was a great challenge for man. Once he entered a garden where he saw a ringdove sitting on a tree. Seeing the bird, Abu Bakr heaved a deep sigh, and said: “Happy you are O bird, that eats of the trees and seeks shelter beneath them, and are not called to account. Would that I were like you?”
His father’s seat.
Once Abu Bakr was addressing the congregation in the mosque from the pulpit. Imam Hasan, the son of Ali came to the pulpit and addressing Abu Bakr said, “Come down from the seat of my father.” Abu Bakr said, “You speak the truth; this is your father’s seat”. He put up the child on his lap and wept. Ali intervened to say, ” This was not said at my instance”. Abu Bakr said, “I know that”.
His love for the Holy Prophet.
Once, addressing the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr said, “O Apostle of God, if you were to ask me to kill myself, I will do that.” The Holy Prophet said, “Yes, I know that. I feel proud of you.”
Distribution of the spoils of war.
Whenever the spoils of war came, Abu Bakr would distribute them equally among all the people. Some of the companions suggested that he should recognize precedence in faith as a ground for preference in distribution of spoils. Abu Bakr said, “The recognition of precedence in faith is for the Lord. It is for Him to reward the piety of such persons who have excelled in faith. These gifts which I distribute are but an accident of the present life.”
Honor comes from Allah.
In the second year of his caliphate, Abu Bakr went to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage and stayed there with his father Abu Qahafa. On that occasion, the notables of the city came to wait on him. Referring to these notables, Abu Qahafa said, “They are the notables of our city. Make much of them, and honor them.” Abu Bakr said, “I will certainly make much of them, but as for honor there is none save that which comes from Allah.”
Precedence for Islam.
In the Battle of Badr, Abdul Rahman a son of Abu Bakr who was yet a non-Muslim fought against the Muslims. Later Abdul Rahman became a Muslim. He told his father that at the battle there were occasions when he could strike at him, but then out of love for him he turned aside. Abu Bakr said, “If I had such an occasion, you being an infidel, I would not have spared you”.
He asked his son to divorce his wife. Abdullah another son of Abu Bakr was so much lost in the love of his wife Atika that he did not participate in the battles against the non-Muslims. He even neglected his prayers. Thereupon Abu Bakr asked him to divorce his wife.
He was asked to sheathe his sword. At the Battle of Uhud, Abdul Rahman a son of Abu Bakr again fought against the Muslims. Before the battle began Abdul Rahman stepped forth from the ranks, and threw a challenge to the Muslims to let some one step forward and have a duel with him.
Abu Bakr accepted the challenge, and was about to fight a duel with his son, when the Holy Prophet commanded, “Sheathe your sword and do not make us anxious about your person”.
He slapped a Jew in the face. Finhas, a Jewish rabbi said; “We are rich but your Allah is poor. We are independent of Him but He needs us, Had He been independent of us, He would not have given us interest, which He has denied to you.” Abu Bakr felt outraged at this blasphemy. He slapped the Jew in the face and said, “Were it not for the treaty between the Muslims and the Jews, I would have cut off your head O enemy of Allah.”
Fight for the Prophet.
When the Muslims encamped at Hudaibiya, Urwa b Masud came to see the Holy Prophet on behalf of the Quraish. He insinuated that at the time of crisis, the followers of the Holy Prophet were likely to abandon him. Thereupon Abu Bakr flared up and said, “May God curse you; how dare you think that we will abandon the Holy Prophet. Rest assured, we will fight to the last for him.”
Hold fast to the stirrup of the Holy Prophet.
Umar regarded the treaty of Hudaibiya as humiliating to the Muslims. He saw Abu Bakr and wanted him to persuade the Holy Prophet to withdraw from the pact. Abu Bakr said, “The Holy Prophet knows things more than we do. What the Holy Prophet has done is in the interests of the Muslims. Do not be critical. Hold fast to the stirrup of the Holy Prophet.”
Judging what he did not know.
In the case of the ordeal of falsehood, after God had revealed to the Holy Prophet the innocence of Ayesha, she said to Abu Bakr, “Father would you not have pardoned me if there had been no revelation.” Abu Bakr said, “What heaven would cover me, and what earth would carry me if I judged that which I did not know?”
He wanted God to forgive him. Mistah was a relative of Abu Bakr whom Abu Bakr used to pay an allowance. Mistah took active part in spreading the calumny against Ayesha. Thereupon Abu Bakr swore that he would no longer help Mistah.
Thereupon, the verse descended on the Holy Prophet, “Let not those in affluence swear not to aid poor kinsmen. Let them forgive. Do you not wish that God should forgive you?” Hearing this Abu Bakr restored the allowance to Mistah saying, “Yes, I wish Allah to forgive me.”
His feet became dusty in the service of God. When Usamah’s army left for Syria, Abu Bakr walked for some distance along with the army to see it depart. Usamah was riding on horseback, and he requested Abu Bakr that he should be permitted to dismount or the Caliph should also ride on a horse. Abu Bakr said, “No, neither shall you dismount nor shall I mount a horse, for according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet, he whose foot becomes dusty in the way of God will be preserved from hell fire.”
He excelled all in the matter of generosity. For the financing of the expedition to Tabuk, the Holy Prophet invited contributions from all his followers. Umar made a liberal contribution. When the Holy Prophet asked him, how much he had left for himself and his family, he said that he had given one half of his wealth for the cause of Allah and had left one half for himself and his family.
Then, Abu Bakr came loaded with his contribution, and the Holy Prophet put him the same question as to how much he had left for himself and his family. Abu Bakr said, “I have brought all that I had. I have left Allah and His Prophet for myself and my family”. Thus Abu Bakr excelled every one in generosity.
He anticipated Umar.
It is related that a blind old woman lived in a suburb of Madina and had no one to support her. Umar used to go in disguise to the house of the old woman, but was always surprised to find that someone else had anticipated him and had supplied the wants of the old woman. One night Umar went to the house of the old woman earlier than usual and hid himself to watch as to who attended to the wants of the old lady. He had not to wait long for soon a man arrived who attended to the needs of the old woman, and this man was Abu Bakr.
Foremost in breaking glad tidings. Once in the presence of Abu Bakr and Umar the Holy Prophet said that the recitation of the Holy Quran by Ibn Masud was the most perfect, and had been approved of by God. Later, Umar went to the house of Ibn Masud to tell him of the approval of God. He thought that he would be the first man to give the glad tidings to Ibn Masud. When Umar reached the house of Ibn Masud he found that Abu Bakr had already been to the house of Ibn Masud and has informed him of the glad tidings.
It is related that one of the wives of Abu Bakr once wished for a sweet dish. The Caliph said that he had no money for such a luxury. She said, “Then permit me to save something daily, and then have a sweet dish when sufficient amount has been collected”. This he permitted and in the course of a few days she saved some amount. Abu Bakr deposited the amount in the treasury. He had his daily allowance reduced by the amount of the saving, holding that if something could be saved it meant that the allowance sanctioned in his favor was excessive to that extent.
During the course of his last sickness, some companions who visited him said, “O Caliph of the Prophet, should we call a physician to examine you?” He said “The physician has already examined me”. What did he say, they asked. He said that the physician had said that he would do with the patient what he would will.
Encomium for the Prophet.
During the course of his illness while looking at Abu Bakr, Ayesha recited: “That bright face whose freshness gives water to the clouds, is affectionate towards the orphans, and protects the honor of the widows.” Abu Bakr opened his eyes and said, “No, the Holy Prophet alone deserves this encomium.”
When at the point of death, Abu Bakr desired that the two pieces of the cloth that he was wearing should be washed and used for his coffin, while the third piece could be purchased. Ayesha said that they were not so poor as to be not able to purchase all the three pieces. He said, “New pieces of cloth can be better utilized for the living than for the dead. The cloth that covers the dead body is for absorbing blood and pus only.”