The 4 ‘rightly guided caliphs’
* Abu bakr (632-634 CE) – A very early follower of the prophet, he was the father of Muhammad’s alleged favourite wife (after the death of Khadija), ‘A’isha. The prophet’s companions acknowledged him as Muhammad’s successor. He pacified and united the Muslim tribes and ordered the first collection to the written text of the Qur’an.
* ‘Umar (634-644 CE) – An early follower of the prophet, he was the designated nominee for succession to Abu Bakr, a member of the Quraysh clan and father of Muhammad’s wife Hafsa. ‘Umar extended Muslim rule to Syria, Egypt, Persia and in the north to Armenia. ‘Umar appointed a council of 6 men to select his successor.
* ‘Uthman (644-656 CE) – An early follower of the prophet, ‘Uthman was from the Umayya, a leading Meccan family and part of the Quraysh clan. Reports hold that ‘Uthman commissioned the officially endorsed copy of the Qur’an that was written in Meccan dialect, its current form. His murder in 656 CE was the first in a series of Muslim rebellions that would plague the Islamic community’s political development.
* ‘Ali (656-661 CE) – Muhammad’s closest male relative, his paternal cousin. ‘Ali was married to the prophet’s daughter Fatima and father to his grandsons Hasan and Husayn. ‘Ali moved his capital to Kufah in Iraq, a more central location within the expanding Muslim world.
The crisis surrounding leadership and authority after Muhammad’s death had all to do with who is successor or ‘caliph’ would be. The men named above were just that, the successors of Muhammad who tried to continue of what Muhammad would have been doing if he were alive. There is no 5th caliph and Hasan, the son of ‘Ali and the 4th caliph, as the head of the prophet’s household was the second Shi’i imam, but in an agreement with Mu’awiyah he abdicated the caliphate to him. Mu’awiyah moved Islam’s capital to Damascus and a new period of Islamic and political history began, and political rule in the...