Chapter 6: Caliphate Of ‘Umar B. Al-Khattab

Concerning the caliphate of the Second Caliph, there are many issues and problems, some of which we will mention in this chapter.

If The Caliph Is To Be Elected By The Council, Why Did Abu Bakr Appoint ‘Umar As Caliph?

The fact that Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar as his successor without the opinion of the Companions is completely inconsistent with the claim that the caliphate is a matter of council; therefore, it was an undemocratic act.

Ibn al-Athir (d. 630 AH) writes:

قال أبوبكر: إني استخلفت عليكم بعدي عمر بن الخطاب، فاسمعوا له وأَطيعوا.

Abu Bakr said: “I have appointed ‘Umar b. al-Khattab as successor after me, so listen to him and obey him.”1

Also, Ibn Abi Hatam, the famous Sunni scholar of tafsir writes:

قال أبوبكر: إني استخلفت عليكم عمر بن الخطاب فإن يعدل فذلك ظني به وإن يجر ويظلم فإني لا أعلم الغيب {وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَي مُنقَلَب يَنقَلِبُونَ} الشعراء: 227.

Abu Bakr said: I have appointed ‘Umar b. al-Khattab as my successor; if he does justice, which I think is the case (the benefit of his justice is for himself), but if he oppresses, I have no knowledge of the unseen. “As for those who do wrong, they will know by what overturning they will be overturned” (the Noble Qur’an, 26: 227).2

Abu Bakr also stated explicitly that he did this without the order of the Prophet:

فقال (أبوبكر): اللهم وليته بغير أمر نبيك.

Abu Bakr said: God, I made ‘Umar the guardian of the Muslims without any order from the Prophet.3

Furthermore, al-Tabari (d. 390) quotes Abu Bakr as saying:

إني وليت أمركم خيركم في نفسي فكلكم وَرِم أَنْفُه من ذلك يريد أن يكون الأمر له دونه.

I will make the one who is the best of you (‘Umar) your caliph. You are all looking for the presidency and all of you want this presidency to be yours and not ‘Umar's.4

Was ‘Umar Elected As The Caliph In Consultation With The Companions Or With Their Strong Protest?

Some claim that although the caliphate of ‘Umar was decided by the direct order of Abu Bakr, he consulted with the Companions on this issue and sought their opinion. Historical documents, however, show that this claim is false. Ibn Abi Shayba al-Kufi, the master of al-Bukhari, narrates:

أن أبابكر حين حضره الموت أرسل إلى عمر يستخلفه فقال الناس: تستخلف علينا فظاً غليظاً، ولو قد ولينا كان أفظ وأغلظ، فما تقول لربك إذا لقيته وقد استخلفت علينا عمر.

When Abu Bakr was about to die, he sent someone to call ‘Umar to introduce him as his successor. People said: “Are you dominating someone who is violent and bad-tempered? If he reaches power, he will be tougher and more violent. What will you answer God when you meet Him while you have dominated him over us?”5

Despite this strong protest, can anyone still claim that Abu Bakr has consulted with the Companions?!

In another narration, it is stated that Imam Ali and Talha objected to the appointment of ‘Umar to the caliphate in a private meeting with Abu Bakr:

عن عائشة قالت: لما حضرت أبا بكر المتوفي استخلف عمر فدخل عليه علي وطلحة فقالا من استخلفت قال عمر قالا فماذا أنت قائل لربك قال بالله تعرفاني لأنا أعلم بالله وبعمر منكما.

‘A’shah narrates that when Abu Bakr was about to die, he chose ‘Umar as his successor. Ali and Talha came to him and said: “Who have you chosen?” “'Umar”, he replied. They said: “Then what will you answer your Lord?” Abu Bakr said: “Do you want to help me know God? I know God and ‘Umar better than you.”6

Ibn Taymiyya al-Harrani (d. 728 AH) in a similar narration reveals the Companions' objection to Abu Bakr about the caliphate of ‘Umar:

قال ابن تيمية: وقد تكلّموا مع الصديق في ولاية عمر وقالوا ماذا تقول لربك وقد وليت علينا فظا غليظا؟ فقال: أبالله تخوفوني!.

Ibn Taymiyya says: The Companions talked to Abu Bakr about the succession of ‘Umar and said: “How will you answer God while you have chosen a violent and harsh person over the caliphate?” Abu Bakr said: “Do you scare me of God?!”7
  • 1. Usd al-Ghaba, vol. 4, p. 158.
  • 2. Tafsir Ibn Abi Hatam, vol. 9, p. 2836.
  • 3. Ibn Habban, al-Thiqat, vol. 2, p. 193.
  • 4. Tarikh al-Tabari, vol. 2, p. 353.
  • 5. Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 20, p 584, hadith no. 38211.
  • 6. Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 3, p. 196.
  • 7. Minhaj al-Sunna, vol. 6, p. 155.