The Rashidun Caliphate reached its greatest extent under Caliph Uthman, in 654.
|Languages||Arabic, Aramaic/Syriac, Baloch, Berber, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Middle Persian, Kurdish, Vulgar Latin, Semitic languages, Iranian languages|
|Succeeded by Hasan (661), then Muawiyah I (661-680)|
|•||Established||8 June 632|
|•||First Fitna (internal conflict) ends||28 July 661|
|•||655||6,400,000 km2 (2,500,000 sq mi)|
|Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين), Caliph (خليفة)|
The Rashidun Caliphate (Arabic: اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلرَّاشِدَةُ al-Khilāfa-al-Rāshidah) (632–661) was the first of the four major caliphates established after the death of the Islamic ProphetMuhammad. It was ruled by the first four successive caliphs (successors) of Muhammad after his death in 632 CE (AH 11). These caliphs are collectively known in Sunni Islam as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs (اَلْخُلَفَاءُ ٱلرَّاشِدُونَal-Khulafā’ur-Rāshidūn). This term is not 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 100,000 men. By the 650s, 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 632 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 632 to his death in 634. Abu Bakr was succeeded by Umar, his appointed successor from the Banu Adi clan, who began the conquest of Persia from 642 to 651, leading to the defeat of the Sassanid Empire. Umar was assassinated in 644 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. Uthman was assassinated in 656 and succeeded by Ali, who presided over the civil war known as the First Fitna (656–661). 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. A third faction in the war supported the governor of Egypt Amr ibn al-As. The war was decided in favour of the faction of Muawiyah, who established the Umayyad Caliphate in 661.
After Muhammad's death in 632 CE, his Medinancompanions debated which of them should succeed him in running the affairs of the Muslims while Muhammad's household was busy with his burial. Umar and Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah pledged their loyalty to Abu Bakr, with the Ansar and the Quraysh soon following suit. Abu Bakr thus became the first Khalīfaṫu Rasūli l-Lāh (خَـلِـيْـفَـةُ رَسُـوْلِ الله, "Successor of the Messenger of God"), or Caliph, and embarked on campaigns to propagate Islam. 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 famoushadith 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. Furthermore, according to other hadiths in Sunan Abu Dawood and Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, towards the end times, the Rightly Guided Caliphate will be restored once again by God.
Succession of Abu Bakr
See also: Succession to Muhammad
Abu Bakr, the oldest companion of Muhammad, was caliph for only 2 years before he died. When Muhammad died, Abu Bakr and Umar, his two companions, were in the Saqifah meeting to select his successor while the family of Muhammad was busy with his funeral. Controversy among the Muslims emerged about whom to name as Caliph. There was disagreement between the Meccan followers of Muhammad who had emigrated with him in 622 (the Muhajirun "Emigrants") and the Medinans who had become followers (Ansar "Helpers"). The Ansar, considering themselves being the hosts and loyal companions of Muhammad, nominated Sad bin Ubadah as their candidate for the Caliphate. In the end, however, Muhammad's closest friend, Abu Bakr, was named the khalifa (caliph) or "Successor" of Muhammad. A new circumstance had formed a new, untried political formation: the caliphate.
Troubles emerged soon after Muhammad's death, threatening the unity and stability of the new community and state. Apostasy spread to every tribe in the Arabian Peninsula with the exception of the people in Mecca and Medina, the Banu Thaqif in Ta'if and the Bani Abdul Qais of Oman. 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 first incident of apostasy was fought and concluded while Muhammad still lived; a supposed prophet Aswad Ansi arose and invaded South Arabia; he was killed on 30 May 632 (6 Rabi' al-Awwal, 11 Hijri) by Governor Fērōz of Yemen, a Persian Muslim. The news of his death reached Medina shortly after the death 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. Caliph Abu Bakr insisted that they had not just submitted to a leader but joined an ummah (أُمَّـة, community) of which he was the new head. The result of this situation was the Ridda wars.
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. After a series of successful campaigns Khalid ibn Walid defeated Musaylimah in the Battle of Yamama. The Campaign on the Apostasy was fought and completed during the eleventh year of the Hijri. The year 12 Hijri dawned on 18 March 633 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. He sent general Khalid ibn Walid to invade the Sasanianan Empire in 633. He thereafter also sent four armies to invade the Roman province of Syria, but the decisive operation was only undertaken when Khalid, after completing the conquest of Iraq, was transferred to the Syrian front in 634.
Succession of Umar
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 634, Umar was confirmed in office. The new caliph continued the war of conquests begun by his predecessor, pushing further into the Sasanian Persian Empire, north into Byzantine territory, and west into Egypt. It is an important fact to note that Umar never participated in any battle as a commander of a Muslim Army throughout his life. These were regions of great wealth controlled by powerful states, but long internecine conflict between Byzantines and Sasanians had left both sides militarily exhausted, and the Islamic armies easily prevailed against them. By 640, they had brought all of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine under the control of the Rashidun Caliphate; Egypt was conquered by 642, and the entire Persian Empire by 643.
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 booty 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 622, the year of the Hijra when Muhammad emigrated to Medina.
Umar was killed in an assassination by the Persian slave Piruz Nahavandi during morning prayers in 644.
Election of Uthman
Main article: The election of Uthman
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 number. 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 a companion to the Prophet 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 caliph, during the first half of his reign he enjoyed a position of the most popular caliph among all the Rashiduns, while in the later half of his reign he met increasing opposition. This opposition was led by the Egyptians and was 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. Also coastal Sicily was raided in 652. The Rashidun army fully conquered the Sasanian Empire, and its eastern frontiers extended up to the lower Indus River.
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.
Siege of Uthman
Main article: Siege of Uthman
After a protest turned into a siege, Uthman refused to initiate any military action, in order to avoid civil war between Muslims, and preferred negotiations. After the negotiations, the protestors returned but found a man following them, holding an order to execute the protestors. The protestors returned and Uthman swore that he did not write the order. He refuted the claim and tried to talk it through. The protestors demanded he retire from being a caliph. Uthman refused and returned to his room. This emboldened the protestors and they broke into Uthman's house and killed him while he was reading the Qur'an. It was later discovered that it was not his autograph, but a forgery under his cousin Mu'awiya's autograph.
Crisis and fragmentation
Main article: First Fitna
After the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, the Companions of Muhammad in Medina selected Ali to be the new Caliph who had been passed over for the leadership three times since the death of Muhammad. 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, Ayesha, set out to fight the perpetrators. The army reached Basra and captured it, upon which 4,000 suspected seditionists were put to death. Subsequently, Ali turned towards Basra and the caliph's army met the army of Muslims who demanded revenge for the murder of Uthman. 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 the rebels who were involved in the assassination of Uthman initiated combat, as they were afraid that as a result of negotiation between Ali and the opposing army, the killers of Uthman would be hunted down and killed. The battle thus fought was the first battle between Muslims and is known as the Battle of the Camel. The Caliphate under Ali emerged victorious and the dispute was settled. The eminent companions of Mohammad, Talha and Zubayr, were killed in the battle and Ali sent his son Hasan ibn Ali to escort Ayesha back to Medina.
After this episode of Islamic history, another cry for revenge for the blood of Uthman rose. This time it was 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 at the Battle of Siffin leading to a stalemate, and then lost a controversial arbitration that ended with arbiter 'Amr ibn al-'As pronouncing his support for Mu'awiya. After this Ali was forced to fight the rebellious Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan, 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 661, Ali was assassinated by Ibn Muljam as part of a Kharijite plot to assassinate all the different Islamic leaders meaning to end the civil war, whereas 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 names his son Yazid I successor). Hasan was assassinated, and Mu'awiya gained control of the Caliphate and founded the Umayyad Caliphate, marking the end of the Rashidun Caliphate.
The Rashidun Caliphate expanded steadily; within the span of 24 years of conquest, a vast territory was conquered comprising Mesopotamia, the Levant, parts of Anatolia, and most of the Sasanian Empire.
Unlike the Sasanian Persians, the Byzantines, after losing Syria, retreated back to Anatolia. 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 Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire to recover.
Conquest of the Persian empire
Further information: Islamic conquest of Persia
The first Islamic invasion of the Sasanian Empire launched by Caliph Abu Bakr in 633 was a swift conquest in the time span of only four months led by general Khalid ibn Walid. Abu Bakr sent Khalid to conquer Mesopotamia after the Ridda wars. After entering Iraq with his army of 18,000, Khalid won decisive victories in four consecutive battles: the Battle of Chains, fought in April 633; the Battle of River, fought in the third week of April 633; the Battle of Walaja, fought in May 633 (where he successfully used a pincer movement), and the Battle of Ullais, fought in mid May of 633. In the last week of May 633, the capital city of Iraq fell to the Muslims after initial resistance in the Battle of Hira.
After resting his armies, Khalid moved in June 633 towards Al Anbar, which resisted and was defeated in the Battle of Al-Anbar, and eventually surrendered after a siege of a few weeks in July 633. Khalid then moved towards the south, and conquered the city of Ein ul Tamr after the Battle of ein-ul-tamr
Expansion under the Prophet Muhammad, 622-632
Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632-661
Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750
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Folio from a Qur'an Manuscript in Mayil ("Leaning") Script
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Folio from the "Blue Qur'an"
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Bifolium from the "Nurse's Qur'an" (Mushaf al-Hadina)
Folio from a Qur'an manuscript
Folio from a Qur'an manuscript
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