by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 12, Rajab, 1445)
There are Muslims who try to argue that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar applied two different standards or criteria as to who the succeeding ruler shall be. Even-tempered sectarians say Abu Bakr “appointed” ‘Umar, while bad-tempered sectarians say Abu Bakr “imposed” ‘Umar.
Contrast this with ‘Umar who did not select a successor; rather, he opted for a committee that would decide who the successor ruler shall be. This type of simple-minded argument skips over all the details that single out the year Abu Bakr passed on (two years after the Prophet (pbuh) joined heavenly company) as opposed to the year ‘Umar passed on (12 years after the Prophet (pbuh) joined heavenly company).
One consideration omitted by such arguing skeptics is the fact that the critical mass of the Muhajireen and Ansar was still fervent, formidable and physically powerful in those two years after the Prophet (pbuh) blissfully ascended. Another consideration is that the Islamic domain had expanded administratively, politically, geographically, and resourcefully when ‘Umar departed from this world. Had Abu Bakr lived into the 12th year post the Prophet (pbuh) (the year ‘Umar passed away) he probably would have done what ‘Umar did or a process similar to it.
The fact is that Abu Bakr died merely two years after the Prophet (pbuh) passed away. The bonding, affection, and relationship among the Muhajireen and Ansar was still similar to what it was when the Prophet (pbuh) left this worldly abode. Abu Bakr, on the strength of the Muhajireen and Ansar attachment and cooperation, was successful in putting down a serious breakaway internal “Islamic” warfare known in Islamic history as the Riddah.
This internal splinter and pugnacious penchant by Arabian “surface Muslims” that took place during Abu Bakr’s rule was eventually and wisely channeled into an outward justice-seeking and liberation struggle. During ‘Umar’s 10 years in office, that struggle (jihad) “took on a life of its own”.
The armed struggle for justice and freedom by prime Islamic armed forces resulted in the military expulsion of the Byzantines from the Levant (Bilad al-Sham), as well as Egypt. The Persian Empire likewise was, in due course, dismantled. Peoples and populations in areas and countries that were primarily ruled by Byzantium and Persia became Muslim – not because of Islamic rituals but because of Islamic social justice.
Eventually, the Islamic momentum for justice would, in the decades to follow, unseat the Byzantine emperor in Anatolia (Turkiye). Byzantine’s Heraclius and Persia’s Khosrow were now history. The tyrannical ruling classes were removed from power and the aspiring oppressed populations looked forward to and embraced a justice-defined and justice-centered Islam.
Muslims today have to understand that the Islamic fighting forces went from a largely unsophisticated armed force during Abu Bakr’s time to a more developed fighting force during ‘Umar’s time. The “Islamic armed forces” went through a growing course of action to be better equipped to stand up to and defeat the “superpowers” of that time.
From “hit and run” and “guerrilla warfare” at the beginning, the Islamic fighting force became an organized and full-fledged proper territorial army during the time of the three khulafa’ and Imam ‘Ali.
There should be no doubt that when we or any objective reader reviews the lightning speed of what is called the “Islamic Conquests” in the first generations after the hijrah, we are at a loss of “pure logic” to explain that astounding phenomenon. The strength, speed, and subtlety of it all remain unfathomable unless we factor in divine involvement. This can only happen when committed Muslims, then or now, honor their pledge and relationship with Allah (swt) for Him to honor His undertaking and relationship with us.
A hitherto fragmented Arabia had become an unceasing, justice-centered geography of the world. And all that can be tracked to the spark of iman kindled by the Prophet (pbuh) and maintained by the coherence of the Muhajireen and Ansar.
It was no easy task to keep these two blocs of committed Muslims together during the militarily turbulent 40 years after our leading Prophet (pbuh) left us. The administration of an expanding Islamic civil society and a highly mobilized Islamic armed force in and of itself was quite a qualitative leap for people who had, just a couple decades ago, been living a primitive nomadic lifestyle.
From marauding “tough guys” in a chaotic jahiliyah to men on long distance military assignments not permitted to be away from their families for more than six months in an Islamic social order. Compare that moral standard with the secular, materialist, or atheist governments of the world that permit their troops to be away from their families for years and allow the troops to unload their “sexual charge” in cabarets, brothels, and nightspots.
Another formidable challenge was the fact that these inexperienced but straightforward committed Muslims out of Arabia who were intensely involved in the advancement of divinely-defined justice entered into new countries and different societies of materialistic modernity, scientific sophistication, and “public progress”.
This holistic panorama has to be factored into the thinking-Muslim mind when reflecting on and reasoning through the 40 years of governance after our presiding Prophet (pbuh) passed onto heavenly reception. The sectarian bug feeds off our ignorance of this detailed and crucial chapter pertaining to our common early Islamic history.
Add to these delicate details the fact that the Islamic decision-makers became heirs to two different superpower domains: the Persians and the Byzantines with their diverse populations, curious cultures, peculiar pasts, and even a history of widened warfare. As if it were not enough that the 40-year Islamic reign, after the Prophet (pbuh), had to bring together post Byzanto-Persian polyglot populations, it also had to keep together a pre-Islamic tribally factionalized Arabia.
It fell upon the critical mass of Muhajireen and Ansar led by a uniting figure that a budding and Islamic thrust for social justice became possible. The centripetal force of al-Madinah held out for those 40 years vis-à-vis the centrifugal forces that eventually took over – never again to have a unified Islamic capital in al-Madinah (or Makkah) up until this day. The zionized Saudi rulers dare not have their seat of power in al-Madinah, much less Makkah, but rather have it in their clannish enclaves of Riyadh and Jeddah.
Notice along with me that the Islamic seat of power (capital) was never in Makkah! Someone may intelligently ask: Why? And here again there are about two decades of a Makkan war against the Prophet (pbuh) that could not immediately disappear in a miraculous way. If our understanding of our early history is accurate, we may reply that the ruling center of the Muslims was never in Makkah at that early time because the Prophet (pbuh), the Khulafa’, and the Imams considered Makkah’s majority population as mu’allafah qulubuhum (مؤلفة قلوبهم) those whose hearts have to be won over.
It is evident that the Muhajireen and Ansar were exceedingly important in our elucidation of those 40 years after the Prophet (pbuh) left us. In a follow-up article, this writer will try to illuminate and interpret why this was so.
O our Sustainer! You truly know what we hide and what we divulge – for nothing whatsoever can be hidden from Allah be it in and on earth or in and into outer space - Ibrahim, 38.