Hadith of the succession of Abu Bakr

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Hadith of the succession of Abu Bakr, is a famous recorded oral tradition among Muslims, relates the succession to Abu Bakr, the first Sunni Caliph.

Although the narration is prominently quoted and referred to, it is not given any formal name, in contrast to other hadith such as the Hadith of the pond of Khumm or the Hadith of Qur'an and Sunnah.


Umar helped Abu Bakr to come into power during the Succession to Muhammad, and Abu Bakr appointed Umar as his own successor.


Husain Mohammad Jafri, a 20th century Shi'a Islamic scholar writes:

The caliphate of Abu Bakr lasted just over two years, and on his deathbed he explicitly appointed 'Umar, already a ruling power behind him, as his successor... Abu Bakr ... first called 'Abd ar-Rahman b. `Awf, told him about his decision, and after some persuasion secured his consent. The only other person whom the dying caliph called in to make his decision known was `Uthman b. `Affan. When the news of Abu Bakr's decision came out, some of the prominent Companions of the Prophet became extremely disturbed and apprehensive. Under the leadership of Talha, they sent a delegation to protest against the decision and tried to persuade the Caliph not to nominate `Umar.[1] Nothing could change Abu Bakr's mind, and he asked `Uthman to write down his testament in favour of `Umar.[2]

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, a 10th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:

Abu Bakr called 'Uthman -when the former was dying-and told him to write an appointment order, and dictated to him: "In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the order of 'Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafah (i.e., Abu Bakr) to the Muslims. Whereas..." Then he fell unconscious. 'Uthman added the words: "I appoint 'Umar ibn al-Khattab as my successor among you."

Then Abu Bakr regained his consciousness and told 'Uthman to read the order to him. 'Uthman read it; Abu Bakr said, Allahu Akbar', and was pleased and commented, "I think you were afraid that people would disagree amongst themselves if I died in that state." 'Uthman replied, "Yes." Abu Bakr said: "May Allah reward you on behalf of Islam and the Muslims." [3][4]

Ibn Abu al-Hadid, a 13th century Mu'tazili Islamic scholar writes:

...when Abu Bakr regained his consciousness and the scribe read what he had written and Abu Bakr heard the name of 'Umar, he asked him, "How did you write this?" The scribe said, "You could not pass him over." Abu Bakr replied, "You are right." [4][5]

Other scholars quote:

This is a testament of Abu Bakr, the successor of the Prophet of God, to the believers and the Muslims... I have appointed as ruler over you 'Umar b. al-Khattab, so listen to him and obey him. I have not made him your ruler except for [your] good." [6]

Then they state: "When Abu Bakr declared Umar his successor, the Sahaba were so fearful of the consequences they ran to Abu Bakr and said 'What response will you give to Allah for placing Umar over us?'" [7]

Suyuti, a 16th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:

Muslim view[edit]

Muslims view this hadith as notable and important on several accounts: several prominent persons are mentioned in the hadith and several controversial issues are dealt with.

Sunni view[edit]

Shi'a view[edit]

Husain Mohammad Jafri, a 20th century Shi'a Islamic scholar writes:

The caliphate of Abu Bakr lasted just over two years, and on his deathbed he explicitly appointed 'Umar, already a ruling power behind him, as his successor. The way he arranged the problem of succession after him leaves us in no doubt that Abu Bakr had made up his mind in favour of 'Umar since his assumption of the caliphate. He took careful measures to preclude any possibility of opposition to his nomination of `Umar and made sure that the latter should not face any difficulty. He was fully aware of `Ali's claims to the caliphate and the support and respect he enjoyed from a certain group... Nothing could change Abu Bakr's mind, and he asked `Uthman to write down his testament in favour of `Umar. The community at large had no share in the choice and was told by the Caliph to accept his nomination and obey 'Umar as the new caliph after him, for he could not think of anyone more suitable than him.


Anyone reading the account of 'Umar's nomination by Abu Bakr will immediately notice that the decision was neither based on the method of consultation with the elite of the people, nor was the opinion of the community in general sought before the choice was made. It was simply Abu Bakr's own personal and arbitrary decision, which he wanted to be endorsed by only those of the Companions whom he considered most important from a clannish point of view, as will be seen below. For our interest, however, at once the most important and revealing point is that in this entire process of the nomination of `Umar by Abu Bakr, 'Ali was totally ignored and excluded from the ranks of those the dying Caliph called for consultation, if consultation it was, and whose support he tried to secure. In fact, as all of our sources unanimously report, from all the Companions of the Prophet only two, 'Abd ar-Rahman b. 'Awf and Uthman, were selected by Abu Bakr for consultation and then were entrusted with the charge of wholehearted support or 'Umar.[9] This in all probability must have been on the suggestion of 'Umar himself, who planned to counteract any possible opposition from the Banu Hashim by appealing to this branch of the Quraysh. 'Abd ar-Rahman belonged to the Banu Zuhra and 'Uthman to the Banu Umayya, both of which had been serious rivals of Banu Hashim before Islam. The emergence of these two Companions was very characteristic in many ways, especially for the development of the later history of the caliphate, for they represented the wealthiest circles of the Muslim community.[10] 'Abd ar-Rahman was 'Uthman's brother-in-law, and the two men could be expected to support each other. The former also had the wholehearted support of Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, a fellow clan member and cousin from the Banu Zuhra. In this way the direct support and influence of the most important political elements among the Muhaji-run were secured to oppose any possible activity from the Banu Hashim and their partisans in favour of `Ali's candidacy.[2]

And when such an Apostle, five days before his death wished to write a directive to save Muslims from going astray, he was accused of 'talking in delirium'.

When Abu Bakr who had no such Divine protection from error, began dictation of the appointment letter in such critical condition that he fell unconscious before naming his successor, 'Umar did not say that he was talking in delirium!.[2]


  1. ^ See the whole account in Tabari, I, pp.2137 ff.; Ya`qubi, II, p. 136 f.; Hadid, Sharh,, I, p.163 ff.
  2. ^ a b c The Origins and Early Development of Shi`a Islam p.58-079
  3. ^ History of the Prophets and Kings pp. 2138-9.
  4. ^ a b Imamate: The Vicegerency of the Prophet Al-islam.org [1]
  5. ^ Comments on the Peak of Eloquence (Ibn Abu al-Hadid) vol. 1, pp.163-5.
  6. ^ The Origins and Early Development of Shi`a Islam p.58-079, referencing "Ya`qubi, Ya`qubi, II, p. 136 f.; also see Tabari, I, p. 2138 ; 'Iqd, IV, p. 267, with slight variations in wording"
  7. ^ Answering-Ansar.org :: Mut'ah, a comprehensive guide
  8. ^ History of the Caliphs by Suyuti [2]
  9. ^ Tabari, I, p.2137; Ya`qubi, loc. cit.; Hadid, Sharh[disambiguation needed],, I, p. 164. Also see Mubarrad, Kamil, I, p.7
  10. ^ cf. Masudi, Muruj, II, pp.332 f.