During the month of Ramadan, Al Arabiya English is publishing a series of profiles on prominent historical figures in Islam.
We begin with taking a glimpse at the unique relationship between Prophet Mohammed and his companion Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, in what Muslims regard as a symbolic lesson in friendship.
His name was Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafa, and Abu Bakr was his patronymic name. He was born into a reasonably well off family and established himself as a successful trader. He was known to be obliging and upright in nature.
It is understood from sayings of the prophet and Islamic history that Abu Bakr was the first man to accept Islam and believe in the prophecy of Mohammed. It is said that Abu Bakr is two years younger than the prophet. They reportedly knew each other when the prophet was married to his first wife Khadijah, and Abu Bakr was their neighbor.
Aishah, Abu Bakr's daughter and who became the prophet's wife after the death of Khadeejah, narrated that her father was frequently visited by the prophet, and enjoyed a strong friendship.
It is said that Abu Bakr received the title of “As-Siddiq” (The Truthful) following the prophet's midnight journey to Jerusalem. When people mocked the prophet’s trip to Palestine, Abu Bakr was keen on corroborating his friend.
It is narrated that people came to Abu Bakr and said, "Your friend is saying unbelievable things. He said he went to Jerusalem during the night and ascended to the heavens." Abu Bakr asked, "Is he saying it?" When the reply was "Yes," Abu Bakr said, "If he is saying it, then it's true."
Companion during Hijra
When the pressure upon Muslims in Makkah intensified, the prophet allowed Muslims to migrate to protect lives and allow them to practice their faith with no harm. The first batch immigrated to the Christian land of Abyssinia. But when a greater migration was needed, all eyes turned to Madinah.
Many of the prophet’s companions began the journey to Madinah, with hopes to establish a center for the Islamic faith. Abu Bakr, who also wanted to embark on the journey, was keen on asking the prophet’s permission to travel, to which he constantly replied: "Wait a little. Maybe Allah will give you a companion."
Abu Bakr was unfazed by the challenges of traveling with the prophet, whom the unbelievers of Makkah went after, promising a fortune to whoever found them. On their journey to Madinah, they both hid for three days and three nights in a cave.
This segment of their Hijra together was narrated in the Holy Quran, “when the Unbelievers drove him out: he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion, ‘Have no fear, for Allah is with us.’”
The prophet continuously expressed his love and respect to Abu Bakr, his closest companion.
‘If I had taken anyone as my closest friend (khaleel) I would have taken Abu Bakr, but he is my brother and companion,’ Prophet Mohammed has said of Abu Bakr.
We understand that the concept of the “closest friend” using the Arabic word khaleel was mentioned in the Quran in references to Prophet Abraham, who was described as the khaleel of God.
That highly revered status of friendship signified in this word was something Prophet Mohammed reserved for his relationship with God. But if he were to select any of his companions to be his closest friend, it was definitely going to be Abu Bakr.
The prophet’s death
Shortly before the Prophet’s death, at the time when he became ill, he could not lead the prayers and told Aishah to tell her father to lead prayers.
When Prophet Mohammed died, many Muslims refused to accept the truth of his death out of devastation. Despite being overwhelmed by grief, Abu Bakr addressed the people, saying, “Whoever worshipped Mohammed, then Mohammed is dead, but whoever worshipped God, then God is Ever-living and shall never die.”
He was then chosen by Muslims to become the first Caliph.