1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abu-Bekr

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ABU-BEKR (573–634), the name (“Father of the virgin”) of the first of the Mahommedan caliphs (see Caliph). He was originally called Abd-el-Ka‛ba (“servant of the temple”), and received the name by which he is known historically in consequence of the marriage of his virgin daughter Ayesha to Mahomet. He was born at Mecca in the year A.D. 573, a Koreishite of the tribe of Beni-Taim. Possessed of immense wealth, which he had himself acquired in commerce, and held in high esteem as a judge, an interpreter of dreams and a depositary of the traditions of his race, his early accession to Islamism was a fact of great importance. On his conversion he assumed the name of Abd-Alla (servant of God). His own belief in Mahomet and his doctrines was so thorough as to procure for him the title El Siddik (the faithful), and his success in gaining converts was correspondingly great. In his personal relationship to the prophet he showed the deepest veneration and most unswerving devotion. When Mahomet fled from Mecca, Abu-Bekr was his sole companion, and shared both his hardships and his triumphs, remaining constantly with him until the day of his death. During his last illness the prophet indicated Abu-Bekr as his successor by desiring him to offer up prayer for the people. The choice was ratified by the chiefs of the army, and ultimately confirmed, though Ali, Mahomet’s son-in-law, disputed it, asserting his own title to the dignity. After a time Ali submitted, but the difference of opinion as to his claims gave rise to the controversy which still divides the followers of the prophet into the rival factions of Sunnites and Shiites. Abu-Bekr had scarcely assumed his new position (632), under the title Califet-Resul-Allah (successor of the prophet of God), when he was called to suppress the revolt of the tribes Hejaz and Nejd, of which the former rejected Islamism and the latter refused to pay tribute. He encountered formidable opposition from different quarters, but in every case he was successful, the severest struggle being that with the impostor Mosailima, who was finally defeated by Khalid at the battle of Akraba. Abu-Bekr’s zeal for the spread of the new faith was as conspicuous as that of its founder had been. When the internal disorders had been repressed and Arabia completely subdued, he directed his generals to foreign conquest. The Irak of Persia was overcome by Khalid in a single campaign, and there was also a successful expedition into Syria. After the hard-won victory over Mosailima, Omar, fearing that the sayings of the prophet would be entirely forgotten when those who had listened to them had all been removed by death, induced Abu-Bekr to see to their preservation in a written form. The record, when completed, was deposited with Hafsa, daughter of Omar, and one of the wives of Mahomet. It was held in great reverence by all Moslems, though it did not possess canonical authority, and furnished most of the materials out of which the Koran, as it now exists, was prepared. When the authoritative version was completed all copies of Hafsa’s record were destroyed, in order to prevent possible disputes and divisions. Abu-Bekr died on the 23rd of August 634. Shortly before his death, which one tradition ascribes to poison, another to natural causes, he indicated Omar as his successor, after the manner Mahomet had observed in his own case.