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Who were they?
The Four Caliphs were the first four leaders of Islam that succeeded the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. They are sometimes called the “Rightly Guided” Caliphs because each of them learned about Islam directly from Hazrat Muhammad peace be upon him. They also served as Muhammad’s peace be upon him closest friends and advisors during the early years of Islam.
The Rashidun Caliphate
The time period under the leadership of the Four Caliphs is called the Rashidun Caliphate by historians. The Rashidun Caliphate lasted for 30 years from 632 CE to 661 CE. It was followed by the Umayyad Caliphate. The city of Medina served as the first capital of the Caliphate. The capital was later moved to Kufa.
1. Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A)
The first caliph was Abu Bakr who ruled from 632-634 CE. Abu Bakr was the father-in-law of Muhammad peace be upon him and was an early convert to Islam. He was known as “The Truthful.” During his short reign as caliph, Abu Bakr put down rebellions by various Arab tribes after Muhammad peace be upon him died and established the Caliphate as the ruling force in the region.
2. Hazrat Umar ibn al-Khattab (R.A)
The second caliph was Hazrat Umar ibn al-Khattab. He is generally known just as Umar. Umar ruled for 10 years from 634-644 CE. During this time, the Islamic Empire expanded greatly. He took control of the Middle East including conquering the Sassanids of Iraq. He then took control of many surrounding areas including Egypt, Syria, and North Africa. Umar’s reign came to an end when he was Martyred by a Persian slave.
3. Hazrat Uthman ibn Affan (R.A)
The third caliph was Hazrat Uthman ibn Affan. He was Caliph for 12 years from 644-656 CE. Like the other Four Caliphs, Uthman was a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him . Hazrat Uthman is most known for having an official version of the Quran established from one originally put together by Abu Bakr. This version was then copied and used as the standard version moving forward. Hazrat Uthman was Martyred by rebels in his home in 656 CE.
4. Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S)
The fourth caliph was Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was Muhammad’s peace be upon him cousin and son-in-law. He was married to Muhammad’s peace be upon him youngest daughter Fatimah. He is considered by many to be the first male convert to Islam. Hazrat Ali ruled from 656-661 CE. Ali was known as a wise leader who wrote many speeches and proverbs. He was assassinated ( Martyred ) while praying in the Great Mosque of Kufa.
4. Hazrat Hasan ibn ‘Ali (A.S)
After allegiance was sworn to Ameerul Mu’mineen al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali رضي الله عنهما, he remained the caliph of the Hejaz (the Western region of the Arabian Peninsula that includes Makkah and Madinah), Yemen, Iraq and other regions for approximately seven months (with some saying six or eight months). During that period, his caliphate was a Rightly-Guided Caliphate. This is because it was the completion of the era of the Rightly-Guided Caliphate, which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had said would last for thirty years before turning into a kingship.
Imam at-Tirmidhi رحمه الله narrated, with a chain going back to Safeenah رضي الله عنه, the freed slave of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, that he said: ‘The caliphate in my Ummah will last for thirty years; after that, it will become a kingship.’ (A good hadith recorded by at-Tirmidhi)
Imaam lbn Katheer رحمه الله commented on this hadeeth: ‘The thirty-year period was only completed with the caliphate of al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali رضي الله عنهما. He gave up the caliphate to Mu’awiyah رضي الله عنه in Rabee’ I, 41 AH, and that was the completion of thirty years after the death of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, for he had died in Rabee’ 1, 11 AH. This is one of the signs of his prophethood, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him.’
Interesting Facts about the Four Caliphs of the Islamic Empire
- The “ibn” in the names above mean “son of” in Arabic. So Uthman ibn Affan means “Uthman son of Affan.”
- Umar was known as Al-Farooq which means “the one who distinguishes between right and wrong.”
- Uthman was Muhammad’s son-in-law. He actually married two of Muhammad’s peace be upon him daughters. He married the second daughter after the first passed away.
- Hazrat Fatimah (A.S), Hazrat Ali’s wife and Muhammad’s peace be upon him (daughter, is an important and loved figure in the religion of Islam.
- Under Muhammad, Hazrat Abu Bakr served as the leader of the first Islamic pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.
- Hazrat Umar was a physically strong and powerful man, known as a great athlete and wrestler.
- The Umayyad Caliphate took control after the death of Hazrat Ali (A.S).