The Rashidun Caliphate; The First Rashidun Caliph
With the beloved Prophet gone, the Muslim community, in mourning, had to find a way to move forward but first, they had to agree on a successor to Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah. Muhammad’s death sent shockwaves throughout the empire he had left behind. Rebellions broke out. It was complete and utter chaos. The Muslims were in mourning. They didn’t know who to turn to. Muhammad didn’t leave behind a plan of succession. Or at least, that’s what Sunnis say. Shias, however, believe that Muhammad declared his successor. Ali was Muhammad’s Cousin, he was the son of Abu Talib, the man who had raised Muhammad, he was also married to Muhammad’s youngest daughter, Fatima and now, after Muhammad, he was the head of the house of Hashim, Muhammad’sclan. Tensions were starting to break out in the Muslim community, especially between the Ansaar and the Muhajirun. They even considered establishing separate states with their own heads. Eventually, in a private meeting, Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s old friend was named Khalifa tul Rasool Allah, which means “Successor to the Prophet of Allah”. Ali, however, wasn’t present at this meeting. He was busy with the arrangements of Muhammad’s funeral. So, a successor to Muhammad was appointed, without consulting the new head of Muhammad’s house. This one decision was very controversial and it is, to this day, because you know, Muslims are very well-known for letting things go. This was the start of a Schism, the Shia-Sunni split. Shias believe that Ali should’ve been the first Caliph, most Sunnis, believe that Abu Bakr was the right choices but it’s not really as sectarian as most people think. These days, you’ll find Sunnis as well, who side with Ali on this argument,
Anyways, Abu Bakr became the first Khalifa or Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. Caliph or Khalifa means Successor. Abu Bakr was a successor to Muhammad, so Muhammad himself didn’t have the title of Caliph, he was a prophet. Anyways, Abu Bark, after ascension to the office of Caliph, gave his first sermon which was as follows. His reign lasted for around 27 months, a little over two years. The first thing he did was consolidate his power over all of Arabia, he crushed all the rebellions and established the authority of the office held. He also started the canonization of the Quran by converting its ayahs into a book form. This is where Islam is different than say, Christianity, which was Canonized 300 years after Jesus. Finally, he sent Khalid ibn Al-Walid with an impressive army of Eighteen Thousand towards Mesopotamia. This was Islam’s first engagement with the Sassanid Persian Empire. Khalid ibn Al-Walid started conquest city by city. He and his unstoppable army were too much for the Persians. Abu Bakr passed away in 634 CE, two years after his friend Muhammad. He opened a floodgate that changed the course of history in the form of rapid conquest. Abu Bakr was succeeded by Umar ibn Al-Khattab.
Umar Ibn Khattab: The second Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate
By the point, Umar accedes to the caliphate, Khalid ibn Al-Waleed’s army was far into Persian territory. He was even threatening Ctesiphon, the Persian capital. Umar told Khalid to move towards Damascuswhile his replacement Sad ibn Abi Waqqas. Let’s return to Persia where shortly after Khalid had left in 634 CE, Muslims had suffered a defeat at The Battle of the Bridge. However, under the command of Sa`d ibn AbiWaqqas, Muslims got strong again. Sa’d led the Muslims to a decisive victory in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah in 636 CE. Shortly after that, Ctesiphon, the Persian capital was besieged and taken by Sa’d in 637 CE. Umar wanted the Zagros Mountains to serve as a natural barrier and wanted to move no further into Persian Territory. However, the Persians kept raiding Mesopotamia and forced Umar to move further. In 642 CE, the Persians managed to raise an army against the Muslims which was defeated in the Battle of Nahāvand soon after Khalidhad passed away. Muslim victory over Persia was all but complete. The Persian Emperor Yazdegerd III escaped to Central Asia. Umar started the invasion of Mainland Persia, which eventually ended with the entirety of Persia under Muslim rule and Yazdegerd IIIfleeing to China. Along with Syria and Persia, Umar actually captured another significant area. He captured Egypt. He was initially against the conquest of Egypt because he wanted to consolidate power in Syria first but his Majlis E Shura or as you would call it Parliament, decided to invade Egypt so, his commander, Amr ibn Al-Aas, led an army of just 4000, according to most sources, into Egypt in 639 CE. Egypt was a part of the Byzantine Empire but after their defeat in Syria and Palestine, Egypt was really not something they could protect. By 641 CE, Alexandria fell to the Muslims. In 644 CE, Umar was assassinated by a Persian slave in Madinah. He was attacked during the morning prayer of Fajr, in Masjid an-Nabawi, the Mosque of the Prophet. Umar passed away three days after the attack. After having turned Muhammad’s empire into a world power. Stretching from Indus River to modern-day Libya. Despite this, Umar was a very simple man. He lives in a small door-less hut to be close to his people. He established the Bayt al-Mal to help the poor and the needy. He is still famous for his tolerance, as he allowed Christians and Jews to live and practice their faith freely. Thanks to him, to this day, in Islamic law, trade isn’t taxed, wealth is. He supported free trade to benefit his empire economically. During his lifetime, he never appointed a close relative to any position, even if they were more than qualified. It’s said that while Umar was fighting his wounds, his son, in retaliation for his father’s assassination killed three Persians in Madinah. Umar ordered to have his own son imprisoned left his fate to the next Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. See you next time.