The Prophet died on June 8th, 632. The news sent shockwaves across Arabia.
The Ansar had gathered at Saqifa Bani Sa’ida to elect a leader for Arabia.
Upon hearing this Abu Bakr rushed to the spot before things became uncontrollable.
It is to be noted that there were factions formed now before the election.
The Orthodox Muslims
They were close companions of the Prophet. Most of them were those 313 that had migrated with him. They wanted Abu Bakr to reign Arabia since he was the closest among all. They also claimed that whole Arabia wouldn’t accept anyone outside Quraish tribe, since Quraish tribe had great standing.
They claimed that Ali was Ahl-e-Bayt. He deserved the role more than anyone. He was cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet. Bu Ali was only 33 years old at the time of election. Moreover, Arabs traditionally liked to choose someone as their chief who was aged.
Ansar themselves were divided, a they were in the past, between Aus and Khazraj. They are the ones who met at Saqifa bin Sa’ida to elect someone. They had almost reached a conclusion and were to select Sa’ad bin Ubayda, the chief of Khazraj.
Episode at Saqifa bin Sa’ida
The news of congregation first reached Umar, who then conveyed it to Abu Bakr. They both rushed to the place. On their way, they met Abu Ubayda who accompanied them too. Upon their arrival, they saw that Ansar were almost ready to elect their leader. Abu Bakr softly tried to dissuade them from doing on the basis that whole Arabia would never follow them since they believed only a Quraishite should rule. This argument was readily accepted by Aus, maybe because the leader wasn’t one of them anyway and they feared secondary role. The Khazraj were reluctant. They argued they were the ones who welcomed Muhajireens and help them immensely. Abu Bakr agreed with them but tried reasoning with them but to no success. On seeing the fiasco, Umar went on and gave his bayt to Abu Bakr followed by Abu Ubayda. Both were immediately followed by the Aus tribe. Khazraj joined too because they feared now they might be relegated to secondary role. This is how a bayt took place there.
Confirmation & Inaugural speech
Next day, the news spread like a wildfire that Abu Bakr had been elected as a Caliph. Everyone came to pay homage and gave bayt to him. Most of them came except for few such as alides and few followers of Sa’ad bin Ubayda.
At that time, Abu Bakr rose and addressed the crowd in these words
“O People! You have chosen me as your Chief, although I am not the best among you. I need all your advice and all your help. If I do well, support me; If I make a mistake, set me right. To tell the ruler truly what you think of him if faithfulness; to conceal the truth is treachery. I shall defend the weak against the strong, for the weaker amongst you is the stronger with me, until I have redressed his wrong, and the stronger shall be the weaker until I have taken from him that which he has wrested. Fight in the way of Lord: whoever leaves off fighting in the path of Allah, Allah then abases him. As long as I obey God and His Prophet, obey wherein I disobey, obey me not.”
The Question of Ali’s Homage
There are three accounts regarding Ali’s homage to Abu Bakr. None them are proved.
One, he paid on the day of acclamation.
Second, he wavered and never paid homage.
Third, he hesitated at first but did pay homage after the death of his wife.
The third account is what most Sunnis believe in, whereas the second account is attributed to Shiites.
It is said, at the time of bayt, Ali was busy with funeral rites of the Prophet. He was taken aback upon hearing the acclamation, but never argued. His bayt was also delayed due to his wife’s, Fatimah, grievances against Abu Bakr regarding her patrimony.
After her death, Ali finally paid homage. It was about six months later.
The election shows that Islam wasn’t in favor of hereditary leadership. The Prophet himself never talked about appointing a successor, at least not a hereditary one.
The election also satisfied the masses, although a momentous crack would be developed later. But for now it was quite peaceful among the Muslims.
The chief critique comes from Shiites who argue it was a pure manipulation by the three companions present at Saqifa. They also argue that the Prophet, at
times, had hinted about Ali being his successor. The Sunnis outrightly reject the claims.
European critics contend that the election was in essence undemocratic. They believe only few handful people chose him for their benefits. But they forget that about 1400 years ago there was no concept of democracy or universal suffrage. It was, instead, an achievement of Islam that a chief had been selected who received widespread acceptance.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.