The History of Islam — Part 1
In the next three articles we are going to cover 1,400 years of Islamic history. We are going to pick up our look at Islam’s history at Muhammad’s death. He died in the year 632 AD.
The Rashidun (Righteous) (Mecca, Saudi Arabi) Caliphs 632-661
Immediately after the death of Muhammad there was a disagreement about his successor so there was a vote taken to determine who it would be. Muhammad had claimed that he was “the final prophet.” The decision was made to make Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, the first caliph (successor). They could not find a blood relative because Muhammad’s sons had not survived to this time. Abu Bakr was the father if Aisha, Muhammad’s child wife.
Abu Bakr only governed for 2 years, 632-634. It was a very politically violent rule. After the death of Muhammad, Islam was splintering because, from it inception, Islam functioned in a political-military fashion. Many had been converted by the sword and were trying to leave Islam. Bakr, as a righteous caliph, was to unite Islam again. History tells us that thousands of people were killed because they were apostates. The number of those killed was as high as 40 to 50 thousand during the two year reign of Abu Bakr.
After Abu Bakr’s death, we have the second Rashidun caliph, Umar. He was also related to Muhammad as the father of another of Muhammad’s wives. Under his rule there is a real spread of Islam outside of the Arabian peninsula into Syria and Persia (Iran).
Umar spread Islam outside of Arabia and started taking the lands of Christians. Syria, a very strong Christian nation, was the first target. Muhammad was very familiar with Syria because in his early years he was involved in caravan trading with them. This is where he was exposed to a lot of Christian teaching.
In Chapter 9, the last chapter of the Qur’an, Muhammad gave a financial solution for Islam. Muhammad’s final words had nothing to do with a salvation message like that of our Lord. His final words were how to live off the backs of the Christians and Jews. He taught them to get Christians and Jews to pay the Jizya, a tax for protection from Muslims. They could take 50% of what Christians and Jews owned, and 50% of what they earned.
This is called dhimmitude. We can’t quite call this slavery, but it is only one step away. They became second class citizens. They had three choices, become a Muslim, submit to dhimmitude, or die.
At the time of Umar the Persian empire was not what it had been. It was easily taken by Umar, and the Persians hated Umar for doing so. He was assassinated by a Persian. It was a way of getting back at him. It didn’t help in getting rid of Islam, but it did give some satisfaction.
Umar was followed by Uthman. He was assassinated also. Uthman was caliph from 644 to 656. We see that the caliphs did not last very long. Uthman was also connected to Muhammad as the husband of one of Muhammad’s daughters.
Under Uthman, Islam was still advancing into North Africa, and there was a turn toward Europe. Again, Islam was advanced by the sword.
One of the primary accomplishments of Uthman was the writing and publishing of the Qur’an. In one battle, many of the reciters of the Qur’an were killed, and Uthman felt they could lose the Qur’an if it were not written down. He ordered 4 copies to be made, and Islam claims that 2 of them are still existence today. We have covered in previous articles that this is not true. There is evidence that these copies were written much later.
Uthman was assassinated in his house. This is where we see the beginning of the split between the Sunni Muslims and the Shi’ite Muslims.
The 4th caliph was Ali reigned from 656 to 661. Ali was the cousin of Muhammad, and was the first caliph who was a blood relative of Muhammad. This is the main difference between the Sunni and the Shi’ite Muslims. The Shi’ite Muslims believe the caliph must be a blood relative of Muhammad. The first 3 were not blood relatives of Muhammad, they were related through marriage. Not only was Ali a blood relative of Muhammad, he was also married to one of Muhammad’s daughters, Fatima.
During his reign we see the expansion into Kuffa, which is in Iraq today. Ali was also assassinated during a time of prayer as retaliation for the assassination of Uthman. The Shi’ite Muslims assassinated Uthman, and the Sunni Muslims assassinated Ali, and this has been happening every since. This is the end of the Rashidun period of Islamic History.