How did we choose our First Caliph?
The first and the most important crisis that the Muslims faced was the death of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). The strength of a nation and civilization is tested on the basis of how they cope up with crisis. Acts that Muslims performed during that time were the basis of the current shape of Islam and it was decided in the very first hour after Prophet Muhammad’s (S.A.W) passed away.
The most important part of a civilization’s life is the time of crisis. The live nations and civilizations turn such crisis into opportunity and cope up with crisis and turmoil with gallantry. It is the critical moments that show the character of a nation and turn misfortune and hardship into prosperity and affluence.
The first reaction of the Muslims after the death of Muhammad (S.A.W) was surprise and distrust. Hazrat Omer upon knowing about the death of Holy Prophet (S.A.W) was so distressed that he brought out his sword and declared:
“Some hypocrites are pretending that the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) has died. By God I swear that he has not; he has gone to join his Lord, just as other Prophets went before. Moses was absent from his people for forty nights and returned to them after they had declared him dead. By God, the Prophet of God will return just as Moses returned. Any man who dares to perpetrate a false rumour such as Muhammed’s death shall have his arms and legs cut off by this hand.” People listened to Omer(r) and believed in what he said because of the love with their prophet, their curative healer.
The pliability was brought by Abu Bakar(r). First he confirmed that the Prophet has really passed away he came up to the people where Omer(r) was speaking and recited a few verses from Surah Al e Imran i.e. “Muhammed (S.A.W) is but a Prophet before whom many prophets have come and gone. Should he die or be killed, will you give up your faith? Know that whoever gives up his faith will cause no harm to God, but God will surely reward those who are grateful to Him“
After listening to these verses from Holy Quran, the reaction of people was shock. Omer(r) upon listening to these verses believed that the Prophet has truly been departed, morality of prophet was established and transcendence of Allah was reaffirmed. Muslim community had to survive the physical absence of the Muhammad (S.A.W). The man who brought them out of the ignorance, who gave them the light of Islam, who taught them the concept of Tauheed and who established the society with justice and moralities was not with them and the task was to survive the absence and establish their existence.
The body of the prophet was in the small corner of a small room and the man was the one who transformed a tribal society into a community of strong believers. The mission of Islam was to create a global society affirming that was right and forbidding that was wrong.
The competing positions emerged right after the death of Prophet (S.A.W). The first position was of Ansars i.e. the residents of Madina and of Mahajirs, the residents of Makkah before the time of Hijrah. Argument was of leadership, by whom the leadership must be taken. The second community was of the supporters of Abu Bakar (r) who believed that during the time of severe illness, Muhammad (S.A.W) asked Abu Bakar to lead the prayer, virtually declaring him the leader of Muslim in his absence. The third one was the supporters of Ali(r) supporting their point of view by saying Ali(r) to be the closest relative of Muhammad (S.A.W). Other arguments supporting Ali(r) were that he was the first young to embrace Islam and prophet referred him as his brother. The first two positions were reconciled by the Muslim community but the third one didn’t and lead in later history as the Shi’ia Sunni conflict, keeping the fact in mind that this schism didn’t exist during the Caliphates of Abu Bakar(r) and Omer(r).
Abu Bakar(r) along with Omer(r) and Ubaidah went to the courtyard of Saida and ask the people, “Either one of these two men is acceptable to us as leader of the Muslim community” taking the hand of Ubaida(r) and Omer(r) in his hand. Omer(r), upon this, replied to Abu Bakar(r) that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) asked him to lead the prayer, so by doing this Muhammad (S.A.W) selected Abu Bakar (r) as the leader of the Muslim community. Muahjirs and Ansar then came forward and took the oath of Alliances (Bait) on the hand of Abu Bakar(r) and he was selected as the first caliph of the Muslim community. The community solved the issue of succession and embarked on constructing the structure of their History.
The process satisfied most of the people but quite a few including Ali(r), Zubair(r) and Talha(r). Being a part of the family of Muhammad (S.A.W) Ali(r) was busy in funeral preparations. Talha and Zubair also were not there during the initial proceedings. Ali(r) didn’t give his oath of Allience (Bait) to Abu Bakar (r) initially but after being approached by Abu Sufyan to announce himself as Caliph Ali(r) gave his oath to prevent the division of the community. According to Ibn e Khuldoon, Ali(r) took bait forty days after the death of Muhammad (S.A.W) while the Shi’ia chronicles emphasize on his bait after the death of Fatima(r) i.e. six months after the death of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). This event was the base of Shi’ia Sunni conflict having in mind again that this conflict didn’t exist during the Caliphates of Abu Bakar(r) and Omer(r) and came on the scene later during the time of Ali(r).
What was the wisdom behind not telling the people the process of succession? Why the man having transformed a whole society didn’t teach the process of succession while he has taught each and every matter of life? Yes there was wisdom in the decision of the Prophet to leave the issue of succession to the collective judgment of the community. Being the natural religion Islam supported the decision of people in the matter of succession. If Muhammad (S.A.W) has announced who would lead the Muslim community after him the liberal and tolerant nature of Islam would have been changed, Muslims would have not been able to choose after him. Muslim community solved their first ever crises with wisdom, caliphate of Abu Bakar(r) sorted out problems of Apostates, False prophets and prophetesses and Zakat while used Khalid Bin Waleed(r) as a General for pre-emptive strike against Byzantines and in war against Persian Empire which we will discuss in the future Inshallah.
Muslims are again in a situation of crisis. Do we have the capability and courage to select our leader based on wisdom as those people did or will we continue electing people like Asif Ali Zardari, Hamid Karzai, kings of Saudi Arabia, Husni Mubarak and a lot other. Will the Ummat e Muhammadi select any one with character and courage or will we let our humiliation continue? Till when the Ummat will remain divided and to what date we will call ourselves as Irani, Pakistani, Egyptian, Syrian, Afghani, Saudi ... instead of Muslims..?? Will we have any Khalid, Tariq, Salahudin and Ghaznavi again?? Will we??