Rashidun Caliphs

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Rāshidūn Caliphs or al-Khulafāʾ al-Rāshidun (Arabic: الخُلفاء الراشدون) is a term used by Sunni Muslims to refer to the first rulers who succeeded Prophet Muhammad (s) after his demise. In the order of succession, Rashidun Caliphs are Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa, 'Umar b. al-Khattab, 'Uthman b. 'Affan, and 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a). In some sources, al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a) is also mentioned among Rashidun Caliphs.

Sunni Muslims consider the period of the Rashidun Caliphs as the golden age of the early Islamic period. They believe that the Rashidun Caliphs followed and maintained the Prophet's (s) tradition. They use the attribute, "Rashidun" (literally: rightly guided), to distinguish them from mundane and corrupt Umayyad caliphs. However, some scholars take the term to be coined by 'Uthmanis (the advocates of 'Uthman and the Umayyad dynasty) to eclipse the Shiite theory of Imamate.

The Term

Imams Life span & Duration of Imamate Caliphs
Imam 'Ali (a) Life span: (b.3 BH/600 - d.40/661) Abu Bakr'Umar b. Khattab'Uthman b. 'Affan
Duration of Imamate: (b.3 BH/600 - d.40/661)
Imam al-Hasan (a) Life span: (b. 3/625 - d. 50/670) Abu Bakr • 'Umar b. Khattab • 'Uthman b. 'Affan • Imam 'Ali (a) • Mu'awiya
Duration of Imamate: 40/661 - 50/670
Imam al-Husayn (a) Life span: (b. 4/626 - d. 61/680) Abu Bakr • 'Umar b. Khattab • 'Uthman b. 'Affan • Imam 'Ali (a) • Imam al-Hasan (a) • Mu'awiya • Yazid b. Mu'awiya
Duration of Imamate: 50/670 - 61/680
Imam al-Sajjad (a) Life span: (b. 38/658 – d. 94/713) Imam 'Ali • Imam al-Hasan (a) • Mu'awiya • Yazid • Mu'awyia b. Yazid • Marwan b. Hakam • 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan • Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Duration of Imamate: b. 61/680 – 94/713
Imam al-Baqir (a) Life span: (b. 57/677 – d. 114/733) Mu'awiya • Yazid b. Mu'awiya • Mu'awyia b. Yazid • Marwan b. Hakam • 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan • Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik • Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik • 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz • Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik • Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Duration of Imamate: 94/713 - 114/733
Imam al-Sadiq (a) Life span: (b. 83/704 – d. 148/765) 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan • Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik • • Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik • 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz • Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik • Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik • Walid b. Yazid • Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik • Ibrahim b. Walid • Marwan b. Muhammad • Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah • al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Duration of Imamate: 114/733 - 148/765
Imam al-Kazim (a) Life span: (b. 128/745 - d. 183/799) Marwan b. Muhammad • Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah • al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi • al-Mahdi al-'Abbasial-Hadi al-'AbbasiHarun al-Rashid
Duration of Imamate: 148/765 - 183/799
Imam al-Rida (a) Life span: (b. 148/766 – d. 203/818) Al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi • Mahdi al-'Abbasi • Hadi al-'Abbasi • Harun al-Rashid • Amin al-'AbbasiMa'mun al-'Abbasi
Duration of Imamate: 183/799 - 203/818
Imam al-Jawad (a) Life span: (b. 195/811 - d. 220/835) Amin al-'Abbasi • Ma'mun al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
Duration of Imamate: 203/818 - 220/835
Imam al-Hadi (a) Life span: (b. 212/828 - d. 254/868) Ma'mun al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi • al-Wathiq bi Allah • al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi • al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi • al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
Duration of Imamate: 220/835 - 254/868
Imam al-'Askari (a) Life span: (b. 232/846 - d. 260/874) al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi • al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi • al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi • al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
Duration of Imamate: 254/835 - 260/874
Imam al-Mahdi (a) Life span: (b. 255/869 - alive) al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi • al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi • al-Mu'tadad al-'Abbasi • al-Muktafi al-'Abbasi • al-Muqtadir al-'Abbasi • al-Qahir al-'Abbasi • al-Radi al-'Abbasi • ...
Duration of Imamate: 260/874 - alive

"Rashid" (Arabic: راشد) means rightly guided. According to Sunni view point the Rashidun Caliphs are respectively Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and Imam 'Ali (a). Some Sunni sources have added al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a) to the list of Rashidun Caliphs as well.

Evidence from Hadiths

The title, "Rashidun Caliphs", has its origin in a hadith from the Prophet (s) which is cited in a number of Sunni collections of hadiths with slight differences. In this hadith, the Prophet (s) asks his Sahaba to follow his tradition and the tradition of the Rashidun (guided) Caliphs after him. Sunni scholars of hadiths have taken the term to refer to the early caliphs after the Prophet (s) who, they believe, followed and maintained the Prophet's (s) tradition.

It is also said that the advocates of 'Uthman and the Umayyad dynasty used "Rashidun Caliphs" to refer to the early successors of the Prophet (s).

Some Shiite figures and scholars, such as al-'Allama al-Amini, have inspected this hadith and came to the conclusion that is was fabricated. In some Shiite hadiths, the title, "Rashidun Caliphs", is used as an adjective for the Twelve Imams (a).

Abu Bakr's Caliphate

After the demise of the Prophet (s), Ansar (the Helpers) and Muhajirun (the Emigrants) gathered in Saqifa Bani Sa'ida in Medina. After some quarrels among Ansar themselves and between Ansar and Muhajirun over the election of the Prophet's (s) successor, some people pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr as the caliph. The pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr, which occurred in the absence of the majority of the Prophet's (s) Sahaba, came to be known as the "Pledge of Saqifa". According to Sunni theologians, the legitimacy of Abu Bakr's caliphate was based on the consensus of ahl al-hill wa l-'aqd (those qualified to elect or depose a caliph).

However, Imam 'Ali (a), Banu Hashim and advocates of Imam 'Ali (a), including a group of Ansar and Muhajirun, who came to be known as early Shi'as, refused to pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr.

'Umar's Caliphate

After two years and a few months of caliphate (11/632-13/634), Abu Bakr left a will in which he selected 'Umar as his successor. Thus, he did not follow the procedure of Saqifa to elect the caliph, selecting the caliph on his own. Although 'Umar's selection was opposed and protested by some Sahaba, in general it was accepted in a peaceful way.

'Umar's Actions

The territories of the Islamic government remarkably expanded within a decade of 'Umar's caliphate (13/634-23/644). He distributed allowances among people in accordance with how early they had converted to Islam, their presence in the Battle of Badr, their kinship with the Prophet (s), and their tribal origins, which was contrary to the spirit of Islamic doctrines.

'Umar was the first Muslim caliph who was murdered. Before his death, he delegated the selection of the next caliph to a Six-Member Council consisting of some of the early Muhajirun, including 'Ali (a) and 'Uthman, and in case the council could not reach an agreement, he left the final decision to 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, which meant a lower chance of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) being selected as the caliph. Three members of the council supported one another and did not vote for 'Ali (a), and thus, 'Uthman was selected as the next caliph on the condition of following the Book of God and the tradition of the Prophet (s) and the practices of Shaykhayn (that is, Abu Bakr and 'Umar).

'Uthman's Caliphate

Although the 12 years of 'Uthman's caliphate (reign: 23/644-35/656) is usually divided into two six-year periods in the second of which 'Uthman gave up the practice of the second caliph and caused dissatisfactions among people, he had already left some of the key positions of his government to his close relatives during the first 5 years of his caliphate.

'Uthman believed that it was his right to freely manipulate his power and wealth and was offended by any protests. His support of Banu Umayya and his uncontrolled benefits from unlimited governmental incomes led to the spread of squanders and luxurious lifestyles in the Islamic community.

His attempt to personally own public areas was a big step towards turning the caliphate into a monarchy. His treatment of some Sahaba and the unjust actions of some of his agents and his propagation of heresies inconsistent with the Qur'an and the Prophet's (s) tradition led to huge protests resulting in his murder.

'Ali's (a) Caliphate

After the death of 'Uthman, Muslims pledged their allegiance to 'Ali (a). Unlike the allegiances to the former three caliphs, the allegiance to 'Ali (a) was done by all people in Medina. At first, Imam 'Ali (a) was supported by Ansar in Medina, people of Kufa, Egyptians who had contributed to 'Uthman's murder, and a group of Muhajirun. For a while, he was also supported by the heads of prominent tribes.

'Ali's (a) Reforms

'Ali's (a) aims in his caliphate included a renewed stabilization of the political system as well as social and legal reforms. His first action was the removal 'Uthman's agents and the appointment of competent, conscientious agents. He also returned the usurped property to Bayt al-Mal (Treasury).

Internal Conflicts Again

Three battles were imposed to 'Ali (a) in his period.

The battles had different origins.

The first battle (Battle of Jamal) began under the leadership of Talha, al-Zubayr and Aisha who had broken their allegiances as a result of avarice.

The second battle (Battle of Siffin) was led by Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan by deceiving people under the pretext of a revenge for 'Uthman. The battle lasted for a few months, and finally when Mu'awiya's defeat was imminent, the event of Arbitration happened, and with the tricks of Mu'awiya's representative ('Amr b. 'As), the two arbiters ('Amr b. 'As and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari) decided to remove 'Ali (a) from power. The verdict was outside the authorities of the arbiters, and so, it was opposed by Imam 'Ali (a), though, to no avail.

After that, some people from Imam 'Ali's (a) army separated from 'Ali (a) by opposing his decision to accept Arbitration—on which they insisted during the Battle of Siffin—and as a result of their ignorance, the Battle of Nahrawan (with Khawarij) occurred.

Eventually, when 'Ali (a) was martyred by a person from Khawarij in Ramadan 40 (January 661), the fourth caliph was killed like his two predecessors. After his martyrdom, people of Kufa pledged their allegiance to al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a).

Imam al-Hasan's (a) Government

The short period of Imam al-Hasan's (a) government should be considered as continuous with Imam 'Ali's (a) government, because people pledged their allegiance to him on the condition of complying with the Qur'an and the Prophet's (s) tradition. His main goal was to combat Mu'awiya, just like his father. In order to combat Mu'awiya, he gathered an army, but Mu'awiya counteracted the Imam's (a) actions by his military force as well as by bribing the Imam's (a) army and financially supporting his own army. Thus, it was very difficult for Imam al-Hasan (a) to militarily encounter Mu'awiya. Since he knew that this battle would lead to a total defeat, he made a peace treaty with Mu'awiya and left the government to him.

End of the Islamic Caliphate

With Imam al-Hasan's (a) compromise with Mu'awiya, the period of caliphate came to an end, and since then, it continued in the form of an inherited monarchy.