The first caliph of Islam Ḥaḍrat Amīr al-Muʾminīn Sayyidinā Abū Bakr aṣ-Ṣiddīq radiyAllahu anhu is the best of humans after the prophets, the direct caliph of the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu ta’ala alaihi waSallam and his best friend. His name on earth was ʿAbd-Allāh and his name in the heavens was al-Ḥalīm (gentle and forbearing). Today he is known as Abū Bakr and his title is aṣ-Ṣiddīq (the most truthful), Allah be pleased with him.
He was Abū Bakr son of ʿUs̱mān Abū Qaḥāfah ibn ʿĀmir ibn ʿAmr ibn Ghālib ibn Fahr ibn Mālik ibn Naḍr ibn Kinānah ibn Mudrak ibn Ilyās ibn Maḍr ibn Nazār ibn Maʿdan ibn ʿAdnān.
He was born two years and few months later than the Final Prophet sallAllahu alaihi waSallam. He was the first among men who converted to Islam.
The most superior
It is a collective agreement [Ijmāʿ] of the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah that the greatest person in this Ummah is Abū Bakr, then ʿUmar, then ʿUs̱mān and then ʿAlī, radiyAllahu anhum. The greatest Sufi masters have also affirmed this tenet of the Sunnī creed.
The light of the Ahl al-Bait Sayyidinā Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (d.114H/733) alaihi as-Salam said:
“Whoever did not recognize the superiority of Abū Bakr and ʿUmar radiyAllahu anhuma, he is ignorant of the Sunnah.” (Hilyat al-Awliya)
Imām Ghazālī (d.505H/1111) writes in his magnum opus Iḥyā ʿUlūm ad-Din:
“And the best of the people after the Prophet sallAllahu alaihi waSallam is Abū Bakr, then ʿUmar, then ʿUs̱mān, then ʿAlī (radiyAllahu anhum).”
The head of the Awliyā, the greatest Ghawth and founder of the Qādrī Order, Sayyidinā Ghawth al-Aʿzam Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (d.561H/1166) radiyAllahu anhu writes:
“The greatest amoung the four (caliphs) is Abū Bakr, then ʿUmar, then ʿUs̱mān, then ʿAlī radiyAllahu anhum.” [Ghunyat at-Talibin]
The great Sufi theologian, called The Greatest Shaikh [Shaikh al-Akbar], Muḥy ad-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī (d.638H/1240) quddisa sirruhu writes:
“Know that there is none in the Nation of Muḥammad sallAllahu alaihi waSallam who is superior than Abū Bakr, save ʿĪsā alaihi as-Salam.” [Futuhat Ibn Arabi]
The founder of the Mujaddidī Order Sayyidinā Imām Rabbānī Shaikh Aḥmad Sirhindī radiyAllahu anhu writes in the Maktūbāt:
“And the absolute caliph after the Seal of the Messengers ʿalaihi wa ʿalā ālihiṣ-ṣalātu was-salām is Ḥaḍrat Abū Bakr radiyAllahu anhu, after him is Ḥaḍrat ʿUmar radiyAllahu anhu, after him is ʿUs̱mān Dhun-Nūrain radiyAllahu anhu, after him is ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib radiyAllahu anhu. Their superiority is on the order of their caliphate.” [Maktubat volume II]
Some Sufi masters even consider it a major sin to consider Sayyidinā ʿAlī superior than Abū Bakr radiyAllahu anhuma. Such is the creed of the great Naqshbandi scholar and author Shāh Faqīr-Allāh ʿAlawī Shikārpurī (d.1195H/1781), who writes:
“To call Ḥaḍrat ʿAlī radiyAllahu anhu superior than Ḥaḍrat Abū Bakr and Ḥaḍrat ʿUmar radiyAllahu anhuma is also a major sin [Kabāʾir adh-Dhunūb].” [Qutb al-Irshad]
The next in the Naqshbandī Mujaddidī Tāhirī spiritual golden chain is Sayyidinā Salmān al-Farsī.