Through a restricted shura and bay‘at the first day and then an expanded shura and bay‘at the following day, Abu Bakr became the ruler of the Muslims. The majority of the Islamic popular will (the Muhajireen and Ansar critical mass supporters of the Prophet (pbuh)) agreed to have Abu Bakr as the person in charge not because he was more qualified than Imam ‘Ali but because he was more middle-of-the-road than Imam ‘Ali.
Some sectarians will misread the above sentence and because of their bias they will understand it to mean that Imam ‘Ali was an extremist and Abu Bakr was a status quo persona. None of that is true. Both of them were in their own ways the selfless personalities of the Prophet’s nurturing and refinement.
Upon assuming the position of managing the affairs of the Muslims, Abu Bakr outlined his period in office by a short “policy statement” from the minbar of the Prophet’s Masjid straightaway after the second bay‘at. This is what he said:
أيها الناس! اني قد وليت عليكم ولست بخيركم. فان أحسنت فأعينوني وان أسأت فقوموني. الصدق أمانة والكذب خيانة. والضعيف فيكم قوي عندي حتى آخذ الحق له ان شاء الله. والقوي فيكم ضعيف عندي حتى آخذ الحق منه ان شاء الله. لا يدع قوم الجهاد في سبيل الله الا ضربهم الله بالذل. ولا تشيع الفاحشة في قوم قط الا عمهم الله بالبلاء. أطيعوني ما أطعت الله ورسوله فاذا عصيت الله ورسوله فلا طاعة لي عليكم. قوموا الى صلاتكم يرحمكم الله.
O People! In truth I have been charged with presiding over you and I am not the best among you. If I do well, help me; and if I diverge, rectify me. Truth [and candor] is a trust [and responsibility]; and untruthfulness [and dishonesty] is betrayal. A disenfranchised person among you I consider him to be powerful until I obtain his [God-given] right for him by Allah’s sanction. And an enfranchised person among you I consider him to be powerless until I take away from him the entitlement [that is due to the disenfranchised] by Allah’s sanction. Never have there been a people who abandoned jihad on a direction to Allah except that Allah would clobber them with degradation. And never has there been a time when moral corruption takes hold of a people except that they become inundated with affliction. Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger; but if I disobey Allah and His Messenger you owe me no obedience. Proceed to your salat, may Allah bless you.
Obviously, Imam ‘Ali heard this speech besides knowing Abu Bakr very well. And we don’t have a shred of reliable information that places Imam ‘Ali in public and active opposition to Abu Bakr. Later, when Mu‘awiyah unlawfully fought Imam ‘Ali for power, Abu Bakr’s son proved himself an advocate and defender of Imam ‘Ali.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab followed Abu Bakr as the leader of the critical-mass Muslims [the Muhajireen and the Ansar] as well as the rest of the Muslims.
The intuition that dominated the Saqifah Muhajireen and Ansar attendees proved to be foretelling as the Arabian Peninsula wars of community-and-crowd renunciation erupted during the governance of Abu Bakr – commonly referred to as Hurub al-Riddah (the Wars of Absconding (Islam)). We are trying our best to skip over the strictly personal qualities of the four rulers who governed after the Prophet (pbuh) joined heavenly peace and harmony. Our concern is concentrated on the merits of these rulers when it comes to the Qur’anically dictated unity and prophetically demonstrated solidarity of the Muslim ummah.
It is or should be recognized that Abu Bakr was known to be courageous not cowardly, thoughtful not pretentious, and straightforward, not surreptitious during the rebellious bursts of breakaway insurrections during his rule. The separatist seditions were so serious that there had to be a popular mobilization of Islamic forces to defend the central Islamic seat of authority in al-Madinah – so much so that Abu Bakr himself was on the front lines of defense of al-Madinah when the major component of the Islamic armed forces headed by Usamah were far away and tied down with their military duties in al-Sham (the Levant). Some concerned individuals from the Muhajireen and Ansar were so concerned about Abu Bakr’s safety that they advised him to exclude himself from the dangers of frontline military responsibilities. But he refused and said:
والله لا أفعل ولأواسينكم بنفسي
By Allah! I will not [vacate my frontline military duties]; I will give you comfort by myself [’s presence in such unsafe position].
After only a couple of years of shouldering those tremendous team spirit responsibilities, Abu Bakr passed on to join those who preceded him in the company of Allah’s final Prophet (pbuh). When Abu Bakr fell ill and felt the approach of his final days, he feared that if he were to pass on and not assign someone to fill in the “vacant seat of governance”—someone who could carry on with the daunting concerns of keeping the power base of Islam unified and the Muslim community’s attention focused on the Prophet’s mission, then the Muslim public might relapse into a serious internal feud that would set the Prophetic attainment back to a jahili struggle for power.
This would play into the hands of the external enemies who were more than ever concerned with repelling the Islamic liberation forces from their freedom and justice march into the domains of the superpowers of that time.
Abu Bakr thought through the most capable of the longstanding committed Muslims among the Muhajireen and Ansar to find someone who was uncompromising but not uncaring, and who was self-confident but not self-important. After careful consideration he came up with two personalities: ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and ‘Ali ibn Abi-Talib.
And here, once again, the tribal culture and ancestral instinct may have combined forces outside the Muhajireen and Ansar if Imam ‘Ali were to be chosen as it would send a “jahili” interpreted signal to the tens of thousands of Arabians who had just become Muslims that the “social equality” and “ideological egalitarianism” of Islam were being desecrated by a “family-ocracy” – the Prophet (pbuh) and Imam ‘Ali both being family member Hashimis. In their tribe-to-Islam initial development these types of puerile or tyro-Muslims who broke out with Hurub al-Riddah would consider, erroneously, that Abu Bakr was a buffer or intermediate ruler that disguised the establishment of a Hashemite fiefdom or kingdom [Muhammad and ‘Ali both are Hashimis]!
Mainly because of this substantial internal Arabian-in-essence, Islamic-in-facade existential intimidation, it seems that Abu Bakr was inclined towards ‘Umar not because of any personal ill-feeling towards Imam ‘Ali or premeditated exclusion of him. Abu Bakr consulted some Muhajireen and Ansar asking them about their opinion pertaining to ‘Umar if he were to replace him as ruler. Their answers were constructive and helpful. The following is Abu Bakr’s transfer of power mandate statement:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم. هذا ما عهد به أبو بكر خليفة محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم عند آخر عهده بالدنيا وأول عهده بالآخرة. وفي الحال الذي يؤمن فيها الكافر ويتقي الفاجر. اني استعملت عليكم عمر بن الخطاب؛ فان بر وعدل فذلك علمي به ورأيي فيه وان جار وبدل فلا علم لي بالغيب والخير أردت ولكل امرئ ما كسب.
وسيعلم الذين ظلموا أي منقلب ينقلبون (سورة الشعراء 26: 227)
In the Name of Allah – the Mercy-Giving, the Very Merciful. This [declaration] is what Abu Bakr the successor of Muhammad (pbuh) entrusts [the Muslims with] at his worldly life’s departing moments and his after-worldly life’s approaching moments in a state of affairs where a denier of Allah’s power and authority is safe [in his civic self] and a provocateur of Allah’s power and authority is thwarted [in his civic attempt(s)]. In all honesty I designate ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab to preside over you. If he does so with integrity and justice, he fulfills my knowledge and expectations of him. But if he dragoons and mismanages, I [must] say I have no knowledge of the unforeseen. It is al-khayr [goodness and decency] that I intended and meant for you [O Muslims]. And every person shall wind up with what he has worked for.
Those who are guilty of injustice shall come to realize the type of outcome becoming of their [injustice and unfairness] - Surat al-Shu‘ara’, ayat 227
When ‘Umar assumed his “power position” he ascended the minbar and said:
اني قائل كلمات فأمنوا عليهن. "انما مثل العرب مثل جمل أنف اتبع قائده فلينظر قائده حيث يقوده. وأما أنا فورب الكعبة لأحملهم على الطريق".
I have some words to say – and you [the listeners] say Ameen [to what I’m about to say]: “The resemblance of the Arab[ian]s is like that of a camel leashed at the nose – one that coercively follows its herder-leader. Such a herder-leader should always watch where he is taking the camel [i.e. the Arabians]. As for me, I swear to you by the Lord of the Ka‘bah that I will lean on them and drive them [in the right direction].”
Notice that ‘Umar was concentrating on the peoples and culture of Arabia. He did not mention the committed Muslims or even the seemingly Muslims. He went to the core of the underlying problem or the clandestine clout that lurks in the dark corners of the Arabian tribal psychology – something that in our age is referred to as nationalism, or chauvinism, or jingoism; the problem that haunted the Muhajireen and Ansar – not to mention the Hashimis and Imam ‘Ali. Nationalism is the evolution of tribalism. In other words, tribalism is primitive nationalism or nationalism is advanced tribalism. This was the difficulty and dilemma that the Muhajireen and Ansar and Hashimis had to either confront as happened in Hurub al-Riddah or to outsmart and outflank as happened in the selection of the leaders of the Muslim ummah after the demise of our most and dearly loved Prophet (pbuh) in honor of his nearest and dearest family.
Remember, and this is very important to keep in mind, that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, as well as ‘Uthman with some question marks about his last few years, these rulers of the ummah were not malevolent. They were also not faultless. But they did have Islamic inseparability as their priority – in conjunction with the commands of the Qur’an and the demands of the Prophet (pbuh). It serves no purpose except division and divisiveness to assume that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were malicious or mischievous. The sectarian sharks demand nothing less than that and they have to be called out for what they are – troublemakers, Zionist useful idiots, and imperialist convenient fools in ancient history and in contemporary times.
If you [the Muslims] do not support the Apostle [Muhammad], then [know that Allah will do so – just as] Allah supported him at the time when those who were bent on denying the truth [concerning Allah’s sovereignty and power] drove him away, [and he was but] one of two: when these two [Muhammad and Abu Bakr] were [hiding] in the cave, [and] the Apostle [Muhammad] said to his companion [Abu Bakr], ‘Grieve not: verily, Allah is with us” - Al-Tawbah, 40.