In their order of succession to Muhammad, these caliphs are: Abu Bakr r. According to the Sunni view of Islam's earliest history, the prophet Muhammad did not designate anyone to succeed him. Muhammad having been the last of God's prophets, the question, in any case, was of succession to the polity he had founded in Medina, not to his prophetical office. It was therefore left to the community to decide on his succession, and after some discussion and uncertainty a number of the Prophet's Companions elected Abu Bakr , a leading member of the community and Muhammad's father-in-law, as the first caliph. Before his death two years later c. No other period in the history of Islam has been the subject of greater debate than the events of the Fitna.
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It was ruled by the first four successive caliphs successors of Muhammad after his death in CE AH This term is not widely used in Shia Islam as Shia Muslims do not consider the rule of the first three caliphs as legitimate. The Rashidun Caliphate is characterized by a twenty-five year period of rapid military expansion , followed by a five-year period of internal strife.
The Rashidun Army at its peak numbered more than , men. By the s, the caliphate in addition to the Arabian Peninsula had subjugated the Levant , to the Transcaucasus in the north; North Africa from Egypt to present-day Tunisia in the west; and the Iranian plateau to parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the east. The caliphate arose out of the death of Muhammad in CE and the subsequent debate over the succession to his leadership.
Abu Bakr , a close companion of Muhammad from the Banu Taym clan, was elected the first Rashidun leader and began the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula. He ruled from to his death in Abu Bakr was succeeded by Umar , his appointed successor from the Banu Adi clan, who continued the conquest of Persia , eventually leading to the fall of the Sasanian Empire in Umar was assassinated in  and was succeeded by Uthman , who was elected by a six-person committee arranged by Umar.
Under Uthman began the conquest of Armenia , Fars and Khorasan. The war was primarily between those who supported Uthman's cousin and governor of the Levant, Muawiyah , and those who supported the caliph Ali.
The civil war permanently consolidated the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims, with Shia Muslims believing Ali to be the first rightful caliph and Imam after Muhammad. The war was decided in favour of the faction of Muawiyah, who established the Umayyad Caliphate in After Muhammad 's death in CE, his Medinan companions debated which of them should succeed him in running the affairs of the Muslims while Muhammad's household was busy with his burial. First he would have to subdue the Arabian tribes which had claimed that although they pledged allegiance to Muhammad and accepted Islam, they owed nothing to Abu Bakr.
As a caliph, Abu Bakr was not a monarch and never claimed such a title; nor did any of his three successors. Rather, their election and leadership were based upon merit.
Notably, according to Sunnis, all four Rashidun Caliphs were connected to Muhammad through marriage, were early converts to Islam,  were among ten who were explicitly promised paradise , were his closest companions by association and support and were often highly praised by Muhammad and delegated roles of leadership within the nascent Muslim community.
According to Sunni Muslims, the term Rashidun Caliphate is derived from a famous  hadith of Muhammad, where he foretold that the caliphate after him would last for 30 years  the length of the Rashidun Caliphate and would then be followed by kingship. In the immediate aftermath of the death of Muhammad, a gathering of the Ansar natives of Medina took place in the Saqifah courtyard of the Banu Sa'ida clan. Nevertheless, Abu Bakr and Umar , both prominent companions of Muhammad, upon learning of the meeting became concerned of a potential coup and hastened to the gathering.
Upon arriving, Abu Bakr addressed the assembled men with a warning that an attempt to elect a leader outside of Muhammad's own tribe, the Quraysh , would likely result in dissension as only they can command the necessary respect among the community. He then took Umar and another companion, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah , by the hand and offered them to the Ansar as potential choices.
He was countered with the suggestion that the Quraysh and the Ansar choose a leader each from among themselves, who would then rule jointly. The group grew heated upon hearing this proposal and began to argue amongst themselves. Umar hastily took Abu Bakr's hand and swore his own allegiance to the latter, an example followed by the gathered men.
Abu Bakr was near-universally accepted as head of the Muslim community under the title of Caliph as a result of Saqifah, though he did face contention as a result of the rushed nature of the event.
Several companions, most prominent among them being Ali ibn Abi Talib , initially refused to acknowledge his authority. Whether his candidacy for the succession was raised during Saqifah is unknown, though it is not unlikely. Troubles emerged soon after Muhammad's death, threatening the unity and stability of the new community and state.
In some cases, entire tribes apostatised. Others merely withheld zakat , the alms tax, without formally challenging Islam. Many tribal leaders made claims to prophethood; some made it during the lifetime of Muhammad. The apostasy of al-Yamama was led by another supposed prophet, Musaylimah ,  who arose before Muhammad's death; other centers of the rebels were in the Najd , Eastern Arabia known then as al-Bahrayn and South Arabia known as al-Yaman and including the Mahra.
Many tribes claimed that they had submitted to Muhammad and that with Muhammad's death, their allegiance was ended. Abu Bakr planned his strategy accordingly. He divided the Muslim army into several corps. The strongest corps, and the primary force of the Muslims, was the corps of Khalid ibn al-Walid. This corps was used to fight the most powerful of the rebel forces. Other corps were given areas of secondary importance in which to bring the less dangerous apostate tribes to submission.
Abu Bakr's plan was first to clear Najd and Western Arabia near Medina, then tackle Malik ibn Nuwayrah and his forces between the Najd and al-Bahrayn, and finally concentrate against the most dangerous enemy, Musaylimah and his allies in al-Yamama.
The year 12 Hijri dawned on 18 March with the Arabian peninsula united under the caliph in Medina. Once the rebellions had been put down, Abu Bakr began a war of conquest. Whether or not he intended a full-out imperial conquest is hard to say; he did, however, set in motion a historical trajectory that in just a few short decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history. Abu Bakr began with Iraq , the richest province of the Sasanian Empire.
Despite the initial reservations of his advisers, Abu Bakr recognised the military and political prowess in Umar and desired him to succeed as caliph. The decision was enshrined in his will, and on the death of Abu Bakr in , Umar was confirmed in office. The new caliph continued the war of conquests begun by his predecessor, pushing further into the Sassanian Empire , north into Byzantine territory, and went into Egypt.
These were regions of great wealth controlled by powerful states, but the long conflict between Byzantines and Persians had left both sides militarily exhausted, and the Islamic armies easily prevailed against them.
By , they had brought all of Mesopotamia , Syria and Palestine under the control of the Rashidun Caliphate; Egypt was conquered by , and the entire Sassanian Empire by While the caliphate continued its rapid expansion, Umar laid the foundations of a political structure that could hold it together.
He created the Diwan , a bureau for transacting government affairs. The military was brought directly under state control and into its pay. Crucially, in conquered lands, Umar did not require that non-Muslim populations convert to Islam, nor did he try to centralize government.
Instead, he allowed subject populations to retain their religion, language, and customs, and he left their government relatively untouched, imposing only a governor amir and a financial officer called an amil.
These new posts were integral to the efficient network of taxation that financed the empire. With the bounty secured from conquest, Umar was able to support its faith in material ways: the companions of Muhammad were given pensions on which to live, allowing them to pursue religious studies and exercise spiritual leadership in their communities and beyond.
Umar is also remembered for establishing the Islamic calendar; it is lunar like the Arabian calendar, but the origin is set in , the year of the Hijra when Muhammad emigrated to Medina. Umar was assassinated by the Persian slave Piruz Nahavandi during morning prayers in Before Umar died, he appointed a committee of six men to decide on the next caliph, and charged them with choosing one of their own numbers.
All of the men, like Umar, were from the tribe of Quraysh. The committee narrowed down the choices to two: Uthman and Ali. Ali was from the Banu Hashim clan the same clan as Muhammad of the Quraish tribe, and he was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and had been one of his companions from the inception of his mission.
Uthman was from the Umayyad clan of the Quraish. He was the second cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and one of the early converts of Islam. Uthman was ultimately chosen. Uthman reigned for twelve years as a caliph. During the first half of his reign, he was the most popular caliph among all the Rashiduns , while in the later half of his reign he met increasing opposition, led by the Egyptians and concentrated around Ali, who would albeit briefly, succeed Uthman as caliph.
Despite internal troubles, Uthman continued the wars of conquest started by Umar. The Rashidun army conquered North Africa from the Byzantines and even raided Spain , conquering the coastal areas of the Iberian peninsula , as well as the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus.
Uthman's most lasting project was the final compilation of the Qur'an. Under his authority diacritics were written with the Arabic letters so that non-native speakers of Arabic could easily read the Qur'an without difficulty.
After a protest turned into a siege on his house, Uthman refused to initiate any military action, in order to avoid civil war between Muslims, and preferred to negotiate a peaceful solution. Uthman swore that he did not write the order and to talk the protesters down. The protesters responded by demanding he step down as caliph.
Uthman refused and returned to his room, whereupon the protesters broke into Uthman's house and killed him while he was reading the Qur'an. After the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, the Companions of Muhammad in Medina selected Ali, who had been passed over for the leadership three times since the death of Muhammad, to be the new Caliph. Soon thereafter, Ali dismissed several provincial governors, some of whom were relatives of Uthman, and replaced them with trusted aides, such as Malik al-Ashtar and Salman the Persian.
Ali then transferred his capital from Medina to Kufa , a Muslim garrison city in current-day Iraq. Demands to take revenge for the assassination of Caliph Uthman rose among parts of the population, and a large army of rebels led by Zubayr , Talha and the widow of Muhammad, Aisha , set out to fight the perpetrators. The army reached Basra and captured it, whereupon 4, suspected seditionists were put to death. Subsequently, Ali turned towards Basra and the caliph's army met the rebel army.
Though neither Ali nor the leaders of the opposing force, Talha and Zubayr, wanted to fight, a battle broke out at night between the two armies. It is said, according to Sunni Muslim traditions, that those who were involved in the assassination of Uthman initiated combat, as they were afraid that negotiations between Ali and the opposing army would result in their capture and execution.
The battle thus fought was the first battle between Muslims and is known as the Battle of the Camel. Ali emerged victorious and the dispute was settled. Thereafter, there rose another cry for revenge for the blood of Uthman, this time by Mu'awiya , kinsman of Uthman and governor of the province of Syria. However, it is regarded more as an attempt by Mu'awiya to assume the caliphate, rather than to take revenge for Uthman's murder. Ali fought Mu'awiya's forces to a stalemate at the Battle of Siffin , and then lost a controversial arbitration that ended with the arbiter, 'Amr ibn al-'As , pronouncing his support for Mu'awiya.
After this Ali was forced to fight the Battle of Nahrawan against the rebellious Kharijites , a faction of his former supporters who, as a result of their dissatisfaction with the arbitration, opposed both Ali and Mu'awiya. Weakened by this internal rebellion and a lack of popular support in many provinces, Ali's forces lost control over most of the caliphate's territory to Mu'awiya while large sections of the empire—such as Sicily , North Africa , the coastal areas of Spain and some forts in Anatolia —were also lost to outside empires.
In , Ali was assassinated by Ibn Muljam as part of a Kharijite plot to assassinate all the different Islamic leaders in an attempt to end the civil war, but the Kharijites failed to assassinate Mu'awiya and 'Amr ibn al-'As. Ali's son Hasan ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, briefly assumed the caliphate and came to an agreement with Mu'awiya to fix relations between the two groups of Muslims that were each loyal to one of the two men.
The treaty stated that Mu'awiya would not name a successor during his reign, and that he would let the Islamic world choose the next leader this treaty would later be broken by Mu'awiya as he named his son Yazid I successor.
Hasan was assassinated, and Mu'awiya founded the Umayyad Caliphate , supplanting the Rashidun Caliphate. The Rashidun Caliphate expanded steadily; within the span of 24 years, a vast territory was conquered comprising Mesopotamia , the Levant , parts of Anatolia , and most of the Sasanian Empire. As a result, they also lost Egypt to the invading Rashidun army, although the civil wars among the Muslims halted the war of conquest for many years, and this gave time for the Byzantine Empire to recover.
The first Islamic invasion of the Sasanian Empire, launched by Caliph Abu Bakr in , was a swift conquest, taking only four months.
The caliphate of Hasan ibn Ali is sometimes also considered to be Rashidun as well but since it was merely a six month period it is not mentioned categorically. The Rashidun were either elected by a council see the election of Uthman and Islamic democracy or chosen based on the wishes of their predecessor. He prevented the recently converted Muslims from dispersing, kept the community united, and consolidated Islamic grip on the region by containing the Ridda , while extending the Dar Al Islam all the way to the Red Sea. Dhu al-Hijjah 26, 23 Hijri  was a leading companion and adviser to Muhammad. His daughter Hafsa bint Umar was married to Muhammad; thus he became Muhammad's father-in-law. He became the second Muslim caliph after Muhammad's death and ruled for 10 years. Under Umar the Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate ruling the whole Sassanid Persian Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire.
As successor to the Prophet, the Caliph was the head of the Muslim community and his primary responsibility was to continue in the path of the Prophet SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam. He was a ruler over Muslims but not their sovereign since sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. He was to be obeyed as long as he obeyed Allah. He was responsible for creating and maintaining conditions under which it would be easy for Muslims to live according to Islamic principles, and to see that justice was done to all.
It effected the expansion of the Islamic state beyond Arabia into Iraq , Syria , Palestine, Egypt , Iran , and Armenia and, with it, the development of an elite class of Arab soldiers. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback.