When Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA) Nearly Lost Everything

When Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA) Nearly Lost Everything

The Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was once sitting with his companions when they were approached by some horsemen as delegates from the tribe of Banu Tam?m. As with any tribe coming to accept Islam, the Prophet wanted to select a leader for them. Naturally, recommendations for the man best fit for this job came from his closest companions, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with them.

Abu Bakr recommended that the Prophet make al-Qa‘q?‘ ibn Ma‘bad, member of Banu Muj?shi‘, take the position. ‘Umar disagreed, suggesting that the Messenger of Allah instead choose a man named Al-Aqra‘ ibn H?bis.1 Disagreement between the two turned to debate, debating turned to arguing, and soon the two began raising their voices so loud, they drowned out the voice of the Prophet.

Just then, Allah revealed the following verse to the Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

“Believers, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not.” (Surah Hujurat 49:2]

This story gives us a handful of lessons from the revelation of just one verse.

Respect The Prophet (SAW) by Not Speaking Above Him and His Way

Allah was telling both Abu Bakr and ‘Umar that what they were doing was uncalled for. When one speaks near the Prophet, they can’t speak louder than him, out of respect and reverence for the man who is the messenger of God himself.2

This command from Allah goes beyond mere volume. When issues arise in matters of the Sunnah, we can’t speak out over or against it. As Ibn ‘Abb?s said, this means do not contradict the Sunnah in your actions, statements, or even your intentions.

The attitude towards to the Sunnah should be like that of Imam M?lik’s. When students came to his house wanting to learn fiqh or ‘aq?dah, he would come out and teach them. If they wanted to learn hadith however, he would make ghusl before coming out and recite the verse “Believers, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech…” before he began his lesson, to remind himself and his students that what they were about to study has to be respected at the highest level.

How ‘Umar Reacted – Learning From and Acting on Mistakes

After this verse was revealed, it was narrated that whenever ‘Umar would speak to the Prophet, he would speak so quietly that you could barely hear him. In fact, Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair said that sometimes the Prophet asked ‘Umar to repeat himself because his voice was so soft.

With the coming of a commandment from Allah, ‘Umar immediately followed it and practiced it in his daily life. He didn’t second guess it or try to just half-way act on it, nor did he delay it or temporarily follow it. He immediately acted on it in full permanently.

See if you have anything in your own life that you’re struggling to come to terms with. You may know that something is forbidden or obligatory for you to do. Are you acting on it like ‘Umar would?

The Th?bit Approach – Dreading Losing One’s Deeds

When Th?bit ibn Qays Al-Shamm?s, a sahabi who used to speak in a loud voice because he was hard of hearing, heard this verse, he was devastated. Since the verse said that those who speak above the Prophet would lose all of their deeds without them even knowing it, he thought this warning included him, as well. Immediately Th?bit went home in despair and didn’t come out to the point where the Prophet and sahabah noticed his absence.

When they visited and asked him where he’d been, he said he had been terrified of losing all of his deeds because he, too, used to speak above the Prophet, even though he was only speaking loudly because of his hearing problem. Later the Prophet consoled him by telling him that he was a person of paradise.

Even though the warning of losing all deeds was specifically for Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, Th?bit still feared for his life it applied to him. When we hear Allah warning or condemning anyone in the Quran, we should take the Th?bit approach and fear that it applies to us as well.

How Shaytaan Exploits Our Disagreements

When Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were arguing, they were doing it at the worst time in the worst scenario. In front of them was the Prophet and around them were the delegates from a new tribe that wanted to accept Islam.

Shaytaan will do whatever it takes to destroy any chance of Islam prospering. Here, he made two Muslim brothers escalate their disagreements to the point where an issue greater than choosing leadership, respecting the Prophet, was being ignored.

When things get heated in your disagreements with family, friends, or in da’wah work, never let Shaytaan use your differences to his advantage. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had both Allah and His messenger to correct them. We need to be more cautious so as to not let it happen to us.

Sensitivity to Making Mistakes

This story shows that the sahaba weren’t superhuman beings who didn’t make any mistakes whatsoever. What made them extraordinary and models for us, instead, was how they reacted to their mistakes.

Unfortunately many Muslims think of the sahaba as angels, perfect beings that make no mistakes. The sahaba never reached perfection. Instead, they reached human perfection: being sensitive to and reacting to ones’ mistakes in the best possible manner.

Danger of habata (???)- Losing All of One’s Deeds

Imagine if you found out that you and your family lost everything you ever owned and went bankrupt. No more assets, no more house or cars, and no money. Now imagine you lost all of your good deeds. Which of the two would you feel more devastated at?

The sahaba thought of losing one’s deeds as one of the worst things that could ever happen to them. When Th?bit was asked about his despair, he cried out, “an evil matter!”, referring to the thought of losing his deeds. Ibn Abi Mulaykah, who narrated the dispute between Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, said the two “almost earned destruction” when they raised their voices above that of the Prophet’s.

Allah mentions the word habata in reference to losing all deeds 16 times in the Quran. We should study up on what sins lead to bankruptcy of all deeds and make it a point to never fall into them. If even the best Muslims, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, could have lost it all, then we most definitely can to.


In just these few verses we learn so much about interacting with one another in the best ways. We know that Muslims quarrel and get into fights with one another; disputes are something that is natural between us. However, it’s how we deal with those disputes afterward that make will make us the best from mankind. The next time we fall into a dispute with our Muslim brothers or sisters, we should remember the way Abu Bakr and ‘Umar acted and reacted, as well as make sure we respect the Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his way without becoming clouded by our situation.



1. Tafsir Ibn Kathir
2. Tafsir Jalal?yn

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