What Is the Basis for the Superiority of Abu Bakr over ’Ali?

Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel 


What is the basis for the superiority of Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) over Sayyiduna ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him)?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

I pray you are well.

Thank you for your question.

The Superiority of Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him)

It is the belief of the majority of Ahl al-Sunna say that Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) was superior and virtuous over all the other companions, as mentioned in al-‘Aqida al-Tahawiyya:

We assert that the caliphate after the death of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) was first for Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, due to his excellence and superiority over the rest of the Muslims; then to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab; then to ‘Uthman; and then to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib; may Allah be well pleased with all of them. These are the Rightly Guided Caliphs and upright leaders.

Also, it has been transmitted throughout the centuries through scholars and books that Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) was superior and virtuous over all the other companions.

Quranic Evidence and Support

It is supported by the verse of Surat al-Tawba stating that he was “the Second of Two,” and the Prophetic hadiths stating that the third of those two is Allah Most High Himself, and that if the Prophet had a friend besides Allah, it would be Abu Bakr, and the mass transmissions from the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, alluding to the preference of his successorship, in addition to the explicit statements of the foremost Companions that he was the best of human beings after the Prophet, including that of our master `Ali himself ( Allah be well-pleased with all of them).

(Read link “Is there Consensus Regarding the Superiority of Abu Bakr Over Ali” below.)

In fact, some scholars have paused on this issue and do not show any superiority. [Taqi Usmani, Takmila al-Fathu ‘l-Mulhim; Fawda, al-Sharh al-Kabir ‘ala al-‘Aqida al-Tahawiyya]

Hadith Evidence

Jubayr ibn Mut‘im reported: A woman came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he ordered her to return again. She said, “What if I come and I do not find you?” It was as if she wanted to say, “If I find you dead?” The Prophet said, “If you do not find me, go to Abu Bakr.” [Bukhari; Muslim]

Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi reported: Bakr ibn Abdullah al-Muzani said, “Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), was not favored over people because of an abundance of fasting and prayer. Rather, he was only favored over them because of something that settled in his heart.” [Nawadir al-Usul]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Where are the likes of Abu Bakr? People rejected my message, and he affirmed it, gave his daughter into my marriage, supported me with his wealth, comforted me by himself, and fought with me during times of fear.” [Bukhari]

The two Imams of Belief, Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari affirm that our scholars unanimously agree, that the most superior are the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs in the order of their caliphate. [Laqqani, ‘Umdat al-Murid Sharh al-Jawhara al-Tawhid]

Opinion of Ordinary Malikis

According to Imam Malik, there is a consensus among the People of Madina over the superiority of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them both). [Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Istidhkar]

‘Ijma (Consensus)

‘Ijma is the agreement of the scholars of the Muslims existing at one particular period after the Prophet’s death about a particular ruling regarding a matter or event. [Khallaf, ‘Ilm Usul al-Fiqh]

Discussion of a Non-Sahabi Over the Superiority of a Companion

Yes, a non-Sahabi can discuss the superiority and non-superiority of a companion, like it has been discussed throughout the centuries by scholars, pious Muslims, etc. but with love, respect, and intending to follow their ways and conduct. Those who did otherwise were deprived of their true purpose and ways and became astray.

Linked Answers:

I pray this helps with your question.


[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied within UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

He started his early education in UK. He went onto complete hifz of Qur’an in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in UK where he studied the secular and Alimiyyah sciences. He then travelled to Karachi, Pakistan.

He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Qur’an, Tajwid, Fiqh and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences.

He currently resides in UK with his wife. His personal interest is love of books and gardening.

Arabic References:

وحكى مالك إجماع أهل المدينة على ذلك فقال: (ما أدركت أحدًا ممن يقتدى به يشك في تقديم أبي بكر وعمر) [الاستذكار لابن عبد البر]