Was it Prophet Muhammad’s Will to Make Hazrat Abu Bakr the First Caliph of Islam?

The Details of the Question
Was it Prophet Muhammad’s Will to Make Hazrat Abu Bakr the First Caliph of Islam?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Prophet did not directly appoint Hazrat Abu Bakr to caliphate. However, we can deduce from some of his words and practices that he wanted Hazrat Abu Bakr to be the first caliph.

The Status of Four Caliphs amongst Other Companions

It is stated that the most virtuous of all ummah are the companions and that Hazrat Abu Bakr deserved the title of “siddiq” (trustworthy, loyal) because of affirming Hazrat Muhammad’s prophethood and Miraj without any hesitation. (1) Although this explanation is short and not clear, we deduce a reason why Abu Bakr was the most virtuous of all companions from it. This reason is the fact that he was very faithful and submissive. His loyalty to Allah and His Messenger was unwavering. There are some other reasons which make him the most virtuous of all companions in addition to these. Factors such as being a leader in faith paved way to the good and he played a significant role in the belief of generations after him; he supported the Messenger of Allah both physically and financially in the riskiest times, his understanding of Islam and his worshipping elevate him to the highest degree amongst ummah and companions.

At-Taftazani stated that Hazrat Omar was given the title of “Faruq” (discerning truth from falsehood) because he distinguished truth from falsehood in his judgments and causes. (2) This points out to the fact that he deemed truth, Islam which is the truth more important than anything, and that he submitted himself to the truth. When he converted to Islam, he challenged Quraish and the whole world fearlessly (3). It is understood how he sided with the truth and how strongly he believed in truth. It indicates that this was one of his superiorities. (4) 

Then he stated that Hazrat Uthman firstly married Ruqiyya, a daughter of the Messenger of Allah, and when she died, he married his other daughter Ummu Kulthum and thus, he was named “Dhinnurayn” (having two lights), and that the Prophet said “If I had one more daughter, I would marry her to you again”. (5) We deduce from it that the Prophet was very pleased with Hazrat Uthman; he loved him a lot, and appreciated him. Of course, he would not love anyone because of his personal interests. Hazrat Muhammad’s dearest friends were true believers and people with taqwa. If he loved Hazrat Uthman, appreciated him and stated that he was pleased with him, we need to follow the Messenger of Allah and appreciate Hazrat Uthman, love him and have high opinions of him, and we should not criticize him. If the Prophet loved him that much and married his daughters to him, it shows that he was a true believer and he had taqwa; because Muslims do not marry their daughters to unbelievers. It means he was a believer. He was a muttaqi (one with taqwa; God-conscious) as the Messenger of Allah put it. And angels respected him (6). 

At-Taftazani then stated that Hazrat Ali al-Murtaza was one of the good servants of Allah and proved his sincerity. (7) Nasafi and other ahl as-sunnah interpreters of the Quran named Hazrat Ali as Murtaza in order to stress that Allah and His Messenger were pleased with him (8). Allah and His Messenger love Hazrat Ali a lot. Ali loves them both a lot, too and pleased them. It was mentioned in hadiths, too (9). Taftazani states that Hazrat Ali was outstanding in his worshipping, sincerity and asceticism. One who is loved by Allah and His Messenger, one with whom they were pleased, and one who was the son-in-law of the Messenger of Allah was of course a true believer, God-conscious and worthy of praise and love. Moreover, Allah the Glorious stated that he was a friend of the Messenger of Allah (10). 

According to at-Taftazani, the companions put four caliphs in superiority order according to their caliphate order. At-Taftazani says “It is clear that they would not have decided it if they had not had proofs.” (11) 

2) Some hadiths point out to caliphs’ order of virtuousness: 

If hadiths are examined having the issue of superiority, it will be seen that they have got signs pointing out to the degrees and the order of the caliphate of four caliphs: 

Hazrat Ali, the father of Muhammad bin Hanafiyya, was asked: “Who is the most virtuous person after the Messenger of Allah?” Hazrat Ali answered clearly by listing in order “Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman.” (12) The hadith related to the ones given the tidings of deserving Heaven states that the first to arrive at Aris Well was Abu Bakr, then Umar and then Uthman. (13) It may be an indication of their order of virtuousness. Moreover, one day the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman climbed up Uhud Mountain. Then when the mountains started to tremble, the Messenger called to the mountain: “Stop O Uhud! There is the Prophet, Siddiq and two martyrs on you!” (14) 

Bukhari mentioned the names of the companions in the hadith above in this order: “Abu Bakr,  Umar, and Uthman.” Also, the Messenger of Allah mentioned Abu Bakr after himself in the hadith above, and after Abu Bakr, mentioned Umar and Uthman. Is it not a sign of Abu Bakr’s superiority that the Prophet mentioned him right after himself? Moreover, this hadith harbingered that Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Uthman were going to be martyred. 

In another hadith narrated from Hazrat Ali, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “I became one with Abu Bakr and Umar. I worked with Abu Bakr and Umar. I walked with Abu Bakr and Umar…” (15) It indicates that Abu Bakr ranks in first place in terms of superiority and then comes Umar amongst other companions and the ummah. 

Again in another hadith in Bukhari’s book, Abdullah bin Umar narrated: “He said: ‘We would not deem anyone equal to Abu Bakr, and then to Umar and then to Uthman in the time of the Prophet (pbuh). After that, we quit comparing the companions of The Messenger of Allah according to their superiority.” (16) 

When this hadith is taken into consideration, there are several aspects that come into one’s mind: 

First: Abdullah bin Abbas (death H. 68), as a knowledgeable and wise companion, speaks of a matter which was agreed upon and known by everyone in the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). It is the fact that none of the companions were deemed equal in virtuousness to the four caliphs, especially to Hazrat Abu Bakr. (17) Of course, the Messenger of Allah knew that his companions thought like that. He thought the same, too. If he had not thought like that, he would have corrected their opinions. 

Second: while narrating the hadith, Abdullah bin Abbas firstly mentions Hazrat Abu Bakr, and then the caliphs in order. It can be deduced from it that Hazrat Abu Bakr was the leading one in virtuousness and also that Abdullah bin Abbas agreed with it. 

Third: According to that hadith, the four caliphs are superior to all companions. And the degree of superiority between them is based on that order. 

Fourth: The Companions of salaf deemed the companions in question superior to others according to the given order; however, they did not ever compare other companions in superiority. The problem of superiority emerged later. (18) 

The order of their caliphate, their works and services during their caliphates and events that occurred during their caliphates can also be considered to be signs of their virtuousness. 

After discussing this problem, at-Taftazani says: “Salaf (companions and tabiin) agreed on Uthman’s superiority over Ali and accepted their order of caliphate as it was.” (19) Then he explains how each of them was promoted to caliphate one by one. In his opinion, the caliphate of the four caliphs was the result of the consensus of Islamic scholars. Conflicts and wars which happened related to the caliphate of Hazrat Ali were not because of disagreement over his caliphate indeed, but because of the fault in deduction (of judgment; ijtihad).” (20) 

As it is seen, Taftazani considers wars during the time of Hazrat Ali as the result of deduction and faults in deduction, like other ahl as-Sunnah scholars. It is not meant to criticize and oppose the companion here; conversely, it is meant to exalt him. Taftazani blames them for hypocrisy and heedlessness. He states that Hazrat Ali was right on his judgment and Muawiya was faulty in his judgment. Muawiya, who was faulty in his judgment, is not criticized or blamed with straying and hypocrisy but commemorated nicely as a mujtahid, because mujtahids will earn thawabs even though they are faulty in their judgments. A mujtahid who made a mistake in his judgment cannot be blamed for straying or hypocrisy. (21) 

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi says that some Quranic verses point out to the four caliphs to come after the death of the Messenger of Allah, together with their order, and hints who they are by telling their most known features: 

“Muhammad is the Prophet of God, and those who are with him are strong against unbelievers, [but] compassionate among each other. You will see them bow and prostrate themselves....” (surah-al-Fath)

Through telling of the elevated qualities and characteristics which were the reason for the

Companions being the most elevated of humankind after the prophets, the start of this verse describes through its explicit meaning the excellent qualities which would mark the class of the Companions. And through its implied meaning, the verse alludes to the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, who would succeed to the office of the Prophet (PBUH) after his death through the institution of the Caliphate, and gives news of the fine attributes which were what most distinguished each of them and marked them out. It is as follows: 

“And those who are with him” alludes to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, who was distinguished and famous for being among the Prophet’s special followers and party to his conversation, and again for entering among his special followers by being the first to die. 

“While are strong against the unbelievers” points to Umar, who in the future would cause the countries of the globe to tremble at his conquests, and with his justice would descend on tyrants like a thunderbolt. 

“And compassionate among each other” gives news of Uthman, who, in the future when the most serious dissension was being fomented, would sacrifice his own life and spirit out of perfect kindness and compassion so that the blood of Muslims should not be spilt, preferring to be martyred wrongfully while reading the Qur’an. 

And so too, “You will see them bow and prostrate themselves [in prayer], seeking grace from God and [His] good pleasure” tells that with his complete worthiness to undertake the Caliphate and government, and his heroism, and his choosing perfect asceticism, worship, poverty, and frugality, and whose bowing and prostrating in prayer was corroborated by everyone, Ali (May God be pleased with him) was not responsible for his position in the future and the wars and strife in which he was involved, and that his intention and wish was for Divine favur. 

The phrase, “This is their similitude in the Torah” makes predictions concerning the Unseen in two respects: It gives news of the qualities of the Companions mentioned in the Torah, which was as though the Unseen for an unlettered person like the Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace). 

The sentence, “and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, [filling] the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the unbelievers with rage at them”, gives news of the Unseen in two respects:

The First is the prediction concerning the Companions in the Gospel, which was like the Unseen for the unlettered Prophet (PBUH). 

At the start the Companions would appear to be few and weak, nevertheless they would burgeon like seeds, grow, thicken, and find strength. When they were about to be overwhelmed and smothered by the rage that this would cause the unbelievers, they would subjugate mankind with their swords and prove that the Prophet (PBUH), their leader, was the Ruler of the World. The verses express exactly the meaning of the above verses of Sura al-Fath. 

Second Aspect: These sentences predict the following: the Companions certainly accepted the Pact of Hudaybiya out of their weakness and small number, but within a short time they so grew and acquired such strength and loftiness that, planted by the Hand of Power in the field of the face of the earth, they multiplied in most elevated, powerful, fruitful, and plentiful fashion. Especially in relation to the shoots of mankind at that time, which were short, weak, defective, and scant due to neglect and heedlessness. They would grow strong and cause glorious states to rage at them in envy, jealousy, and anger. Yes, the future verified this prediction in most brilliant fashion. 

There is in this prediction the further following slight hint: it indicates through the word forgiveness that, although while praising the Companions’ excellent qualities they should have been promised the greatest rewards, in the future serious faults would arise among the Companions, due to strife. For forgiveness indicates the existence of faults. And at that time the thing most demanded by the Companions, the greatest bounty, would be forgiveness. (22) 

The Hint about the Four Caliphs 

In addition to this last verse of surah al-Fath which hints the caliphs to come after the Messenger of Allah, the verse “All who obey God and the Messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of God, - of the prophets (who teach), the sincere (lovers of Truth), the witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! What a beautiful fellowship!” (al-Nisa, 69) also indicates the same truth. 

This verse describes the people of the Straight Path and the groups of the Prophets, the caravan of the Veracious, the community of the Martyrs, the class of the Righteous, and those who follow them, who are those among mankind who truly receive the Divine bounties, and furthermore, explicitly pointing out the most perfect of those five groups in the World of Islam, it then indicates the leaders and chiefs of those five groups through mentioning their well-known attributes. In addition, with a flash of miraculousness giving news of the Unseen, it specifies in one respect those chiefs’ positions in the future.

Yes, of the Prophets looks explicitly to the Prophet Muhammad (Upon whom be blessings and peace), and the phrase the Veracious looks to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (the Veracious). It also indicates that he would be second after the Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace), and first to succeed to his place, and be known with the special title of ‘Siddiq,’ and be seen at the head of all the veracious. 

Then the Witnesses [or Martyrs] mentions Umar, Uthman, and Ali (May God be pleased with all of them) together. It indicates indirectly that the three of them would succeed to the Caliphate of the Prophet after ‘al-Siddiq,’ that the three of them would be martyred, and the merits of martyrdom added to their other virtues. 

The Righteous alludes to distinguished persons like the Companions of the Bench, and of Badr and Ridwan. 

While the explicit meaning of “And how goodly a company are these!” encourages others to follow them, and its implicit meaning, through showing the generation that succeeded them to be honoured and illustrious, alludes to Hasan (May God be pleased with him), who as the fifth Caliph affirmed the Hadith “After me the Caliphate will last thirty years” (23) -in order to show its great value despite its brief duration. (24) 

And the word “goodly” in the Quranic verse which is translated as “And how goodly a company are these!” is “hasuna” in Arabic text. And in Arabic writing, Hassan and Hasuna are written in the same way. 

As it is seen, there are many signs and hints pointing out to the Unseen, stated either explicitly or implicitly in the Quranic verses. They also hint in which order the four caliphs will be promoted to the caliphate. 


(1) Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli p. 177-178.

(2) ibid., p. 178.

(3) History of Islam, p. 172 ff.

(4) The Messenger of Allah declares Hazrat Umar’s piety by means of a dream. Sahihu'l-Bukhari, IV, 201.

(5) Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli p. 178.

(6) For hadiths about him, see Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 196 (those who were given the good news of Heaven), IV, 202 ff.

(7) Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli p. 178.

(8) Sharhu'l-Akaid p. 322.

(9) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 207 (This is explained in the hadith related to the war of Khyber) Moreover, while on the war expedition to Tabuk, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated that his position with him was like that of Moses with Aaron.

(10) See. Al-Maidah 5/55; at-Tabari, Muhibbuddin Ahmad b. Abdullah Zahairu'l-Uqba,

Cairo, 1357, p. 102 ff.

(11 Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli Ala Sharhi'l-Akaid p. 178.

(12) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 195 (Fezai'l-Bab, 5).

(13) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 196.

(14) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 197; 204.

(15) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 197.

(16) Sahihu'l-Bukhari IV, 203.

(17) For the word “adala”see al-Mu'jamu'l-Wasit p. 588; al-Mufradat p. 325.

(18) For the issue that Companions are more virtuous than all ummah and that four caliphs are more virtuous than the others, see al-Haytami, Ahmad b. Hajar, as-Sawaiqu'l-Muhriqa, p.

210, 213; Subulu's-Salam IV, 127 (witnesses/martyrs); Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli p.

(19) Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli , ala Sharhi'l-Aqaid p. 179.

(20) Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli 'ala Sharhu'l-Aqaid p. 180.

(21) See Sharhu'l-Aqaid p. 325, Hashiyatu'l-Kestelli 'ala Sharhu'l-Aqaid, p. 180-181. 

(22)See. Nursi, The Flashes, p. 29-32.

(23) Tirmidhi, Fitan, 48.

(24)See. Nursi, The Flashes, p. 33-34. 

Prof. Dr. Murat Sarıcık

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