Choice of the leader. It is well known that the Holy Prophet left no instructions about his successor. Islam is from God, and in whatever way the history of Islam has shaped itself is the unfolding of the Will of God. We cannot, therefore, say that if the Holy Prophet did not nominate a successor, it was an omission or an accident. We must hold that such omission to nominate a successor was deliberate, and in accordance with the Will of God. The intention obviously was that the matter being political in nature, the community should in the matter stand on its legs, and choose the leader for itself.
Claim of Ali. Ali's claim was not based on seniority or merit; it was based on inheritance. The Holy Prophet declared in unequivocal terms that in the case of prophets, there was nothing to be inherited. The Holy Prophet did beget some sons but they did not survive. It appears that there was a set purpose behind that. The Holy Prophet was the last of the prophets, and it was accordingly the Will of God that with his death, there was the end of the prophethood, and there was nothing to be inherited. The caliphate could not be claimed on the basis of inheritance, it was a political office, and the community was free to choose, whomsoever they liked. If for some reason, Ali was not chosen, this could not be made a ground for religious grievance.
Judgment on the caliphate of Abu Bakr. In passing any judgment on the caliphate of Abu Bakr, two points deserve particular consideration. The first point is that we have definite indications that the Holy Prophet wanted Abu Bakr to succeed him. The second point is that the caliphate of Abu Bakr must be judged on the basis of its results. With regard to the first point, the Holy Prophet appointed Abu Bakr as the Imam, and that vested Abu Bakr with the mantle of the leadership of the Muslim community. The Holy Prophet declared that he was under obligation to no one other than Abu Bakr. The Holy Prophet also declared that all doors opening in the mosque should be closed except the door of the quarter of Abu Bakr.
As regards the second point it has to be borne in mind that when Abu Bakr was elected as the Caliph, Islam was confined to Makkah, Madina, and Taif only, and in the rest of Arabia the tribes had risen against Islam. When barely two years later, Abu Bakr died, the whole of Arabia was in the fold of Islam and even Iraq and Syria had come under the domination of Islam. The irresistible conclusion is that such a man could not be a usurper.
The verdict of history is that Abu Bakr successfully and faithfully carried out the mission of the Holy Prophet, and his policy aimed at securing the integrity and unity of the Muslim community, paid rich dividends. Nothing succeeds like success, and in view of the outstanding success of the caliphate of Abu Bakr, it should not be made the subject of any sectarian prejudices.