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Abu Bakr

Abu-Bakr (c.573 - August 23, 634) was the first of the Muslim caliphs. He was originally called Abd-el-Ka'ba ("servant of the temple"), and received the name Abu-Bakr, which means "father of the virgin", as a consequence of the marriage of his virgin daughter Aisha to Muhammad.

He was born at Mecca, a Quraishi of the of Banu Taim clan. 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 Islam was a fact of great importance. He was in fact the first adult male to embrace Islam. On his conversion he assumed the name of Abd-Allah (servant of God). His own belief in Muhammad and his doctrines was so thorough as to procure for him the title El Siddiq (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 Muhammad fled from Mecca, Abu Bakr 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 designated Abu Bakr to lead prayers in Muhammad's absence, this gesture being taken as an indication of Abu Bakr being the sucessor to Muhammad. Thus, upon the death of Muhammad, Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. The choice was ratified by the chiefs of the army, and ultimately confirmed, though 'Ali, Muhammad'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 Bakr 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 some tribes in Hejaz and Nejd, of which the former rejected Islam 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 bin Walid at the battle of Akraba. Abu Bakr'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. Iraq was conquered from Persia by Khalid bin Walid 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-Bakr 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 Muhammad. It was held in great reverence by all Muslems, though it did not possess canonical authority, and furnished most of the materials out of which the Quran, 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-Bakr died on August 23, 634 in Medina. Shortly before his death, which one tradition ascribes to poison, another to natural causes, he indicated Omar as his successor, through the manner Muhammad had observed in his own case. Abu Bakr is buried in the Masjid al Nabawi alongside Muhammad and Umar ibn al-Khattab.

Initial text from a 1911 encyclopedia -- Please update as needed.