Rashidun Caliphate

Rashidun Caliphate

الخلافة الراشدة
The Rashidun Caliphate reached its greatest extent under Caliph Uthman, in 654.
The Rashidun Caliphate reached its greatest extent under Caliph Uthman, in 654.
CapitalMedina (632–656)
Kufa (656–661)
Common languagesClassical Arabic (official), Aramaic/Syriac, Armenian, Baloch, Berber, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Middle Persian, Kurdish, Vulgar Latin, Prakrit, Semitic languages, Iranian languages
• 632–634
Abu Bakr (first)
• 634–644
• 644–656
• 656–661
Ali (last)
Succeeded by Hasan (661), then Muawiyah I (661–680)
• Established
8 June 632
• First Fitna (internal conflict) ends
28 July 661
655[1]6,400,000 km2 (2,500,000 sq mi)
CurrencyDinar, Dirham
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Muhammad in Medina
Byzantine Empire
Sasanian Empire
Exarchate of Africa
Pre-Islamic Arabia
Umayyad Caliphate
Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين), Caliph (خليفة)

The Rashidun Caliphate (Arabic: ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلرَّاشِدَة‎, al-Khilāfah ar-Rāšidah) was the first of the four major caliphates established after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was ruled by the first four successive caliphs (successors) of Muhammad after his death in 632 CE (AH 11). These caliphs are collectively known in Sunni Islam as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs (ٱلْخُلَفَاء ٱلرَّاشِدُون al-Khulafāʾ ar-Rāšidūn). This term is not used in Shia Islam as Shia Muslims do not consider the rule of the first three caliphs as legitimate.[2]

The Rashidun Caliphate is characterized by a twenty-five year period of rapid military expansion, followed by a five-year period of internal strife. The Rashidun Army at its peak numbered more than 100,000 men. By the 650s, the caliphate in addition to the Arabian Peninsula had subjugated the Levant, to the Transcaucasus in the north; North Africa from Egypt to present-day Tunisia in the west; and the Iranian plateau to parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the east.

The caliphate arose out of the death of Muhammad in 632 CE and the subsequent debate over the succession to his leadership. Abu Bakr, a close companion of Muhammad from the Banu Taym clan, was elected the first Rashidun leader and began the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula. He ruled from 632 to his death in 634. Abu Bakr was succeeded by Umar, his appointed successor from the Banu Adi clan, who continued the conquest of Persia, eventually leading to the fall of the Sassanid Empire in 651. Umar was assassinated in 644[3] and was succeeded by Uthman, who was elected by a six-person committee arranged by Umar. Under Uthman began the conquest of Armenia, Fars and Khorasan.[4] Uthman was assassinated in 656[5] and succeeded by Ali, who presided over the civil war known as the First Fitna (656–661). The war was primarily between those who supported Uthman's cousin and governor of the Levant, Muawiyah, and those who supported the caliph Ali. The civil war permanently consolidated the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims, with Shia Muslims believing Ali to be the first rightful caliph and Imam after Muhammad.[6] A third faction in the war supported the governor of Egypt, Amr ibn al-As. The war was decided in favour of the faction of Muawiyah, who established the Umayyad Caliphate in 661.


Rashidun Caliphate at greatest extent (orthographic projection)

After Muhammad's death in 632 CE, his Medinan companions debated which of them should succeed him in running the affairs of the Muslims while Muhammad's household was busy with his burial. Umar and Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah pledged their loyalty to Abu Bakr, with the Ansar and the Quraysh soon following suit. Abu Bakr thus became the first Khalīfaṫu Rasūli l-Lāh (خَـلِـيْـفَـةُ رَسُـوْلِ الله, "Successor of the Messenger of God"), or Caliph, and embarked on campaigns to propagate Islam. First he would have to subdue the Arabian tribes which had claimed that although they pledged allegiance to Muhammad and accepted Islam, they owed nothing to Abu Bakr. As a caliph, Abu Bakr was not a monarch and never claimed such a title; nor did any of his three successors. Rather, their election and leadership were based upon merit.[7][8][9][10]

Notably, according to Sunnis, all four Rashidun Caliphs were connected to Muhammad through marriage, were early converts to Islam,[11] were among ten who were explicitly promised paradise, were his closest companions by association and support and were often highly praised by Muhammad and delegated roles of leadership within the nascent Muslim community.

According to Sunni Muslims, the term Rashidun Caliphate is derived from a famous[12] hadith of Muhammad, where he foretold that the caliphate after him would last for 30 years[13] (the length of the Rashidun Caliphate) and would then be followed by kingship.[14][15] Furthermore, according to other hadiths in Sunan Abu Dawood and Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, towards the end times, the Rightly Guided Caliphate will be restored once again by God.[16]