With the death of Muhammad, a new leader was needed. And so began the time of the Caliphs. The first four Caliphs were men who had personally known Muhammad. They were, in order:
- Abu Bakr
After the death of prophet Muhammad in 632, Abu Bakr was selected to be the new leader. Believed to have been the first adult male convert, his first task as Caliph consisted of shoring up loyalty to Islam.
As word of Muhammad's death spread, so too did disunity. Many believed that Islam ended with Muhammad's death. And meanwhile new prophets were popping up claiming to be the successor of Muhammad. Abu Bakr's response to both the apostacies and the false prophets were the Ridda Wars. With the able military leadership of Khalid bin Walid as General, Abu Bakr pursued both the elimination of false prophets and the reconquest of Arabia in the name of Islam.
Meanwhile he became aware that many of the original followers who had memorized the Quran as taught by Muhammad were dying. To preserve the Quran, he assigned the task of putting it into writing to Umar bin Khattab.
With the completion of the Ridda Wars, he then sent Khalid to attack and conquer the Persian and Byzantine empires. While some parts of each were captured during his lifetime, most would have to wait until the time of Umar, as his own Caliphate proved to be rather short.
In 634, realizing that he was dying, Abu Bakr nominated Umar bin Kattab to be the next Caliph. Weeks later, he died in Medina.
Prior to his conversion, Umar had been a strong opponent of Islam. According to one story, he took it into his mind that Muhammad had to die. On his way to kill Muhammad, he found out that his sister and brother-in-law had converted to Islam. So he went to their home instead. In an effort to convince them to renounce Islam, he beat them mercilessly. It was only when that effort failed, that he decided to examine the verses of the Quran. On that day he converted to Islam with Muhammad as witness.
From that time on, he was never very far away from Muhammad and served him throughout the wars of conquest. And when Abu Bakr became the first Caliph, he served Abu Bakr as well. Then in 634, he became the second Caliph. It was during Umar's time as Caliph that conquest beyond the borders of the Arabian peninsula began in earnest. Even as the influence of Islam grew in territory and number, Umar continued to live a life that was simple and at times austere. He had little use for luxury and felt that the same should apply to his governors as well. Those that he felt were in violation of that standard he would remove from office.
His leadership brought about the implementation of a number of developments. One was the institution of an Islamic Calendar which begins with the Hegirah. The minting of coins was also initiated.
In 644, Umar's reign as Caliph came to an abrupt end, when a Persian slave stabbed him six times with a dagger.
Chosen as the third Caliph in 644, he oversaw the final incorporation of Iran and much of Northern Africa into the Islamic Empire. The expansions notwithstanding, things took a turn for the worse under his leadership. Whereas his predecessors tended toward austerity, he tended toward the aristocratic. Nor was he above nepotism. As the empire grew, he showed a pronounced tendency to appoint his relatives to positions of importance. This would eventually lead to the Umayyads. He ultimately came to an end when chase by a mob, when he was stoned to death in 656.
His reign as the fourth caliph was accompanied by great internal strife. In 661, he was himself murdered.
- The Outline of the History, H.G. Wells
|<< The Fighting Prophet||Timeline||The Umayyads >>|