Islamic Studies Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq
Zeki Saritoprak
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 July 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0221


Abu Bakr (b. 573–d. 634) was born in Mecca. His father was Uthman, also known as Abu Quhafah, and his mother, Salma, was known as Umm al-Khayr (“mother of goodness”). Three years younger than Muhammad, Abu Bakr was the closest friend of the Prophet of Islam. Like the Prophet, he never worshipped idols, even before Islam; he followed the religion of Abraham, known in Arabia as Hanif. He was an honorable and wealthy businessman, yet he avoided vices common to pre-Islamic Arabian society. After his conversion, he spent his wealth in the service of Islam by giving alms, freeing slaves, and supporting the work of Muhammad, fully parting with his riches when he was elected caliph. He and his wife, Zaynab, had six children: Aisha, Abdullah, Asma, Abd Al-Rahman, Umm Kulthum, and Muhammad. Well known and respected even before Islam, Abu Bakr was amoung the first Muslims and companions of the Prophet. The Prophet bestowed the title al-Siddiq (“the righteous one”) on him for his affimation of the Mi’raj, the Prophet’s night journey and ascension to heaven. In praising him, the Prophet said, “Whomever I invited to Islam at first hesitated except Abu Bakr” (al-Tirmidhi, Al-Jami al-Sahih, al-Manaqib [Cairo: Maktabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1975], p. 18). Being very persuasive, Abu Bakr convinced several other people to convert to Islam after his own conversion, including Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph. Abu Bakir is considered the Prophet’s companion during the migration. It is known that when Meccan pagans surrounded the cave in which the Prophet was resting prior to his migration, Abu Bakr was afraid that the pagans would capture and torture them. The Prophet said to him, “Don’t be afraid, God is with us” (Qur’an 9:40). When the Prophet died in 632 CE, Abu Bakr had a crucial role in calming the Muslim community. Quoting a verse from the Qur’an (3:144), he reminded the community that Muhammad was a messenger of God and that, like all God’s messengers, he would pass away. Although Abu Bakr nominated others for the caliphate, the community of the companions of the Prophet asked him to be the caliph, and he reluctantly accepted. After the election he gave the famous speech “I am elected not because I am the best of you. . . If I do my job thoroughly, follow me and help me. If I deviate from the right path to corruption, bring me back to the right path.” He died in Medina and is buried next to the Prophet.

General Overviews

As the closest companion of the Prophet and the first caliph, Abu Bakr is referenced in most publications on early Islam. There have been significant strides made in the interpretation of early Islam by Western-trained scholars that are reflected in the titles that follow. This listing is far from comprehensive, but it represents a cross-section of works that have more than a passing reference to Abu Bakr. Madelung 1997 is one of the first Western reassessments of early Islam that includes useful analysis of primary and secondary sources on Abu Bakr. Ayoub 2003 is an important work detailing the early history of Islam. El-Hibri 2010 is a similarly scholarly look at early Islam. Written by a well respected scholar, Donner 2010 is presented as a popular work yet provides a novel account of the origins of Islam. Similarly, Renard 2009 is a chapter in an edited volume of various hagiographies of Muslim figures that offers translation and commentary on Abu Bakr from a variety of Islamic sources. Aqqad 1960 is slightly different from the Western-oriented studies in this section. This work is one in the “geniuses” authored by Aqqad, a famous 20th-century Egyptian scholar; other books in the series are Abqarīiyat Muhammad, Abqarīyat al-Masīh, and Abqarīyat Khalīd. The book is usefully compared with Haykal 1988 (cited under Academic Biographies) and other Academic Biographies.

  • Aqqad, Abbas Mahmud. Abqarīyat al-Siddīq. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1960.

    Reflects an important intellectual crossroads in Islamic thought between earlier traditional and religiously oriented scholarship and modern academic discourse. There is also a 1968 Turkish translation by Ali Ozek titled Hazreti Ebu Bekir’in Sahsiyeti ve Dehasi (Istanbul: Fatih Yayınevi).

  • Ayoub, Mahmoud. The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

    A shorter yet scholarly history of politics in early Islam dealing with each of the first four caliphs.

  • Donner, Fred M. Muhammad and the Believers. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010.

    In this well-written and acessible book providing a useful overview of early Islam, Donner takes a revisionist position, arguing for the importance of religion qua religion in the growth of early Islam. Although not ideal for specialists, Donner’s bibliographical essays are more than helpful for others.

  • El-Hibri, Tayeb. Parable and Politics in Early Islamic History: The Rashidun Caliphs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

    Another revisionist account of early Islamic politics containing a highly detailed and informative account of Abu Bakr’s overall role in early Islam

  • Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    This book treats the era the four Rightly Guided Caliphs and gives an account of Abu Bakr that includes many primary and secondary sources.

  • Renard, John. “Abu Bakr in Tradition and Early Hagiography.” In Tales of God’s Friends: Islamic Hagiography in Translation. Edited by John Renard, 15–29. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

    A useful introduction to writings on Abu Bakr, Renard offers translations and contextualization of accounts of Abu Bakr by the writers Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, Abu Nu’aym al-Asbahani (also transliterated as al-Asfahani), and Hujwiri as well as from the Hadith. Renard also provides useful contextualization for each source.

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