Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Questions are raised about the merit of Abu Bakr and his companionship of the Messenger of Allah (sawa) in the Cave of Thowr during migration, and how this is viewed by the Shias. We will tackle this topic over a few parts. The first part will cover the Question:

Did the Prophet (sawa) invite Abu Bakr to join him in Hijrah (Migration) before he left? Or was Abu Bakr unaware of the plans of the Prophet (sawa), and chased the Prophet (sawa) and requested to accompany him?

This Question is important to answer to see how the events unfolded, and the role Abu Bakr had in the escape of the Prophet (sawa) from Mecca. Through this we are able to determine the importance of Ali (as) in the plans of the Prophet (sawa) and see if there is any merit in Abu Bakr’s role in the escape.

There is a suggestion that The Prophet asked Abu Bakr to join him in the migration towards Madina (Yathrib), and that they both left Mecca together. However, we look at a specific, authentic, hadith found in the books of the non-Shia (i.e. sunnis) – in the popular Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal.

[…] Ibn Abbas said: They slander a man who has ten [exclusive merits … the sixth merit] is Ali sold his soul, [when] he wore the clothing of the Prophet (sawa) then slept in his bed, while the Polytheists [began to] pelt stones at [whom they thought was] the Prophet. [Before this] Abu Bakr came [to the Prophets bed] while Ali was sleeping [there].” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Abu Bakr assumed that it was the Prophet [sleeping in his bed] so he said: “Oh Prophet of Allah.”” He (ibn Abbas) said: “So Ali replied: “Indeed, the Prophet of Allah (sawa) has fled towards the well of Maymoon(1), so [you would have to] catch up to him.” So (Abu Bakr) rushed [to find the Prophet] and entered with him into the cave.” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Ali was made [in the position] of having stones thrown at him, just as it was thrown at the Prophet [in Ta’if and other instances in Mecca], while Ali would cry out in pain. He (Ali) covered his head [and face] with his clothing not leaving out anything to be seen [of his face] until the morning came, and then he (Ali) unveiled his face. They (the Polytheists) said: “You are wicked! We would throw [with stones] your companion (the Prophet) and he would not cry out in pain, while you did cry out in pain, yet we denied it [that it could be someone else].”” […]

Reference: Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Volume 3, Page 331.(2)

Grading (according to sunni standards):
– Ahmed Shakir says its chain is Sahih/Authentic.(2)
– According to the standards of Shu`ayb Arna’oot, its chain is Hasan/Good.(3)
– al-Albani says it is Sahih/Authentic.(4)

The hadith is very long, so we cut out the irrelevant parts (to this topic). If you would like to see the full hadith, which is extremely powerful and amazing, explaining the merits of Ali (as) – as well as confirming his wilayah – then please see at the bottom of the footnotes.(5)

This hadith is also narrated by al-Hakim:

[…] Ibn Abbas said: … “The Polytheists [began to] pelt stones at [whom they thought was] the Prophet. [Before this] Abu Bakr came [to the Prophets bed] while Ali was sleeping [there].” He (ibn Abbas) sad: “Abu Bakr assumed that it was the Prophet [sleeping in his bed] so he said: “Oh Prophet of Allah.”” He (ibn Abbas) said: “So he (Ali) replied: “Indeed, the Prophet of Allah (sawa) has fled towards the well of Maymoon, so [you would have to] catch up to him.” So (Abu Bakr) rushed [to find the Prophet] and entered with him into the cave.” […]

Reference: Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn, Volume 3, Page 143, Hadith #4652.(6)

Grading (according to sunni standards):
– al-Hakim says this Hadith has an Authentic/Sahih chain, however, neither of them (Muslim or Bukhari) have included it [in their books] in this context.(6)
– In the footnotes, al-Dhahabi concurs that it is Authentic/Sahih.(6)
– al-Albani says it is Sahih/Authentic.(4)

Also, a portion of this hadith is mentioned is in Kitab al-Sunnah of Abi Asim, via the same chain. al-Albani also says the chain of the hadith is Hasan/Good. He says:

Its chain Hasan [Good]. Its narrators are reliable, and are all narrators of al-Shaykhain (Muslim and Bukhari) except for Abi Balj, and his name is Yahya bin Sulaym bin Balj. Al-Hafidh says [about him]: He is very truthful (Saduq), perhaps he made mistakes.(7)

Aside from what has been stated above, it has been narrated in other books of the sunnis also, such as Fath al-Bari, Sunan al-Nisa’i etc. – but this should be sufficient to prove the authenticity of this specific hadith according to their standards. This specific hadith has also been narrated within Classical Shia books, such as one of our earliest Tafseer books, Tafseer al-Ayyashi and al-Burhan; as well as Bihar al-Anwar.

From Ibn Abbas who said: Ali (as) sold his soul, [when] he wore the clothing of the Prophet (sawa) then slept in his bed, while the Polytheists [began to] pelt stones at [whom they thought was] the Prophet. He (ibn Abbas) said: [Before this] Abu Bakr came [to the Prophets bed] while Ali was sleeping [there].” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Abu Bakr assumed that it was the Prophet [sleeping in his bed] so he said: “Oh Prophet of Allah?” So Ali replied: “Indeed, the Prophet of Allah (sawa) has fled towards the well of Maymoon, so [you would have to] catch up to him.” So (Abu Bakr) rushed [to find the Prophet] and entered with him into the cave.” […]

Reference: Tafseer al-Ayyashi, Volume 1, Hadith #294(8) (or #293 in some editions); Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 19, Page 78, Hadith #31

Further than this, we find in al-Tareekh al-Tabari another narration confirming that Abu Bakr was not aware of the Hijra of the Prophet (sawa) and asked to join him when he caught up to him.

Some have claimed that Abu Bakr went to Ali and asked him about the Prophet of Allah (sawa), and he (Ali) gave him news that he has reached the the Cave of Thowr, and he (Ali) said: “If you have any need with him, so catch up to him.” So Abu Bakr raced out and caught up with the Prophet of Allah (sawa) on the way. The Messenger of Allah (sawa) heard Abu Bakrs utterance in the darkness of the night, and thought it may be the Polytheists. The Messenger of Allah (sawa) sped up his walking pace, where then his shoe broke and he gashed his big toe on a rock and blood gushed forth. He (the Prophet) continued to pace faster. Abu Bakr feared that he would inflict [more] trouble upon the Messenger of Allah (sawa), so he raised his voice and spoke. The Messenger of Allah (sawa) then knew it was him (Abu Bakr), so he stood [still] until he (Abu Bakr) reached him […]

Reference: Tareekh al-Tabari, Volume 2, Page 374 (Old Edition: Volume 1, Page 1234).(9)

A similar hadith is found in Tafseer al-Durr al-Manthoor of al-Suyooti:

Ibn Abbas said: When the Messenger of Allah (sawa) fled in the night, he reached the cave of Thawr. He (ibn Abbas) said: Abu Bakr followed him, so when the Messenger of Allah (sawa) heard his voice behind him he was afraid that it was Polytheists chasing him. When Abu Bakr saw this he sought to gain his (sawa) attention by clearing his throat. When the Messenger of Allah (sawa) heard this he realised it was him (Abu Bakr), so he stood [still] until he (Abu Bakr) reached him and they went together to the cave. […]

Reference: Tafseer al-Durr al-Manthoor, Volume 7, Page 365.(14)

If we turn our focus to the Shia traditions, we will find this is all confirmed by the hadiths of Ahlulbayt (as). In Tafseer al-Burhan, via the mukhalafeen (sunnis), ibn Tawoos narrates:

The Messenger of Allah (sawa) ordered Ali (as) to sleep in his bed, and he (the Prophet) feared that Abu Bakr would lead them (the Polytheists) to himself, so he (the Prophet) took him (Abu Bakr) with himself to the cave.

Reference: al-Burhan, Volume 3, Page 421, Hadith #8.(10)

In another hadith, we see this described in more details.

[…] The Messenger of Allah (sawa) left [Mecca for Madina], mounted his she-camel and traveled along. He met Jibra’eel (as) along the way and he (Jibra’eel) said: “Oh Messenger of Allah, Indeed Allah has ordered me to accompany you in your travels to the cave that you will enter, and return with you to al-Madina – until your she-camel sits at the door of Abu Ayoob al-Ansari.”
So he (the Prophet) continued to travel until he met Abu Bakr [on his way], and he (Abu Bakr) said to him: “Oh Messenger of Allah, may I accompany you?” He (the Prophet) replied: “Woe upon you, Oh Abu Bakr, I do not want anyone to sense me [fleeing Mecca].” He (Abu Bakr) replied: “I fear, oh Messenger of Allah, that the Polytheists will confront me about my meeting up with you, and I do not find any alternative except to tell them the truth.” So he (the Prophet) replied: “Woe upon you, Oh Abu Bakr, would you really do this?” He replied: “Yes, by Allah, otherwise I will be killed, or made to take an oath – and in turn sin.” He (the Prophet) said: “Woe upon you – Oh Abu Bakr – I will not allow you to accompany me for your own benefit.” So Abu Bakr said to him: “However [it is for your benefit also, for] your fear for me and your fear that I will warn the Polytheists about you.” So he (the Prophet) said: “Travel along with me if you wish.” […]

Reference: Tafseer al-Burhan, Volume 3, Page 422, Hadith #10.(11)

Conclusion

If we submit to the idea that this is how the events unfolded, from the hadiths mentioned above, we conclude the following:

  1. Abu Bakr was not aware, nor was he part of the plans of the Prophet’s (sawa) migration.
  2. When Abu Bakr came to see the Prophet (sawa) at his house he found Ali (as) there. Ali (as) had slept in the bed of the Prophet (sawa) by the Prophets (sawa) order, to sacrifice his life for the sake of Allah (swt). Abu Bakr was unaware of the migration at this point in time, and was surprised to see Ali (as) there.
  3. Ali (as) informed Abu Bakr of the location of the Prophet (sawa), and notified him if he needed something that he was on his way towards Medina.

    Note:
    He did not order him to meet the prophet there, as some claim, as can be seen in the hadith in al-Tabari where Ali (as) says: “If you have any need with him, so catch up to him.” Ali’s (as) suggestion was pointing out that if there was a need of Abu Bakr, that is the direction the Prophet (sawa) had taken.
  4. The Prophet (sawa) was unaware that Abu Bakr was coming to meet up, and initially thought he was one of the Polytheists.
  5. After Abu Bakr asked the Prophet (sawa) to accompany him, the Prophet (sawa) was hesitant, and preferred not to.
  6. The Prophet (sawa) eventually accepted Abu Bakr accompany him, so that Abu Bakr would not lead the Polytheists to himself.

Yes, there are other hadiths that suggest Abu Bakr and the Prophet (sawa) did arrange to leave together before hand, but they contradict these narrations found in the books of the Shia and the Sunni, some of which have been authenticated. We also note that the hadiths from the books of the Sunnis, such as Sahih Bukhari, that say Abu Bakr and the Prophet arranged to meet before hand is narrated ONLY by Aisha – the daughter of the Abu Bakr. Every other hadith is silent on if Abu Bakr arranged with the Prophet (sawa) prior, or he met him along the way – except for this hadith from Ibn Abbas and the other ones mentioned in this article which suggest that Abu Bakr joined the Prophet (sawa) unplanned.

Of course, if the only one to claim or witness the arrangement of Abu Bakr and the Prophet (sawa) prior to migration is the daughter of Abu Bakr – then can we really be sure about it?

We also point out: when Lady Fatima (as) brought forward her children (among others) as witnesses for the Prophet (sawa) gifting Fadak to herself, Abu Bakr rejected their testimony on the ground that the evidence of the offspring and minors was not acceptable in favour of their parents (nor her husband among others, according to Sunni Historians).(12)(13) So should we have double standards with Abu Bakr when his only testimony is Aisha – in favour of her father?

Thus, so far there is no confirmed merit of Abu Bakr in the incident of the cave. However, there are some strong claims in regards to the revelation of Surah 9 Ayah 40, which claim to praise Abu Bakr highly. God Willing, we will discuss this, and more on the topic of Abu Bakr and the Cave in the future.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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FOOTNOTES

(1) Well of Maymoon

The Well of Maymoon is found in Makkah, named after Maymoon bin Khalid bin `Aamir al-Hadhramy.

(2) Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Volume 3, Page 331, Grading: Ahmed Shakir says its chain is Sahih/Authentic.

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(3) Grading of Shu`ayb Arna’oot

We have stated that Arna’oot has graded it Hasan, however in his grading of the hadith it says it is weak, because of Abu Balj. He says:

“It’s chain is weak in this context. Abu Balj – his name being Yahya bin Sulaym; Despite more than one [of the scholars] having said his is reliable, al-Bukhari said about him: There are opinions, and the best that has been said about him is that his hadiths are only accepted in what is corroborated..”

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However, Ahmed Shakir says in his authentication about the statement of al-Bukhari (stated above by al-Arna’oot): “I do not know where he has said this!?” (i.e. I could not find or confirm that al-Bukhari truly said this). Ahmad Shakir then goes on to explain how Abu Balj is indeed a reliable narrator and how various other scholars have said he is reliable, including those from the authors of the “six books” of the ‘ahlul-sunnah’.

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Further than this, we find that al-Arna’oot contradicted himself by accepting the hadiths of Abu Balj, within the same book!

For example, after a hadith (#15415) with Abu Balj being a narrator in it – al-Arna’oot says the hadith is Hasan (Good chain), citing a plethora of scholars who state Abu Balj is reliable, skipping over the opinion of al-Bukhari only quoting the part “There are opinions.”

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He also states the chain is Hasan/Good in hadith #18279 and #8660.

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Why has Shu`ayb Arna’oot weakened Abu Balj in this hadith and accepted his hadiths elsewhere? Why is it when it comes to the merits of Imam Ali (as), there is harshness to the chain, but with other hadiths there is leniency? By his standards, this chain/hadith is certainly reliable, and Hasan – if it were not for his double standards.

(4) Grading of al-Albani of Hadith in Musnad Ahmad and Mustadrak of al-Hakim

al-Albani says about the hadiths found in Musnad Ahmad and al-Mustadrak, that al-Hakim said it is Sahih/Authentic in chain, and al-Dhahabi concurred with him. He then confirms, “it is as they said”, meaning it is Sahih.

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(5) Full Hadith found in Musnad Ahmad [and Mustadrak of al-Hakim]

Amru bin Maymoonah said: I was sitting with ibn Abbas, when nine gentlemen approached him and said: “Either come with us, or we will leave you with him (the narrator).” So he (ibn Abbas) replied: “I will come with you.” They started talking, and I (the narrator) did not know what they said, then he [ibn Abbas] returned, dusting off his clothes and said: “uff, and tuff! They slander a man who has ten [exclusive merits]! They slander a man whom the Prophet (sawa) said [in relation to the battle of Khaybar]: “I will send a man [with the banner to lead the army], who will not disgrace Allah, ever. He is loved by Allah, and his Prophet (sawa).” So then, each person hoped that this honour was their honour. Then [the Prophet) said: “Where is Ali?” – they [all] replied: “He is grinding the mill in the recuperation camps [due to eye infection].”He (the Prophet) replied: “Is there no one else who can grind the mill?””

He (ibn Abbas) said: “He (Ali) came and with an eye infection, not being able to see [properly]. He [the Prophet] then blew into his eyes, and shook the banner three times and gave it to him (Ali), and he [did not] return [until he conquered Khaybar, along] with Saffiyah bint Huyyay [who eventually became the wife of the Prophet].

Then [the second merit is that] he (the Prophet) sent out so-and-so (meaning Abu Bakr) [to the Quraysh] with Surah al-Tawbah [to be revealed to them]. He (the Prophet) then sent Ali to catch up to him (Abu Bakr), and he (Ali) took it (the Surah) from him (Abu Bakr). He (the Prophet) said: “No one can take, and reveal it (the Surah) except by a person who is from me and I am from him.””

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the third merit]: “He (the Prophet) said to the tribe of his Uncle [at the beginning of his mission]: “Which of you will be my Wali (defender/supporter/follower/guardian) in this world and in the next world?”” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Ali was sitting with him, and they (the tribe of his uncle) refused to [be the Prophets Wali], so Ali said: “I will be your Wali in this world and the next world.” – So he (the Prophet) replied: “You are [already considered] my Wali in this world and the next world.” He (the Prophet) then turned away from him (Ali) and faced a man from them and repeated [the question again and they refused and Ali again was the only one who responded, and the Prophet confirmed he is already the Wali again.]”

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the fourth merit]: “And he (Ali) was the first to submit to Islam of all the people, after Khadija.”

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the fifth merit]: “And the Prophet (sawa) took his cloak and put it over Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain (as) and said: “Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.” [33:33 / Shakir].”

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the sixth merit]: “And Ali sold his soul, [when] he wore the clothing of the Prophet (sawa) then slept in his bed, while the Polytheists [began to] pelt stones at [whom they thought was] the Prophet. [Before this] Abu Bakr came [to the Prophets bed] while Ali was sleeping [there].” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Abu Bakr assumed that it was the Prophet [sleeping in his bed] so he said: “Oh Prophet of Allah”” He (ibn Abbas) said: “So Ali replied: “Indeed, the Prophet of Allah (sawa) has fled to near the well of Maymoon, so [you would have to] catch up to him.” So (Abu Bakr) rushed [to find the Prophet] and entered with him into the cave.” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Ali was made [in the position] of having stones thrown at him, just as it was thrown at the Prophet [in Ta’if and other instances in Mecca], while Ali would cry out in pain. He (Ali) covered his his head [and face] with his clothing not leaving out anything to be seen [of his face] until the morning came, and then he (Ali) unveiled his face. They (Polytheists) said: “You are wicked! We would pelt [with stones] your companion (the Prophet) and he would not feel cry out in pain, while you did cry out in pain, yet we denied it [that it could be someone else].””

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the seventh merit]: “And He (the Prophet) left with the people [as an army] in the expedition of Tabuk.” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Ali said to him (the Prophet): “Am I [invited] to join you?”” He (ibn Abbas) said: He (the Prophet) replied to him: “No.” So Ali cried, and then he (the Prophet) said to him: “Are you not please that you are to me in the status that Haroon was to Musa? Other than that you are not a Prophet, in that I cannot leave except that I make you my caliph.””

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the eighth merit]:”The Messenger of Allah said to him (Ali): “You are the Wali (Guardian) of every believer after me”

And [the ninth merit is] he (the Prophet) said: “Close the doors of the Masjid [in Medina] except for the door of Ali”” He (ibn Abbas) said: “So he (Ali) would enter the Masjid in [the state of] Janabah, and that is his way, and there is no other way for him.””

He (ibn Abbas) said [then the tenth merit]: He (the Prophet) said: “Whomsoever I am their Mawla (Master), Indeed, Ali is their Master too.””

He (ibn Abbas) said: “Allah (azwj) gave us news in the Qur’an that he is pleased with them, the companions of the Tree, and he knew what was in their hearts – [however], did he tell us that he was displeased with them after that?!” He (ibn Abbas) said: “Umar said to him (the Prophet) [while he was angry]: “Do you give me permission to strike (this persons) neck [?]” – The Prophet of Allah (sawa) replied: “And would you do this?! What will make you know (or gives you the impression) that perhaps Allah knew of the people of Badr [and fled] and [still] said: “Do as you please” [?!].

(6) Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn, Volume 3, Page 143, Hadith #4652 with Grading by al-Hakim and al-Dhahabi

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(7) Kitab al-Sunnah, Abi Asim, Page 565, Hadith #1188, with Grading by al-Albani

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(8) Tafseer al-Ayyashi, Volume 1, Hadith #294

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(9) Tareekh al-Tabari, Volume 2, Page 374

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(10) al-Burhan, Volume 3, Page 421, Hadith #8


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(11) al-Burhan, Volume 3, Page 422, Hadith #10


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(12) Futooh al-Buldaan, al-Balaadhary, Page #52


“Fatima (as) said to Abu Bakr: “Indeed, the Messenger of Allah (sawa) gifted me Fadak, so give it to me”, and Ali bin Abi Taleb (as) testified for this, so he (Abu Bakr) asked her for another witness, so Umm Ayman testified for her. He (Abu Bakr) said: “You know, oh Daughter of the Prophet, that these witnesses is not sufficient, unless you have two males or one male and two females” […in another hadith…] “So she (Fatima) brought Umm Ayman and Rabaah the slave of the Prophet (sawa), so the testified for her (fatima) about it (Fadak). He (Abu Bakr) said: This is not sufficient in this case except for a male and two females as witnesses.”

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(13) Tareekh al-Ya`qoobi, Volume 3, Page 195-196


“A Party from the children of al-Hassan (as) and al-Hussain (as) raised a claim to al-Ma’moon by recalling Fadak, in that it was gifted to Fatima (as) by the Prophet (sawa) and she (Fatima) requested it from Abu Bakr after the death of the Prophet (sawa), so he asked her to bring witnesses. She brought Ali, Hassan, Hussain and Umm Ayman … and they testified for her, however Abu Bakr did not accept their testimonies.”

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(14) Tafseer al-Durr al-Manthoor, Volume 7, Page 365.

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