17.3 Abu Bakr and Umar
The Messenger called his two counselors, Abu Bakr ibn Abi Quhafa and Umar ibn al-Khattab. They were both men of exemplary character and deep faith, but in temperament they were the exact antithesis of each other. While Abu Bakr was small, with a light frame and mild, gentle ways, Umar was tall, with a heavy, powerful build and a rough, fierce temper. Abu Bakr was affectionate, merciful, and kind, with a pleasant, polished manner to both friend and foe, while Umar was stern and sober, capable of severe, unflattering words. While Abu Bakr let his intuition and his kind but penetrating heart judge affairs, Umar had an unerring sense of justice, and he exhausted his intellect to arrive at the facts. But he had a heart of gold that he hid beneath this severe exterior in case it made him deviate by a hair's breadth from absolute justice. Abu Bakr understood events with his heart as well as his head and he was considered one of the two men of great wisdom in Quraysh. Umar, however, would examine every issue again and again until he was absolutely satisfied that he had reached the truth about it. What the Messenger says about each is significant. To Abu Bakr, he gave the epithet “the True” because his faith was so true and deep it could see beyond all obstacles and barriers, while about Umar, he said that the truth had descended on his heart because it shunned anything other than the absolute truth. As we shall see in due course, sometimes the holy verses came down to corroborate Umar's judgment, even when it differed from the Messenger's.
Mohamed loved and trusted both men, though Abu Bakr was closer and dearer to him, for each of them was of noble character, and each of them was unswerving in his service of Islam. Each saw matters from a different angle and the opinion of two such men, so good yet so different, helped to make the Messenger see things from two widely different perspectives.