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Quran and Sunnah

When Abu Bakr and Umar Nearly Lost Everything


bankrupt.jpgThe 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 Tamīm. 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‘qā‘ ibn Ma‘bad, member of Banu Mujāshi‘, take the position. ‘Umar disagreed, suggesting that the Messenger of Allah instead choose a man named Al-Aqra‘ ibn Hābis.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.2

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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.3

This command from Allah goes beyond mere volume. When issues arise in matters of the Sunnah, or the tradition and way of the Prophet, we can’t speak out over or against it. As Ibn ‘Abbās 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 Mālik’s. When students came to his house wanting to learn fiqh or ‘aqīdah, he would come out and teach them. If they wanted to learn ḥadith 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 Thābit Approach – Dreading Losing One’s Deeds

When Thābit ibn Qays Al-Shammās, a Companion 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 Thābit went home in despair and didn’t come out to the point where the Prophet and Companions 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, Thābit still feared for his life it applied to him. When we hear Allah warning or condemning anyone in the Qur’an, we should take the Thābit approach and fear that it applies to us as well.

How Shayṭān 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.

Shayṭān 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 Shayṭān 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 Companions 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 Companions as angels, perfect beings that make no mistakes. The Companions never reached perfection. Instead, they reached human perfection: being sensitive to and reacting to ones’ mistakes in the best possible manner.

Danger of ḥabaṭa (حبط)- 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 Companions thought of losing one’s deeds as one of the worst things that could ever happen to them. When Thābit 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 ḥabaṭa in reference to losing all deeds 16 times in the Qur’an. 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. Sūrah Ḥujurāt 049, verse 2
3. Tafsir Jalalāyn

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Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at



  1. zfnd

    December 15, 2008 at 1:26 AM

    Jazakallakhayr for the very Beneficial Reminde and practical application.

  2. fob

    December 15, 2008 at 2:07 AM

    can someone compile the 16 ayaat talked about in the article?

  3. Nuruddeen Lewis

    December 15, 2008 at 2:54 AM

    Masha’Allah. Excellent article. I really enjoyed it.

  4. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    December 15, 2008 at 9:14 AM

    bismillah. i think you should continue, SaqibSaab, and finish a series of 16 articles. one for each ayat. looking forward to reading all of them!!!

  5. abuadam

    December 15, 2008 at 9:46 AM

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

    Abu Bakr and Umar Radiallahu anhuma were indeed the two wings of Islaam. For an indepth study of their lives in a long weeked course run by Alkauthar Institute please visit www . alkauthar . org

  6. Naeem

    December 15, 2008 at 11:25 AM

    great way to advertise

  7. Amatullah

    December 15, 2008 at 11:44 AM

    Jazaakum Allahu khayran, this was very beneficial. Suratul Hujuraat is the surah that teaches social interaction, and I think that we should all study this surah in depth.

    Learning tafseer is so crucial, because through it we learn how to extract lessons and benefits for our own life, and through tafseer the Qur’an becomes a book of guidance.

  8. jss

    December 15, 2008 at 12:32 PM

    the pict. also added an extra dimension to the article… nice mA.

  9. MR

    December 15, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    SubhanAllah this is an excellent post! Best of the month, so far! MashaAllah!

  10. Saba

    December 15, 2008 at 3:25 PM

    Great post, mA! Loved it!

  11. alti

    December 15, 2008 at 3:51 PM

    mash’Allah very well written Saqib…as always…

    when we gonna write our review…

  12. AnonyMouse

    December 15, 2008 at 5:24 PM

    Amazing, jazakAllahu khairan.

  13. SAA

    December 16, 2008 at 12:24 AM

    Masha’Allah amazing article! JazaakAllah khayr!

    Just one lil humble feedback…since we are talking about respect and reverence, I think we should try our best to say “Sallahu alayhi wasallam” when addressing the Prophet sallahu’alayhi wasallam and “RadiAllah anhu” when addressing the sahabah’s. I know it can get tedious but insha’Allah it is to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for we are striving to show reverence to our Beloved Prophet sallahu alahi wasallam and his companions when addressing them in all or any forms…be it in writing, verbal etc.

  14. vindicated

    December 16, 2008 at 6:36 AM

    Jazakallah khair, very well written.

  15. Tanveer

    December 16, 2008 at 12:06 PM

    Jazakallah Khair SaqibSaab.

    InshaAllah, this post shall be helpful for RSI Tafsir exam :-)

  16. A Nightingale

    December 16, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    Great analysis. The Qur’an offers us so much that we don’t normally take if we read just at the surface.

    To add to what you mentioned about Thabit being afraid the verses were about him, I remember once I heard a speech about how to properly read the Qur’an. The speaker told us that when we read about other peoples’ punishments OR rewards we should pause, think about it, and either ask Allah to protect us from such punishments OR to make us among the people who recieve such reward. We shouldn’t read abt the consequences other people are given as if they have no relevance to our own lives. The reason punishments or rewards are mentioned in the Qur’an is so that we can either avoid them or strive for them.

    With that said, may Allah protect us from being amongst those whose deeds are lost.

  17. Pingback: Arguing Manners in Islam « MUSLIMOLOGY.ORG

  18. waleed

    December 16, 2008 at 8:44 PM

    Now this is a great article!!! Jazak Allah for the reminder

  19. Sadaf Sheikh

    December 17, 2008 at 6:06 AM

    JazakAllahu khayr Br. Saqib, this is such an eye opener. May Allah reward you immensely

  20. Ayesha Fatima

    December 18, 2008 at 10:06 AM

    Asak wr wb,

    This is my first time I came across this website.Mashaallah .The author did an excellent job in explaining this verse.So many thins to learn.Keep up the good work.

    Jazakumaallahu khairaa,

  21. NahyaN

    December 18, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    mashaAllah SaqibSaab, that was an excellent article.

    i especially liked the intro and the section about Umar radhiAllahu anhu’s reaction.


  22. Faiez

    December 18, 2008 at 11:27 PM

    I feel like I’m at RSI. nice vun saqbib.

    [insert other generic comment here]

  23. Umm Reem

    December 19, 2008 at 1:43 AM

    Nice read mashaAllah…

  24. Siraaj

    December 19, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    Salaam alaykum Saqib,

    Well done and very beneficial. If I could add one critique, it would be the use of the word “sunnah”. I’m sure at RSI you already discussed the varying definitions of the word sunnah, depending on the context in which it is used and / or the type of scholar using it.

    While some of us are familiar with it, the reader who doesn’t understand these differences (and there are many) may confuse the common faqeeh definition that everyone knows (highly recommended and rewarded, but not punishable if left) with how it is used in this article (which is encompassing what is waajib and what is haraam).

    I’d suggest a linked footnote to the first occurence of the word sunnah.


  25. Amad

    December 20, 2008 at 12:36 AM

    Ok, maybe I am the only one who is clueless here, but what is RSI??

  26. Faiez

    December 21, 2008 at 8:44 PM

    Amad saab, RSI is a weekend institute that saqib and I attend and it has been in Chicago for 7 or so years . Siraaj used to come also but left and sends his daughter to the kids school that happens concurrently.

  27. SaqibSaab

    December 22, 2008 at 10:04 AM

    Guys is there a school.

  28. Hamza Ahmed

    July 5, 2009 at 10:59 PM

    JazakAllahu Khayran akhee, the article is very beneficial. I never knew such a magnificent verse had such great meaning, we don’t think about that when we randomly recite Qur’aan.

    Surah Hujurat has some of my favorite verses throughout the Surah, specifically:

    “Verily the Believers are brothers of one another. So make reconciliation between them, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.”

    “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.”

    “They regard as favour upon you (O Muhammad SAW) that they have embraced Islam. Say: “Count not your Islam as a favour upon me. Nay, but Allah has conferred a favour upon you, that He has guided you to the Faith, if you indeed are true.”

    BarakAllah feekum

  29. Fayia Kanty

    March 25, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    Nice narration, but with all those stories, they Muslims can not learn from their mistakes and they are still allowing the western worlds to control them.

  30. Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 7:05 AM

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