BEARING TESTIMONY: The rugged area leading to Ghar Thaur (Thaur cave) where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) hid with Abu Bakr while migrating to Makkah. (AN photo)
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Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his close companion Abu Bakr were less than three years apart in age. Both were born into the same Arab tribe, Quraish, but were from different clans. Most of Prophet Muhammad’s early life was spent in relative poverty while Abu Bakr came from a reasonably well off family. Both men lived and behaved in a quiet and dignified manner and both men had shunned idolatry all of their lives. When Prophet Muhammad received his mission to spread the message of Islam the first man he turned to was his friend Abu Bakr. Without a moments hesitation Abu Bakr accepted Islam and began a journey of dedication and love that was to last the rest of his life.
Abu Bakr loved his friend dearly and was ready and able to accept the truth of Islam easily. When he heard the message that God was One, he was ready to accept what he already knew to be true. His daughter Aisha narrated that in all of his life, Abu Bakr never prostrated to an idol. Abu Bakr himself relates that when he was a child, his father took him to the place of idols and left him there amongst the statues. The young boy looked at the inanimate objects surrounding him and asked them of what benefit they could be to him. When the idols were unable to respond Abu Bakr decided that he would not worship something that could not hear or see. He innately understood that statues and idols were not worthy of worship.
Abu Bakr’s love for the One True God and his support for his friend Muhammad (peace be upon him) meant that in the early days of Islam, he was often persecuted and mercilessly beaten. The majority of Makkans hated to hear Muhammad’s message of reform and reckoning. They were the guardians of idolatry and a great deal of revenue was made from the pilgrims visiting one or more of the idols worshipped in and around Makkah. If Muhammad (peace be upon him) succeeded in uniting the people in the worship of One God and if their ways of corruption were eradicated, their lives would be irreversibly changed.
The shocking treatment, torture and brutality directed against the Muslims meant that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sent many of them away for their own protection. The second of two migrations was to the nearby city of Yathrib, later to be named Madinah. Although often called a flight, it was in reality a carefully planned migration. Two tribes from Yathrib had negotiated a treaty with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and offered him their allegiance and protection but at this stage, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had not been given permission by God to leave Makkah. He did however send his followers to Yathrib in groups small enough not to attract the attention of the Makkans.
One day in the heat of the noonday sun, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) visited the home of his friend Abu Bakr. The streets of Makkah were deserted and Abu Bakr knew this visit of great importance, this time of day was reserved for rest. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked Abu Bakr to “empty your house,” meaning that he had something important and private to discuss. Abu Bakr replied, “This is your family.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upo him) went inside and revealed to his friend that God had given him permission to leave Makkah. Aisha narrates that her father wept when he heard that he was to be Prophet Muhammad’s companion on the journey.
Abu Bakr wept not out of fear, although the journey would be fraught with danger, but from sheer joy. This was an opportunity for him to spend more than 10 days traveling alone with his dearest companion. It was an opportunity to spend many days and nights drinking from the fountain of Prophethood. Abu Bakr announced that he had camels prepared and ready to go. That night the two friends left through the back door and walked into the black desert landscape.
When the Makkans realized that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had escaped Makkah, thereby eluding their plans to kill him, they were furious. Search parties immediately began to scour the surrounding areas. Although they suspected that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was heading for Yathrib, they sent scouts in every direction. Abu Bakr and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spent three days hiding in a cave south of Makkah.
At one stage, a search party came so close to the entrance of their cave Abu Bakr could see their shoes above him. He was filled with fear and trepidation, not for himself, for he was a courageous man, but for his beloved friend. Abu Bakr whispered, “Messenger of God, if they look down toward their feet they will see us!” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) replied, “Abu Bakr, what do you think of two people with whom God is the Third?” God revealed the following verse of Qur’an in response to this poignant moment.
“If you help him (Muhammad) not (it does not matter), for God did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out, the second of two, when they were in the cave, and he (Prophet Muhammad ) said to his companion (Abu Bakr), ‘Be not sad (or afraid), surely God is with us.’ Then God sent down His Sakinah (calmness, tranquillity, peace, etc.) upon him, and strengthened him with forces that you saw not, and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowermost, while it was the Word of God that became the uppermost, and God is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Qur’an, 9:40)
The angry and frantic Makkans stood outside the cave but did not enter. A spider had spun a delicate web across the entrance to the cave making it appear that no one had entered the cave for a very long time. Abu Bakr understood from his beloved friend’s words that the power of God is often found manifest in the least expected places.
A tiny, fragile spider spinning a web of concealment was mightier than an army. Abu Bakr, the first man to enter Islam became one of two. Two friends united on a mission, bound by their love for each other and for the fledgling Muslim nation, strengthened by their love of the One True God.
To be continued next week