Abu Bakr573 - August 23, 634) ruled as the first of the Muslim caliphs (632 - 634). Originally called Abd-el-Ka'ba ("servant of the temple"), he received the name Abu-Bakr (from the Arabic word bakr (young camel) due to his interest in raising camels.
Abu Bakr was born at Mecca, a Quraishi of the Banu Taim clan. He gained immense wealth from his own commercial activities, and became highly esteemed as a judge, as an interpreter of dreams and as a depositary of the traditions of his race. His early accession to Islam - as one of the nascent faith's early adult male converts (the first was Ali bin Abi Talib) - became of great importance. On his conversion he assumed the name of Abd-Allah (servant of God). His own thorough belief in Muhammad and in his doctrines earned him the title El Siddiq ("the faithful"), and he had correspondingly great success in gaining converts. In his personal relationship to the prophet he showed the deepest veneration and most unswerving devotion.
When Muhammad fled from Mecca in the hijra of 622, Abu Bakr alone accompanied him and shared both his hardships and his triumphs, remaining constantly with him until the day of his death. During his last illness the prophet designated Abu Bakr to lead prayers in Muhammad's absence: Many took this gesture as an indication that Abu Bakr would succeed Muhammad. Thus, upon the death of Muhammad (8 June 632), Abu Bakr became the first caliph, by the acclamation of the people present at the meeting of Saqifah. Initially, 'Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, disputed the succession, asserting his own title to the dignity; after a time, he too pledged his allegiance, but the difference of opinion as to his claims gave rise to the controversy which still divides the followers of the prophet into the rival factions of Sunnites and Shiites.
Abu Bakr had scarcely assumed his new position (632), under the title Khalifet-Rasul-Allah ("successor of the prophet of God"), when he had to suppress the revolt of some tribes in Hejaz and Nejd, of which the former rejected Islam and the latter refused to pay tribute. He encountered formidable opposition from different quarters, but in every case he proved successful, the severest struggle taking place with the impostor Mosailima, whom Khalid bin Walid finally defeated at the battle of Akraba.
Abu Bakr exhibited a much zeal for the spread of the new faith as did its founder. After suppressing the internal disorders and completely subduing Arabia, he directed his generals to foreign conquest. Khalid bin Walid conquered Iraq from Persia in a single campaign, and a successful expedition into Syria also took place.
After the hard-won victory over Mosailima, Omar, fearing the complete loss of the sayings of the prophet when those who had listened to them had all died, induced Abu-Bakr to see to their preservation in a written form. The record, when completed, was deposited with Hafsa, daughter of Omar, and one of the wives of Muhammad. All Muslims held it in great reverence, though it did not possess canonical authority, and it furnished most of the materials for the preparation of the Quran as it now exists. After the completion of the authoritative version, all copies of Hafsa's record were destroyed in order to prevent possible disputes and divisions.
Abu-Bakr died on August 23, 634 in Medina. Shortly before his death (which one tradition ascribes to poison, another to natural causes) he indicated Omar as his successor, through the manner Muhammad had observed in his own case.
Abu Bakr lies buried in the Masjid al Nabawi in Medina alongside Muhammad and Omar.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.