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In the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (835) it is stated that Ali (RA) considered Abu Bakr to be the best of this Ummah after its Prophet. How do the Shia respond to it?
as salam alaikum
mere single reports from Musnad Ahmad cannot be validated according to Shia view. Also, according to the most accurate opinion any single report (khabar al-wahid) with no external evidences cannot be used to establish doctrinal principles or historical facts.
With prayers for your success.
Sunni books mentioned that Imam Ali (AS) refused to give allegiance to Abu Bakr and Abu Bakr sent Umar with group of people to force Imam Ali on giving allegiance or burn his house on him and Fatima and Hasan and Husain.
(Tareekh Tabari (2: 443).
Mussannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah, (8:572)
Ansaab Al-Ashraaf by Balathori (1:586).
Al-Soyooti inMusnad Fatima , Page 36.
Ibn Qutaibah in Al-Imamah wal Siyasah (1:19) and (1:30).
Ibn Abd rabbih in Al-'iqd al-Fareed (1:78).
Ibn Abd al-Barr in Al-Estee'aab (3:975).
And many other Sunni books.
Those who claim that Imam Ali (AS)has given allegiance to Abu Bakr after six months need to prove their claim. There is no authentic narration but a narration from Aiysha Bint Abi Bakr claiming that. Everyone knows the stand of Aiysha against Imam Ali (AS).
We have in the books that after the demise of Lady Fatimah (AS), the Saqeefa people threatened to kill Imam Ali if he does not give allegiance and took from him an allegiance under threat. Obviously, even if this narration was right, such allegiance is invalid according to Islam because it was under threatening to kill him.
Imam Ali (AS) did not even pray with them in the Masjid nether Jumm'ah nor Jama'ah. (Siyar A'laam Al-Nubalaa' By Al-Dhahabi (9:284).
The Qur'anic verse 3:167 clearly exposes those who turned back on the way to Uhud as hypocrites. Why weren't Abu Bakr, Omar, and Uthman, who all took part in the battle at Uhud, exposed if they were a bigger threat to Islam according to the Shia view?
Simple search in Sunni books of Hadeeth leads to the fact that all the three whom you named ran away from the Jihad.
1. Abu Bakr:
Al-Haakim Al-Nisaboori who is one of the well known Sunni scholars narrated in his famous book Al-Mustadrak Alal Saheehayn, Volume 3, Page 37 that Abu Bakr ran away.
In Saheeh Bukhari and Dalaa'l Al-Sidq , V. 1, P.362 and Noor Al-Absaar by Shiblanji, P. 87, you find that Umar ran away.
Ibn Katheer (student of Ibn Yatmiyyah) mentioned in his books Al-Bidayah Wal Nihayah V.4, P. 28 that Uthman ran away.
Many other Muslims have also run away from the battles due to weakness in the faith. Only the firm and strong in faith stood fast and never ran away.
Exposing the hypocrites was declared in Quran by their deeds but not by their names. Same was done by the Prophet (SAWA) who did not expose their names.
The Prophet (SAWA) has clearly stated that many of his companions will change and turn back from right path after him then will be sent to hellfire. (Saheeh Bukhari, Hadeeth number 4259
and Saheeh Bukhari, Hadeeth number 6098,
and Saheeh Bukhari , Hadeeth number 6099,
and Saheeh Bukhari, Hadeeth number 6026,
and Saheeh Bukhari, Hadeeth number 6528.
Sayid Husain Jafri, in his Origins and Development of Early Shi'a Islam, highlights some of the key narrations about Abu Bakr that are mentioned frequently in Sunni circles. Jafri points out that these particular narrations all go back to 'A'isha, who was obviously supporting her father. I can recommend that you get Jafri's book, as he does some good hadith analysis.