Did Abu Bakr (ra) forgive someone who punched him?

The Details of the Question

- What is the hadith narration stating that Abu Bakr (ra) forgave someone who hurt him?
I heard a hadith stating that Abu Bakr (ra) was punched or wounded but he did not react; he forgave and showed mercy; thereupon, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Your answer was the best answer.” It was something like that. Have I expressed it correctly?
- What are the actual words in the narration of this incident?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Abu Bakr (r.a), the Companion of the Prophet (pbuh) and his faithful caliph, was verbally and physically abused and persecuted many times by the polytheists during the Makkan period.

However, unfortunately, we have not been able to find in our hadith and siyar sources a narration stating that he was beaten by a person as mentioned in the question and then he forgave that person.

However, the Prophet’s (pbuh) statement, “That was the best response to be given to him!” was uttered due to a similar incident:

The following was reported from Said b. Musayyab: “

“While the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was sitting with some of his Companions including Abu Bakr (ra), a man reviled Abu Bakr and insulted him. However, Abu Bakr remained silent.

He insulted him for the second time, but Abu Bakr kept silent again.

When he insulted him for the third time, Abu Bakr did not keep silent; he responded to him in the same way. Then, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) got up and left that assembly.

When Abu Bakr (ra) saw that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) suddenly stood up, he thought he got angry because of the bad words he said to the man. He asked, “O Messenger of Allah!  Did you get angry with me because I responded to him?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied:

“When he cursed and insulted you, an angel descended from heaven and was rejecting what he had said to you. However, when you answered his bad words with bad words, a devil came to this assembly. I did not want to be in the same place as the devil; so, I stood up and left.” [1]  

Did Abu Bakr (r.a) make a mistake by answering him in the same way?

That action of Abu Bakr (r.a) is not a bad act, but a way of giving what is deserved to those who deserve it, and talking to those who do not understand good words and behavior in the language they understand. Therefore, Abu Bakr used the permission and responded to his oppressor in kind, and did not applaud oppression by responding to him in excess. In the face of the bad deed, he did not respond to evil with evil; he was patient in time of hardship; he struggled against his soul (nafs) and did not play the devil’s game. He kept silent twice in the face of the oppression, and the third time he naturally stood up for his rights. [2]

 Responding to evil is permissible based on the following verses of Allah in the Quran:

وَالَّذٖينَ اِذَٓا اَصَابَهُمُ الْبَغْيُ هُمْ يَنْتَصِرُونَ

“And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves.” [3]

وَجَزٰٓؤُ۬ا سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِثْلُهَاۚ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَاَصْلَحَ فَاَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللّٰهِؕ اِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمٖينَ

“The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. For (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong.” [4]

وَلَمَنِ انْتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهٖ فَاُو۬لٰٓئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ سَبٖيلٍؕ

“But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.” [5]

وَاِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُمْ بِهٖؕ وَلَئِنْ صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِلصَّابِرٖينَ

“And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: But if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient.” [6]

Why did the Prophet (pbuh) get angry and stand up?

The Prophet’s (pbuh) standing up and leaving the assembly can be considered in two ways:

1. The Prophet (pbuh) prefers what is the most appropriate in terms of decency and the best in terms of virtue. Although Abu Bakr (ra) was patient in the face of the bad deed he was subjected to and then sought his right, the Prophet (pbuh) did not regard it as the best response. [7]

It is as if the Prophet (pbuh) asked heartily Abu Bakr (ra), his friend and confidant, to be patient, straightforward and forgiving. [8]

2. He left that assembly because the devil was present there. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) never entered a place where the devil was present.


[1] See Abu Dawud, Hadith No: 4896-4897; Bayhaqi, Shuabul-Iman, H. No: 6669.
[2] See Hasan b. Ali b. Raslan, Sharhu Sunani Abi Dawud, Darul-falah lil-bahsil-ilmi wa tahqiqit-turath, Egypt 1437, 18/638-639; Abut-Tayyib Muhammad Shamsul-Haqq b. Amir Ali ad-Diyanuwi al-Azimabadi, Awnul-mabud wa Hashiyatu Ibnul-Qayyim, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut 1415, 13/163-164.
[3] ash-Shura, 42/39.
[4] ash-Shura, 42/40.
[5] ash-Shura, 42/41.
[6] an-Nahl, 16/126.
[7] See Ali al-Qari, al-Mirqatul-Mafatih, Darul-Fikr, Beirut 1422, 8/3185-3187.
[8] See Abu Ibrahim Izzuddin Muhammad b. al-Imam al-Mutawakkil-Alallah Ismail as-Sanani, at-Tahbir li Idah Maaniyit-Taysir, Maktabatur-Rushd, Riyad 1433, 3/176.

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