A task the Holy Prophet (SAW) referred to Abu Bakr and Umar
Source: Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, Text and Interpretation
By: Allama Abdul Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi
Some polytheists had come to the Prophet (S) for some task and he had referred to his two companions (Abu Bakr and Umar) in order to reject the polytheists’ task but they (Abu Bakr and Umar) behaved as intercessors for the polytheists.
The story was when some polytheists came to the Prophet (S) saying: “O Muhammad, we are your neighbors and allies. Some of our slaves have resorted to you neither for religion nor for jurisprudence but they have fled from our farms and properties. Please return them back to us.” The Prophet (S) did not respond to them lest they would spoil the faith of those slaves.
The Prophet (S) did not want to tell them the truth openly so he referred to Abu Bakr saying: “O Abu Bakr, what do you say?” and he hoped that Abu Bakr would reject their request. Abu Bakr said: “O Messenger of Allah, they are right.” The Prophet (S) blushed because Abu Bakr’s answer was not as Allah and His Messenger wanted. Then the Prophet (S) asked Umar hoping that he would be frank with them: “O Umar, what do you say?” Umar said: “O Messenger of Allah, they are right. They are your neighbors and allies.” The Prophet (S) blushed again…”
This tradition has been mentioned by Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad, vol.1 p.155 (traditions concerning Imam Ali) and by an-Nassa’iy in al-Khasa’is al-Alawiya, p.11. Here is the tradition as it has been mentioned by an-Nassa’iy: “…then the Messenger of Allah (S) said: “O people of Quraysh, I swear by Allah that He will empower over you a man from you, whose heart Allah has tested with faith. He will strike you to keep to the religion.” Abu Bakr said: “O Messenger of Allah, is it me?” The Prophet (S) said: “It is the one who is mending the shoes.” The Prophet (S) had given his shoes to Ali in order to mend them.”