Abu Bakr would complain in his sermons and other speeches of a devil that would influence him:
ان لي شيطانا يعتريني
I have a devil that troubles me.
He also said:
وان زغت عنها فقوموني
If I stray from obedience, then correct me.
How can such a person be worthy of being followed?
If this speech is proven to be authentically transmitted from Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, then it is actually a merit in his favour and a sign of his humility. The complete wording for this is as follows:
إن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يعتصم بالوحي وإن لي شيطاناً يعتريني فإن استقمت فأعينوني وإن زغت فقوموني
Verily the Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was protected by revelation, [as for me] I have a devil that afflicts me. If I remain steadfast then assist me and if I stray then correct me.
Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu was making it apparent that he is not infallible and he is not safe from error, unlike the Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who was divinely protected from the same.
As for the devil afflicts him, this is the same for all of mankind as attested to by Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:
ما منكم من أحد إلا وقد وكل به قرينه من الجن قالوا وإياك يا رسول الله قال وإياى إلا أن الله أعانني عليه فأسلم فلا يأمرني إلا بخير
“There is none amongst you with whom is not an attaché from amongst the Jinn (devils).”
The Companions asked, “O Allah’s Messenger, with you too?”
Thereupon he said, “Yes, but Allah helped me against him and so I am safe from his hand and he does not command me but for good.”
The interpretation of the rest of the statement is as follows:
فقال إن أستقمت على الطاعة فأعينوني عليها وإن زغت عنها فقوموني
You should help me in that which is best and in taqwa. If I remain firm upon obedience (the Qur’an and the Sunnah), then help me and if I stray from obedience, then correct me.
The senior scholars often mentioned statements like this at times. The answer is that on account of being overwhelmed by the fear of Allah they mention statements such as this. Moreover, this form of expression was uttered by the Imams as well, as recorded in the books of the Shia. The very interpretation they will afford to the statements of their Imams will be the same for Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Moreover, Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said in a speech recorded in Nahj al Balaghah:
لا تكفوا عن مقالة بحق أو مشورة بعدل فإني لست في نفسي يفوق أن أخطى ولا آمن ذلك من فعلي
Do not stay away from me in saying the truth or in giving me counsel of the truth. I am not beyond error and I am not safe from error in my deeds.
Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu used to supplicate:
اللهم إغفرلي ما تقربت به إليك بلساني ثم خالفه قلبي اللهم إغفرلي رمزات الألحاظ وسقطات الألفاظ وشهوات الجنان وهفوات اللسان
O Allah, forgive me for that speech through which I acquired closeness to You then my heart went against it. O Allah, forgive me for the indications of my eye and my useless words and desires of my heart and the errors of my tongue.
Imam ‘Ali ibn Hussain Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah used to supplicate:
ها أنا ذا يا رب مطروح بين يديك أنا الذي أوقرت الخطايا ظهره وأنا الذي أفنت الذنوب عمره وأنا الذي بجهله عصاك ولم تكن اهلا منه لذاك …الخ
Here I am, O Rabb, thrown before You, I am the one that attests to my sin that has burdened by back and I spent my life in sin, and I am the one that disobeyed You out of ignorance…
In another place, he says:
واغفرلي ما تعلم من ذنوبي إن تعذب فأنا الظالم المفرط المضيع اللآثم المقصر المضجع المغفل …الخ
And forgive me for those of my sins that You are aware of. If You punish, then I am the oppressor, the one who has been extreme in my life, the extravagant in sin, the one who falls short, one asleep, one who is negligent…
Moreover, Imam Zayn al ‘Abidin rahimahu Llah supplicates elsewhere:
اللهم اجعل ما يلقي الشيطان في روعي من التمني والتظني والحسد ذكرا لعظمتك وتفكرا في قدرتك وتدبيرا على عدوك وما أجرى على لساني من لفظة فحش أو هجر أو شتم عرض أو شهادة باطل أو اغتياب مؤمن غائب أوسب حاضر وما اشبه ذلك نطقا بالحمد لك و إغراقا في الثناء عليك وذهابا في تمجيدك وشكرا لنعمتك واعترافا بإحسانك واحصاء لمننك …الخ
O Allah, whatever Shaitan has placed in my heart of hopes and jealousy, make it into mention of Your greatness and into pondering over Your power and whatever lewd talk Shaitan has placed on my tongue: futile talk, dishonouring someone, baseless testimony, backbiting of a Muslim and speaking ill of a person in his presence; turn it into praise for You, exaggeration in Your glory, gratitude for Your bounty, confession of Your favour, counting Your bounty…
From the speech of the Imams quoted above, whatever words have been narrated, there is confession of sin, Shaitan affecting the heart etc., just as it is found within the ‘infallible’ Imams, and it did not negatively affect their Imamah in any way, so too these things are found in the speech of the senior Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum like Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and cannot form the basis of any objection or criticism.
 Sahih Muslim, # 2814 a.
 Al Muntaqa, p. 336.
 Tuhfah Ithna ‘Ashariyyah, p. 270.
 Nahj al Balaghah, vol. 1 p. 436; Furu’ al Kafi, vol. 3 p. 165.
 Nahj al Balaghah, vol. 1 p. 127.
 Al Sahifah Kamilah Sajjadiyyah, p. 83.
 Ibid., p.301.
 Ibid, p. 106.