A “caliphate” is a region controlled by an Islamic state and government, usually under a system of sharia law – meaning that the laws of the region are taken from a fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran.
The caliphate is ruled by a leader called a “caliph” and his government, or “caliphate”. The tradition of the caliphate began after the death of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Caliphs are seen as successors to Muhammad, and it is their responsibility to manage the practice and spread of Islam in his place.
The powers of the caliphs were similar to those of the medieval king – while the caliphs held supreme authority, they sought advice from their governments in most matters, and were generally run as oligarchies (systems of government in which more than one person holds all the power.)
The first caliphate was formed after the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D. As Muhammad had not chosen a successor at the time of death, a struggle for power ensued when he finally succumbed to illness.
The Islamic people couldn’t decide whether one of Muhammad’s closest friends or direct descendants should take control. This indecision led to the “great schism” of the Islamic faith, which saw the religion split into two denominations – Sunni and Shia.
The first caliphate was called the Rashidun Caliphate, and the first caliph chosen was a man named Abu Bakr. He was the first of the “Rightly Guided” caliphs, a name given to the four caliphs who were given personal tutelage by Muhammad himself. In order, the four “Rightly Guided” caliphs were:
The four “Rightly Guided” caliphs were popular leaders, and had a great amount of public support. Abu Bakr was Muhammad’s father-in-law, and an early convert to Islam who used his wealth to support Muhammad’s message.
When Abu came to power, the Muslim world was in turmoil. He spent his reign fighting rebellions from various Arab tribes, and used his influence to establish the caliphate as the dominant ruling force in the region. During his reign, he was known as “the truthful”.
Umar ibn al-Khattab was the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. Umar was a senior companion of Muhammad, and was renowned across the land for his just nature.
Because of this, he gained the title “Al-Farooq” during his rule, meaning “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong”. Whereas Abu’s reign was spent consolidating the caliphate’s power, Umar’s was dedicated to expanding it.
He took control of the Middle East and much of Asia, expanding his territory’s control to areas as distant as Egypt and south Spain. His reign came to an end when he was killed by a Persian slave.
Uthman ibn Affan came to power following the abrupt death of Umar in 644 A.D. Uthman was the son-in-law and companion of Muhammad, and was given the title “Al Ghani” during his rule, meaning “the generous”.
Uthman is most famous for having an official version of the Quran put together during his rule, which was distributed among the public to help spread the teachings of Allah.
Uthman’s version of the Quran was used as a standardized form of the text in the centuries afterward. Uthman’s reign came to an end when he was killed by rebels in 656 A.D.
The fourth and final “Rightly Guided” caliph was Ali Ibn Abi Talib, another of Muhammad’s sons-in-law, widely considered to be the first male convert to Islam.
Ali was known as a very wise ruler, and is of specific importance to the Islamic faith because his rule had a direct effect on the “great schism” of Islam.
Depending on which Muslim denomination you belong to, Ali is either the last of the “rightly guided” caliphs (Sunni) or the world’s first true imam (the Shia Muslims believe that imams are the rightful leaders of the Islamic faith). Ali’s rule ended when he was assassinated suddenly during prayer.
– A caliphate is a region or territory under the rule of an Islamic government or state.
– The tradition of the caliphate began after Muhammad’s death.
– They each received personal teaching from the Prophet Muhammad.
– The third, Uthman,
– Ali was their first imam.