36.11 Abu Bakr Takes Matters into His Hands
Hearing the appalling grief, Abu Bakr hurried back from his house in Al-Sunh. Umar was talking to the people, saying that only hypocrites said that the Messenger of Allah was dead. He did not stop to listen but hurried to his daughter's house where Mohamed lay. He asked permission to enter, but all were so woe be gone there was no one to give him permission or refuse it. He went to Mohamed and uncovered his face. Bending over him, he kissed him, saying,
"How good you were alive, and how good you look, even in death."
Then he covered his beloved face again and went out to the people.
From that moment the great and terrible responsibility of carrying the banner of Islam fell upon the slim but steely shoulders of Abu Bakr, unofficially at first, then soon officially as the first Khalifa. He heard Umar talking and said,
"Be quiet for a moment, Umar, and listen."
But Umar would not be quiet or listen. So Abu Bakr began to address the people who flocked around him like bewildered lambs. After praising Allah and giving thanks to Him, Abu Bakr said,
"He who worshipped Mohamed, Mohamed is dead. He who worships Allah, Allah is alive, He does not die."
Then he read to them these verses from the Koran:
Mohamed is only a messenger whom other messengers have preceded.
Should he die or get killed, would you turn on your heels?
He who turns on his heels shall not harm Allah in the least,
and Allah will reward the thankful. (3:144)
Upon hearing these words from the Koran, Umar fell unconscious for at last he realized that Mohamed had gone. People stood listening dumb as stone, for Umar's words had given them a flicker of hope. Now these verses from the Book of Truth left no doubt that he was no more. The greatest of leaders, the greatest of messengers, and the noblest spirit that ever walked the earth was lost to them until the Day of Judgment.
Abu Bakr continued to read the words of the Koran that bring solace while they bring the terrible truth, for at that moment only the Koran, the word of Allah that Mohamed had taught them to love and understand could be tolerated by those bereaved hearts. The Koran alone could bring peace and a promise of a meeting in a world where death does not separate, where age does not make the eye grow dim with tears, and where loss does not clutch at the heart with pain.