Caliph Abu Bakr’s era
During Abu Bakr’s reign as caliph, during which he remained occupied with Ridda wars, Umar was one of his chief advisers and secretary. Umar along with Khalid ibn Walid, probably was the architect and main strategist behind the collapse of rebellion in Arabia. Though at the beginning due to the apprehensive situation in Arabia Umar was opposing the military operations against the rebel tribes, it was to enjoy their support in case of any possible foreign invasion by Romans or Persian, but later he seemed to agree with Abu Bakr’s warlike strategies to crush rebellion. Khalid ibn Walid by late 632 had successfully united Arabia after consecutive victories against rebels. Later during his own reign, Umar would mostly adopt the policy of avoiding wars and consolidating his power in the conquered land rather than expanding his empire through continuous warfare. Prior to Battle of Yamamah, Umar pressured Abu Bakr to call back Khalid, who had killed Malik ibn Nuwayrah, a rebel chief who was a state criminal. Umar was reportedly misguided by Malik’s brother that Malik was a Muslim and Khalid killed him because he wanted to marry his wife Layla bint al-Minhal, a renowned beauty in Arabia. While Abu Bakr refused to accept Umar’s opinion and Umar continued insisting for Khalid’s disposal even after Khalid’s conquest of Iraq. It was Umar who advised Abu Bakr to compile Quran in the form of a book, after the death of 300 memorizers of Quran in Battle of Yamamah. Abu Bakr appointed Umar as his successor prior to his death in 634. He was confirmed in the office thereafter.
Appointment as a Caliph
Due to his strict and autocratic nature, Umar was not a very popular figure among the notables of Madinah and members of Majlis al Shura, accordingly succession of Umar was initially discouraged by high ranking companions of Abu Bakr. When Abu Bakr was close to death, he nominated Umar to succeed him as the next Caliph.
Umar was still well known for his extraordinary will power, intelligence, political astuteness, impartiality, justice and care for poor and underprivileged people. Abu Bakr is reported to have said to the high-ranking advisers:
His [Umar’s] strictness was there because of my softness when the weight of Caliphate will be over his shoulders he will remain no longer strict. If I will be asked by the God to whom I have appointed my successor, I will tell him that I have appointed the best man among your men.
Abu Bakr was fully aware of Umar’s power and ability to succeed him. Succession of Umar was thus not as troublesome as any of the others. His was perhaps one of the smoothest transitions to power from one authority to another in the Muslim lands. Abu Bakr before his death called Uthman to write his will in which he declared Umar his successor. In his will he instructed Umar to continue the conquests on Iraq and Syrian fronts. Abu Bakr’s decision proved to be crucial in the strengthening of the nascent Islamic empire.
Caliph Abu Bakr’s era