When the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was ill, he appointed Abu Bakr to lead the prayers in the masjid. ‘Aa`isha said to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “My father is not able to serve in this capacity, for he is too tender-hearted to do this. Please ask ‘Umar to do the job.” The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “No, Abu Bakr will do it.” In Conquest, we learned that she suggested this because ‘Umar’s recitation was later. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam became angry and said, “Allah, his Prophet and the Muslims will accept no one but Abu Bakr to lead the prayer!”
There were two incidences which significantly demonstrated that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanted Abu Bakr to lead the Muslims after he passed away. One is appointing Abu Bakr to lead the prayer, as mentioned above. The other is when a woman once asked the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam what she should do in case she did not find him. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam instructed her to then find Abu Bakr.
Abu Bakr was leading the prayer when the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam felt a bit better and came into the mosque. As soon as Abu Bakr realized he was there, he tried to get back, but the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam motioned for him to stay in his place. Thus, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam led the prayer sitting, while Abu Bakr was standing.
During his illness, he called the people and addressed them. One of the things he said was, “Consider none superior to Abu Bakr in your assemblies.”
Significance in Appointing Abu Bakr to Lead the Prayer
1. Abu Bakr became the guide in Salah. The person who guides in Salah should also lead in the dunya.
2. The Imaam is not necessarily the best recite. Just because a person recites well does not mean that they know a lot about the deen.
3. It is important to put future leaders in the public eye at critical times.
After the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away, ‘Umar ibn AlKhattab was in such shock that he drew his sword and said, “Some of the hypocrites have developed a notion that the Messenger of Allah has passed away. In fact, he has not died. He has rather gone to his Lord as Moses had done. He shall come back and cut their hands and legs.” Everyone was so afraid of ‘Umar, that no one could calm him or ask him to put his sword away. ‘Umar said he would kill anyone who said the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had passed away. [Remember that the death of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the greatest calamity to ever afflict this Ummah.]
Abu Bakr was in another city when the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away. When he arrived, he went straight into the room where the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was and took the head of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his hands. He said, “May my mother and father be sacrificed for you, verily you have tasted the death which Allah the Almighty had decreed for you, and never will you face any other death hereafter.” He then came out saying Inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon.
Abu Bakr asked ‘Umar to be quiet, but ‘Umar didn’t listen to him. So he stood at a short distance from ‘Umar and began to address the people. He said:
وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَن يَنقَلِبْ عَلَىَ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَن يَضُرَّ اللّهَ شَيْئاً وَسَيَجْزِي اللّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَMuhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah, and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful.” (3:144)
Then, ‘Umar fell to his knees and tears came to his eyes because he realized that Abu Bakr was right and that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had passed away. ‘Umar says, “At first, I paid no heed to the call of Abu Bakr. But when he recited the verse, it seemed as if it had just been revealed. I was taken aback and fell down as if I had no legs. I felt as if I had just then come to know of the Prophet’s death.”
In this way, Abu Bakr calmed everyone down with his handling of the situation.
Choosing a Leader
At the same time, there was a Muslim gathering of Ansaar in the house of Sa’d bin Ubaadah radiyallahu ‘anhu. They were peacefully diberating who to choose as a successor to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. A dispute arose, and Mughirah ibn Shu’bah left for the Prophet’s masjid, to inform them of the situation. At the time, Abu Bakr was making arrangements for the burial, but on hearing this awful news, he left everything to go and bring the situation under control. He took with him ‘Umar and Abu ‘Ubaydah and left ‘Ali to take care of the burial arrangements. The Ansaar were saying that the khalifa should be from amongst them. And they said this for many reasons, some of which are: they were from Madinah; they housed the muhajireen; they were very generous and patient and had made great sacrifices. Abu Bakr listened to them and said, “Don’t you know that the people will not accept a khalifa except from the Quraysh?” The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had said, “Imams must be from Quraysh.” He (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “The people will follow the Quraysh whether they take them to good or evil.” Abu Bakr used the words of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his reasoning. He was thinking about the future of the entire ummah, while they were thinking of Madinah. This is the thinking of a leader.The congregation grew silent. Then Abu Bakr said, “’Umar and Abu Ubaydah are here, choose any of them.” ‘Umar said,
‘Umar stretched his hand first of all to give bai’ah to Abu Bakr, followed by Abu Ubaydah and Bashir bin Sa’d Ansari. Then, the rest of them gave bay’ah to him. As the news spread, the Muslims all over rushed to give him bay’ah. Some of the sahabah were upset with Abu Bakr for not being included, but Abu Bakr explained to them that he had not planned to do this. He had just gone to Saqifah Banu Saa’idah to settle the disputes going on there and they had given allegiance to him on their own. If he had delayed the matter, it would have posed a greater danger to the unity of Islaam. Hearing this, they gave bay’ah to him. As we see from this, the Muslims’ top priority, even at the death of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was to choose a leader. This shows that the Muslims should never be without a leader. Also, the khalifa was chosen through shoorah (consultation). After the meeting at Saqifah Banu Saa’idah and being absolved from his duty of the burial of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Abu Bakr took the oath of allegiance from the general population and then rose to deliver his address. After praising and glorifying Allah, he said to the people:
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 Conquest notes; History of Islaam, pg. 274-275
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