Praise be to Allah,
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had led the Muslim Ummah for twenty-three years on the Devine guidance both politically and spiritually. At the death of the noble prophet, the Muslim Ummah had a very difficult time regarding their leadership. After initial minor disagreements amongst the Ansar and the muhajiroon, Abu Bakr was unanimously accepted as their leader. The selection of Abu Bakr was not random or coincidental. He was entrusted the role of caliph according to the Devine instructions and mutual consultations of the companions.
‘Muhammad Al Ameen Ash Shinqeetee aptly put it, “ We should take away from this verse (Al Fatiah 6-7) a clear understanding that Abu Bakr was deserving of the caliphate, for he is alluded to in chapter Al Fatiha[i].’’
Once it is established that Abu Bakr (R.A) was chosen based on Devine guidance and the Hadith of the prophet (PBUH) pointing towards it directly or indirectly, there will not be left any doubt that all the rightly guided caliphs were to be chosen likewise. In the Quran, some verses point to the validity of the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali (May Allah be pleased with them) and show that obedience to them is obligatory[ii].
Command of the Prophet (PBUH) to obey the rightly guided caliphs
The prophet (PBUH) has instructed us to follow the guidance of the rightly guided caliphs as evident from the following hadith:
‘Whoever among you sees that then he must stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafa’, cling to it with the molars[iii].'”
The first two caliphs namely Abu Bakr and Umar bin Khattab (May Allah be pleased with them) have demonstrated numerous leadership qualities for the Muslims to follow. Following are some of the qualities of leadership they demonstrated which are examples for the Muslim leaders to follow:
Open to advise, correction, and accountable
After assuming the role of Caliph, Abu Bakr (R.A) gave the first speech which is one of the most beneficial in Islamic history. He outlined the importance of justice, equality, methodology of governance, and more. He also gave the citizens the right to correct him when he makes mistakes or prevent him from making an error. He said,
“ If I do well then obey me, and if I act wrongly, then correct me[iv].”
The speech points that the Muslim society would not be an autocrat and the caliph would be responsible to the people for his actions. This also demonstrates that everyone is fallible except the messenger of Allah (PBUH).
Defending the pillars of Islam
After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Muslims faced the challenge of rising revolts and claimant of the false prophet. Many groups among the Arabs apostatized from Islam by refusing to pay the Zakaah. Despite suggestions from few companions to refrain from fighting them, Abu Bakr (R.A) was keen to defend the pillars of Islam. He said (may Allah be pleased with him):
‘By Allah! I will fight those who differentiate between prayer and almsgiving, for almsgiving is a compulsory right to be taken from the property (according to Allah’s orders)’.
These Wars of Apostasy demonstrate that deviations and false prophets would not be tolerated[v]
Appointing governors based on qualification and not based on blood ties
Umar (R.A) would make every effort in appointing the governors. He would always appoint only trustworthy, qualified, merciful towards those in charge, piety, and those who are matched for the post. He considered that choosing governors is like fulfilling the Trust of Allah. He said,
‘whoever appoints a man because of friendship or blood ties, has betrayed Allah, His messengers, and the Muslims[vi].’
Addressing the basic needs of the province
Umar (R.A) would order his governors to look at the developmental needs of the people. He ordered to build streets, buildings, mosques, secure water sources, and other public interests of the province.
Keep a check on the governors
For the smooth running of the government and ensuring that the citizens are well treated, it is very important to keep a check on the governors. Umar (R.A) used various means to keep on checking on the governors like:
- He would order the governors to send representatives from the local people to know if they are not overburdened in tax or have been wronged.
- He established a mail service such that anyone could write letters to him without the governor knowing anything about it.
- Appointing a General Inspector only to check the affairs of the governors.
- Meet the governors and people during Hajj.
He (R.A) once said,
“It is better to replace one governor every day than to leave a wrongdoer in place for one minute[vii].’
Keen on reminding the commanders about the rights of Allah
Umar (R.A) would provide both material and guidance to his commanders and fighters. At the onset of one of the most crucial battles in Islamic history, the battle of Qadisiya, he sent letters to the soldiers reminding them to fear Allah. He reminded them to be modest, prepare well and never assume the enemy to be weak[viii].
Concern to protect the honor of the people
Umar (R.A) did not allow anyone to tarnish honor or dignity in the name of freedom of speech. It is reported that he once imprisoned a man who wrote a poem about a man likening him to a woman[ix].
Protect the market from the unlawful practices
Umar (R.A) would not allow any traders to transact in his market unless they are aware of the rulings of halaal and haram. He would personally walk in the markets to check and beat those who did not know the rulings of trade according to Islam. He appointed officers in charge of the markets to prevent unlawful trade.
Concern for the people’s health
Umar (R.A) would advise people to lose excess body weight and be moderate on their diet. He would remind them that excess body weight is hated by Allah, and it makes one lazy and laziness would keep them away from performing the duties of Allah. He once saw a man with a huge belly and asked him, what is this? the man replied, A blessing from Allah.’ Umar replied, ‘Rather, it is a punishment from Allah,”[x]
Being merciful and humble
The first two caliphs of Islam showed great character like humility, mercy, patience, generosity which are missing today. Abu Bakr (R.A) would walk with the seventeen-year-old commander while the latter was riding on the mount discussing the matter of importance. Likewise, Umar would run behind a rider asking him the news of the battle. The humility and humbleness of the Umar would not make the messenger realize that he was the caliph.
The noble companions of the Prophet practically lived according to the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH). The first two caliphs, despite being the commander in chief of the vast territories, never let arrogance creep in their life. Their lives are the model for us and the leaders to follow till the day of judgment.
May Allah’s Peace and blessings be on the last Prophet.
[i] The biography Of Abu Bakr As-Siddique(R.A) By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, Translated by Faisal Shafiq, Darussalam Publication, page 222
[ii] Umar Ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times, By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, IIPH Publication, Vol 1, Page 160
[iii] Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2676
[iv] The biography Of Abu Bakr As-Siddique(R.A) By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, Translated by Faisal Shafiq, Darussalam Publication, page 246
[v] The second Issue, Abu Bakr As-Siddique (May Allah be pleased with him), The Series of Men and Women Around Muhammad, Project Manager Kamal Ahmad, Translated by Manal Qutub. Page 16
[vi] Umar Ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times, By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, IIPH Publication, Vol 2, Page 46
[vii] Umar Ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times, By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, IIPH Publication, Vol 2, Page 78
[viii] The Battle of Qadisiya, The Fall of the Mighty Persian Empire, ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID Translation Maulvi Abdul Aziz, Edited by: Abdul Waghied Misbach, page 24
[ix] Umar Ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times, By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, IIPH Publication, Vol 1, Page 217
[x] Umar Ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times, By Dr. Ali Muhammad Muhammad As-Sallabee, IIPH Publication, Vol 1, Page 289