Khalifa Abu Bakr - Expedition to Syria

Khalifa Abu Bakr - Expedition to Syria

Usamah's expedition to Syria. On assuming the caliphate the first issue that Abu Bakr was called upon to decide was whether the expedition to Syria which the Holy Prophet had directed to be sent under the command of Usamah should proceed to its destination, or should it be abandoned because of the change in circumstances following the death of the Holy Prophet.

The background. The background of the expedition was that in 629 C.E. the Holy Prophet had sent an expedition against the Syrians under Zaid bin Harith. In the confrontation that had taken place at Mutah, Zaid had been martyred. The command was then taken over by Jafar bin Abu Talib. He too met martyrdom. Abdullah bin Rawahah who next took the command was also martyred. At that critical juncture, Khalid bin Walid took the command. By his superb strategy he succeeded in retrieving the position and bringing back the Muslim forces safely to Madina. For this act of heroism, Khalid bin Walid received from the Holy Prophet the title of Saifullah--the Sword of Allah. In 630 C.E. the Holy Prophet himself led an expedition to Tabuk. The Byzantines avoided a confrontation with the Muslim army which returned to Madina without any action. In 632 C.E., on return from the 'farewell pilgrimage,' the Holy Prophet ordered a detachment to be sent against the Syrians under the command of Usamah the son of Zaid bin Harith. Some persons objected to the command of Usamah on the ground that he was a mere youth of nineteen. Usamah was very dear to the Holy Prophet. He was the son of Zaid who was an adopted son of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet accordingly loved Usamah as a grandson. When the Holy Prophet entered Makkah after the peace of Hudaibiya, Usamah had the honor of sitting on the camel behind the Holy Prophet. Usamah was very brave, and on the occasion of the battle of Uhud he volunteered to fight when he was only a child. The Holy Prophet wanted the Muslims not to object to the command of Usamah for he was worthy of the command.

When the Holy Prophet fell ill, the detachment of Usamah was encamped at Jorf a few miles from Madina on the road to Syria. On account of the serious illness of the Holy Prophet, Usamah delayed his departure. When the Holy Prophet died, Usamah returned to Madina and sought further orders.

Advisability of undertaking the expedition. Abu Bakr was advised that, as at that critical stage in the history of Islam, most of the tribes had apostatized from Islam and Madina itself was surrounded by hostile tribes, it was not advisable to send the army outside the country. Abu Bakr said that it was the wish of the Holy Prophet that the army should be sent to Syria and this wish of the Master should be fulfilled at all costs. When some of the companions reiterated the danger to which Madina was exposed, Abu Bakr declared in unequivocal terms: "Who am I to withhold the army that the Holy Prophet had ordained to proceed? Come what may: let Madina stand or fall; the Caliphate live or perish, the command of the Holy Prophet shall be carried out."

The view of Abu Bakr was not based on any obstinacy or foolhardiness. It was based on ideal loyalty to the Holy Prophet envisaging the carrying out of his wish, coupled with the faith that whatever the Holy Prophet had ordered was in the best interests of the community. Against the firmness of the stand of Abu Bakr, the companions of Abu Bakr could offer no argument.