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The Islamic World
The Islamic World

Khalifa Abu Bakr - Judgment of Abu Bakr

Tribes around Madina. Madina was surrounded by a ring of tribes, whose attitude to Islam was luke warm. These tribes included Bani Asad; Bani Tha'lba; Bani Ghatafan; Banu Marrah Banu Abbas; Banu Dhanayan and others. In the battle of the Trench, these tribes had sided with the Quraish of Makkah and had fought against the Muslims. After the conquest of Makkah, when other tribes in Arabia sent delegations to Madina and accepted Islam, the tribes around Madina also followed suit and offered allegiance to Islam. Their allegiance was based more on diplomacy and expediency than on real faith and conviction of the heart. Islam sat lightly on them. They regarded Islam as a matter of personal allegiance to the Holy Prophet which abated with the death of the Holy Prophet.

Deputation of the tribes. When Usamah's army left Madina for the Syrian front, the tribes around Madina sent a deputation to wait on Abu Bakr. Their view was that with the passing away of the Holy Prophet their agreement vis a vis Islam had abated, and it was necessary that the authorities at Madina should make a fresh agreement with them. They said that they would remain on friendly terms with the authorities at Madina provided they were relieved of the obligation to pay Zakat. Abu Bakr treated the deputation with due courtesy, and said that he would give his reply after consulting his advisers.

Counsel of the advisers. Abu Bakr consulted his advisers. Almost all the eminent companions around Abu Bakr advised that as the Muslims were hemmed in by danger from all sides, it was expedient that the demand of the tribes should be accepted so that there was no defection from Islam. Even Umar known for his strong attitudes favored the acceptance of the demand of the tribes, in view of the impending danger.

Judgment of Abu Bakr. The question became a matter of great concern for Abu Bakr. He was conscious of the gravity of the situation, and was aware of the danger to which the Muslim community was exposed. Prima facie the advice of Umar and others to accept the demand of the tribes appeared to be sound under the circumstances. Abu Bakr however could not overlook the other side of the picture. Abu Bakr felt that the very basis on which the demand had been raised was open to attack. It was incorrect to hold that Islam was a matter of agreement between the Holy Prophet and the tribes, and that after his passing away this agreement had abated and was open to revision. Islam was an agreement with God, and as God existed, the passing away of the Holy Prophet after the fulfillment of his mission did not in any way affect their allegiance to Islam. Islam meant total faith, and such faith could not be made subject to any conditions.

Zakat. As regards the demand for Zakat, Abu Bakr felt that if he conceded the demand, that might ease the situation temporarily, but that could in turn lead to other demands, and after having accepted one demand it would be difficult to refuse other demands. Islam stood for a central polity, and if any concession was once given in consideration of tribal loyalties, that would be subversive of the solidarity of Islam. Abu Bakr felt that as the successor of the Holy Prophet it was his duty to safeguard Islam, and as such he could not follow a policy of appeasement likely to compromise Islam in any way.

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