Why Gandhi Invoked Caliph Abu Bakar When Congress Government Was Formed In 1937?

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by Dr Qudsia Gani

Abu Bakr used to say, “Where are the beautiful and the handsome? Where are those who were delighted by their youth and good looks? Where are the kings who built cities and fenced them with walls? Where are the victorious in wars? They all perished and ended in the depths of dark graves. Hasten and hurry up. Do good deeds, as death is faster. While as we are busy working for the world, the world is busy trying to turn us out. Therefore if an ignorant person is attracted by the glitz and glamour of the world, that is bad, but if a learned person is thus attracted, it is worse.”

Mahatma Gandhi

On the occasion of the establishment of Congress Government in India in 1937, Mahatama Gandhi said, “I cannot give you the reference of Ram Chandar or Krishna, because they were not considered as historical figures. I cannot help it but to present to you the names of (Hazrat) Abu Bakar (RA) and (Hazrat) Umar Farooq (RA). They were leaders of a vast Empire, yet they lived a life of austerity.”

This is recorded in Harijan dated July 27, 1937. Every great civilization is marked by persons of great eminence and for the Islamic civilization, it is Abu Bakr who ranks foremost among the upright. He is popularly referred to as As-Siddique, meaning trustworthy. He can be found in great detail in Wikipedia and Google and in the world history encyclopedia. However, the need is to unfold him beyond these folds.

Actually named as Abdullah ibn Uthman, Abu Bakr (meaning father of a camel’s calf) was his nickname or teknonym due to his love for camels. This name became so popular with him that he is mostly referred to by it. He lived between October 27, 573 AD and August 23, 634 AD.

Abu Bakr belonged to a rich merchant family of Makkah city, and was well educated. He was a leading businessman, had a sharp memory and a fondness for poetry, which were then considered to be the quintessential traits of Arabian gentlemen. He became the closest companion and adviser of the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] and helped him through thick and thin in his mission of peaceful establishment of social justice. He exhausted all his resources to support the cause of the prophet Muhammad [PBUH] and stayed by him until the end of his days. This has been beautifully summated by Iqbal in the following lines

Parwane ko chiragh hai, Bulbul ko phool bas,
Siddique (RA) ke liay hai Khuda ka Rasool bas.

(The lamp is enough for the moth, the flower is enough for the butterfly. For Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) the Messenger (SAW) of God is enough.)

The vitality of the mission of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] has been well recognised by intellectuals across all spectra. As for instance, George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, has said, “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion, which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity.”

According to Michael H Hart, “it is the unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.” He toppled the unjust system with great wit and valour. Men like Abu Bakr strongly reciprocated to the divine call of Muhammad who of late had become even more thoughtful and retiring. His mind was engaged by contemplation and reflection, and he was deeply worried by the moral debasement of his people. He began preaching and practising what kept descending from cosmos in the form of revelations. Together with Abu Bakr, he worked on the hearts and minds of the people.

An image of Holy Kaaba

Abu Bakr was instrumental in fostering social psychology that criticised the prevalent orthodoxy and socio-economic inconsistencies. While preaching the oneness of God, he aimed at establishing an ethical and egalitarian social order based on laws of one God as enshrined in the doctrines of the glorious Quran. Abu Bakr would lead by example. He purchased slaves only to set them free. He married his daughter to one such freed slave to undo the social stereotype. He was persecuted many times by his tribesmen but he remained steadfast. He perfected his good actions every single day.

As for instance, Umar had often seen him going deep into the desert after every morning prayers and decided to follow him one day. He would go into a house wherefrom he returned in the afternoon. As Abu Bakr left, Umar went in the house to see an elderly, blind, frail lady with small children running around. She didn’t have anyone to take care of. Umar asked her about the person who comes to her house every day. She said that she didn’t know him as he never shared his name but he would come every day, clean my home, wash our clothes, grind our wheat, bake our bread, cook our breakfast, and then leave. Omar began to cry and said “you have exhausted every successor after you”.

This impeccable standard was impossible to match but Umar was learning from the way Abu Bakr conducted himself while he was the Caliph and that impacted greatly how Umar would later lead as Caliph himself. God knows how many such deeds he did throughout his life, unheard and unnoticed, but according to an assertion of Muhammad [PBUH], his righteous deeds outweigh the countless stars.

In his sermons, Abu Bakr used to say, “Where are the beautiful and the handsome? Where are those who were delighted by their youth and good looks? Where are the kings who built cities and fenced them with walls? Where are the victorious in wars? They all perished and ended in the depths of dark graves. Hasten and hurry up. Do good deeds, as death is faster. While as we are busy working for the world, the world is busy trying to turn us out. Therefore if an ignorant person is attracted by the glitz and glamour of the world, that is bad, but if a learned person is thus attracted, it is worse.”

As the prophet Muhammad [PBUH] left for heavenly abode; Abu Bakr succeeded to his political and administrative functions and initiated the office of caliph. He was a perfect balance of action and emotion. As for instance, when people had a hard time coping with the fact that the prophet Muhammad is no more, it was his careful warning that prevented them from venerating the latter as a divine figure.

Dr Qudsia Gani

Hazrat Abu Bakar made a short and powerful speech as follows, “O Muslims, if you adored Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead; if it is God that you adore, know that He liveth, He never dies. Forget not this verse of the (Quran), ‘Muhammad is only a man charged with a mission; before him there have been men who received the heavenly mission and died’; nor this verse, ‘Thou too, Muhammad, shall die as others have died before thee.” Therefore no wonder that the prophet had said, “If I were to choose from my Umma anyone as my bosom friend, I would have chosen Abu Bakr.

(The author teaches Physics at the Cluster University Srinagar. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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