Did the Prophet say, "The most virtuous one in my ummah is Abu Bakr"?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The following is a hadith narration from the Prophet Muhammad:

“The most virtuous one among people after prophets is Abu Bakr." (Kanzul-Ummal, 10/543; as-Sawaiq, 249; Suyuti, Tarikhul-Khulafa, 42)

The following is stated in another hadith:

“Jibril came to me and I asked him who was going to migrate with me. He said,

"Abu Bakr. He is the one that will undertake the duty of leading your ummah after you. He is the best one of your ummah." (Kanzul-Ummal, 10/550-551)

While Abud-Darda was walking in front of Abu Bakr, the Prophet said to him,

“O Abud-Darda! Are you walking in front of a person who is better than you? The sun has not risen and set over a person better than Abu Bakr after prophets and messengers." (Majmauz-Zawaid, 9/44)

In addition, the following explanation of Abdullah b. Umar sheds light on the issue:

"We would rate people during the time of the Messenger of Allah and list them as follows:

The most virtuous one of the ummah is Abu Bakr, then Umar, then Uthman and then Ali. The Prophet would hear it but he would not oppose." (Bukhari, Fadailus-Sahaba 4; Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 8, 4627-4628)

One of those who say that Hz. Abu Bakr is the best of the ummah is Hz. Ali. Hz. Ali states the following in a narration that Dhahabi says to be famous:

"The best one of this ummah is Abu Bakr." (see Majmauz-Zawaid. 9/47-48; Tarikhul-Khulafa, 42)

Hz. Umar said: "The best one of the ummah after the Prophet is Abu Bakr. Anyone who says something different is a slanderer. Such a person needs to be given the penalty of slandering." Thus, he indicated the real place of Hz. Abu bakr. (Tarikhul-Khulafa, ibid)

Imam Shafii, Malik, Ahmad b. Hanbal, Sufyan ath-Thawri, all of the hadith and fiqh scholars, Ashari, Baqillani and similar scholars narrate that all Companions and Tabiun agree unanimously that Hz. Abu Bakr is the most virtuous one of the. (see Tadribur-Rawi, 2/222-3; as-Sawaiq, 55; Kitabul-Kabair, 263; Tarikhul-Khulafa, 41)

Abu Hanifa states the following in his short, concise book called Fiqh al-Akbar:

"The best one among people after the Prophet (pbuh) is Abu Bakr as-Siddiq." (Fiqh al-Akbar, 5)

Thus, he expressed the view of Ahl as-Sunnah regarding the issue.

Accordingly, it is the common view of the Companions, Tabiun and the others that Hz. Abu Bakr comes first in virtue and superiority, followed by Hz.Umar, Hz. Uthman and Hz Ali.

Note: We advise you to read the following article too.

Hz. Abu Bakr in the perspective of the Quran  

The first person that is worthy of being described after the Prophet is Hz. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. Information full of volumes to describe this most virtuous man of the ummah of Muhammad Mustafa will not be enough. The statements of the Prophet about him are quite a lot. The only family that had the honor of having Companions from the grandfather to the grandchild is his family. Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır (D. 1942) states the following regarding the issue: "Allah accepted his prayer about his parents and descendants. Allah enabled him to see both his parents and all of his children embrace Islam. His father Abu Quhafa (Uthman b. Amr), his mother Ummul-Khayr bint Sahr b. Umar, his son Abdurrahman and his grandson Abu Atiq. All of them saw the Prophet and none of the other Companions reached this honor of Abu Bakr. (1)

In this article, we will briefly deal with verse 22 of the chapter of an-Nur, which is accepted by all tafsir scholars (2) to have been sent down about Hz. Abu Bakr.

As it is known, one of the most woeful incidents of the Islamic history is the Incident of Ifk. The Prophet, who underwent all kinds of material and spiritual troubles, encountered a slander related to his honor. This slander, which was put forward during the return form the Expedition of Sons of Mustaliq in the fourth year of the Migration (625 AD), distressed the Prophet, the family of Hz. Abu Bakr, his father –in-law, and all of the Companions; it gladdened the hypocrites. One of those who spread this slander was Mistah b. Uthatha, who was one of Muhajirs, the son of paternal aunt of Abu Bakr, and to whom Abu Bakr gave some money every month to help financially. (3) After the verses expressing the innocence of Hz. Aisha were sent down, Hz. Abu Bakr vowed that he would never help Mistah financially again. The great scholar Suyuti (D. 911) narrates the remaining part of the incident as follows: When the verse "Do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?" (4) was sent down, Hz. Abu Bakr said, "O Lord! We definitely wish that You should forgive us." Then, he continued to help Mistah financially. He said he would never give up helping him in order to compensate for his previous statement "I will never help him again." (5)

Alusi (D. 1270), who successfully combined tafsir dirayah and isharah, states that Mistah did not take part in the campaign of slandering, that he laughed only once when he heard it and that he apologized for it. (6) Besides, it does not seem possible to expect something like that from a Muhajir in terms of reason and narrations.

Let us see the verse we are dealing with:

"Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allah´s cause: let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (7)

We will quote from the great tafsir scholar ar-Razi (D. 606) here: "This verse indicates that the most virtuous person of the ummah after the Prophet is Hz. Abu Bakr.(...) Allah uses interesting attributes to indicate the superiority of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq as follows:

1. Allah used the plural form for him. Using the plural form for a single person indicates the loftiness of the degree of that person. As a matter of fact, God Almighty uses the plural form in the following verses and similar ones in that sense: "It is We Who have sent down the Quran", "To thee have We granted the Fount (of Abundance)."

2. Allah states that Abu Bakr has grace and that he helps others. This indicates that he will attain a great grace in the hereafter. (...)

3. Allah uses the preposition “min (from/among)” in the phrase "those among you who are endued with grace..." and He virtually distinguishes Abu Bakr from the other Companions with the attribute grace. This shows that the attribute grace/virtue belongs to him. That is, only He attained the degree of virtue in this sense. (As a matter of fact, he attained the peak of loyalty.)

4. It is possible to interpret the word "fadl (grace/virtue)" as worshipping Allah. In that case, amplitude of means is in the sense of helping the Muslims financially and show compassion to them. Thus, two lofty attributes come together. A person who has both of those attributes together ascends to the peak of the level of loyalty. Allah is together with such people. "For Allah is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good." (8). Since Hz. Abu Bakr had both of those attributes together, the Prophet addressed him as follows: in the cave: "Have no fear, for Allah is with us." (9)

5. Having a wealth is meaningful when its owner spends it to help others. That is, a rich person is a generous person. Therefore, the Prophet said, "The best one among people is the one that benefits them the most." (10) Hz. Abu Bakr was the most generous person not only related to wealth but also all kinds of useful deeds. Due to this generosity of his, only a few days after becoming a Muslim, Hz. Uthman b. Affan, Hz. Talha, Hz. Zubayr. Hz. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and Hz. Uthman b. Mazun embraced Islam thanks to his efforts and entered the presence of the Messenger of Allah.

Along with giving his wealth away. Hz. Abu Bakr was also in the first place in terms of serving Islam with his hand and tongue. Therefore, he deserved to be described as having wealth in all senses. It is debatable whether Hz. Ali became a Muslim before him or not. However, the first person to call people to Islam after the Prophet is Hz. Abu Bakr, not Hz. Ali. This makes him the most virtuous person after the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He also received the following glad tiding from the Prophet:

"He who introduced some good practice would be assured of reward like the ones who followed it up to the Day of Judgment."(11)

Therefore, the rewards of those who call people to Islam will also be given to Hz. Abu Bakr up to the Day of Judgment.

6. All kinds of oppression is bad. However, oppression to a relative is worse. When a relative returns a good deed with a bad deed it is worse than the bad deed of a stranger. Mistah committed both of those bad deeds. He took part in the campaign of defaming the honor of his relative who helped him. You can think of how much Hz. Abu Bakr was offended by it. However, when Allah ordered him to continue helping Mistah and to forgive him, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq accepted it without hesitation. It is definite that the struggle against one’s own soul is harder than the fight against the armies of the enemy. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "We are returning from minor jihad to major jihad." (12) (Hz. Abu Bakr is at the peak regarding this issue too.)

7. When Allah ordered Hz. Abu Bakr to continue his charity, He described him as having grace and wealth in all aspects. He virtually meant this: "Your heart is not so narrow as to give any importance to the world. It does not fit you to stop helping him due to his mistake." Such an expression is enough to elevate a person to the highest rank.

8. The use of the article “al” (the) before a word shows that its meaning is general. The use of “al” before the world fadl (grace/virtue) and the word sa’ah (wealth) shows that he had all kinds of grace and wealth. This shows that it is impossible to outdo him.

9. Pardoning necessitates being pious. One cannot exist without the other. Therefore, He is described as pious in the chapter of al-Layl and as pardoner here.

10. God Almighty ordered his beloved Prophet as follows: "Forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds)." (13) He ordered Hz. Abu Bakr as follows: "... forgive and overlook...", which shows that he is the second person in Islam.

11. The verb in the verse "Do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?" in Arabic shows the future. No discrimination is mentioned about forgiving. This expression shows that Hz. Abu Bakr will be forgiven in the remaining part of his life. The expression of the Prophet (pbuh) "Your previous and future sins have been forgiven"(14) for him, the expression above approves the glad tidings of the Prophet stating that he was the second of the two people and his being among ashara al-mubashshara." (15)

That is Hz. Abu Bakr studied under the light of only one verse. If we study the Quran, whose every letter is like the sun, related to Hz. Abu bakr, who was the closest friend of the Prophet, his confidant, father-in-law and right hand, there will be too many things to write about him. We hope to attain their intercession. (Amin)!

FOOTNOTES:

1. M. H. Yazır, Hak Dini Kur'ân Dili Vol. WI, p. 4347.
2. az-Zamahşari, al-Kashshaf, Vol. III, p. 67, Ibn Kathir. Tafsirul- Quranil -Azim. Vol. III. p. 275, al Alusi, Ruhul-Maani. Vol. XWIII, p. 124, as-Suyuti, Durrul-Mansur. Vol. V, p. 35. ar-Razi, Mafatihul-Ghayb: Vol. XXIII, p. 188 etc.
3. as-Suyuti ibid. Vol. V, p. 35.
4. an-Nur 24/22.
5. as-Suyuti ibid.
6. al-Alusi, ibid. Vol. XV. p. 124.
7. an-Nur: 24/22.
8. an-Nahl; 16/128.
9. at-Tawba:9/40.
10. Faydul-Qadir, III.480.
11. Muslim, Ilim: 15 Zakah: 69, Nasai, Zakah: 64 Musnad, IW. 357, Ibn Majah: Muqaddima, 14.
12. Kashful-Khafa:Vol. I, p. 424.
13. al-Maida:5/13.
14. al-Fath: 48/2.
15. ar-Razi. Mafatihul-Ghayb: Vol.  XXIII, p. 187-188.

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