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Abū Bakr (d. 13/634) is regarded as one of the most preeminent companions of the Prophet Muhammad by the majority of (Sunni) Muslims. In the Islamic tradition, he is noted for his early conversion to Islam, his close companionship to the Prophet, his service for the Islamic cause, his exemplary generosity, his participation in the major battles of early Islam, and his caliphate. Yet, all these aspects of Abū Bakr’s life were not arranged into a coherent biography immediately upon his death. Rather, they circulated in dispersed (mostly oral) accounts for about two centuries. They were narrated in disparate forms, transmitted in different places, circulated in various intellectual circles, and redacted according to varying interests and needs. It was only when they found their way into the books of the 3rd/9th century that they acquired the shape(s) in which they would survive for over a millennium. This dissertation aims to study the emergence of Abū Bakr’s image as the best Muslim after the Prophet, with the superior qualities attributed to him. It is concerned with a thorough examination of the narratives that fostered the formation of Abū Bakr’s image and seeks to reconstruct their earliest forms, which often began to circulate in first half of the 2nd/8th century. The analysis then traces their subsequent evolution, and identifies various redactorial efforts that gave them new shapes over the course of the 2nd/8th century. The approach towards the narrative material comprises a combination of different methods of textual analysis: (a) isnād-cum-matn analysis; (b) the reconstruction of accounts from earlier sources; and (c) narrative analysis. This methodology will be applied to narratives about three prominent aspects of Abū Bakr’s life, which act as case studies. They include (1) Abū Bakr’s conversion to Islam; (2) the explanations offered for the origin of Abū Bakr’s title al-sidd ιq; and (3) the narratives about Abū Bakr’s emancipation of Bil?l. The final analysis offers a survey of the geographical distribution of the individual accounts. This manner of presentation not only allows for a comparison of the character of the narratives that circulated in the 2nd/8th century in Medina, Basra, Kufa, and Baghdad, but also shows the evolution of the accounts.


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