Arabic Language Blog

Early Islamic history – the Rightly-Guided Caliphs Posted by on Feb 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

Arab history is often identified with the history of Islam. Before Islam, Arabs lived as nomads in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. They lived as tribes where water sources were found, and they often worked in trade with other tribes and nations of Yemen and the Levant. At times, stronger tribes raided and acquired weaker tribes. Pre-Islam, these tribes were mostly pagan; yet Jews, Christians and Mandaeans lived there as well. Although Islam was strongly resisted in the beginning, it came as a uniting force to the competing tribes. With the advent of Islam and its spread around the Arabian Peninsula, tribes that embraced Islam found a common faith to bring them together. After the death of Prophet Mohammed, the message of Islam started to spread beyond Arabia.

The first group of Caliphs known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs (الخلفاء الراشدون), followed the prophetic traditions. The first Caliph (أبو بكر الصديق) “Abu Bakr” fought Wars of Apostasy(حروب الردة) against those tribes that deviated from Islamic teachings and traditions. After subduing them, he sent his armies to open territories at the borders of Arabia and to fight against the Persian and Byzantine armies. Abu Bakr was succeeded by (عمر بن الخطاب) “Umar Ibn Al-Khattab” who expanded the Islamic empire by the acquisition of Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Palestine and Syria. With the expansion of the Islamic Empire, Umar appointed governors of different provinces and established a regular army and a treasury for the Islamic state.

After the death of Umar, disagreements occurred regarding who should be appointed Caliph. Eventually, (عثمان بن عفان) “Uthman Ibn Affan” was chosen to succeed Umar. Expansions continued during the rule of Uthman; in addition, he compiled a written version of the Quran for the first time and sent it to different provinces. He established a navy and conquered Cyprus. The reign of Uthman was a time of prosperity and freedom, and these encouraged old tribal loyalties to stir sentiments against Uthman who was old and weak at that time. Moreover, the Romans and the Persians encouraged Rebellions against Uthman to regain territories that they had lost to the Muslims. Rebellions started in the provinces of Egypt and Kufa and ended by his besiege and assassination in Medina.

After the death of Uthman, (علي بن أﺑﻲ طالب) “Ali Ibn Abi Talib” became Caliph. He was the cousin of Prophet Mohammed and his son-in-law. The beginning of Ali’s caliphate was a difficult time, as turmoil started after the death of Uthman, as division occurred between those who wanted to punish those responsible for the death of Uthman and those who wanted to restore peace in Medina before creating more trouble. One of Uthman’s relative Mu’aweya ibn Abi-Sufian declared a parallel caliphate in Damascus. While Ali was trying to resolve disagreements in Medina and fighting battles in Iraq, he moved his capital to Kufa in Iraq; meanwhile, Mu’aweya started to gain more territories for his new caliphate including Egypt, Yemen and other areas. Ali was eventually assassinated. The trouble at the later times of the rightly guided caliphs resulted in the emergence of (الشيعة) “Shi’a” faction, which refers to those who supported Ali.

Keep learning Arabic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. usman:

    very nice!