How was Hz. Abu Bakr chosen as the caliph?

Details of the Question
Did Hz. Prophet (pbuh) appoint the caliph himself or did he leave it to the consensus of the ummah?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who became ill in the eleventh year of the Migration, passed away on Monday, the 13th of the month of Rabiul-Awwal (June 8, 632). The Muslims who heard his death became very sorry and they did not know what to do a first. However, he was also an ephemeral human being.

Hz. Umar said the Prophet (pbuh) went to meet his Lord like Hz. Musa (Moses) and added that he would cut off the hands of anyone who said, "he died". When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) felt well, Hz. Abu Bakr took permission from him and went to see his daughter. As soon as he heard that the Messenger of Allah had died, he returned and kissed the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) on his forehead. He said,

"O Messenger of Allah! May my father and mother be sacrificed for you! You are as beautiful as you were alive. The institution of prophethood ended with your death. Your fame and honor is so great that you are free from crying over it. O Muhammad! Do not forget us near your Lord! Remember us!"

Then, he went out and silenced Hz. Umar. He said,

"O people! Allah is one; there is no god but Him. Muhammad is His slave and messenger. Allah is the clear truth. Whoever worshipped Muhammad should know that Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, should know that Allah is alive and eternal. I want to remind you the following order of Allah:

'Muhammad is no more than an Messenger: many were the Messengers that passed away before Him. If he died or was slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve him) with gratitude.' (Aal-i Imran, 3/144)

"He who holds fast the book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah finds the truth; he who separates them goes astray. Do not let Satan deceive you with the death of the Prophet and make you deviate from your religion! Do not allow Satan to approach you!" (Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, IV/335; Tabari, Tarikh, III/197,198).

With this talk, Hz. Abu Bakr calmed down the people there and started to prepare the body of the Prophet for burial. Meanwhile, Ansar gathered in the shed of Banu Sa'idah; they wanted to choose Sa'd b Ubada, the leader of the tribe of Khazraj, the caliph. Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar, Abu Ubayda and a group of Muhajirs went to Banu Sa'idah at once. After talking to Ansar and negotiating about the caliphate, Hz. Abu Bakr stood between Umar and Abu Ubayda and asked people to pay allegiance to one of them. He did not put himself forward as the caliph. After Hz. Abu Bakr's speech, Hz. Umar rushed forward and paid allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr. He said,

"O Abu Bakr! You led the prayer to the Muslims upon the order of the Messenger of Allah. You are his caliph and we pay allegiance to you. We pay allegiance to you, who are more beloved to the Messenger of Allah than all of us."

Upon this, sudden act of Hz. Umar, all of the people there paid allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr.

After this initial allegiance, Hz. Abu Bakr delivered a sermon to the people in Masjid an-Nabawi the next day and people paid allegiance to him formally. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was buried on Tuesday. When a disagreement occurred about where to bury him, Hz. Abu Bakr showed his prudence and reminded the people the following hadith: 

"Every prophet is buried in the place where he dies."

The janazah prayer of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was performed in groups without an imam. It is reported that Hz. Ali came together with Banu Hashim and his supporters in the house of Hz. Fatima and that he did not pay allegiance at first. According to some narrations, when Hz. Ali heard that the big allegiance took place, he put on his clothes hurriedly and rushed in order to pay allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr. (Tabari, Tarikh, III/207). The news that he did not pay allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr for months is probably contrary to the truth. For, the fact that he knew the superiority of Abu Bakr, the speeches he made and the course of history are contrary to the other narrations.

Disagreements and differences of opinions sometimes occurred among the closest Companions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) - even between Abu Bakr and Umar - , but they acted together as it is seen during the time of the first two caliphs. Differences of traits and characteristics played an important role in most of the incidents that seemed to be disagreements. For instance, Abu Bakr acted mildly but Umar was a hardliner. However, they always acted together. Hz. Ali and Zubayr b. Awwam were among those who made decisions about the wars of Riddah under the leadership of Hz. Abu Bakr and they performed prayers behind Hz. Abu Bakr. (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wan-Nihaya, V/249)

Hz. Ali said if the Messenger of Allah had had a will, he would have fulfilled it before his death (Tabari, ibid, IV/236) but he rejected Ibn Abbas when he wanted to go to the Messenger of Allah and ask him about the caliphate. That is, nobody opposed the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr. Besides, what was natural, reasonable and practical was the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr.

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) did not leave a written will but he spoke about the virtue of Hz. Abu Bakr in the mosque, called him to his bed when he was ill and appointed him as the imam on behalf of him.

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