The three biggest arguments advanced by the supporters of Abu Bakr for his selection as follows:
- i. Consensus (ijmaa) of the Muslims
- ii. Seniority in age
- iii. ‘Virtues’ like accompanying the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the cave and leading prayers in his (s.a.w.a.) absence
For this group, these ‘qualities’ were sufficient for Abu Bakr to stake a claim to caliphate. The companions also affirmed Abu Bakr’s superiority over other claimants like Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) by selecting him as the ‘caliph’.
There are detailed responses by the Shias as also this website rebutting all the so-called merits of Abu Bakr. At this stage, we do not wish to digress from the focal discussion which concerns the arguments raised above.
The best way to answer the arguments is by quoting Abu Bakr himself.
It is reported that Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) wrote a strongly worded rejoinder to Abu Bakr on the matter of Fadak. Abu Bakr was shaken to the core and even offered to resign as ruler. Umar, as was his wont, reprimanded Abu Bakr harshly for this and offered to stop Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) in his tracks.
Abu Bakr retorted harshly to Umar’s suggestion – Keep aside these extravagant talks as by Allah, if Ali (a.s.) wishes, he can kill us with his left hand without even employing his right one.
There are three factors in our favour:
- First, Ali (a.s.) is alone and has no aide;
- Al-Ehtejaaj vol. 1 pp. 95-97
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 29, pp. 140-145
- Bait al-Ahzaan pp. 149-152
Second, he is under compulsion to act according to the testimony of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) (to act patiently) and he will never go against it;
Third, seeing as how most of the people of the various tribes envy him and bear animosity towards him because their family (the infidels) had been killed at his hands, they do not want to establish favourable relations with him.
If these factors would not have been there, certainly the caliphate would have gone to him and our opposition would be useless.
O son of Khattab! Pay attention that Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) just like he has written in his letter, is not inclined towards this world and he flees from the life of this world, while we are frightful of death and flee from it, so how will such a man fear death?
Clearly Abu Bakr ascended the seat of caliphate purely by chance or as Umar put it ‘in haste’. Abu Bakr lacked any merit whatsoever for the position. It was only due to the peculiar circumstances surrounding Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) position in the nation as a principled and unyielding individual, the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) will to adopt patience in the absence of a mass following and the historically strained relations of most tribes with him and Bani Hashim that scuttled his claim to caliphate.