Rightly Guided Caliphs

The Rashidun (Caliphs)

The 29 year rule of the Rashidun caliphate was Islam's first experience of leadership without the Prophet Muhammad, after his death in 632. Near the peak of its reign, the caliphate controlled territory from North Africa to Arabian Peninsula. Sunni doctrine believes that the Shura, Muslims and representatives, should elect the caliph. Followers of Shia Islam believe that the caliphate should be handed down through familial tie to the Prophet (PBUH), from the Ahl al-Bayt (People of the house) or the Prophet's family.

Abu Bakr: 632 - 634
Umar: 634 - 644
Uthman: 644 - 656
Ali: 656 - 661

Above written by Diyan Raza

Abu Bakr

Life as the Companion of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
Abu Bakr was born in Mecca in 572 AD to Abu Qahafah and Ummul Khair Salma. Abu Bakr was a neighbor to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his wife Khadijah before the Prophet had received a revelati
Thawr Cave
on from Allah. When Abu Bakr was in Yemen doing business, the Prophet received the revelation, and Abu Bakr was informed upon his return that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) declared himself as the Messenger of God. Abu Bakr accepted Mohammad as the Messenger of God, and converted to Islam. This led him to divorce his wife, Qutaylah, who did not believe in Islam. However, Um Rumun, his other wife, embraced Islam, as did all but one of his children, his son Abdur Rahman, whom he cut off as a result. Abu Bakr was a known companion to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and is believed by most Sunni Muslims to be the second person to convert to Islam. He was the only person to accompany Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Thawr Cave; the cave which is well known by many Muslims since Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Abu Bakr took shelter here to escape persecution from the Meccan tribes. Some Muslims still to this day visit the Thawr Cave when they perform the pilgrimage to Hajj.

Life as the First Caliph
After the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in 632 AD, a new leader was needed to guide the Muslim community. His leadership started the era of what was called the Rashidun by Sunni Muslims, or the era of the four rightly guided caliphs, an era lasting from 632-661. Abu Bakr was selected as the leader by a group of Muslims in Medina. This decision was one of the first steps leading to a split into the two sects of Islam, Shia and Sunni. Shia Muslims believe that the rightful successor for Prophet Muhammed was Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. It is believed by Shia Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself claimed Ali to be the successor after his death. Sunni Muslims however recall events in the life of the Prophet that indicate that Prophet Muhammed saw Abu Bakr as the best candidate to lead the Muslims. An example of this would be when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fell ill after the last pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajjatul Wida), he told Abu Bakr and only Abu Bakr to lead the daily 5 prayers. Salat is one of 5 pillars of Islam, and a very important part of being a Muslim, so this responsibility being given to Abu Bakr was a big deal. Once Abu Bakr was announced as the first caliph, turmoil began to erupt when groups of people refused to accept him as the successor of the Holy Prophet. His election caused many rebellions, many people felt as if they could only follow Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) not his successor. These tribes that refused to follow Abu Bakr also refused to pay Zakat, which is pillar of Islam that states that each person must donate a certain percentage of their wealth to charity. When these tribes refused to pay Zakat, a series of wars were initiated
Abu Bakr's Empire at Its Peak 634
called the Ridda-Wars, in which Abu Bakr formed Muslim armies to fight against those revolting against the five pillars of Islam. After the Ridda-Wars, Abu Bakr also tried to expand the Rashidun Empire. He was successful in the invasion of the Sassanid Persian Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and some of Turkey). Besides expansion of the empire, one achievement that Sunni Muslims give to Abu Bakr is putting together their holy book, the Quran. Before Abu Bakr became the leader, parts of the Quran were scattered on different papers, leaves, etc. Once it came to Abu Bakr’s knowledge that many Hafiz (people who have memorized the Quran) were dying in battles, he preserved the words of the Quran that came to Prophet Mohammad from Allah by collecting the different verses and placing them into one manuscript. Abu Bakr’s life ended on August 23, 634 by illness, and towards the end of his life, he appointed Umar to take over his position to avoid any disputes when he passed away.

Above Written by Sara Mir

Umar ibn Al-Khattab

Introduction to the Second Caliphate
Umar ibn al-Khattab, known as just Umar, or his adopted title Amir al-Muminin, which translates to Commander of the Faithful in English, converted to Islam early in the religious movement. He was born in Mecca in 581 AD to the Adi clan of the Quraysh tribe. Umar was the second of the four caliphs. He contributed to uniting, establishing and expanding the Islamic movement.

Impact on the Muslim World
During his ten year reign as caliphate Umar expanded the Islamic movement and conquered Persia, the Byzantine Empire, Jerusalem, and Alexandria in North Africa. Islam would not have spread as quickly or successfully without the help of Umar's power to unite and organize a powerufl military force. Mecca and Medina were important centers to the Muslim world religiously and strategically. Later, when Umar conquered Syria. The capital, Damascus became an important and powerful Islamic center. A unique aspect of Umar’s rule was that he granted freedom of religion to people in the lands he conquered (most people were Jews or Christians.) He made a pact with Christians in Syria and later the Jews in Jerusalem. Essentially, the pact was a list of compromises each of the groups of people Umar conquered as he spread Islam. Again, the most notable point of the pact was the freedom of religion throughout the land Umar conquered. There was a second pact that Umar made that established Islam and the Caliphate into a political institution. He organized a judiciary system, a fiscal system and systemized Arabic as the means of communication in the Islamic world. He also organized a military that would bring all of the conflicting Muslim tribes under one united force.

His Death and Legacy
Umar ibn al-Khattab’s rule ended suddenly when he was killed by Feroz Abu Lu’lu’ah, a Muslim from Persia over a personal issue. By the end of his ten year reign as Caliph he would organize and unite the Muslim world as well as expand and spread Islam exponentially. Umar's sudden death left Muslim world without a clearly chosen successor. However, the second caliphates strong organizational qualities left the people with a governing body that would elect the next successor. He appointed six men to a council, or shura, who were well-respected in the Quraysh tribe to choose his successor.

Islam origina

The green area shows the spread of Islam after the Rightly Guided Caliph expansion, most took place during Umar ibn al-Khattab rule.

Above Written by Olivia Rodbard

Uthman ibn Affan

Early Life and Conversion to Islam
Uthman ibn Affan was the third of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs. His reign took place between 644 an
Uthman's empire at its peak, 655.
Uthman's empire at its peak, 655.
d 656 AD. He was born in Ta’if (currently Saudi Arabia), circa 579 AD. He was born into the very wealthy Umayyad clan. After his father, Affan, died, he left a very large inheritance to Uthman. Uthman followed in his father’s footsteps and became a very successful business man. He was known for giving a considerable amount of his estate to charity. He was an early convert to Islam, unlike many in his tribe who denounced and despised the teachings of Muhammad. He was soon asked by Muhammad to marry his daughter, Ruqayyah bint Muhammad. Through the next part of his life, he emigrated to Abyssinia and then from there to Mecca and finally, Medina. Uthman was one of the first Muslims to memorize the Quran. Later, he would be critical in its compilation after Muhammad’s death. Uthman had a very close, but limited relationship with the first two Caliphs. He was an advisor to both Abu Bakr and Umar.

Elected as the Third Caliph and His Reforms
In 644, during Umar’s (the Second Caliph) final days, he appointed a six person commitiee to appoint the next Caliph. The commitiee chose Uthman. During his reign, Uthman expanded the Islamic empire greatly. He instituted many economic and social reforms for Islam. Being a businessman by trade, many economically prospered under his rule. He lifted many restrictions that hampered trade in the region. He also increased the allowance of the people by 25%. His most controversial refor
A very old copy of the Quran from the reign of Uthman.
A very old copy of the Quran from the reign of Uthman.
m was creating a single, universal Quran. Retrospectively, it was seen as a wise and important reform for the nation of Islam, but at the time of Uthman’s rule, it was very divisive. Many accused him of tampering with the sacred text and therefore, with Islam.

Tension Brewing Under Uthman
Another point of conflict in Uthman’s reign was his appointment of his kinsmen to governors. Many accused Uthman of giving preferential treatment to his kinsmen. Matters were exacerbated when some of his appointed governors were accused of tyrannical rule in their providences. While Uthman did his best to heed and redress the grievances against his government, a steady resistance still remained. In 656, unrest was at an all time high in Medina.

The Siege and Assassination
At that time, a siege was laid upon Uthman’s residence in Medina. He was quite clear that he did not want his servants to engage in fighting with the rebels surrounding his home. The early part of the siege was quite tame. The rebels placed no restrictions on Uthman. They allowed him to leave his home and go about his daily business, including leading prayers at the mosque in Medina. As time passed though, the rebels increased their pressure on Uthman. This was due in part to rising tensions between supporters and rebels of Uthman, including some brief, but violent clashes. He was not allowed to leave his residence and any provisions that were brought to him, were blocked. Despite his wish to keep peace, a faction of Uthman’s supporters came and fought with the rebels at the gates of his home. After a bloody exchange, the rebels were pushed back. On July 17th, 656, finding the front gate of Uthman’s home strongly guarded by his supporters, the rebels scaled the back wall and snuck inside the home. Uthman was assassinated by being clubbed in the head. Once the supporters came inside after hearing the commotion, it was too late. After much resistance, he was finally buried in Medina a few days later. His reign as Caliph lasted for 12 years.

Above Written by Alex Janis

Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib is the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and also the first male believer of Islam. Ali was a member of the Banu Hashim branch that belonged to the powerful Quraysh tribe. Sunni muslims consider Ali the fourth and final of the Rashidun (rightly guided Caliphs) while Shi'a muslims believe he was the first Imam
Imam Ali's empire in 661, light green shows Ali's claim.
and consider him the rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The decision to elect Abu Bakr over Ali split the unified community into the two major sects of Islam we have today, Sunni and Shia. After the caliphate had passed over him three times, Ali ibn Abi Talib's was finally selected as the fourth Caliph and reigned from 656 - 661 AD.
During Prophet Muhammad's lifetime
Ali was the first male to embrace Islam at the age of 10. It was reported that when Muhammad (PBUH) received the message of the Quran, he told Ali he had been sent the word of God. At that time, Ali believed him and embraced Islam. Accoriding to Shi'a doctrine, Ali embraced Islam and had never taken accepted the role of being a pagan, or committing shirk (associating partners with Allah). As a young child, Ali quickly built a strong relationship with the prophet. In fact, at the time of Ali's birth, it was the Prophet who Ali opened his eyes and saw first. Muhammad then named him Ali, meaning the exalted one. Ali's other names include: Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful), Haidar (Lion), and Asad Allah (Lion of God).

Split of the Muslim Community
Shias feel that Ali should have been the first caliph and that the caliphate should pass down only to direct descendants of Mohammed (PBUH) through Ali and Fatima, Shias often refer to themselves as Ahl al bayt or "people of the house" of the prophet. There was confrontation at the time in the community between who should be elected, Abu Bakr or Ali. Ali did not give his allegiance to Abu Bakr until the death of Fatima in order to prevent the community from bitter conflict. It is this decision which leads to the definite split between Sunnis and Shias. According to records, that both Sunni and Shias agree on, it is believed that at Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad stopped the caravan and spoke to the people. He said, "O people, I am a human being. I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Lord and I, in response to Allah's call, (would bid good-bye to you), but I am leaving among you two weighty things: the one being the Book of Allah in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it. He exhorted (us) (to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said: The second are the members of my household I remind you (of your duties) to the members of my family" (Sahih Muslim book 31). Muhammad then brought Ali by his side, raised his hand and declared, "For whoever I am a Maula of, then Ali is his Maula."

Elected as Caliph
Ali was elected as caliph when Uthman was murdered while in prayer. At the time of being elected, Muhammad's wife, Aisha opposed Ali's rise to caliphate because Ali was loose on punishing Uthman's killer. This confrontation set off a battle between Ali and Aisha. After Ali's army defeated Aisha's forces at the Battle of the Camel in 656, she apologized to Ali and was allowed to return to her home in Medina. Soon after, Uthman's cousin and governor of Damascus, Mu'awiya Ummayad also did not accept the fact that Ali was the caliph of the time. This lead to the important battle of Battle of Siffin. At Siffin, Mu'awiya's soldiers stuck verses of the Quran onto the end of their spears. Ali and his supporters refused to fight and as a result, Ali was forced to compromise with Mu'awiya. This weakened Ali's position but not definite solution came out of Suffin.
Imam Ali Mosque

It is accurately reported that on the 19th of Ramadan, while praying in Kufa, a Kharajite came up behind Ali ibn Abi Talib and stabbed him in his back with a poison-coated knife. He lived for an additional two days before passing away. Ali ibn Abi Talib is buried in Najaf, Iraq at the Imam Ali Mosque.

After his death, his oldest son, Hasan took the role of leader and the community pledged allegiance to him. Hasan was also poisoned. There are many speculations of who actually poisoned Hasan ibn Ali, but it is clear that Mu'awiya plotted his death as he saw Hasan an obstacle to himself because he wished to pass the caliphate to his own son, Yazid. Ali's youngest son, Hussain took control of the caliphate after Hassan's death. Hussain is respected by both Shi'a and Sunni as a martyr who fought tyranny. He rejected to pledge allegiance to Yazid. As a consequence, Hussain and his family were massacred at the Battle of Karbala.

Above written by Diyan Raza

References by:

Sara Mir:

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Alex Janis:

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Olivia Rodbard:
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Ali, Abdul. Caliph Ali: his life and times.


Sahih Muslim. Book 31. http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/muslim/031.smt.html