One of the first followers of Muhammad who, in 632, became the first of the four "rightly guided" caliphs. Abu Bakr repeatedly led the Muslim community in prayer in the lifetime of the Prophet. The latter used to call him by his patronyms of Abu Bakr and Ibn Abi Quhafa, and named him with the attributes "The Most Truthful" (al-Siddîq) and "Allah’s Freedman From the Fire" (`Atîq Allâh min al-nâr). The Prophet confirmed his high rank in many of his sayings, among them:
"Allah gave one of His servants a choice between this world and what He has with Him, and that servant chose what Allah has with Him." Abu Bakr wept profusely and we wondered why he wept, since the Prophet had told of a servant that was given a choice. The Prophet himself was that servant, as Abu Bakr later told us. The Prophet continued: "Among those most dedicated to me in his companionship and property is Abu Bakr. If I were to take an intimate friend other than my Lord, I would take Abu Bakr. But what binds us is the brotherhood of Islam and its love. Let no door [of the Prophet’s mosque] remain open except Abu Bakr’s."
"I am excused, before each of my friends, of any intimate friendship with anyone. But if I were to take an intimate friend, I would take Ibn Abi Quhafa as my intimate friend. Verily, your Companion is the intimate friend of Allah!"
"You [Abu Bakr] are my companion at the Basin and my companion in the Cave."
"Call Abu Bakr and his son so that I will put something down in writing, for I fear lest someone ambitious forward a claim, and Allah and the believers refuse anyone other than Abu Bakr."
Sage Al-Suyuti relates a description of Abu Bakr: "He was a man with fair skin, thin, emaciated, with a sparse beard, a slightly hunched frame, sunken eyes and protruding forehead, and the bases of his fingers were hairless." He was the foremost genealogist of the Quraysh and the best of them at interpreting dreams after the Prophet. His caliphate lasted two years and three months in which he opened up the lands of Syria and Iraq for the Muslims, suppressed apostasy among the Arab tribes, and fought the pseudo-Prophets al-Aswad al-`Ansi.
Imam al-Nawawi pointed out that Abu Bakr’s genealogical tree alone regroups four successive generations of Companions of the Prophet: his father Abu Quhafa, himself, his daughter Asma’, and her son `Abd Allah, in addition to Abu Bakr’s son `Abd al-Rahman and his grandson Abu `Atiq. Nawawi states that only one hundred and forty-two hadiths of the Prophet are narrated from Abu Bakr commenting, "The reason for this scarcity, despite the seniority of his companionship to the Prophet, is that his death pre-dated the dissemination of hadiths and the endeavor of the Followers to hear, gather, and preserve them." Among Abu Bakr’s sayings: "Whoever fights his ego for Allah’s sake, Allah will protect Him against what He hates."
Sources: Saudi Aramco World, (January-February 2002); Abu Bakr al-Siddiq