The best of mankind after the prophet SAW is Abu Bakr, then Umar, then Uthman, then Ali, then the remaining six given the good tiding of Paradise. When Muhammed, son of Ali rA, asked him “Who is the best of mankind after the Prophet SAW? He said: Abu Bakr” [Bukhari]. As for Umar, he said “Abu Bakr, our master, the best of us and the most beloved to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace” [Tirmidhi].
And when the prophet SAW was asked who is most beloved to him, he answered “Aisha”, and when asked about the men, He said “Her father” [Bukhari]. Furthermore, he SAW said “The most merciful of my Ummah (nation) towards my Ummah is Abu Bakr, the most severe of them in the matter of Allah is Umar, the most truly modest of them is Uthman, ..” [Ahmad & Tirmidhi]. So as you can see, the ranking of Abu Bakr among the companions, has nothing to do with personal opinions. The matter has been set clear!
Now let’s take a look at the verses, which were revealed in praise of Abu Bakr rA, because those will add another angle to his ranking. When Allah SWT says “The second of the two when the two were in the cave” (9:40), He wants you to remember Abu Bakr each time you read this verse.
Then, how many Muslims know that Abu Bakr is the one who bought Bilal with a cloak and 10 pieces of silver, then set him free for the sake of Allah? Allah SWT swore in three consecutive verses before recording what Abu Bakr did with Bilal in the 4th verse so that you don’t forget it! Read carefully now: “By the night enshrouding. And the day resplendent. And Him Who has created male and female. Indeed your efforts differ” (92:1-4).
Actually, Abu Bakr freed so many slaves that the rest of the verses in Surat Al-Layl were revealed to record his noble acts for Allah’s sake. The verses “So for one who gave and practiced piety. And believes in goodness. So We will very soon provide him ease” (92:4-7) are all talking about Abu Bakr people!
Ibn Abbas further said that the verse “and consult with them in the conduct of affairs” (3:159) referred to Abu Bakr and Umar rA. Ibn Hatem narrated that the verse “And for him who fears to stand before his Lord, are two Gardens” (55:46) was about Abu Bakr. Al-Tabarani said that the verse “indeed Allah is his Supporter, and Jibreel and the virtuous believers” (66:4) referred to Abu bakr and Umar. Whereas, the verse “These are the ones whose good deeds We will accept, and overlook their shortfalls, among the People of Paradise” (46:16) is also believed to be about Abu Bakr rA.
Those were the verses revealed about Abu Bakr rA, so let’s now turn to the authentic Hadiths of the prophet SAW where he praised his best friend. The prophet said “There has been no prophet but that he had two deputies from the people of heaven and two deputies from the people of earth. As for my two deputies from the people of heaven, they are Jibril and Mikail, and as for my two deputies from the people of earth they are Abu Bakr and Umar” [Tirmidhi]. Now you know where to classify those who hate Jibril and Mikail, and where to classify those who hate Abu Bakr and Umar.
The prophet SAW also said “Abu Bakr is in Heaven, Umar is in Heaven, Uthman is in Heaven, Ali is in Heaven, …” [Authentic]. I am not sure what clearer classification and ranking of the companions do people need when the order is clear even to the blind-hearted! The prophet SAW said “I will be the first over whom the earth will split open, then Abu Bakr and Umar” [Tirmdhi].
To be resumed inshaa Allah in Part 4…