Thursday, November 03, 2005

Epitaph the of 4 Great Khalifatu Rasulil-lah

Khalifatu Rasulil-lah means "Successor to the Messenger of God", the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).

The history of the Islamic Empire rested in the records of four great Khalifa, or Caliph in English. The first Caliph, Abu Bakar, was elected after the death of the Prophet. The title 'Khalifatu Rasulil-lah'. was first used for Abu Bakar, who was elected head of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet.

There are four notoble Caliphs: Abu Bakar, Umar, Uthman and Ali. All four were among the earliest and closest companions of the Prophet. They lived simple and righteous lives and strove hard for the Islamic religion. Their justice was impartial, their treatment of others was kind and merciful, and they were one with the people. After these four, the later Caliphs assumed the manners of kings and Emirs and the true spirit of equality of ruler and ruled diminished to a considerable extent in the political life of Muslims.

As successor to the Prophet, the Caliph would be the head of the Muslim Ummah and his primary responsibility was to continue in the path of the Prophet. At the death of the Prophet, the Caliph was to make all laws in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. He will be the ruler over Muslims but not their sovereign since sovereignty belongs to God alone. He was to be obeyed as long as he obeyed God. He was responsible for creating and maintaining conditions under which it would be easy for Muslims to live according to Islamic principles, and to see that justice was done to all. Abu Bakar, at the time he accepted the caliphate, stated his position thus:

"The weak among you shall be strong with me until their rights have been vindicated; and the strong among you shall he weak with me until, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from them... Obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger. When I disobey Him and His Prophet, then obey me not."

The First Caliph, Abu Bakar (632-634 A.C.)

The Prophet's closest Companion, Abu Bakar, was not present when the Prophet passed away in the apartment of his beloved wife, Aisha, who was Abu Bakar's daughter. When Abu Bakar came to know of the Prophet's passing, he hurried to the house of sorrow.

After the death of the Prophet, Muslim community faced an extremely serious problem: that of choosing a leader. After some discussion among the Companions of the Prophet who had assembled in order to select a leader, it became apparent that no one was better suited for this responsibility than Abu Bakar.

Abu Bakar was a fairly wealthy merchant, and before he embraced Islam, was a respected citizen of Mecca. He was three years younger than Muhammad. He remained the closest companion of the Prophet throughout the Prophet's life. Abu Bakar was among the earliest to accept Islam. He also persuaded Uthman and Bilal to accept Islam. Abu Bakar was the one chosen by the Prophet to accompany him on the dangerous journey to Medina. In the numerous battles which took place during the life of the Prophet, Abu Bakar was always by his side.

Even before Islam, Abu Bakar was known to be a man of upright character and amiable and compassionate nature. All through his life he was sensitive to human suffering and kind to the poor and helpless. Even though he was wealthy, he lived very simply and spent his money for charity, for freeing slaves and for the cause of Islam. He often spent part of the night in supplication and prayer. He shared with his family a cheerful and affectionate home life.

Abu Bakar died on 21 Jamadi-al Akhir, 13 A.H. (23 August 634 A.C.), at the age of sixty-three, and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet. His caliphate had been of a mere twenty-seven months duration. In this brief span, however, Abu Bakar had managed to strengthen and consolidate the Muslim community and secure the Muslims against the perils which had threatened their existence.

The Second Caliph, Umar (634-644 A.C.)

During his last days in illness, Abu Bakar had conferred with his people and they chose Umar as his successor. Umar was born into a respected Quraish family thirteen years after the birth of Muhammad. Umar's family was known for its extensive knowledge of genealogy. When he grew up, Umar was proficient in this branch of knowledge as well as in swordsmanship, wrestling and the art of speaking. He also learned to read and write while still a child, a very rare thing in Mecca at that time. Umar earned his living as a merchant. His trade took him to many foreign lands and he met all kinds of people. This experience gave him an insight into the affairs and problems of men. Umar's personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straight forward. He always spoke whatever was in his mind even if it displeased others.

The soundness of Umar's judgment, his devotion to the Prophet, his outspokenness and uprightness won for him a trust and confidence from the Prophet which was second only to that given to Abu Bakar. During the Caliphate of Abu Bakar, Umar was his closest assistant and adviser. When Abu Bakr died, all the people of Medina swore allegiance to Umar, and on 23 Jamadi-al-Akhir, 13 A.H., he was proclaimed Caliph.

The most notable feature of Umar's caliphate was the vast expansion of Islam. Apart from Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Iran also came under the protection of the Islamic government. But the greatness of Umar himself lies in the quality of his rule. He spent many a watchful night going about the streets of Medina to see whether anyone needed help or assistance.

Umar gave his government an administrative structure. Departments of treasury, army and public revenues were established. Regular salaries were set up for soldiers. A popuation census was held. Elaborate land surveys were conducted to assess equitable taxes. New cities were founded. The areas which came under his rule were divided into provinces and governors were appointed. New roads were laid, canals were lug and wayside hotels were built. Provision was made for he support of the poor and the needy from public funds. He defined, by precept and by example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims, an example of which is the following contract with the Christians of Jerusalem:

"This is the protection which the servant of God, Umar, the Ruler of the Believers has granted to the people of Eiliya [Jerusalem]. The protection is for their lives and properties, their churches and crosses, their sick and healthy and for all their coreligionists. Their churches shall not be used for habitation, nor shall they be demolished, nor shall any injury be done to them or to their compounds, or to their crosses, nor shall their properties be injured in any way. There shall be no compulsion for these people in the matter of religion, nor shall any of them suffer any injury on account of religion... Whatever is written herein is under the covenant of God and the responsibility of His Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers, and shall hold good as long as they pay Jizya [the tax for their defense] imposed on them."

Those non-Muslims who took part in defense together with the Muslims were exempted from paying Jizya, and when the Muslims had to retreat from a city whose non-Muslim citizens had paid this tax for their defense, the tax was returned to the non-Muslims. The old, the poor and the disabled of Muslims and non-Muslims alike were provided for from the public treasury and from the Zakat funds.

In 23 A.H., when Umar returned to Medina from Haj, he raised his hands and prayed,

"O God! I am advanced in years, my bones are weary, my powers are declining, and the people for whom I am responsible have spread far and wide. Summon me back to Thyself, my lord!"

Umar died in the first week of Muharram, 24 A.H., and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet.

The Third Caliph, Uthman (644-656 A.C.)

When Umar fell under the assassin's dagger, before he died the people asked him to nominate his successor. Umar appointed a committee consisting of six of the ten companions of the Prophet - Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman, Sa'ad, Al-Zubayr and Talha - to select the next Caliph from among themselves. He also outlined the procedure to be followed if any differences of opinion should arise. Abdul Rahman withdrew his name. He was then authorized by the committee to nominate the Caliph. After two days of discussion among the candidates and after the opinions of the Muslims in Medina had been ascertained, the choice was finally limited to Uthman and Ali. Abdul Rahman came to the mosque together with other Muslims, and after a brief speech and questioning of the two men, swore allegiance to Uthman. All those present did the same, and Uthman became the third Caliph of Islam in the month of Muharram, 24 A.H.

Uthman bin Affan was born seven years after the Holy Prophet. He belonged to the Omayyad branch of the Quraish tribe. He learned to read and write at an early age, and as a young man became a successful merchant. Even before Islam Uthman had been noted for his truthfulness and integrity. He and Abu Bakar were close friends, and it was Abu Bakar who brought him to Islam when he was thirty-four years of age. Some years later he married the Prophet's second daughter, Ruqayya. In Medina his business again began to flourish and he regained his former prosperity. Uthman's generosity had no limits. On various occasions he spent a great portion of his wealth for the welfare of the Muslims, for charity and for equipping the Muslim armies. That is why he came to be known as 'Ghani' meaning 'Generous.'

Uthman's wife, Ruqayya was seriously ill just before the Battle of Badr and he was excused by the Prophet from participating in the battle. The illness Ruqayya proved fatal, leaving Uthman deeply grieved. The Prophet was moved and offered Uthman the hand of another of his daughters, Kulthum. Because he had the high privilege of having two daughters of the Prophet as wives Uthman was known as 'The Possessor of the Two Lights.'

Uthman participated in the Battles of Uhud and the Trench. After the encounter of the Trench, the Prophet determined to perform Haj and sent Uthman as his emissary to the Quraish in Mecca, who detained him. The episode ended in a treaty with the Meccans known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya.

The portrait we have of Uthman is of an unassuming, honest, mild, generous and very kindly man, noted especially for his modesty and his piety. He often spent part of the night in prayer, fasted every second or third day, performed haj every year, and looked after the needy of the whole community. In spite of his wealth, he lived very simply and slept on bare sand in the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque. Uthman knew the Qur'an from memory and had an intimate knowledge of the context and circumstances relating to each verse.

During Uthman's rule the characteristics of Abu Bakar's and Umar's caliphates - impartial justice for all, mild and humane policies, striving in the path of God, and the expansion of Islam - continued. Uthman's realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to Afghanistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate a navy was organized, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed. Uthman sent prominent Companions of the Prophet as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people.

Uthman's most notable contribution to the religion of God was the compilation of a complete and authoritative text of the Qur'an. A large number of copies of this text were made and distributed all over the Muslim world.

Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquility, but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose. The Jews and the Magians, taking advantage of dissatisfaction among the people, began conspiring against Uthman, and by publicly airing their complaints and grievances, gained so much sympathy that it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

It may seem surprising that a ruler of such vast territories, whose armies were matchless, was unable to deal with these rebels. If Uthman had wished, the rebellion could have been crushed at the very moment it began. But he was reluctant to be the first to shed the blood of Muslims, however rebellious they might be. He preferred to reason with them, to persuade them with kindness and generosity. He well remembered hearing the Prophet say, "Once the sword is unsheathed among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day."

The rebels demanded that he abdicate and some of the Companions advised him to do so. He would gladly have followed this course of action, but again he was bound by a solemn pledge he had given to the Prophet. "Perhaps God will clothe you with a shirt, Uthman" the Prophet had told him once, "and if the people want you to take it off, do not take it off for them." Uthman said to a well-wisher on a day when his house was surrounded by the rebels, "God's Messenger made a covenant with me and I shall show endurance in adhering to it."

After a long siege, the rebels broke into Uthman's house and murdered him. When the first assassin's sword struck Uthman, he was reciting the verse, "Verily, God sufficeth thee; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing" [2:137]

Uthman breathed his last on the afternoon of Friday, 17 Dhul Hijja, 35 A.H. (June. (656 A.C.). He was eighty-four years old. The power of tHe rebels was so great that Uthman's body lay unburied until Saturday night when he was buried in his blood-stained clothes, the shroud which befits all martyrs in the cause of God.

The Fourth Caliph, Ali (656-661 A.C.)

Ali bin Abi Talib was the first cousin of the Prophet. More than that, he had grown up in the Prophet's own household, later married his youngest daughter, Fatima, and remained in closest association with him for nearly thirty years.

Ali fought in all the early battles of Islam with great distinction, particularly in the expedition of Khaybar. It is said that in the Battle of Uhud he received more than sixteen wounds. The Prophet loved Ali dearly and called him by many fond names.

Ali's humility, austerity, piety, deep knowledge of the Qur'an and his sagacity gave him great distinction among the Prophet's Companions. Abu Bakar, Umar and Uthman consulted him frequently during their caliphates. Many times Umar had made him his vice-regent at Medina when he was away. Ali was also a great scholar of Arabic literature and pioneered in the field of grammar and rhetoric. His speeches, sermons and letters served for generations afterward as models of literary expression. Many of his wise and epigrammatic sayings have been preserved. Ali thus had a rich and versatile personality. In spite of these attainments he remained a modest and humble man.

Ali and his household lived extremely simple and austere lives. Sometimes they even went hungry themselves because of Ali's great generosity, and none who asked for help was ever turned away from his door. His plain, austere style of living did not change even when he was ruler over a vast domain.

Uthman's murder and the events surrounding it were a symptom of civil strife within the empire. Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to inept governors. The Prophet's widow Aisha also took the position that Ali should first bring the murderers to trial. Due to the chaotic conditions Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not proved. Thus a battle between the army of Ali and the supporters of Aisha took place.

However, even though the era of Ali's caliphate was marred by civil strife, he nevertheless introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and collecting of revenues.

It was the fortieth year of Hijra. A fanatical group called Kharijites, consisting of people who had broken away from Ali due to his compromise with Muawiya, claimed that Ali, the Caliph, was worthy to rule. They vowed to assasinate him. Ibn-e-Muljim, the assassin was commissioned to kill Ali. One morning when Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Ibn-e-Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword. On the 20th of Ramadan, 40 A.H., Ali died and the Islamic Empire saw the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam.

With the death of Ali, the most notable phase in the history of Muslim Empire thus came to an end. All through this period it had been the the Qur'an and the Sunnah - which had guided the leaders and the followers, setting the standards of their moral conduct and inspired their actions. It was the time when the ruler and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, were uniformly subject to the Divine Law. It was an epoch of freedom and equality, of God-consciousness and humility, of social justice which recognized no privileges, and of an impartial law which accepted no pressure groups or vested interests.

After Ali, Muawiya assumed the caliphate and thereafter the caliphate became hereditary, passing from one king to another.


National Muslim Student Association of the USA and Canada.