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A Brief Look at Saqifah

The Muslims of Medina were of mainly of two groups: the Ansar (the ‘helpers’ natives of Medina) and the Muhajirin (the immigrants mostly the Qurayshi who migrated from Mecca). The Ansar themselves consisted of two tribes: the Aws and Khazraj who were enemies of each other in pre-Islamic days.
After the Prophet's death and even before his burial, the Ansar gathered in Saqifah and proposed to declare Sa‘d bin Ubadah (an Ansari from the tribe of Khazraj) as the new leader of the Muslims. Some among them started a discussion about how should they respond if the Qurayshi disputed with them in the issue of leadership.
While this discussion was going on among the Ansar in Saqifah, Umar ibn Khattab (a Qurayshi Muhajir) was informed about it. He sent for Abu Bakr who left the Prophet's body and joined Umar. In Saqifah, Abu Bakr gave a speech in which he exhorted the virtues of the Muhajirin and proposed that the leader should be from the Muhajirin. He ended his speech as follows: “So we are the rulers, and you are the ministers and the counselors. We will not do anything without consulting you.”
Habab ibn Mundhir, an Ansari, stood up and said, “O Ansar, beware! Take the reins of government in your hands; for the people [i.e., Muhajirin] are under your protection, no one can quarrel with you. Do not fall out between yourselves, so that what you do is ruined.”
Umar, a Muhajir, responded: “That can never be! The Arabs would never submit to your rule; they will not yield, for the Prophet was not from you.” Then very heated words were exchanged between Habab and Umar.
In the middle of all this chaos, Umar swore allegiance to Abu-Bakr. Then Bashir ibn Saad, leader of the Aws tribe of Ansar, swore allegiance to Abu-Bakr. Seeing this, the other Ansaris of the tribe of Khazraj also pledged allegiance so as not to lose favor in the eyes of Abu-Bakr against their rival Aws!
This is the basis of Abu-Bakr's caliphate.


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