In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious the most Merciful. Peace and salutations on the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, seal of the Prophets, is family and His beloved Companions.
Unwarranted accusations and tall claims have always been the predilection of the unscrupulous. And while it is not uncommon to find them hurling such accusations at their counterparts, the reality is that even the Prophets and the Almighty Creator of the Universe Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala have been the target of such falsities. These accusations take on various shades and their unjustifiable criticisms cover a range of topics. A poet has summed this up quite eloquently:
والله لو صاحب الإنسان جبريلا…لم يسلم المرء من قال ومن قيلا
قد قيل فى الله أقوالاً مدبجةً…تتلى إذا رتل القرآن ترتيلا
قـد قـيـل أن لـه ولداً وصاحبهً…زوراً عليه و بهتاناً وتضليلا
هذا قولهم فى الله خالقهم…فكيف لو قيل فينا بعض ماقيلا
By Allah! If a man were to accompany Jibril ‘alayh al Salam, he still would not be saved from criticism.
Arguments have been made against Allah, which are heard when the Qur’an is recited.
They said that He has offspring and a wife, a lie, slander, and disparagement against him.
This is their statement regarding Allah who created them, so how is it [shocking] when they say something about us?
When criticism is made based upon one’s personal prejudices and biases, then no one can be safe. Thus, finding unfounded criticism being levelled on the honourable Sahabah of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam comes as no surprise, even though they were the ones who accompanied the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, assisted him, and defended him.
Amongst the Sahabah is Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, whose sincerity of companionship is attested to by the noble Qur’an, but he too has not remained unscathed from the tongues and pens of the those lacking faith.
Before we begin addressing the allegation which is the subject of this article, let us spare a moment to delve into the status of Sayyidina Abu Bakr al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu as articulated by none other than Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. An objective analysis of these authentic narrations will clear any misgivings, provided one frees his mind of his preconceived biases.
Sayyidina Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu reports that Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:
When Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away we reflected over our affairs. We realised that he had instructed Abu Bakr to lead the congregation in salah. We were, thus, pleased for our worldly affairs with the person who Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was pleased with for our religious affairs. We, therefore, gave precedence to Abu Bakr.
Nazzal ibn Sabrah narrates:
One day we found ‘Ali in a very elated mood so we said, “Tell us about your companions.”
He said, “All the Sahabah of Rasulullah are my companions.”
We demanded, “Then tell us about the Sahabah of Rasulullah.”
“Ask me,” he replied.
We said, “Tell us something about Abu Bakr.”
He said, “That is a person who was named al Siddiq via Jibril and Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. And was the deputy of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in leading the congregation in salah; Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had chosen him for our religious affairs, thus we were pleased that he took charge of our worldly affairs as well.”
Hassan al Basri rahimahu Llah reports from ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent forth Abu Bakr to lead the prayer whereas I was not absent, rather present, and not ill, but in sound health. If he would have wanted to give me preference he would have done so. We were thus happy for our worldly affairs with he, whom Allah is happy with for religious matters.
Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the rest of the Sahabah had deduced from his Imamah (leadership) in salah his eligibility for leadership as the Khalifah. The abovementioned narrations make it crystal clear that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu saw Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu to be more worthy than himself for the post of Caliphate, as he had been appointed by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to lead the salah even though he was present. There is not a single authentic narration that states he felt otherwise.
The critics of Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu raise much hue and cry over Sayyidina ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu alleged delay in pledging allegiance to Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, claiming that he was displeased with Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. An analysis of the authentic sources, however, reveals the hollowness of their claims. Mawlana Muhammad Nafi’ has addressed this allegation in detail in his magnum opus, Ruhama’ Baynahum, he writes:
‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu after the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam without any delay, i.e. he had pledged allegiance to him within three days from the death of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The claims that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had not pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu at all, or that he only pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu six months after the demise of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha, or that he had—because of being coerced by others—outwardly pledged allegiance without any willingness from his side are erroneous. These claims are contrary to reality and are the result of the additions of some of the narrators. Furthermore, those who have raised these claims have dramatized them a great deal before popularising them among the people.
Ahead I shall present before you a few narrations that appear in the books of hadith and the books of history. These narrations have been cited by the scholars in substantiation of the immediate bay’ah of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
All the Sahabah, including ‘Ali and al Zubair, had unanimously accepted the Caliphate of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The proof of this is the narration cited by Imam al Bayhaqi which reads as follows:
Abu Sa’id al Khudri narrates that after the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam the people had convened at the residence of Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah. Amongst them were Abu Bakr and ‘Umar as well. A person from the Ansar stood up and said, “Do you realise that the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was from the Muhajirin, and we were his Ansar, supporters, therefore, we shall be the supporters of his successor as well.” ‘Umar thereupon stood up and remarked, “Behold! Your speaker has spoken the truth. If you (the Ansar) said anything other than this we would never have pledged allegiance to you.” He then held the hand of Abu Bakr and said, “Here is your Companion! So, pledge your allegiance to him.” Hence, ‘Umar pledged his allegiance to him and so did the Muhajirin and the Ansar.
Abu Bakr then came to the masjid settled on the pulpit and glanced at the congregation. He did not find Zubair. He thus called for him. Zubair came. Abu Bakr said to him, “You are the son of the aunt of Rasulullah and his close companion, do you intend to destroy the unity of the Muslims?”
He responded, “O Khalifah of Rasulullah! I am not to be reproached (for I have come to pledge my allegiance).”
He thereafter stood up and pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Abu Bakr again gazed at the congregation and did not find ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He summoned him, and when he came, said to him, “You are the son of the uncle of Rasulullah and his son-in-law, do you wish to destroy the unity of the Muslims?”
‘Ali said, “O Khalifah of Rasulullah! I am not to be reproached.”
He then stood up and pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr.
Abu ‘Ali al Hafiz al Naysaburi mentions, “I heard Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaymah say, ‘Muslim ibn Hajjaj al Qushayri came to me and asked me about this narration, so I wrote it for him on a piece of paper and read it to him. He remarked, ‘This hadith is as valuable as a camel of sacrifice.’ I said, ‘Instead it is as valuable as a bag filled with a hundred silver coins.’”
Ibn Jarir al Tabari has mentioned the following in his book, Tarikh al Tabari :
Habib ibn Abi Thabit narrates, “‘Ali was at home when he was informed that Abu Bakr was sitting to accept the bay’ah of the people. He very quickly emerged from his house with nothing but a long garb in order not to delay in pledging allegiance; hence, he pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr and subsequently sat in his gathering. He then asked for his additional clothing to be brought, clad himself with them, and remained seated.
It can be clearly understood that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu pledged his allegiance very soon after Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu became the Khalifah. He was not forced to pledge allegiance as is alleged by some nor did he delay in pledging allegiance.
However, one might ask, why have some claimed that he delayed his pledge for six months?
The answer is quite simple, as elucidated in Ruhama’ Baynahum:
From amongst the narrations that reject the immediate bay’ah, the narrations which state that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not pledge allegiance as long as Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha was alive—i.e. six months—are of crucial importance. Furthermore, in some narrations it is stated that none of the Banu Hashim had also pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Hence, it would be apt to firstly clear the contention around these narrations.
The narrations that suggest that the bay’ah took place after six months appear in the following books:
The link of Ibn Shihab al Zuhri is found in each of the chains of transmission of the narrations which appear in the above quoted references. By contemplating over these narrations, one comes to realise that additions had been made in them by some of the narrators. One such addition is the aspect of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu not pledging allegiance as long as Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha was alive. And in some narrations, it is mentioned to this extent that none of the Banu Hashim pledged allegiance as well. These narrations are presented below:
The crux of all the above quoted narrations is that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had reunited with Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and pledged allegiance to him only after the demise of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha and that was six months after the demise of the Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Banu Hashim had likewise not pledged their allegiance in this period.
Contemplate over the wording of the different variations of the incident. The texts quoted above are portions from the narration of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. Whilst the narrator (al Zuhri) is reporting the narration he is asked a question to which he responds from his own side and says, “No, nor did any of the Banu Hashim pledge allegiance in those six months”. This is most certainly not the words of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. This is the assumption of the narrator and his addition. There is a distinct difference between ‘he said’ and ‘she said’. There is no need for any other proof in this regard.
The only difference between the variations of al Bukhari and Muslim and the other sources, viz. Musnad Abu ‘Awanah, Tarikh al Tabari, al Sunan al Kubra, etc., is that in the former the words “a person said to al Zuhri” or “I said to al Zuhri” have been omitted due to the narrator wanting to condense the narration; and in the latter these words are explicitly mentioned which make it clear in no uncertain terms that the aspect of the delayed bay’ah is the assumption of al Zuhri.
A number of scholars have classified this particular addition of al Zuhri to be weak, to which no consideration should be given. The views of some of the scholars will be presented as evidence:
قول الزهرى في قعود علي عن بيعة ابى بكر رضي الله عنه حتى توفيت فاطمة منقطع و حديث ابى سعيد الخدرى في مبايعته اياه حتى بويع بيعة العامةبعد السقيفة أصح.
The statement of al Zuhri regarding ‘Ali not pledging his allegiance to Abu Bakr till the demise of Fatimah is inconsistent. And the narration of Abu Sa’id al Khudri in which mention is made of his immediate pledge is sounder…
Note: The narration of Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu to which reference is being made in the text above has already been cited in the first chapter on the authority of al Bidayah, Mustadrak, etc. Imam Muslim and Ibn Khuzaymah have classified it as sound.
It should also be remembered that Imam al Bayhaqi has clarified this matter in much more unequivocal terms in his book al I’tiqad. He has stated therein that this statement of Ibn Shihab is inconsistent and it is not part of the narration of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. He writes:
والذى روي ان عليا لم يبايع ابا بكر ستة اشهر ليس من قول عاءشة انما هو من قول الزهري فأدرجه بعض الرواة في الحديث عن عائشة في قصة فاطمة و حفظه معمر بن راشد فرواه مفصلا وجعله من قول الزهري منقطعا من الحديث و قد روينا في الحديث الموصول عن ابي سعيد الخضري و من تابعه من اهل المغازي ان عليا بايعه في بيعة العامة بعد البيعة التي جرت في السقيفه.
And that which is narrated that ‘Ali had not given his bay’ah for six months is not the statement of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, rather it is the statement of al Zuhri. One of the narrators have included it as part of the narration of Aisha regarding the story of Fatimah. And Ma’mar, on the hand, secured the narration with all its details and clarified that this is the statement of al Zuhri which is totally separate from the narration of Aisha. And we have narrated the consistent narration of Abu Sa’id wherein it is mentioned that he had given his bay’ah with everyone else after Saqifah.
و قد صحح ابن حبان و غيره من حديث ابي سعيد الخدري و غيره ان عليا بايع ابا بكر في اول الأمر و اما ما وقع في مسلم عن الزهري ان رجلا قال له لم يبايع علي ابا بكر حتي ماتت فاطمه قال لا ولا احد من بني هاشم فقد ضعفه البيهقي بان الزهري لم يسنده و ان الرواية الموصولة أصح.
Ibn Hibban and many other scholars have authenticated the narration of Abu Sa’id al Khudri in which mention is made of his immediate pledging of allegiance. As for the narration which appears in Muslim which states that someone said to al Zuhri, “‘Ali did not pledge his allegiance till the demise of Fatimah?” to which he responded by saying, “No and nor did any of the Banu Hashim.” Imam al Bayhaqi has classified the narration as weak because al Zuhri has not narrated it with consistency. Thus, the consistent narration is sounder.
Hafiz Ibn Kathir rahimahu Llah has summed up the entire discussion aptly, with which we will conclude:
هي مبايعة علي بن ابي طالب إما في أول اليوم أو في اليوم الثاني من الوفاة و هذا حق فان علي بن أبي طالب لم يفارق الصديق في وقت من الاوقات ولم ينقطع في صلوة من الصلوات خلفه كما سنذكره و خرج معه الي ذي التصة لما خرج الصديق شاهرا سيفه يريد قتال اهل الردة.
‘Ali had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr either the first or second day after the demise of the Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; this is the sheer truth because he had not parted from Abu Bakr at any time, not had he missed any salah behind Abu Bakr as we will mention ahead. Similarly, he had accompanied him to Dhi al Qissah when he left with his sword unsheathed in order to combat those who had denounced Islam.
Even if for arguments sake we were to, hypothetically, accept that Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not offer his pledge of allegiance immediately, contrary to all the evidence indicating that he did, and only did so after six months then too it will have no consequence, as this too attests to the undeniably truth, namely that Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu—may Allah’s choicest blessings descend upon him—at the end of the day also pledged allegiance to Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and recognised him as the rightful Khalifah after Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. If only the critics were capable of freeing themselves from their prejudices, they too would come to see the futility of their entire line of argument.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala make the truth apparent to us and grant us the ability to adhere to it, and make falsehood clear to us and save us from it.
 Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says, “If you do not aid him [i.e., the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] then Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he [i.e., Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said to his Companion [Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu], “Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us.” And Allah sent down His tranquility upon him and supported him with soldiers [i.e., angels] you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. [Surah al Tawbah: 40]
Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, 3/130.
 Usd al Ghabah, 3/216.
 Usd al Ghabah, 3/221.
 Al Sunan al Kubra, chapter regarding fighting the rebels, 8/143; al I’tiqad ‘ala Madhab al Salaf, p. 178; al Bidayah, 5/249.
 Al Sunan al Kubra, 8/143; al Bidayah, 5/249.
 Ruhama’ Baynahum, 1/156.
 Tarikh Ibn Jarir al Tabari, chapter regarding Saqifah, 3/201.
 Ruhama’ Baynahum, 1/163.
 Al Bukhari, vol. 2, at the end of the discussion of Khaybar; Muslim, vol. 2, chapter regarding the ruling of Fayʾ.
 Ansab al Ashraf, 1/586.
 Tarikh Ibn Jarir: Discussion of Saqifah; Musnad Abi ‘Awanah, 4/142.
 Al Sunan al Kubra, 6/300: chapter regarding the distribution of Fayʾ and Ghanimah.
 Ruhama’ Baynahum.
 Al Sunan al Kubra, 6/308: chapter regarding the distribution of Fayʾ and Ghanimah.
 Al I’tiqad ‘ala Madhhab al Salaf, p. 180.
 Fath al Bari, 7/ 399. Mawlana Shams al Haqq al Afghani has stated the following:
The narration of Abu Sa’id al Khudri is sounder due to these reasons:
 Irshad al Sari, 8/ 158.
 Al Bidayah, 5/248-249, Discussion regarding Saqifah.