– Abu Baker, 632-634
The principle of universal suffrage (Biaa) which is the old tribal custom was followed in the choice of a successor to the Prophet (namely, Abu Baker). By virtue of his age, experience and position, Abu Baker had held at Mecca occupying a high place in the estimation of the Arabs and was hastily elected to the office of Caliph. He was recognized as a man of wisdom and moderation. Abu Baker’s responsibility was very grave because on him depended whether the new creed would survive or not. Some of the tribes (who had recently abandoned idolatry) reverted at once to their old ways and several imposters (who had appeared in distant districts in the lifetime of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh)) began harrying the Muslims. The first concern of the Caliph was to organize the administration. The rising of the tribes was due to two reasons: firstly, the strict rules of morality enforced by Islam (such as the repression of lawlessness, blood feuds, drunkenness and gambling) and secondly, the tribes’ unwillingness to pay the poor-tax. Shortly before his death, Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) had given orders for the dispatch of an expedition into Syria to seek reparation for the murder of the Muslim envoy. To give effect to his master’s last wishes and restore order on the northern frontier, Abu Baker sent forward the troops led by Osama (the son of Zaid). Osama achieved victory over the Banu Ghassan. Shortly afterwards, he came back to help Abu Baker to reduce the insurgent apostates to obedience. The task of subjection was entrusted to Khalid (son of Walid) who was a skilled soldier. Some of the tribes gave their adherence without fighting, others were unyielding. Khalid fought great battles against the latter and both sides suffered severely. At the Battle of Yemama, the formidable tribe of Banu Hanifa, headed by its leader, was thoroughly defeated. The imposter Mosailima was killed. Afterwards, the insurgents gradually submitted and were received back into Islam. After the death of Mohamed (Pbuh), Abu Baker was considered the founder of Islamic nation, because he maintained the unity of the Muslims by reducing the insurgents in less than a year. These victories were due to the valor and audacity of his military commanders such as Khalid. He also turned the eyes of the Arabs toward conquering foreign lands where the Arabs met with victory and gained loot and booty and a field to fight for the cause of God. On the eastern part Arabia, he started his conflict with the Banu Taghlib who owed allegiance to Persia. In this manner, they resembled the Banu Ghassan who – chiefly Christians – were beaten by the Arab troops in his time. Abu Baker religiously collected the various parts of the Koran lest those who learned it by heart should be killed in the wars against the apostates. He followed the Prophet’s example in seeking the advice of his immediate companions in governing the Arabs. The following extract of his speech when he became Caliph shows the best principles of Islamic democracy: “O people! Behold me – charged with the cares of government, I am not the best among you; I need all your advice. If I do well, support me; if I mistake, correct me ………. As I obey God and His Prophet, obey me; and if I neglect the law of God and the Prophet, I have no more right to your obedience.” (Syed Athar Hussein, The Glorious Caliphate, Lucknow, 1947, p-19) In 634 AC, Abu Baker died at the age of sixty three, after a reign of only two years and a half. He is described as “a man of very fair complexion, thin countenance, of slender build and with a stoop”. Gentle but firm, he was extremely simple in his habits.
– Omar Ibn ElKhatab, 634-644
Omar’s accession to the Caliphate was of immense value to Islam. He was a man of strong moral fibre who had a keen sense of justice, possessed a great energetic character, and thoroughly versed in the character of his people. He organized the administration of Arabia and extended the Islamic Empire by conquering Persia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He established two new towns in Iraq via Basra on the Shatt el-Arab (which was peopled, chiefly by Arabs), and Kufa on the western bank of the Euphrates, three miles south of Hira. Another city called Fustat was built near the apex of the Delta, on the eastern bank of the Nile, on the site on which Omar pitched his campِ, to be the seat of the government and the new capital of Egypt instead of Alexandria. Omar divided over each province so that he might regulate the finance of the new empire and check the work of the governors. He attended to the affairs of his subjects by day and by night. In addition, he created new departments for military affairs of the soldiers, pensions of the ex-officials and allowances to the widows and the poor. Justice was entrusted to responsible judges, independent of the governors of the states. The Arabic Calendar was used in his time. Omar minted the Dirham, the Muslims before his reign had used the Persians and the Byzantine coins. All people were equal before the law. His policy was based on forming a national unity of the Arab tribes, talking one language and following one faith. Conquest of Persia The first contact between the Muslims and the Persians was in Iraq, where the Persians fought a battle and were defeated with heavy loss and Hira, after a short resistance, capitulated to the Muslims. When Omar acceded to the caliphate, he prepared a strong army of 30,000 men under the command of Saad Ibn Abu Wakkas to conquer Persia. The Battle of Kadessia was hotly contested. It lasted for three days and was distinguished by heroic feats on both sides. On the last day, the Persians were defeated with heavy loss; their general was killed and the rest of the army fled towards the North. This battle decided the fate of Chaldea and Mesopotamia. Madain, the capital of Persia (fifteen miles higher up the river) opened its gates and capitulated after a siege of some duration. The entire country lying to the west of the Tigris submitted to the Arabs. Once more, the defeated Persians attempted to take revenge and regain independence but failed as they were badly beaten in the Battle of Jalula, about fifty miles to the north east of the capital. The battle of Nehawand (at the foot to the Elburz) decided the fate of Asia and was called ‘the Victory of Victories’. The Persians who outnumbered the Arabs by six to one, where defeated with terrible loss. Thus, Persia passed under Muslim domination. Under Muslim rule, the peasantry where released from the hideous oppression of the large land-holders. Broken aqueducts were restored and new ones built. Muslims were ordered not to interfere with the religion of the people. Those who adhered to their old faith were designated Zimmis (the protected people). Among the Persian converts and the Arab rulers, intermarriage became frequent. The Muslim Persians received the designation of Mawalis (friends or clients). The Arabs built the two towns of Kufa and Basra to replace Madian. Conquest of Syria and Palestine. Ghassan was a province established by the Romans in the north west of Arabia, so as to protect the lands under the Roman suzerainty from the raids and attacks of the Arabs. Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) sent a messenger to the Ghassanites asking them to embrace the new faith, but they killed him. Abu Baker, soon after his accession, sent a punitive expedition under Osama, and the Romans at the same time massed a large army to eradicate the new-born danger. Abu Baker sent four well-equipped armies under the command of four generals from different parts of the country. The gentle and kind-hearted Abu Obaidah el Garrah was in command of the division of Homs. The Palestine division was under the command of Amr, the son of Al Aas, (famous for his conquest of Egypt). In the Battle of “El Yermuk”, the Arabs under the command of Khalid, the son of Walid, showed high military qualities against the well-equipped and experienced Roman army. Though superior by six to one, the Romans were defeated with fearful slaughter, a part of their army was driven into the river and drowned, and the whole of Southern Syria lay at the feet of the Arabs. Abu Baker died about that time and Omar (who succeeded him) deposed Khalid from the chief command and made Abu Obaidah the General-in-Chief. Khalid worked under Abu Obaidah and the Syrian cities one by one capitulated to the Muslims. Damascus, Homs, Hama, Kinnisrin, Aleppo and other important towns opened their gates to Abu Obaidah. Whilst Abu Obaidah had thus subjugated the greater part of Northern Syria, the operations of Amr Ibn Al Aas, were not less successful in Palestine. The Battle of Ajnadin was as disastrous to the Romans as the day of “El Yermuk”. Their army was entirely destroyed. But the Arabs had little difficulties in the submission of Jaffa, Nablus, Gaza, Ramleh, Akka and many other towns. Jerusalem resisted for a time. After a siege of some duration, the patriarch sued for peace, and asked to surrender the plate to the Caliph in person, and the Caliph agreed. The road was then open to Egypt, the granary of the surrounding nations.
– Osman Ibn Affan, 644-656.
When Omar was stabbed, he was kept in his house suffering from his wounds. Some Emigrants (Muhagereen) asked him to nominate some one to be their Caliph, but he entrusted the election to six notables of El-Madina. They were Ali, Osman, Talha, Ez-Zubair Ibn el Awwam, Saad Ibn Abu Wakkas and Abdel Rahman Ibn Oaf. The choice of the electorate fell upon Osman Ibn Affan. Osman was about seventy years old, and had been one of the very earliest companions of the Prophet (Pbuh). He was a man of medium size and large of limb. Though very old and feeble, he was virtuous and honest. His chief merit lay in his piety. As for his policy, Osman tried during his long caliphate to consolidate the Muslim rule in the Islamic Empire established by Omar, suppress the revolts and drive the enemies back. The aggression of the Turks in Transoxiana led to the conquest of Balk, Heart, Kabul and Ghazni. The risings in south Persia led to the subjugation of Kerman and Sistan. Then effective measures were taken for the development of the two cities’ material resources. An Islamic fleet of warships, constructed by Muawiyah, conquered Cyprus in 649 and after some years Rhodes was taken. Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh made another fleet. A large fleet sent by the Romans to reconquer Egypt was destroyed off Alexandria. Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh marched along the coast of Cyranaica and Tripoli and threatened Carthage (Tunis). Reinforcement was sent, the Romans routed and their general killed. Thus, the Romans lost Carthage. The rising in Nubia led Abdullah to besiege Dongola and at last make a trade treaty with them, known as ‘the Pact’, the chief articles of which are: 1) The Arabs should neither fight against the Nubians nor attack them. 2) The inhabitants of both parties could enter in the domains of each for trade and not for residence. 3) The Nubians should protect the Muslims when they were to go for trade, and allow them to build a mosque at Dongola, which was built on the eastern bank of the Nile. In the East, on the other hand, Muawiyah having been reinforced by an army, spread desolation and panic in Asia Minor, and went through Armenia and imposed a poll-tax upon them. Osman’s Last Days It was Osman who collected the authorized forms of the Koran and was careful to instruct the people in the public mosque of El Medina. Osman bestowed large gifts upon his relatives. His weakness was apparent when he displaced most of the lieutenants employed by Omar, and appointed in their stead incompetent and worthless members of his own family. During the first six years of his rule, the people, though grievously oppressed by the new governors, remained quiet. But the wickedness of his favorites created a great sensation among the people. There were loud complaints over the oppression of his governors. At the end of his reign, confusion reached its utmost limit all over the Empire. Some leaders of the deputations besieged his house and at last two of the besiegers scaled the wall, entered the house and there killed the aged Caliph.
– Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, 656 – 661
The Ommeyades’ Hostility On the tragic death of Osman, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb was proclaimed Caliph without opposition. Ali was the Prophet’s cousin and at the same time his son-in-law. He married Fatima, in the line of whom the offspring of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) was propagated. From the very beginning, he met with the hostility of the Ommeyades. He gave orders for the dismissal of the corrupt governors appointed by Osman. Some of Osman’s nominees gave up their posts without resistance while some others revolted. Among the latter was Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufian who governed Syria, and who had, with the wealth of the province, collected a large force of mercenaries who supported him in raising standard of rebellion. The Battle of Khoraiba or Camel This was not the only difficulty Ali had to face. Talha and Ez-Zubair, two prominent members of the Koreish, forgetting their oath of featly, escaped first to Mecca and then towards Iraq, where they were joined by Ayesha. The insurgents were able to collect a large army intended to attack the Caliph. The fight took place at Khoraiba where Talha and Ez-Zubair were killed, and Ayesha was taken prisoner. She was sent back with every mark of consideration and respect to El-Medina. The Battle of Siffin Then, the Caliph proceeded to Syria. There he met the rebels at a place called Siffin, to the west of Rakka. Those rebels were defeated in three successive battles, and Muawiyah was ready to fly from the field, when a rise of his accomplice Amr Ibn Al-Aas saved them from destruction. He made his mercenaries the copies of the Koran to their lances and flags and shouted for quarter. Arbitration The Caliph’s soldiers desisted from pursuit and caused him to consent to the course suggested. The choice of an arbitrator on his side fell unfortunately on a weak old man named Abu Musa Al Ashaari who was not a match for the astute Amr Ibn Al Aas who represented Muawiyah. The Kharijis Being deprived of the fruit of his victories by his own soldiers, the Caliph thus retreated in disgust with his army to Kufa. There, the men who had shouted for the preference of arbitration, now repudiated and denounced it as sinful. They openly mutinied and their conduct became at last so serious as to compel the Caliph and attack them at Nahrawan. The majority fell fighting, and a few escaped to “Al Bahrain” where the Kharijis formed the nucleus of the fanatical horde that harassed the Empire by their sanguinary attacks. The Outcome of Arbitration Whilst these events were tacking place in the East, the Caliph’s representative had either proved a traitor, or been thoroughly duped by Amr who made him pronounce the deposition of Ali, and he would do the same with Muawiyah, then they should elect a new Caliph. The simple Musa fell in the trap and pronounced the deposition of Ali. Amr who followed him said: “I accept the deposition of Ali, and appoint Muawiyah in his place”. This audacious announcement infuriated the followers of the Caliph. The two parties separated, vowing vengeance. The war against Muawiyah proceeded. Assassination of Ali Shortly afterwards, while Ali was offering his devotions at the public of Kufa (the then capital of the Empire after El Madina), he was truck down by the hand of an assassin. Ali’s Character Dying in the prime of his life, Ali was one of the most kind-hearted Muslims that ever lived. Mild beneficent, humane, and ready to help the weak and the distressed, his life was devoted to the cause of Islam. His forbearance and magnanimity were misunderstood, and his humanity and love of truth were turned by his enemies to their own advantage. He was so brave that he won the title of the “Lion of God” and such was his learning that he was called the “Gate of knowledge”. With Ali’s death, the Republic of Islam reached its end.
– The End of the Orthodox Caliphate
Hassan Ibn Ali Hassan, the eldest son of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, was elected to the vacant caliphate by the unanimous suffrage of Kufa and its dependencies. No sooner did he assume the position than Muawiyah invaded Iraq. Mistrust of the Iraqi supporters led him to weigh the proposals of Muawiyah. The negotiations resulted in a treaty by which the Caliphate was assigned to Muawiyah for life and upon his death it was to devolve on Hussein, the younger son of Ali. After a short time, Hassan was poisoned at the instigation of Yezid Ibn Muawiyah. The End of the Orthodox Caliphate The Republic lasted thirty years during which, a great change had come over the Arabs. The Caliph, by virtue of his position, was the supreme head in religious and civil affairs and was called ‘the Commander of the Faithful’. He looked into complaints; prepared the armies and chose the generals. He was the supreme authority in justice which was administered by civil judges who were appointed by him and were independent of the governors. The Orthodox Caliphs took the Koran and the Sunna as their guides. Every detail of the administration was thus looked after and nothing was undertaken without consulting the principal companions of the Prophet (Pbuh). Several of the companions were entrusted with special duties without having any official post or title.
– Organization of the Islamic Empire during the Republic
Investiture of a Caliph Among the Arabs’ pre-Islamic traditions was the right of the members of tribes to vote in the election of the chief. This old tribal custom was followed in the choice of a successor to Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh). This choice was only restricted to the inhabitants of the seat of the government in El Medina. When the Caliph was elected and the multitude swore allegiance to him, he showed the fundamental principles of government. He said: “O people! Behold me — charged with the cares of government, I am not the best among you; I need all your advice and all your help. If I do well, support me. If I mistake, correct me ………. As I obey God and His Prophet, obey me; and if I neglect the law of God and the Prophet, I have no more right to your obedience.” (Syed Athar Hussein, The Glorious Caliphate, Lucknow, 1947, p-19) The Diwans Omar organized the administrations of the Empire, established the state archive, created the offices of Hajib (or chamberlain) and of the sahib ush Shurta (or captain of the guard), and reorganized the police. Omar was regarded as the practical founder of the political administration of Islam. He divided the Islamic Empire into provinces appointing in each province a governor called “Wali”. The wali was the military and civil head of the province. Assisted by other high officials, the governor in his province controlled the public service, led prayers and delivered the Friday oration (Khutba). The Saheb el Kharaj looked into the Diwan ul Kharag board of land-tax. The Sahib ush Shurta was responsible for the public security in the province. In addition, there were many other local assistants to run the affairs of the province. The revenue of the Empire was gathered from five different sources:
(a) The land-tax gathered from the Zimmis (non-Muslim subjects) under the name of ‘Kharaj’.
(b) The capitation tax (Jazia) which was levied on the People of the Book so that they might be exempted from military service.
(c) The tithes taxes which were levied on imports and exports.
(d) The poor taxes which were levied on the rich people.
(e) The spoils of the war.