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Caliphate (“Khilafat” in Arabic) was a semi-religious political system of governance in Islam, in which the territories of the Islamic empire and the people within were ruled by a supreme leader called Caliph (“Khalifa” in Arabic – meaning successor). Caliphs were initially the sole sovereigns of the empire left behind by Prophet Muhammad and added vast territories of surrounding rival empires to it. They were initially selected by a group of senior members of a primitive parliament who kept in mind the will of the people. The first four caliphs, who were nominated in such a way, are referred to as the Rashidun (rightly guided) caliphs by mainstream Sunni Muslims; Shia Muslims consider only Ali, the fourth one, to be legitimate and discard the claims of the first three by branding them as usurpers.
The caliphate soon became a hereditary institute when the dynastic system of rule was introduced to the Islamic world by the Umayyads, who were overthrown and replaced by the Abbasids. The Abbasids, after the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 CE, held nothing but the title itself. This was to change when the Ottoman Sultans took over the institute, becoming the first and last non-Arabs to do so, and continued it until 1924 CE when it was officially abolished by Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal Pasha (the father of modern Turkey).
The vast majority of the Muslim community supported the claim of the ablest & the closest of Muhammad's companions, Abu Bakr.
One problem with the Prophet Muhammad's demise (632 CE) was that he had not appointed an heir, and since he had no surviving sons, a conflict arose. The closest relative of Muhammad, according to some his rightful heir, was Ali, his cousin and son-in-law (he had married Muhammad's daughter Fatima) – these people came to be known as “Shia't Ali” (the party of Ali) and would later transform into a separate sect of Islam. But the Arabs were not used to a dynastic system of rule, hence the vast majority of the Muslim community supported the claim of the ablest and the closest of Muhammad's companions – Abu Bakr, this group came to be known as the Sunnis (followers of the “Sunna” or the way of the Prophet). Abu Bakr was given the title of caliph (successor of the Prophet), and he also received the sincere support of another senior and respected companion of Muhammad, Umar, who would in time become his successor.
Abu Bakr (r. 632-634 CE) proved himself a competent leader. Most of the Arabian tribes refused to accept the caliphal authority on the pretext that their loyalty was only to Muhammad as a person, not to Islam – these apostates also joined hands with “imposters” or false prophets who kept on emerging with new and obscure faiths. From his capital in Medina, Abu Bakr responded competently by calling the “faithful” to arms under the banner of Jihad (holy war – contextually). The Muslim armies triumphed over the rebels and Abu Bakr succeeded in uniting the entire Arabian Peninsula. Knowing that tribal affiliations would eventually resurface, Abu Bakr sent the newly formed armies to consolidate hold over Arabian tribes in Sassanian and Byzantine territories. These attacks were meant to be raids but turned into swift and permanent conquests. After Abu Bakr's death in 634 CE, his most powerful supporter – Umar ibn Khattab (r. 634-644 CE) became the next caliph.
Umar continued Abu Bakr's campaigns, and the simultaneous victories at the Battle of Al Qaddissiya and the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 CE opened the way for conquest of most of the Sassanian Empire and the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire – mainly Egypt, Syria, and the Levant. Umar introduced many reforms and new institutions such as police, pensions, courts, parliaments, etc., but above all, he was known as a god-fearing man who surpassed all in administering law. He was assassinated by a Persian slave named Lu'lu in 644 CE.
Umar's successor was Uthman ibn Affan (r. 644-656 CE), from the wealthy clan of Banu Umayya and a close friend of Muhammad. Though a pious man and devoted to the new faith, he was not popular. The problems kept in check under Umar's strict regime – such as the sheer cost of aggressive expansion – began to surface and they were too much for the new caliph. His tenure was not devoid of military success but the cost outweighed the profits generated by these conquests. He was murdered in 656 CE in his own house by rebellious soldiers from the garrison city of Fustat in Egypt, and with his death died the unity of the Muslim Ummah (community).
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Muawiyya (the able governor of Syria), Uthman's cousin and now the head of the Umayya clan, wanted revenge for the murder, but the new caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib (r. 656-661 CE) failed to comply. This enraged not only Muawiyya but also other Muslims, and hence his reign was marked with constant civil wars and expansion was halted. In another controversial move, he also shifted the capital from Medina to Kufa, a garrison city in modern-day Iraq. Ali met a similar end to his predecessor; he was murdered by an extremist group called the Kharijites in 661 CE while he was offering prayer in congregation. Ali has gained unprecedented posthumous fame, mostly because of his place in Shia ideology. He has been venerated as the only true successor to Muhammad by them, while the Sunni Muslims consider all four caliphs equally legitimate and rightly guided (“Rashidun” in Arabic).
Even while Ali was still ruling, Muawiya had audaciously challenged his authority on moral grounds. Using the tragic death of his cousin to propagate his agenda, he had managed to strengthen his power. After Ali's death, Muawiya's (r. 661-680 CE) only contender was Ali's eldest son Hasan, who abdicated the office in the former's favor in return for a high pension. The year 661 CE marks the official start of the rule of the Umayyad Dynasty with Muawiya as its first caliph and Damascus the new capital; power was shifted from Iraq to Syria, and Medina would never regain the political prestige it once had. His 20-year reign was the most stable for the Ummah (Muslim community) since Umar's death. Nearing the end of life, Muawiya appointed his son Yezid (r. 680-683 CE) as his successor, and this was met with much resistance, most notably from Ali's younger son Hussayn, who was killed (a martyr in the eyes of both Sunnis and Shias) along with his army, mostly his family members, by Yezid's forces at the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE.
Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705 CE) encouraged centralization in the empire and elevated the status of Arabic, making it the lingua franca of the empire. It was also during his reign that Tunis was conquered (in 693 CE), the local Berber population accepted Islam and in time would spread the boundaries of the empire into the Iberian Peninsula. The rebellious province of Iraq (because of Shia Muslims) was also kept in check by placing it under the control of a ruthless but loyal governor – Hajjaj ibn Yusuf (l. 661-714 CE).
The only one of the Umayyads to receive any praise from Muslim historians was the highly devoted & pious Umar II.
The empire reached its greatest extent under the son of Abd al-Malik – Walid I (r. 705-715 CE), under whose canopy great generals contributed vast expanses of new land to the empire. Muhammad ibn Qasim successfully conquered parts of what is modern-day Pakistan (by 712 CE), while Kutayba ibn Muslim conquered Transoxiana (by 713 CE). Tariq ibn Ziyad initiated the Muslim conquest of Hispania in 711 CE and was reinforced by Musa ibn Nusayr; by the time of Walid's death, the duo had conquered most of Spain.
The only one of the Umayyads to receive any praise from Muslim historians was the highly devoted and pious Umar ibn Abd-Al-Aziz (r. 717-720 CE). Also known as Umar II, he was devoted to Islam and his short reign was reminiscent of the earlier Rashidun Caliphate. He promoted equality, facilitated conversion by making taxes lenient on non-Arab Muslims, stopped public cursing of Ali, and also halted raids on peaceful neighbors of the empire. His unwavering stance on justice and piety brought him into rivalry with his own clan, who killed him in 720 CE; he is remembered to this day as a legendary figure by the Muslims.
The Abbasids were the descendants of Prophet Muhammad's uncle Abbas and they used this fact to legitimize their claim to the caliphate. After the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 CE, Abu Abbas As-Saffah – “the bloodthirsty” (r. 750-754 CE) was declared caliph. Umayyad graves in Syria were dug out and their remains were burnt, and the living male members were all massacred, all save one – Abd al-Rahman I, who escaped the Abbasids, making a perilous journey to Al Andalus, where he established the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba (in 756 CE), which would rival the Abbasids in elegance and grandeur.
Al Mansur (r. 754-775 CE), the successor of As-Saffah, created a new capital near the Tigris river – Baghdad (in modern-day Iraq) – a city that surpassed all European cities of the time in every standard. Artists, architects, scholars, poets, historians, scientists, astrologists, mathematicians, and other people of many fields contributed to the elevation of the city, transforming it into a hub of learning and culture in the Islamic empire.
Under Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-789 CE), the most famous of the Abbasids (who has also been featured prominently in folktales and legends), the Grand Library of Baghdad – the Bayt al Hikma (House of Wisdom) was established which became the center of learning of the world. Here, the classic works of the Greeks were translated into Arabic and, in time, it would largely be because of the Bayt al-Hikma that the European Renaissance would take place as all of the Greek manuscripts would have been otherwise lost. His reign is remembered as the golden age of the Abbasids; not only did his government make great advances in administration but he also showed great competence in battle by leading armies into Asia Minor on successful military campaigns against the Byzantines in 806 CE.
His decision to divide the empire between his two sons: Al-Amin and Al-Ma'mun led to an expensive civil war after his death, out of which Al-Ma'mun (r. 813-833 CE) emerged victorious. This civil war was one of the major causes for the collapse of the empire. Al-Ma'mun was a patron of arts and learning but not as politically active as his predecessors and did not even have the same respect for his faith. With the death of Al-Ma'mun, the zenith of the empire was also lost, in fact even during his reign, different regions of the empire had started to break away in the form of separate emirates.
The contestants for caliphate started relying heavily upon Turkish bodyguards for gaining the throne, since the empire was almost always in a state of civil war. The sheer cost of these private armies and incompetent rulers who could not maintain a tight grip over the vast empire rendered them virtually bankrupt. Moreover, in 909 CE a rival Shia (anti-)Caliphate appeared in western parts of North Africa and then spread all the way to Egypt and Hejaz, who referred to themselves as the Fatimids – the descendants of Fatima, the Prophet's daughter (these Shias were from a radical sect called the Seveners – as they believed in seven imams, instead of the mainstream Shia Muslims we are familiar with today, who believe in a different lineage of twelve imams). The Fatimids would continue to operate until 1171 CE when they were abolished by Saladin (l. 1137-1193 CE), who brought Egypt under the suzerainty of the Abbasids.
Adding to these fragmentations, the Abbasids, themselves Sunnis, had now come to be dominated by a Shia Iranian empire called the Buyids – named after their founder Ali ibn Buya (l. c. 891-949 CE). In 945 CE, the Buyids captured Baghdad and reduced the caliphs to mere figurehead. The Buyids were then overthrown in 1055 CE by the Seljuks, a Turkic tribe from central Asia who had accepted the Sunni version of Islam in the 11th century CE and began expanding their empire all the way to Asia Minor. The Seljuks captured Baghdad but nothing changed for the caliphs; they retained only their titles. The Seljuks fell just as swiftly as they rose and, by the 12th century CE they were no longer the strong and formidable force they had been. They were mere spectators in the Crusades (1095-1291 CE), a conflict that had been initiated by their rise and the threat they had posed to the Byzantine Empire after the Battle of Manzikert (1071 CE). The Abbasids used this opportunity to gain complete, although short-lived, autonomy.
A new threat, however, now emerged from the steppes of Central Asia: the Mongols. Caliph Al-Must'asim (r. 1242-1258 CE), the last of the formal Abbasid rulers, was besieged in his own capital in 1258 CE by Hulegu Khan's forces. The entire city was leveled, its population was massacred, and Al-Must'asim was rolled in a carpet and trampled under the hooves of horses. With the destruction of Baghdad, the Abbasid rule came to an end, though shadow-caliphs continued to live in Cairo but apart from the title, they had nothing, not even any symbolic significance.
In 1299 CE, a former Turkish vassal to the Seljuks and a tribal chieftain named Osman (r. 1299-1324 CE) began expanding his dominion in Asia Minor at the expense of the weakened Byzantine Empire and formed the Ottoman Sultanate (named after Osman). Osman and his descendants, considering jihad and imperial expansion a moral duty, continued to swiftly conquer vast territories. By 1453 CE, from their capital at Edirne (Adrianople), the Ottomans held dominion over territories in Asia Minor, the whole of Anatolia, and many regions in the Balkans. Two major efforts of the European Christendom to halt their advance failed in 1389 CE (Battle of Kosovo) and 1444 CE (Battle of Varna).
Mehmed, and earlier Sultans, had claimed the title of caliph for himself and, with no one else to challenge him for it, the claim was somewhat legitimate. It was further legitimized, however, in 1517 CE when Sultan Selim I conquered the Mamluk Sultanate and officially transferred the title from the Abbasid shadow-caliphs to the Ottomans. The Ottomans held onto this title for four more centuries, although the Muslim world was not united as before, but the symbolic (semi-religious) importance of Caliphate persisted in the hearts of the Muslims, who saw it as a symbol of unity of the Ummah, and the Turks were honored for it as well. The defeat of the Ottomans in the First World War (1914-1918 CE) led to the rise of nationalist Turkey, whose founder – Mustafa Kemal Pasha – officially abolished the institute of caliphate in 1924 CE. After that, no other nation assumed the caliphal authority over the Islamic world.
The institute of caliphate showed three major phases of evolution. At first, it started as a religiously-inspired political system whose holder must ensure that the “law of God” must prevail over his land, although the lack of centralization meant that most of the local customs and administrative frameworks persisted in newly conquered territories. This early phase had one serious flaw: the religious inspiration was not enough to secure the caliphs' position.
After the murder of Uthman, it had become apparent that the political component of the institute was the dominant one and that caliphate could simply be “snatched”. This was further affirmed when the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties rose to power. Both were met with stiff resistance and resentment but continued to rule in spite of that (something that the early caliphs could not have done, considering the leniency of Uthman and his unwillingness to use military power to suppress revolts). These two empires also introduced and mixed the concept of dynastic rule with caliphate, i.e. caliphate could now be inherited.
When the Ottomans officially assumed the undisputed claim to caliphate in 1517 CE, they became the first non-Arabs (by ethnicity) to gain the “command of the faithful”. This change also brought a new sense of equality amongst the Muslim world; Arab and non-Arab Muslims were equal in all aspects, even politics. The abolition of the institute and no efforts to revive it are considered unfortunate by the Muslims who believe that, although the political and military might of the institute was long lost, its symbolic importance as a semi-religious political system and the inspiration it provided was a priceless cultural legacy.
In Islamic history, upon the death of Muhammad, his followers were faced with the decision of who should take his place as the leader of Islam. This leadership position was called the kalifa, which means "deputy" or "successor" in Arabic. The decision over who should be the first caliph (the anglicized form of kalifa) resulted in a division that has endured to this day. One group of followers held that Muhammad himself had chosen 'Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his successor. Others insisted that Abu Bakr, Muhammad's good friend and father-in-law, be given the caliphate. In the end, Abu Bakr would become the first of four caliphs, each of whom contributed significantly to the development and spread of Islam. ## Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr served as caliph from 632 until his death in 634. His first major accomplishment was to deal with the problem of the Bedouins (nomadic Arabs). Although some had converted under Muhammad, after his death they rejected Islam and refused to obey Abu Bakr. In 633, the caliph defeated the Bedouin revolt, known as the Ridda, and thereby secured the entire Arabian peninsula for Islam. The experience served to convince Abu Bakr that Islam needed to expand beyond Arabia in order to be secure. He set his sights on the two neighboring empires he viewed as threats to Islam: the Sassanid Empire to the east in Persia and Iraq, and the Byzantine Empire to the west in Europe, Syria, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. He declared a jihad against the Byzantine Christians, but died before he was able to carry it out. ### Umar
The second caliph was Umar, another father-in-law of Muhammad, who had been named by Bakr as his successor. His caliphate lasted from 634 to 644. One of his first contributions was to add "Commander of the Faithful" to his title, which was used by all subsequent caliphs. His primary contribution, though, was a series of military victories resulting in the rapid expansion of Islam.
He conquered Damascus in 635 and Jerusalem in 637, both from Syria in the Byzantine Empire. Realizing the importance of loyalty in his new subjects, Umar instituted a policy of religious tolerance in his new lands. This was received gratefully by Jews and Christians, who had been persecuted under the Byzantines. He instituted two taxes, the kharaj for landowners with productive fields and the jizya, which non-Muslims paid in return for the privilege of practicing their religion.
At the same time, Muslim forces were moving against the Sassanid Empire in the east. Once he had secured his place in Syria, Umar succeeded in conquering the Sassanid capital, Ctesiphon, in 637. Turning west yet again, with a Muslim Syria assisting, Umar's forces set out for Egypt. Babylon fell in 641, and Alexandria in 642. Christians have not ruled in Egypt since. Umar continued the policy of tolerance in the newly-conquered lands, and Muslims did not force conversion to Islam. They depended too much on the revenue from the jizya tax and the nonresistance of the outnumbering non-Muslims.
Muslims would find that it was not as easy to placate Persia as other conquered lands. By the time Islam arrived, the Persians had become a fiercely nationalistic people. They had their own national religion, Zoroastrianism, and considered the invading Arab Muslims inferior. Caliph Umar, Commander of the Faithful, was assassinated by a Persian Christian in 644. But by the time of Umar's death, the Muslim Empire was second only to the Chinese Empire in size.
Uthman, a member of the influential Umayyad family, was chosen as Umar's successor, leaving Ali's supporters once again disappointed and angry. Uthman served as the third caliph from 644 to 656. In 645, he defeated a Byzantine attempt to recover Alexandria, and in 647 he began expanding the Muslim Empire west of Egypt. He conquered Cyprus in 649 and his forces reached the easternmost boundary of Persia in 653.
Some of Uthman's other accomplishments, however, were not as popular among Muslims. He appointed fellow members of the Umayyad family to administrative positions, depleted the treasury with his lavish spending habits and lack of financial planning, and perhaps most controversial of all, he sought to create a single, definitive text of the Quran. He succeeded in accomplishing his goal, and thereby significantly reduced doctrinal disagreements, but not without criticism from those who suspected Uthman of tampering with the sacred texts. In any case, Uthman's compilation of the Quran must certainly be considered a significant accomplishment for Islam.
Discontent abounded in the new empire. In 656 Uthman was assassinated in his home by a group of Egyptians, and civil war immediately erupted. Muslim fought Muslim over who would next assume leadership. The never-resolved conflict between Ali's supporters and other Muslims came to a head. Ali declared himself the fourth caliph, a claim which was promptly challenged by Mu'awiya, Uthman's cousin and the governor of Syria. At the "Battle of the Camel" in December 656, Ali's forces killed two of Muhammad's friends and kidnapped one of his widows.
Before long, a strong public outcry against the violence led Ali and Mu'awiya to agree to submit to the decision of a council, which would use the Qur'an as a guide in deciding who should be caliph. But when the council concluded that both should step down, Ali refused, and civil war continued. It was at this point that another another division arose within Islam. The Kharijites, a group of Shi'ites and supporters of Ali, were angry at his ever agreeing to submit to a human decision on a matter that should only be decided by Allah. Refusing allegiance to both Ali and Mu'awiya, the Kharijites appointed their own caliph.
In July 660, Mu'awiya declared himself caliph in Jerusalem. He had on his side not only Egypt and Syrian forces, but the Kharijites as well. The latter, intending to kill both Ali and Mu'awiya, got to Ali first. With Ali out of the picture, Mu'awiya was finally successful in claiming control of the Islamic Empire. The civil war came to an end, and the Umayyad Dynasty began.
- - "Islam." Encyclopaedia Britannica Premium Service, 2004.
Islam: The Caliphate
When Muhammad died in 632, he left a political organization that was entirely centered around him. He was a political and military leader and he was the source of revelation. When political or social difficulties came up, not only would they center on Muhammad, but sometimes through revelation be mediated by Allah himself.
The central role of Muhammad left the growing Islamic polity with several difficulties. The first was the status of revelation itselfthis became settled with the establishment of the definitive A more serious problem, though, involved the political and military succession to Muhammad. The only working model was an individual leader, but that leader had the authority of God behind him.
No-one seems to have thought very much about the succession to Muhammad before his death. No-one regarded Muhammad as divine or immortal, but no-one really considered what would happen after his death. The solution was cobbled together by the most powerful followers of Muhammad. There was disagreementin fact, violent disagreementbetween the Meccan followers of Muhammad who had emigrated with him in 622 (the Muhajirun, or "Emigrants") and the Medinans who had become followers (the Ansar, or "Helpers"). In the end, however, Muhammad's father-in-law, Abu Bakr, was named the khalifa or "Successor" of Muhammad. A new religion and a new circumstance had formed a new, untried political formation: the caliphate.
The Patriarchal Caliphs
The earliest caliphs were relatives and followers of Muhammad himself. Under these four caliphs, the political, social, and religious institutions of Islam would be solidified, including the definitive edition of the Qur'an.
The world of Islam would expand far beyond the borders of the Arabian peninsula during their tenureeast into the Persian empire, north into Byzantine territory, and west across the face of northern Africa.
Because of their foundational status and the fact that they were direct followers of Muhammad, these first four caliphs are called the patriarchs or patriarchal caliphs of Islam. For many Muslims, this was the golden age of Islamic government when a true Islamic polity was in existence from some Muslims, such as Shi'ite Muslims, this was the only period when there was legitimate Islamic government. In this view, the founding of the Umayyad dynasty ushered in more than a millennium of illegitimate government.
Abu Bakr (632-634)
Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law and the father of Muhammad's most beloved wife, 'Aisha, was with Muhammad from the very beginning. Throughout the military campaigns with Mecca and later with other Arabian tribes, Abu Bakr had proven himself to be a military genius. Abu Bakr immediately called for a military expedition against the Byzantine empire, in part to revenge an earlier Islamic defeat and in part to focus Islamic and Arabian attention.
However, as soon as the Arabian tribes heard of the death of Muhammad, the Islamic peace and most of the alliances broke down. Several tribes revoltedsome of these tribes revolted under the leadership of rival prophets. This began the period the Muslims call al-Ridda, or "The Apostasy." All of Abu Bakr's energy in the first years would be focussed on quelling these rebellions and tenuously re-establishing the Islamic peace.
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, but before he could attack the Persian empire itself, he diedhis death came only two years after he had been named the successor of Muhammad.
Abu Bakr desired 'Umar to be his successor and he persuaded the most powerful of the followers of Muhammad to go along. 'Umar was gifted both militarily and politicallyit was his political genius above everything else that had helped to hold the Islamic world together during the life of Muhammad.
'Umar continued the war of conquests begun by Abu Bakr. He pressed into the Persian Empire itself, but he also headed north into Syria and Byzantine territory and west into Egypt. By 640, Islamic military campaigns had brought all of Mesopotamia and most of Syria and Palestine under the control of Abu Bakr. Egypt was conquered by 642 and the Persian Empire by 643. These were some of the richest regions in the world guarded by powerful militariesand they fell into Islamic hands in a heartbeat.
'Umar, however, was one of the great political geniuses of history. While the empire was expanding at a mind-numbing rate beneath his leaderhsip, he also began to build the political structure that would hold together the vast empire that was being built. 'Umar did not require that non-Muslim populations convert to Islam nor did he try to centralize government, as the Persians had done. Instead, he allowed subject populations to retain their religion, language, customs, and government relatively untouched. The only intrusion would be a governor (amir) and, sometimes, a financial officer called an 'amil, or agent.
His most far-reaching innovations were in the area of building a financial structure to the empire. He understood that the most important aspect of the empire was a stable financial structure for the government. To this end, he built an efficient system of taxation and brought the military directly under the financial control of the state. He also founded the diwan, a unique Islamic institution. The diwan consisted of individuals that were important to the Islamic faith and the Islamic world, such as the followers of Muhammad. Their contribution to the faith was so great that they were given pensions to live off ofthis freed them up to pursue religious and ethical studies and so provide religious or ethical leadership to the rest of the Islamic world.
It was 'Umar that fixed many Islamic traditions and practices and he began the process of producing the Qur'an.
His most lasting tradition, however, was establishing the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar, like the Arabian calendar, remained a lunar calendarhowever, he fixed the beginning of the calendar at the year in which Muhammad emigrated to Medina. This, as far as 'Umar was concerned, was the turning point in Islamic history.
Nearing his death, 'Umar appointed a committee of six men to decide on the next caliphthey were charged to choose one of their own number. All of the men, like 'Umar, were from the tribe of Qurayshthe Ansar, or Medinans, had been gradually shut out of power.
This committee would prove to be pivotal, for on its choice would eventually grow Islam's first schism. The committee narrowed down the choices to two: 'Uthman and 'Ali. 'Ali was the son-in-law of Muhammad and had been a companion to the prophet from the inception of his mission. He may also have been named by Muhammad as a successor. "Uthman was an Umayyad, one of the wealthy clans that had bitterly opposed Muhammad. In fact, 'Uthman had started out opposed to Muhammad.
'Uthman, however, was a supremely practical and intelligent military and political leader while 'Ali was fervently devout religious disciple. 'Ali was largely convinced that Islam had gone astray and that it was not following either the religious, ethical, or social principles laid down in Muhammad's revelation. This profound difference between the two candidates led them to choose 'Uthman, for the growing Islamic empire seemed to need a practical, unreligious approach.
The decision was not a popular one. While 'Uthman reigned for twelve years as caliph, he met increasing opposition among both the original followers of Muhammad and among Islamic people in general. This opposition constellated around the figure of 'Ali who would, albeit briefly, succeed 'Uthman as caliph.
Despite internal troubles, 'Uthman continued the wars of conquest so brilliantly carried out by 'Umar. The Islamic empire conquered Libya in North Africa and fully conquered the eastern portions of the Persian Empire.
But unrest grew steadily and precipitously. His government seriously mishandled finances all throughout the empire. In 656, a riot broke out in Medinaso bitter were the rioters that they even threw stones at 'Uthman. The caliph called for military help. When the news of military reinforcements began to circulate among the rioters, they broke into 'Uthman's house and killed him while he was reading the Qur'an.
'Uthman's death was ironic for many reasons, including the fact that he was the first Islamic caliph or leader to be killed by fellow Muslims. But 'Uthman's greatest and most lasting achievement was the formal rescension of the Qur'an.
Until 'Uthman, the Qur'an was largely an oral text that was recited by followers who had memorized it. The wars of conquest, however, had thinned their ranks, and the introduction of foreign peoples into Islam threatened the integrity of the text as an Arabic text. So 'Uthman ordered that all versions, written and oral, be collected together and a definitive version written down. It is this definitive version which became the central text of Islam and the bedrock on which all Islamic history would be built. And it was this version, this brilliant achievement, that 'Uthman was reciting from when he was killed.
Sources: Islam from Washington State University, ©Richard Hooker, reprinted by permission.
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Mullah’s Islamic Caliphate,The Succession Scenario
“The rule or reign of a caliph or chief Muslim ruler” is the popular meaning of Caliphate.
Historically, after the death of Mohammad (8 June 632 CE), an Arab political leader and the religious founder of regional Islam in Hijaz the successors shaped the 1st Islamic Caliphate. even though, With Muhammad’s death, disagreement broke out over who his successor would be, but for preserving the spoils of war and confiscated wealth , Women and power, they solved the problem by sword accordingly. because after the unexpected death of Mohammad, it was a serious crisis and bloody power struggle all over the occupied places and among the Arab rebellious tribes. astonishingly, most of the tribes, in Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, converted to new faith [The History of al-Tabari & Stories of the Prophets ] considerably, most of the nonbelievers were killed and beheaded by Islamic atrocious commanders. [Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History]
This is a famous point that the Companions and followers of Mohammad, before his burial and funeral, had started plotting and intriguing against each other. intrinsically they seized the opportunity to get wealth and power, there were many challengers for succession. [Ibn Hisham The Life of the Prophet]
With the announcement of the emergency situation, first Caliph tried to oppress any crisis and resistance of opponents through all Arabian Peninsula, viciously. he labeled the opponents as Infidels!
astonishingly, similar to Mohammad, there were some of the pretenders to the throne of Islam who claimed to be the prophet of God [The Collection of histories and Tales].
hurriedly, the council of Mohammad’s friends solved the problem, and they created a new government under name of Caliphate they wanted to monopolize the Islamic Power. so, they brand the rivals as liars! [The Arabs in History, Bernard Lewis]
there was no vision about the future of the Islamic Caliphate after appointing the 1st Caliph. there was no election by the vote of the Islamic Caliph. fundamentally, there was no divine legitimacy. Undeniably, he found legitimacy with this ruthless policy and suppression of rebellion. [History of Arabx, P.K.Hitti]
then, The Rashidun Caliphate was the first mechanism of the four major caliphates instituted following the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the first of 5 successive caliphs (successors).
The Rashidun Caliphate is portrayed as a 25 year era of rapid military expansion, subsequently a five-year period of internal strife. four of these Islamic caliphs were assassinated by the hands of Muslim opponents (Omar, Uthman, Ali, Hassan ).
intentionally and erroneously, they announced that , their faith is for all the world! but in reality, it was the local religion based on Arab Peninsula’s culture[Quran Nahl 36 & Sojdeh 23 & Haj 34]. furthermore, Islam was an Arabic faith and religion was created specifically for Arabs in Arab Peninsula. remarkably, for the purpose of development in their caliphate, they started to used military forces to declare wars on another lands and to attack them brutally. their main goal was seizing power and wealth. [Sir William Muir The Life of Muhammad & 23 Years , Ali Dashti & Hubert Grimme, Muhammad]
more to the point, The Rashidun Caliphate had started Islamic Jihad (a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam Nowadays is labeled as Islamic Terrorism) under the name of Islam and Holy Wars. [T.W.Arnold The Preaching of Islam]
in the possible scenario, the main purpose was an economical and political motivation. likewise, most of the verses regarding jihad were added to Quran during the 2nd and third Caliph which leads to political developments in the Islamic Caliphate.
In 637, a Muslim army under the 2nd Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattāb defeated a larger Persian force . The Arabs captured Ctesiphon shortly afterward. Thus the Muslims were able to seize a powerful financial resource, leaving the Sassanid government strapped for funds. [R.Dollinger, Muhammad’s religion]
The abrupt fall of the Sassanid Empire was completed in a period of just five years, and most of its territory was absorbed into the Islamic caliphate however, many Iranian cities resisted and fought against the invaders several times. in reality, Islamic caliphates , with the flag of Islamic States in their hands, repeatedly suppressed revolts in cities [The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects. A. S. Tritton Zarinkoob, Abdolhossein, Ruzgaran]
during the victories of Islamic rebels, they had thousands of war prisoners. they started slavery , trades with slaves and looting. admittedly, in Iran the Iranians never accept this new religion peacefully. The Arabs raided 83 cities harshly and destroyed everything which was in 200 dark years [Zarinkoob, Abdolhossein, 200 years silence The History of Tabari].
another example was Baghdad, where the new comers slaughtered thousands of opponents [Nafisi, Saeed , Iranian Social History R.Frye, The Abbasid Revolt].
later, 14 century after death of Mohammad, Islamic Caliphate had 3 directors who developed their mutual project. after 4 Caliphs of Rashidun Caliphate (632–661) it was 14 Caliphs of The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE], 37 Caliphs of Abbasside in Baghdad (566–653 CE 750-1258), 22 Caliphs of Abbasid, Caliphate of Cairo (1261–1517), 16 Caliphs of Umayyad governors in al Andalus [711 – 1492 ] 17 Caliphs of The Fatimid Caliphate, in North of Africa [909–1171] 34 Caliphs of The Ottoman Caliphate [1517-1923]. totally Islamic history had 144 Amir al-Mu’minin or “Commander of the Faithful” or “Leader of the Faithful”.
In Iran, the Shias (Shi’ite , schism), one of the branches of Islam, had power in the society of Iran by religious institutions and network of Mosques. Shia consider Ali to have been divinely appointed as the successor to Muhammad, and as the first Imam.
in The Safavid dynasty (from 1501 to 1736) conversion of Iran to Shia Islam was a process that took place roughly over the 16th through 18th centuries and turned Iran (Persia), which previously had a Sunni majority, into the spiritual bastion of Shia Islam. It was a process that involved forced conversion [ Arshin Adib-Moghaddam , Psycho-nationalism The Lure of the Other Islam: Art and Architecture, Könemann Melissa L. Rossi , What Every American Should Know about the Middle East ]
during 235 years, Shia’ Mullahs influenced in all parts of Iranian Society. they were the supporter of tyrant kings of Safavid. the Kings of Safavids called themselves as the legitimate representative of Imam Zaman/ al-Mahdi (born 870 CE). based of Shia, he is the final Imam of the Twelve Imams who will emerge with Isa (Jesus) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. even though, Most Sunni Muslims reject that he was the Mahdi and believe that the Mahdi has not yet been born. [ An Introduction to Shi’i Islam ]
a couple of years later, it was another religious system with same ideology. The Qajar dynasty which was an Iranian royal dynasty of Turkic origin, specifically from the Qajar tribe, ruling over Iran from 1789 to 1925. [ Abbas Amanat, The Pivot of the Universe William Bayne Fisher. Cambridge History of Iran Choueiri, Youssef M., A companion to the history of the Middle East ]
the religious atmosphere of the Iran got transition in its religious traditions with the rise of safavids who used the religious card throughout their tenure and emerged as the champions of Shiaism in Iran. Qajars being their successors also fallowed almost the same religious policy as matter of fact upto their times Shiaism had become dominant faith in Iran. Shia traditions were always used by Qajar rulers for legitimization of their power. The Qajars shrouded themselves in a religious aura. They declared themselves Protectors of Shi‘ism, Keepers of the Koran, Commanders of the Faithful, and Girders of Imam Ali‘s Sword.
during these 2 paradigm – Safavids and Qajar – the religious network of Mullahs in Iran had developed dramatically. but on the contrary, after emergence of Reza Shah Pahlavi (15 December 1925 -16 September 1941), Mullahs had no power anymore. Shia Mullahs During these years , from 1501 until 1925 , claimed that the king in the Shia Land of Iran is a trustee to preserve the power , because power is related to Imam Zaman/ al-Mahdi . historically and logically, it’s a insignificant. but after 1941, Shia Mullahs tries to reestablish their power in Iranian Society.
for that reason, they used Islamic Terrorism in some Islamic and Marxist Militia Groups against Shah or Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
after 1979, a Shia Mullah came to power and the religious circle around Khomeini seized the power in Iran. The Shia Mullahs shaped the Shia Islamic Caliphate, or an autocratic regime in Tehran. when Khomeini died on 1989, Khamenei was a successor and now he is 83 years old. although, he called himself as the leader of all Muslims in entire world but he is the leader of a Shia country like Iran and during 31 years, he shaped Shia Crescent in Middle East.
currently, one of the potential scenarios for Khamenei’s succession is his son. Mojtaba is behind the scene and controls all the issues related to Khamenei. This scenario is reminder of Abbasside Caliphate that the power was hereditary. and in another scenario is Ebrahim Raisi, the current candidate for circus of presidential election in June 2021.
Islamic Caliphates - History
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After the collapse of the Classical Empires, the next great civilization that arises is that of the Arab Islamic Caliphates. Beginning with Muhammad recieving Allah's message in 610 CE, the Post-Classical Period begins with the Arabs expanding into the areas seen below. The Muslims will dominate trade, astronomy, mathematics, science, philosophy, etc. throughout the era. (I like to break the Post-Classical period into M&M: Muslims & Mongols . There are other great civilizations and ideas(trade, Tang/Song China, migrations, etc.) but all other Afro-Eurasian societies must deal with these two powerful entities. In AP terms, you should devote some time to the Islamic Caliphates. If you feel that you don't know that much about Islam and its impact you're right. DOUBLE-DOWN HERE! KNOW ISLAM!
Islam: History of the ‘Dark and Bloody’ Caliphate
Most Muslims live a peaceful life dedicated to God, however, there are many, hundreds of millions by many accounts, who do not. Hundreds of thousands would be the best case scenario.
The more than a billion peaceful Muslims are among the targeted victims of radical Islam.
Those who try to completely separate Islam from radical Islam fail to know their history.
Whereas, politicians after 9-11 tried to separate peaceful Muslims from radical Muslims, they now try to pretend there is no connection.
Where did the term “religion of peace” come from? Is that how Muslims define their religion?
“Religion of Peace” is a political neologism used as a description of Islam. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, some politicians described Islam as a “religion of peace” in an effort to differentiate between Islamic terrorists, Islamism, and non-violent Muslims.
The Arabic term Islam (إسلام) is derived from aslama, which means “to surrender” or “resign oneself”. The Arabic word salaam (سلام) (“peace”) shares the same consonantal root (s-l-m) with the words Islam and Muslim.
George Bush adopted the phrase as have most U.S. and European politicians, all with good intention and for a good purpose.
Many Muslim sects are peaceful but “surrender” is more applicable. It is a religion of surrender to Allah.
Neuroscientist and New Atheism writer Sam Harris wrote, “The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you.”
Radical British imam, Anjem Choudary, denies Islam is a “religion of peace”, it’s about “submission”.
ISIS is nothing new though we like to tell ourselves they are a rarity – an anomaly for the religion of peace – so rare that Al Qaeda had to disown them because they are too violent. That’s not exactly true.
The real reason for the break between the groups was ISIS would not swear allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri and the groups’ leader al-Baghdadi disobeyed al-Zawahiri’s orders more than once.
Both groups do at times team up in fighting nonetheless. They have cross-fighters.
We like to believe we are civilized but groups of equal measure to ISIS have tortured and enslaved innocents throughout much of the world without letup, over the centuries into current day, and many do it in the name of God, other totalitarians choose the State or a titular head as their god.
Islamic terrorists have been at war since Muhammad lived and died. What is going on now is nothing new.
In an address on the Egyptian Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV, Egyptian Islamic researcher and TV host Islam Behery said, with regard to the Salafi desire to restore the Caliphate: “Who are you kidding? The days of the Caliphate were all dark times.” The statements aired on November 24, 2014.
The jihadists of today want a worldwide Caliphate under a caliph and they want the capital to be in Jerusalem, Israel. It is the one common thread that ties all jihadists together.
The Caliphate is the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death (632 ce) of the Prophet Muhammad.
Ruled by a caliph (khalīfah, “successor”), who held temporal and some spiritual authority, the empire of the Caliphate grew rapidly through conquest during its first two centuries to include most of Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Spain.
Dynastic struggles later brought about the Caliphate’s decline, and it ceased to exist with the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258.
In 1517, the Ottoman Empire formed from the conquered lands of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.
Sultan Selim the Grim officially claimed the title of caliph for himself and his heirs. In addition to taking control of the cities of Mecca and Medina, Selim bolstered his claim by bringing a collection of the Prophet’s garments and beard hairs back to Istanbul.
The Caliphate spanned more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.
At its height the empire included most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including modern Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Greece, and Ukraine Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt North Africa as far west as Algeria and most of the Arabian Peninsula.
It was totalitarian and brutal.
Consider the conquest of India whom few know about and compare with ISIS and Al Qaeda today:
The Wall Street Journal published a book review under the title, Why Hitler Wished He Was a Muslim. The following paragraph from the article is of interest:
As David Motadel writes in “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War,” Muslims fought on both sides in World War II. But only Nazis and Islamists had a political-spiritual romance. Both groups hated Jews, Bolsheviks and liberal democracy. Both sought what Michel Foucault, praising the Iranian Revolution in 1979, would later call the spiritual-political “transfiguration of the world” by “combat.” The caliph, the Islamist Zaki Ali explained, was the “führer of the believers.” “Made by Jews, led by Jews—therewith Bolshevism is the natural enemy of Islam,” wrote Mahomed Sabry, a Berlin-based propagandist for the Muslim Brotherhood in “Islam, Judaism, Bolshevism,” a book that the Reich’s propaganda ministry recommended to journalists.
Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini (c. 1897 – 4 July 1974), a controversial figure, was the founder of modern radical Islam and he was allied with Adolf Hitler. He is pictured below in a meeting with Hitler.
He was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in Mandatory Palestine. Al-Husseini was the scion of a family of Jerusalemite notables.
Amin al-Husseini (above), the grand mufti of Jerusalem, was a zealous and violent person, who sought refuge in Baghdad after being exiled in 1937.
The former Ottoman Empire artillery officer turned teacher was sentenced to ten years in prison by the British for his part in anti-Jewish riots in 1920 in Jerusalem.
He was foolishly pardoned by the British and became grand mufti the following year.
The British thought allowing al-Husseini to play the role would be meaningless since he had no adherents in the Arab community. It proved to be a mistake.
As grand mufti, he was in a perfect position to exploit Arab-Jewish tension that began with the exodus of Jews to Palestine in the 1930s. His anti-Semitic rhetoric found an audience in a growing middle class.
As president of the Supreme Muslim Council, he controlled religious schools and courts as well as trust funds that spread his message of hate in Iraq and Syria.
He also launched attacks on Jewish settlements and assassinated moderate Arabs who urged compromise but were marginalized by terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Moreover, the mufti benefited from a decline in British fortunes.
After 1938, Germany, Italy, and even Spain fueled Arab nationalism with radio broadcasts, cultural subsidies, and anti-Semitic literature that was translated and distributed through schools by al-Husseini.
Palestinians imitated fascist organizations and praised NAZI racial laws, dreaming of a day when Germany and Italy would eject the British and the Jews from the Middle East.
Amin Al-Husseini instigated a pro-NAZI coup in Baghdad, Iraq in 1941. Kharaillah Tulfah was his right-hand man.
Tulfah is Saddam Hussein’s mentor and uncle. Amin Al-Husseini used his influence in the Third Reich to have Germany sends weapons and aircrafts to Husseini, which failed.
Later as the Third Reich’s fate seemed inevitable, the Grand Mufti, Amin al-Husseini continued to work with Hitler achieving an honorary rank in the SS by Heinrich Himmler (Head of SS) and even commissioning Muslin Soldiers to fight under the NAZI flag in the Balkans.
Giving the NAZI salute to the troops.
Meeting with Heinrich Himmler.
Al-Husseini was made Prime Minister of the Pan-Arab government by the NAZIs.
The group was headquartered in Berlin.
After the fall of the Third Reich, Amin al-Husseini fled to Bagdad and later the British gave him amnesty.
Amin Al-Husseini became one of the founders of the Arab League.
Shortly thereafter Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat met Amin Al-Husseini at age 17 and started to work for him, passing on Husseini’s policy of ethnic cleansing.
He used recently acquired Nazi methodology to implement his vision of an Arab World free of Jews.
In 1948 with UN recognition, Israel declared statehood. The Arab League immediately declared Jihad (Holy War) against Israel.
Amin Al-Husseini was directly implicated in providing safe haven to ex-NAZIs in Arab lands and formation of the ODESSA network.
Egypt, home of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Syria incorporated thousands of Nazi experts into Egyptian and Syrian army, government and propaganda service.
In 1962 Amin Al-Husseini became president of World Islamic Congress, which he founded. The Islamic Fundamentalists planned to make Arab lands free of Jews, as Hitler did in Europe. He is credited as having influenced the mass murdering Saddam Hessein.
Others that have credited Amin Al-Husseini as an influence include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.
In his post-September 11th declaration to the world (October 7th 2001), Osama Bin Laden openly pledged his allegiance to the Ottoman Empire and its notion of Islamic take-over, thus drawing a direct connection with Amin Al-Husseini.
He stated that his Jihad was in retaliation for 80 years of disgrace and humiliation, which marked the humiliating defeat of the Ottoman Islamic Empire at the hands of the French and British in 1918.
The year 1921 also marks the year that Amin Al Husseini was appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (against the will of the people) and the seed of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda was born.
In 1941, the Mufti fled to Germany, meeting with Hitler in November. They discussed their common enemy – the Jews. Hitler would not order a declaration in support of the Arabs because he said the time was not right.
“Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews,” Hitler assured, “That naturally included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine….Germany would furnish positive and practical aid to the Arabs involved in the same struggle….Germany’s objective [is]…solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere….In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world.”
The Mufti thanked Hitler profusely.
On August 28, 1942, Hitler said, “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion…The Mohammedan religion too would have been more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”
It is well-documented that an associate of al-Husseini’s, together with three associates of former Iraqi Prime Minister visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as part of a “training course’, in July 1942, the year before it became a death camp.
Wolfgang G. Schwanitz notes that in his memoirs Husseini recalled that Heinrich Himmler, in the summer of 1943, while confiding some German war secrets, inveighed against Jewish “war guilt”, and, speaking of Germany’s persecution of the Jews said that “up to now we have exterminated (in Arabic, abadna) around three million of them”.
In his memoirs, Husseini wrote he was astonished to hear this.
Schwanitz doubts the sincerity of his surprise since Husseini had publicly declared that Muslims should follow the example Germans set for a “definitive solution to the Jewish problem”.
On November 2, 1943, Himmler sent the following telegram to the Mufti:
“To the Grand Mufti: The National Socialist movement of Greater Germany has, since its inception, inscribed upon its flag the fight against the world Jewry. It has therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine, against Jewish interlopers. In the recognition of this enemy and of the common struggle against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world. In this spirit I am sending you on the anniversary of the infamous Balfour Declaration my hearty greetings and wishes for the successful pursuit of your struggle until the final victory. Reichsfuehrer S.S. Heinrich Himmler.”
In a speech delivered that same day at the Luftwaffe hall in Berlin, Husseini declared:”The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews . ..They have definitely solved the Jewish problem.”
Husseini blocked all attempts of Jewish women and children fleeing the Holocaust to enter Palestine. He had been informed of the Holocaust at the time.
In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. He escaped from French detention in 1946, however, and continued his fight against the Jews from Cairo and later Beirut. He died in 1974.
The current administration is ignoring history.
The Muslim Brotherhood has now infiltrated our politics, our executive offices, and has even formed a political party in Chicago even though they have been declared a terrorist group by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and others.
If we ignore history, we can believe that ISIS is a temporary aberration and al Qaeda is on the run and we might believe appeasement could work. If we look at history, we know it will not.
We can fight them now or later when they are stronger and more able to consume us. If we are consumed, freedom will die too for centuries to come.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of these people could mean the end of our civilization. They have no respect for life. They respect death as we respect life. They commit genocide and even kill their own, even the most innocent – women, children, the elderly – all in the name of God because in their warped minds, it is what God wants and all that we do here is for a place in the everlasting. Their radical definition of their religion embraces evil and hate.
Sources and Further Reading: Jewish Virtual Library, Encyclopedia Brittanica, The Muslim Issue
The rise and fall of the Islamic caliphate in history
The successors of Prophet Muhammad, who was the head of the Islamic state, were called "caliphs," a term translated as "successor" in English. Starting from the 11th century, various states were established on the lands the Muslims ruled, from the Atlantic Ocean to deep inside China and the authority of the caliph became symbolic in these countries.
After that, the caliph had the same status with the emperors in the European empires, while the sultans governing these Islamic states were much like kings and princes under the rule of the emperor.
When Baghdad was taken by the Mongols in 1258, the Abbasid Caliphate continued its existence in Cairo. In truth, the power was in the hands of the sultans nominally loyal to the caliph. The caliph became a spiritual symbol that reminded the Muslims of the golden days of Islamic unity. Upon the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, the title of the caliph was passed down to the Ottoman sultans and the title regained its old authority.
The office of the caliphate stated that the Ottoman sultans were also the "leaders of the Muslim World." The Shaybanids in Turkistan, the Gujarat Sultanate in India (1536), the Mughal Empire from the reign of Humayun (1548), Iran (1727), the Morocco Sultanate (1579) and the Kasghar State (1868) all announced that they recognized the Ottoman sultan as the Muslim caliph.
Muslims who traveled from Turkistan through Caucasia for hajj did not miss the chance to visit Istanbul and make their Friday prayers with the caliph.
The Ottoman sultans began to place sacred importance to the title of caliph in the following centuries. Starting from the 18th century, when lands heavily populated by the Muslims like Crimea were taken from the Ottomans, this aspect of the Ottoman sultan became official. To protect the religious and material interest of the Muslims living in these lands, the Ottoman sultan laid his claims to be a spiritual authority which the rest of the world had to accept.
Following the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774), which was signed after the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War, the spiritual power of the sultan over the Muslims living in the former Ottoman lands were established. Hence, the Ottoman sultans who previously held material power over their subjects had assumed a spiritual role powered by the caliph similar to Pope's power over the Catholics.
Sultan Abdülhamid II in particular laid weight on this status, believing that it helped the political unity of Islam. He sent books, scholars and built madrasahs in Muslim regions that were under occupation. Hence, the Muslims who were in captivity turned their faces to Istanbul. The caliph in Istanbul maintained the Muslim desire for unity and independence alive, even with his political power restricted.
Britain in state of fear
Muftis and qadis (Muslim judges) assigned from Istanbul continued services in former Ottoman lands, such as Crimea, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece. These officials tried to uphold the sharia law over Muslims with the power they received from the caliph. They protected waqfs, or Muslim schools, and religious publications in these regions. Until this day, muftis are still dealing with the religious and judicial affairs of Muslims living in Greece thanks to this tradition.
This policy also bore its fruits in the early 20th century. Colonial Muslims, especially from Turkistan and India, offered unbelievable material and spiritual support following the occupation of Anatolia during the Great War. Ruling over one fourth of the entire world, Britain had a serious number of Muslims under its rule and sought to guard against the power of the caliph. Britain therefore focused its foreign policy of removing the caliph, starting from the second half of the 19th century. The British achieved their goal following the Young Turks revolution in 1908 and then further cemented their gains in World War I. The Young Turks who seized power in the Ottoman State chopped the earthly powers of the caliphate.
Istanbul was occupied in 1918 by the Allies. The last Ottoman sultan, Mehmed Vahideddin, distracted the attention of the British as he organized the national resistance in Anatolia in secret. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, whom Sultan Vahideddin assigned to organize the resistance movement, established a parallel government in Ankara and turned away from Istanbul after his victory against the Greek. With a tactic that was supported by the British, the sultanate was abolished on Nov. 1, 1922 and the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire was accused of treason.
Afterward, crown Shahzade Abdülmecid Efendi was appointed caliph, breaking the autonomy of the caliphate and the sultanate for the second time in history, establishing a symbolic caliphate with no executive powers. Sultan Vahideddin, who had to leave the country, released a declaration that announced the constitutional amendment could not come into force without the approval of the sultan, and, hence, that it was against the constitution to separate the sultanate from the caliphate. He also condemned his cousin for accepting the office of caliphate under these circumstances.
Pressure produces results
Mustafa Kemal preserved the office of the caliph and it continued to play an important role in international politics. He even thought of declaring himself as the caliph, hence, he paid great attention to portray himself as a religious person. However, under pressure from the British, who ruled over millions of Muslims in their colonies, the government in Ankara abolished the caliphate on March 3, 1924. All men, women and children belonging to the Ottoman dynasty, one of the oldest dynasties in the world, were exiled. The last caliph, Sultan Abdülmecid, lived in France for 20 years.
This incident drew astonishment from across the Islamic world and some figures like King of Egypt Fuad and King of Hejaz Sharif Hussein wanted to assume the caliphate status. However, neither were the Muslims in favor of this nor was Britain. No fruitful results came up from the Caliphate Council, which included Muslims all around the world, either. This is how one of the oldest institutions in the history of Islam sank into oblivion.
The Ottoman dynasty was not as lucky as its European counterparts, as the empire went through difficult times while establishing a state and sustaining a society with different nationalities. Members of the Ottoman dynasty, who did not have any relatives abroad and whose wealth was seized, were in serious difficulty when they were exiled. The dynasty's women were not allowed to enter Turkey for 28 years, while the duration was 50 years for men. Their fortune was never handed back. In recent times, there are certain signs of an Anglo-American project to establish a caliphate without material power to control the Islamic world from one center and avoid terrorism.
What Was the Umayyad Caliphate?
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of four Islamic caliphates and was founded in Arabia after the Prophet Muhammad's death. The Umayyads ruled the Islamic world from 661 to 750 C.E. Their capital was in the city of Damascus the founder of the caliphate, Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, had long been the governor of Syria.
Originally from Mecca, Muawiya named his dynasty the "Sons of Umayya" after a common ancestor he shared with the Prophet Muhammad. The Umayyad family had been one of the major combatant clans in the Battle of Badr (624 CE), the decisive battle between Muhammad and his followers on the one hand, and the powerful clans of Mecca on the other.
Muawiya triumphed over Ali, the fourth caliph, and Muhammad's son-in-law, in 661, and officially founded the new caliphate. The Umayyad Caliphate became one of the major political, cultural, and scientific centers of the early medieval world.
The Umayyads also began the process of spreading Islam throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. They moved into Persia and Central Asia, converting the rulers of key Silk Road oasis cities such as Merv and Sistan. They also invaded what is now Pakistan, beginning the process of conversion in that area that would continue for centuries. Umayyad troops also crossed Egypt and brought Islam to the Mediterranean coast of Africa, from whence it would disperse south across the Sahara along caravan routes until much of West Africa became Muslim.
Finally, the Umayyads waged a series of wars against the Byzantine Empire based in what is now Istanbul. They sought to overthrow this Christian empire in Anatolia and convert the region to Islam Anatolia would eventually convert, but not for several centuries after the collapse of the Umayyad Dynasty in Asia.
Between 685 and 705 CE, the Umayyad Caliphate reached its apex of power and prestige. Its armies conquered areas from Spain the west to Sindh in what is now India. One after another, additional Central Asian cities fell to the Muslim armies - Bukhara, Samarkand, Khwarezm, Tashkent, and Fergana. This rapidly expanding empire had a postal system, a form of banking based on credit, and some of the most beautiful architecture ever seen.
Just when it seemed that the Umayyads truly were poised to rule the world, however, disaster struck. In 717 CE, the Byzantine emperor Leo III led his army to a crushing victory over the Umayyad forces, which had been besieging Constantinople. After 12 months trying to break through the city's defenses, the hungry and exhausted Umayyads had to retreat empty-handed back to Syria.
A new caliph, Umar II, tried to reform the financial system of the caliphate by increasing the taxes on Arab Muslims to the same level as taxes on all other non-Arab Muslims. This caused a huge outcry among the Arab faithful, of course, and caused a financial crisis when they refused to pay any taxes at all. Finally, renewed feuding broke out among the various Arab tribes around this time, leaving the Umayyad system tottering.
It managed to press on for a few more decades. Umayyad armies got as far into western Europe as France by 732, where they were turned back at the Battle of Tours. In 740, the Byzantines dealt the Umayyads another shattering blow, driving all Arabs from Anatolia. Five years later, the simmering feuds between the Qays and Kalb tribes of Arabs erupted into full-scale war in Syria and Iraq. In 749, religious leaders proclaimed a new caliph, Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah, who became the founder of the Abbasid Caliphate.
Under the new caliph, members of the old ruling family were hunted down and executed. One survivor, Abd-ar-Rahman, escaped to Al-Andalus (Spain), where he founded the Emirate (and later Caliphate) of Cordoba. The Umayyad caliphate in Spain survived until 1031.
Explainer: What Is The Islamic Caliphate?
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has formally declared the establishment of a new "caliphate," or Islamic state, in territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria.
Accordingly, ISIL has dropped Iraq and Levant from its name, referring to itself simply as "Islamic State," and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi its "caliph." The Islamic State has called on the world's entire Muslim population, the "Ummah," to swear loyalty to him, including rival militant groups.
Islamists have long dreamed of recreating the caliphate that ruled over the Middle East, much of North Africa, and beyond in various forms over the course of Islam's 1,400-year history.
What Is A Caliphate?
In Arabic, caliphate means "government under a caliph." The caliphate was the Islamic state established after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, in the seventh century.
The word caliph comes from Arabic, meaning "successor" to Muhammad. A caliph was the Islamic state's supreme religious and political leader. He was considered the spiritual leader of the entire Muslim population in the world. The caliph was often referred to as the Amir al-Mu'minin, or "Commander of the Believers."
The Beginning And The End?
The Rashidun caliphate (632-661) was the first, and was founded after the death of Muhammad. "Rashidun," under Sunni Islam, refers to the first four caliphs of the Rashidun caliphate -- Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Rashidun, in Arabic, means "righteously guided."
After the first four caliphs, the caliphate was claimed by various dynasties such as the Ummayads (661-750) and the Abbasids (750-1258). The caliphate languished after the Mongol Invasion until the Ottomans claimed it (1453-1924). The caliphate was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of Turkey, in 1924.
There have been efforts made to revive the caliphate, but they have collapsed because of political infighting among Muslim leaders.
Was The Title Caliph Disputed?
Dr. Carool Kersten, a senior lecturer in Islam at King's College London, says the caliphate was the desired political model for the political organization of the Sunnis, but not the Shi'a.
Shi'a believed the successor of the Prophet Muhammad should come from his family. Shi'a believe Ali, who was a cousin, and son-in-law of the prophet, was the only legitimate successor to Muhammad.
But under Sunni traditions, the leadership was elected, meaning Ali was the fourth caliph after Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman.
"[Followers] didn't call Ali a caliph, they called him an Imam. And after that the Shi'ites recognized a succession of Imams," not caliphs, says Kersten.
Even under Sunnis, there were competing claims to the caliphate for much of its history. There were counter claims from rival dynasties in Spain and Egypt.
What Is The Significance Of ISIL's Declaration?
Many observers agree that ISIL's declaration of a caliphate is an attempt to add legitimacy and credibility to its position following its huge territorial gains in Iraq.
Kersten says ISIL will challenge the current borders of the Middle East by offering a "genuine, authentic, and alternative Islamic political [system]."
"By proclaiming a caliphate they want to strengthen and emphasize that they wish to exercise political control over that territory that is different from the nation-state model based on which the international system functions at present," says Kersten.
Kersten adds that the timing of the declaration, a day after the holy month of Ramadan began, is not coincidental. "It's a very powerful point of time because Muslims express a heightened sense of religiosity at that time of the year."
Few in the Middle East are expected to accept the caliphate of ISIL, however.
The extremist group's claim to the caliphate could also have an impact on the international jihadist movement, especially on the future of Al-Qaeda, which disowned the group after falling out with ISIL's leadership in Syria.
Al-Qaeda has long carried the mantle of the international jihadist cause. But ISIL has accomplished in Syria and Iraq what Al-Qaeda never has -- carved out and taken control of a large swath of territory in the Middle East.
ISIL's proclamation also poses a direct challenge to the Arab Gulf states, particularly for Saudi Arabia, says Kersten.
"Saudi Arabia, although it has supported organizations such as ISIL, will certainly not take kindly to this because the king of Saudi Arabia has given himself the title, 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [located in Mecca and Medina],' which is almost like an alternative title to a caliph."
Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a focus on politics, the Taliban insurgency, and human rights. He has reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Fears of a new insurgency
Once a juggernaut that posed an existential menace to Iraq and Syria and aimed to conquer three continents, the so-called Islamic State lies in ruins, its foreign legions decimated, many in its homegrown ranks dead or imprisoned and its remaining leaders again on the run. The precipitous fall has led the group to rebrand its raison d’etre. Central to that is claiming that the losses are a result of an ongoing global war on Islam.
“Isis has explained away the loss of its caliphate in two ways,” said Maher. “The first is by pointing to divine providence and saying that it is the will of God. Either God is punishing or testing the caliphate by afflicting it with trials, but either way, they tell their supporters, the only suitable response is to double down in your devotion because that’s what God would want.”
Women and children at a civilian screening point on the outskirts of Baghuz. Photograph: Achilleas Zavallis/The Guardian
Some holdouts who surrendered during the dying days of Baghuz had bought the new message. “The Islamic state will rise again,” screamed two women, their faces covered in niqabs, as they were driven to detention centres by their Kurdish captors.
Baghdadi, meanwhile, appears to have slipped the vast net of the search for him that ran throughout the heights of Isis territorial power and into its dying days. Those close to him say that he always harboured fears that his most devout advocates would one day turn on him. Officials who have hunted Baghdadi for the past five years say he had become obsessive about the dangers of digital technology, and for good reason. The drones circling above were looking for technical traces that could pinpoint their quarry. No one who met the fugitive leader was allowed to carry a phone anywhere near him.
A member of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces speaks with a woman leaving Baghuz, 1 March 2019. Photograph: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images
The best guess of officials on both sides of the border is that he has slipped back into the familiar terrain of western Iraq, where the rumblings of a fresh insurgency are beginning to trouble leaders in Baghdad and Syria. The spectre of a guerrilla war, this time on both sides of the river, looms large in their fears.
Masrour Barzani, the chancellor of the Kurdistan region security council, said: “Taking away territory from Isis was central to the war. While the cost has been high, and the aftermath palpable in areas across Iraq and Syria, the underlying political and economic conditions remain just as unresolved. Unless regional governments address those grievances, Isis will remain one of many symptoms bound to re-emerge in a new form.
“Isis is about ideology, not fighters or territory. The group has already adapted to territorial defeat by returning to insurgency in areas with pre-existing sectarian fault-lines. It has gained renewed momentum in recent months across Iraq’s northern provinces using tactics it was always more comfortable with than holding territory. In areas freed from their terror, local sleeper cells have already reappeared to spread panic and fear.”