Hadhrat Umar [radhiallaahuanhu] was appointed by the first Khalifa without consultation (Shura)

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Q: The Sunni viewpoint that leadership after Rasulullah (sallallâhu alayhi warasallam) had to be decided upon through consultation, and you use two verses of the Qur’aan to prove their point. However, it is an undeniable fact that the second khalifah, ‘Umar (RA) was appointed by the first khalifah, Abû Bakr (RA) and not chosen through some method of consultation. This indicates to me that Abu Bakr (RA) went against the Qur’aan by not consulting the people, and ‘Umar (RA) also went against the Qur’ân by allowing himself to be put into a position of power in an illegitimate fashion, i.e. appointment by Abu Bakr (RA). How do you reconcile their action with your theory that the matter of leadership must be decided by consultation with the community?

A: You make a mistake where you write that “it is an undeniable fact that ‘Umar radiyallâhu ‘anhu was appointed by Abû Bakr radiyallâhu `anhu and not chosen through some method of consultation.” Sayyidunâ Abû Bakr’s appointment of Sayyidunâ ‘Umar radiyallâhu ‘anhumâ was not entirely arbitrary. It was preceded by a process of consultation with the prominent leaders of the Muhâjirûn and the Ansâr. Furthermore, Sayyidunâ Abu Bakr radiyallâhu ‘anhu only appointed a successor when he was given a mandate to do so by the Sahãbah. Ibn Qutaybah ad-Dînawarî records in his book al-Imâmah was-Siyâsah:

When the time for Abû Bakr’s death drew near he ordered that the people come assemble. He then addressed them, saying: “O people, you see the condition destiny has brought me to. However, you need to have a man who will take control of your affairs, who will lead you in salâh, who will fight your enemies and distribute your booty. If you so desire you may get together, consult amongst yourself and elect the leader you want. Alternatively I could do my utmost to choose a leader for you. By Allâh, besides whom there is no god, I will do my best for you.” Then he cried, and they cried with him. They said: “O khalifah of Rasûlullâh, you are the best and the most learned amongst us all. Therefore, choose for us.”‘

Even with this mandate Sayyidunâ Abû Bakr radiyallâhu `anhu did not arbitrarily appoint a successor. Although he already had Sayyidunâ ‘Umar radiyallâhu ‘anhu in mind to succeed him, he first consulted the senior Sahâbah and found out their opinions about the appointment of Sayyidunâ `Umar radiyallâhu ‘anhu. This is recorded by Ibn Sa’d in his book al-Tãbaqât al-Kubrâ:

When Abû Bakr’s illness intensified he called `Abd ar-Rahmân ibn `Awf and asked him: “Tell me about `Umar.” `Abd ar-Rahmân replied: “There is nothing you can ask me about which you yourself are not better acquainted with.” Aba Bakr said: “And if… [i.e. if I appoint him as my successor]?” `Abd ar-Rahmân said: “By Allâh, he is even better than what you think of him.”

Then he called `Uthmân ibn `Affán and told him: “Tell me about `Umar.” `Uthmân said: “You know him best.” Abû Bakr said: “So according to that, Abû `Abdillâh… [i.e. so tell me how you know him.]” `Uthmân replied: “By Allâh, as far as I know him he is better person on the inside than what he is on the outside. There is amongst us no one better than him.” Abû Bakr told him: “May Allâh have mercy upon you. By Allâh, if I was going to leave him I would not have passed you by.”

Abu Bakr also consulted with Sa`îd ibn Zayd Abul-A’war, Usayd ibn alHudayr and other Muhâjirûn and Ansâr. Usayd said: “By Allâh, I regard him as the best one after you. He is pleased with what deserves pleasure, and angered at what calls for anger. What he hides is even better than what he shows. This matter can go into the hands of no one abler than him.”

As is wont to happen, there were some people who were apprehensive of Sayyidunâ `Umar radiyallâhu ‘anhu on account of his sternness. Their concerns were relayed to Sayyidunâ Abû Bakr radiyallâhu `anhu by some of the Sahâbah. The narration in Ibn Sa’d continues:

Some of the Sahâbah heard about Abû Bakr’s private meetings with `Abd arRahmân and `Uthmân. They also came to Abû Bakr and their spokesman said to him: “What will you say to your Lord should He ask you about your appointment of `Umar over us despite knowing that he is so harsh.” Abû Bakr [who was lying down] said: “Make me sit up. Are you trying to influence me by invoking the fear of Allah? May he perish who is guilty of injustice in this matter of yours! I will say: `O Allâh, I appointed the best of your people over them.’ Tell this to who is behind you.”

Sayyidunâ Abu Bakr radiyallâhu ‘anhu was already sufficiently convinced that the majority of the Sahâbah were in favour of Sayyidunâ `Umar radiyallâhu `anhu. It was therefore that he dismissed the apprehensions of this minority. But the process was still not over. He called Sayyidunâ `Uthmân radiyallâhu `anhu and dictated to him the deed of appointment. Even this deed was not arbitrary. Before coming of effect it was subjected to the approval of the people. Ibn Sa’d continues:

Abû Bakr ordered him to seal the deed. He came out with the sealed document. With him was `Umar ibn al-Khattâb, Asîd ibn Sa’yah al-Qurazi and Usayd ibn Hudayr. `Uthmân said to the people: “Will you give bay’ah to him whose name is in this document?” They responded: “Yes.”

Sayyidunâ Abu Bakr radiyallahu ‘anhu, as ill as he was, presented himself to the people for the final ratification of the appointment:

Abû Bakr radiyallâhu `anhu appeared at the window of his house and addressed the people saying: “O people! I have appointed someone. Are you happy with that?” They replied: “We are happy, O khalîfah of Rasûlullâh.” `Ali radiyallâhu `anhu stood up and said: “We are not happy, except if it is `Umar.” Abû Bakr radiyallâhu `anhu said: “It is `Umar.” Then they all accepted it, expressed their contentment with it, and gave their bay`ah.

Shaykh M Taha Karaan

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