This page presents the historical development of Muslim socio- cultural, political
and economic; from which we can learn how the role of Khalifa has been continuously carried
out from a generation to another, so that Islam [the Deen of Tawheed] be always prevailed.
"And We have sent you (O Muhammad SAW) not but as a mercy for the 'Alamîn
(mankind, jinns and all that exists)." (Quran, Al-Anbiyâ' 21: 107)
"They want to extinguish Allahs Light with their mouths, but Allah
will not allow except that His Light should be perfected even though the disbelieves hate
it. It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the Deen of truth, to make it
superior over all religions even though the Mushrikoon (polytheists) hate it."
(Quran, At-Taubah 9: 32-33)
Upon the death of Muhammad in 632 C.E., great confusion arose among his followers,
for he had left no details as to who should succeed him. Senior members of the community
fell into argument, while tribes around Arabia broke out in open revolt. In time, Abu Bakr
was selected as the first caliph or leader of Islam. In 634 C.E., Umar, became the second
caliph, whose ill-fate greeted him in 644 C.E., the year of his assassination. A six-member
committee chose as the next caliph, Uthman , to which the center's emigration from Mecca
to Medina was credited. The last of the Four Caliphs, Ali, was appointed by the notables
of Medina in 656 C.E., after Uthman's murder. In later traditions of the Muslims, the first
four caliphs were idealized and called the Righteous Caliphs or "al-khulafa al-rashidun".
They are considered the only caliphs who preserved the true customs of Muhammad and all
four were related to Muhammad in some way. The daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar were married
to Muhammad, while three of Muhammad's daughters were married to Uthman and Ali.
The Khulafa- ur- RAshiduun [The Rightly Guided Caliphs]
ABU BAKR, THE FIRST CALIPH (632 - 634 C.E.)
CALIPH ABU BAKR'S FIRST ADDRESS
After giving praise and thanks to Allah (The One True God), Abu Bakr (ra) addressed
the Muslims gathered at the Prophets mosque: "I have been given the authority over you,
and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right.
Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst
you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God will; and the strong
amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if
God will. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger (Muhammad, pbuh). But if I
disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience.Arise for your prayer, God have
mercy upon you."
UMAR B. AL-KHATTAB (d.644)
The second caliph and Muhammad's father-in-law.Umar began as an enemy to the nascent
Muslim movement. According to Muslim tradition, he converted when he overheard the recitation
of the Quran in his sister's house. Thereafter, he was a staunch supporter of Muhammad
and the Islamic cause. During the lifetime of Muhammad, he participated in military
expeditions and was one of Muhammad's most trusted advisors. At least three Quranic
revelations are attributed to his initiative. Upon Muhammad's death in 622, it was Umar
who compelled Abu Bakr to accept the caliphate. Abu Bakr appointed Umar as his successor
on his deathbed in 634. During Umar's reign, the Persians were defeated in Iraq and eastern
Iran, effectively wiping out the Sassanid dynasty, while the Byzantines were defeated in
Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He is credited with the creation of fiscal institutions as
well as numerous legal rulings (see "The Four Righteous Caliphs"). He was mudered in 644
by a slave with a personal grudge against him. Umar was feared rather than loved: he had
a harsh disposition and lived an ascetic lifestyle. According to Muslim tradition, he
wore patched clothes, ate plain food, and carried a whip while walking in order to chastise
those who broke the law.
UTHMAN B. AFFAN (d.656)
The third caliph (644-656) and Muhammad's son-in-law. Uthman was a member of the
wealthy Umayyad clan; his early conversion is noteworthy since most members of his clan
did not convert until the conquest of Mecca in 630. His aristocratic background may be
the reason ehind Muhammad's forging an alliance with him through marriage to two of his
daughters. Uthman appears to have played only a small role during the lifetime of Muhammad
and the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar.
Uthman was chosen caliph by a six-member comittee in 644. The reasons for his selection
are unclear; it may be partly due to his willingness to continue Umar's policies, partly
due to his Umayyad lineage. During his twelve-year reign, grievances which had been
suppressed under Umar's caliphate came to the surface. He was accused of nepotism,
favoritism, misadministration, and religious innovation by his detractors, which included
the man who would become the fourth caliph, Ali. Uthman was murdered in 656 by a group of
ALI B. ABI TALIB (d.661)
The fourth caliph (655-661) and Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law. Ali converted to
Islam shortly after Muhammad's wife, Khadija; he was at that time a boy of eleven years
old. When Muhammad emigrated to Medina in 622, Ali was chosen to stay behind and occupy
his bed in order to thwart an attempt on Muhammad's life.
Ali later joined the Muslims in Medina and subsequently married Muhammad's youngest
daughter, Fatima; of their marriage were born two sons, Hasan and Husayn, and two daughters.
He took part in almost all of Muhammad's expeditions, but after Muhammad's death he
abstained for reasons unknown.
During Abu Bakr's election, Ali remained in Muhammad's house in order to prepare
the funeral. He did not give allegience to Abu Bakr until six months later when his
wife died; this may be due to Fatima's quarrel with Abu Bakr over her inheritance.
According to Muslim chronicles, Ali was a trusted advisor of the first three caliphs
on legal matters; however, with regard toadministrative and political matters, Ali
disagreed vehemently with his redecessors, and during Uthman's reign (644-656) he
aligned himself with the opposition. His failure to punish Uthman's murderers after
his accession in 656 provoked outrage.
Ali was first faced with a rebellion headed by two of his former supporters and
one of Muhammad's former wives, then with the refusal of the governor of Syria,
Muawiya, to pledge allegiance to the new caliph.The first was ended in 656, while
the second resulted in a stalemate which caused many of his supporters to abandon
him; these seceders became known as Kharijites. Ali was killed by a Kharijite in 661.
A. Shi'ism - Its Character and History.
Islam is divided into two great sects - the Sunnis and the Shi'ites. The former
follow the sunnah, the "example" of Muhammad, and constitute the vast majority of
the Muslims in the world. The Shi'ah (the "Party") are found mainly in Iran and its
surrounding regions as well as in parts of Africa. The Sunnis believe that
Muhammad's companions Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (in that order) were, by democratic
election, the four "rightly-guided" caliphs, that is, immediate successors of Muhammad.
The Shi'ah believe that Muhammad's nephew, Ali was specifically designated as his
successor and that divine guidance descended on them to guide the growing Muslim community
and lead it in the path of Allah.
The real disagreement is the meaning of the word mawla used by the Prophet. The
Shi'a unequivocally take the word in the meaning of leader, master, and patron, and
therefore the explicitly nominated successor of the Prophet. The Sunnis, on the
other hand, interpret the word mawla in the meaning of a friend, or the nearest kin
and confidant. (Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam, p.21).
From this division regarding the lawful succession of the prophet of Islam come
all the other points of separation between the Sunnis and the Shi'ah. Wherever Islam
has been spoken of in this book it is always Sunni Islam that has been under
consideration as the overwhelming majority of the Muslims are Sunnis. In this
section we shall consider Shi'ite Islam as a separate movement within the Muslim
A typical definition of this movement follows: Shi'ah, which means literally partisan
or follower, refers to those who consider the succession to the Prophet - may God s peace
and benediction be upon him - to be the special right of the family of the Prophet and
who in the field of the Islamic sciences and culture follow the school of the Household
of the Prophet. (Nasr, Shi'ite Islam, p.33).
It is hard to tell exactly when Shi'ism began or when it can positively be
distinguished as a separate sect; One has to go right back to the death of Muhammad,
perhaps, to find the events that eventually gave rise to this movement which
ultimately established itself as a distinct branch of Islam. Although Muhammad's
nephew Ali had been one of the first to believe in his message and was a great
champion of Muhammad's cause during his lifetime, he became a recluse after his
death when Abu Bakr was nominated as Muhammad's successor by Umar and was duly
accepted by the community of Muslims at Medina. There is evidence that Ali was
unwilling to accept Abu Bakr's nomination ("he did not recognize Abu Bakr and
refused to pay him homage for six months - Jafri, The Origins and Early Development
of Shi'ite Islam, p.59), but on the whole it does appear that he tacitly approved
of the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar. It was only after he was rejected in favour
of the unloved Uthman that Ali became active again.
When Uthman was assassinated Ali was finally appointed Caliph, but his
predecessor had already placed many of his clan, the Ummayads, in leading positions
in the growing Muslim empire and at least one of them, Mu'awiyah, the governor of
Syria at Damascus and son of Muhammad's long-standing enemy Abu Sufyan, considered
himself powerful enough to challenge Ali for the control of the whole Muslim world.
Ali found himself faced early in his caliphate with an insurrection led by a number
of Muhammad's companions including his wife Ayishah (who had proved to be Ali's
inveterate foe even during Muhammad's lifetime) which was ostensibly started to
avenge the blood of Uthman. Ali had failed to bring the former caliph's murderers to
justice and both Ayishah and Mu'awiyah used this as a cause against him and sought
to displace him. Ayishah joined a force against him led by Muhammad's companions
Talha and Zubayr which was defeated by the caliph at the "Battle of the Camel
(al-Jamal)", but a further battle fought at a place called Siffin in Syria, although
it was a huge confrontation, ended inconclusively without victory for either Ali or
Mu'awiyah. The former agreed to submit his cause to arbitration, however, and when
this went against him many of his followers deserted him. The remainder, however,
formed the nucleus from which the Shi'ah were to rise.
The conflict at the battle of Al-Jamal brought about a serious split in the
Muslim Community. ... Those who supported `Ali at the battle of Al-Jamal and later
at Siffin were first called the "people of Iraq" (ahl al-`Iraq) as well as the
"party of `Ali" (shi'at `Ali or al-`Alawiya). Their opponents were called shi'at
`Uthman or more commonly al-`Uthmaniyya. (Jafri, The Origins and Early Development
of Shi'a Islam, p.95).Ali himself was later assassinated and although Mu'awiyah was
almost certainly not involved in the deed, he took the opportunity to establish
himself as Caliph, a position that was to be held by his clan, the Ummayads, for
nearly a hundred years. Those who were isolated in the process formed the kernel
of the group of Muslims that was eventually to create the establishment of a
distinctly separate movement in Islam, namely the Shi'ah.
Al-Khulafaul Umawiyyun: 41-132 AH; 661-750 CE.
When Ali received the caliphate, he became the fourth caliph after Muhammad.
Right from the beginning his reign was beset with problems. The caliph he succeeded,
Uthman, had been murdered in office. One relative of Uthman was Mu'awiya Umayyad,
and he demanded that Ali produce the murderers. Ali could not, and Mu'awiya accused
him of complicity in the murder. Ali was forced to lead an army against Mu'awiya;
however, Mu'awiya was the popular governor of Syria, and he was able to raise a
considerable army against Ali. The armies fought to a standstill, and Ali was forced
into arbitration. Some of his subjects became extremely angry when this happened,
claiming that Ali could not stop the war - only God could. One of these subjects
killed Ali as he prayed in a Mosque in 661 AD. The caliphate was soon thereafter
passed to Mu'awiya.
The Umayyad were the first to mint coins, such as this gold dinar of the
Umayyad Caliph Hishâm(735 AD). When Mu'awiya took office, he brought with him a
flurry of changes. His most important changes were as follows:
He moved the capital north to Damascus.
He founded Islam's first dynasty, for he named his son Yazeed his heir.
He ruled in a more secular manner, and he appointed non-religious advisors.
He reorganized the government which had broken down during the wars.
He minted the first coins.
He changed the official language to Arabic.
He helped establish an extensive postal system.
He initiated public works projects, including a rebuilding of the broken canals
and irrigation system.
Exquisite mosques were erected.
The Umayyad-controlled Islamic Empire was growing at a dumbfounding rate.
Using the concept of jihad, or Holy War, to encourage its citizens, Islam was
able to bring able soldiers to the borders of her empire - and beyond. Map-Matching
is an interactive activity that shows just what areas the Umayyad were able to
conquer and when. We encourage you to play it (just click on the link!). However,
these conquests brought with them a slew of problems, especially with the Mawali,
Islam's converted subjects. The Mawali were extremely dissatisfied, for they had
They were considered inferior to natural-born Muslims.
Arabs were not willing to marry these converts.
They could not usually become members of the elite cavalry when they joined the
army. Along with the Mawali, other groups were dissatisfied. Certain Arabs were
unhappy because they did not receive pensions. Other non-Muslims, who did not
convert, were upset because they were forced to pay heavy taxes.
Realizing the explosiveness of these inequalities, Umar II, the caliph from 717
to 720, called for an end to foreign military campaigns and devoted himself to
reform. He eliminated all taxes for Muslims, except the 2% tax demanded by the
Koran (see The Five Pillars). While the intentions of his policies were good, the
results were disastrous. Egypt, for example, was forced to borrow money just to
keep from going bankrupt. Later caliphs were forced to rescind this policy, causing
many once-loyal subjects to join anti-Umayyad parties.
In Persia, there was even more ill feeling toward the Umayyad than in most other
parts of the Empire. this stemmed primarily from the fact that the Persians
considered themselves of a higher culture than the Umayyads. Two ruthless Muslims,
Abbas (who was a descendant of the Prophet's uncle!) and his son Abdulla, organized
the Abbasid party, whose ultimate goal was to bring an end to the Umayyad dynasty.
They were successful, and they brought the Umayyad caliphate crashing down. However,
under Abdurrahman the last the decendent of the Muawiyun who escaped the massacre to
Spain that lasted in 1492[See the Map ].
Oleg Grabar. Ceremonial and Art at the Umayyad Court.
Al-Khulafaul Abbasiyyun: 132-923 AH; 750-1258 CE.
In 750 C.E., Abdulla Abbasid, with the help of his brilliant general Abu Muslim
and copious anti-Umayyad propaganda, was able to overthrow the Umayyad Caliph Merwan
the in a rebellion. Abdulla himself, however, did not live long to enjoy his
Caliphate. He died in 754 of smallpox. His brother Mansoor succeeded him.
Mansoor's first order of business was to kill Abu Muslim. While Abu Muslim was the
man to whom the Abbasids owed their throne, he was a popular and powerful member of
the Arab aristocracy, and he remained a powerful threat to Mansoor's caliphate.
Mansoor's greatest accomplishment was the founding of a new capital for the Empire.
He founded Baghdad, centrally placed between Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Persia,
Trans-Oxiana, and Punjab. The movement of the capital from the Western city of
Damascus to the Eastern city of Baghdad led to the orientalization of the Islamic
world. When Mansoor died in 775 C.E., he was succeeded by his son.
From 775 to 833 C.E., the Abbasids reached their pinnacle. The aggressiveness of
the Umayyads disappeared. The country had been much bigger under the Umayyads
(indeed, the Abbasid Caliphs did little to prevent Analdus (Spain), Maghrib (Morocco),
or Ifriqiya (the area of North Africa between Morocco and Tunis) from leaving
the Empire). Wealth, industry, and commerce, however, grew immensely since the days
of the Umayyads. Baghdad was the richest city in the world during this time period.
The Arabs traded with people from China, India, Indonesia, and East Africa. They had
the largest ships by far in the Indian Ocean. Under the highly developed banking
system, an Arab businessman could cash a check in Canton on his bank account in
Baghdad itself was a city of gold. Gold covered the women, the pillars, and the
roof-beams of the houses. Men's belts were made of gold, as were their dagger's and
sword's hilts. The women, too, were beautiful. Baghdad imported women (to serve as
concubines) from all over the world, and their beauty was enhanced by the lavish use
of pearls, jewelry, and silks. The city was filled with sparkling fountains, exotic
perfumes, and the soft music of private apartments.
Culture, in addition, flourished during this time period. Conversation was
considered an art form and was practiced religiously. Poetry was still sedulously
practiced. The court at Baghdad was rumored to have had several hundred poets
during the reign of the greatest Abbasid Caliph, Haroon al Rasheed.
While the Abbasids were not nearly as aggressive as the Umayyads, they still
controlled one of the world's finest armies. During the early part of Haroon
al Rasheed's reign, he defeated Byzantine Empress Irene. She was forced to pay an
immense annual tribute to Baghdad. When Nicephorus became the next ruler of
Constantinople, he sent Haroon a letter demanding repayment of all of the tribute.
Furious, Haroon wrote back:
"From Haroon, the Prince of the Faithful, to Nicephorus, the Roman dog. I have
read your letter, you son of a heathen mother. You will see and not hear my reply!"
An army of 135,000 troops was immediately mobilized and swept across Asia Minor.
The Muslim army fought masterfully. According to Lieutenant-General Sir John Glubb,
a contemporary author and expert on early Muslim battle techniques, "The [Arab's]
advance guard consisted of light cavalry in chain mail and armed with lances.
The main body of the infantry included pikeman, swordsmen, and archers. In battle,
the pikemen knelt in the front rank, the butts of their pikes stuck into the ground.
Behind them stood the swordsmen, while the rear ranks were occupied by the archers...
The Muslim armies of Abbasid days moved deliberately, with perfect drill
and discipline. In a pitched battle, they preferred to await the enemy's attack.
When all his assaults had been repulsed, the Arab army advanced slowly and
relentlessly to sweep him from the field." With such an army, it is little wonder
that Haroon defeated Nicephorus soundly. He was forced to beg for an even greater
tribute. In addition, all Muslim prisoners-of-war were freed while thousands of
Christian boys and girls were carried off for slavery.
Haroon al Rasheed died in 833 C.E., leaving his Empire at its glorious pinnacle.
When Haroon died, he split his empire up between two of his many sons. Ameen became
the next Caliph, while Mamoon got control of Persia. Mamoon, however, was
dissatisfied with his position as governor of Persia. So he, with the help of the
brilliant general Tahir the Ambidextrous, staged a rebellion. The upshot of this
revolt was Mamoon's ascension to the Caliphate.
After becoming Caliph, however, Mamoon realized that Tahir had grown too
powerful and his presence was irksome. This situation is strikingly similar to the
quandary facing Mansoor with Abu Muslim years earlier. Rather than kill Tahir,
Mamoon appointed him to be governor of Persia. But when Tahir died, his son was
recognized to be the next Persian governor. In this way, a minor dynasty was
established and the area became virtually independent.
When Mamoon died, he was succeeded by his brother Mutasim. For the last several
caliphates, the Muslim army was comprised of a great number of Persian mercenaries.
The Persians, however, were generally well-liked with the Arabs. The two had lived
together and intermarried to the point where it was difficult to distinguish between
the two. The Persians spoke Arabic eloquently, and they produced great poets.
But when Mamoon granted Tahir Persia, Mutasim lost his best recruiting grounds. He
was now forced to hire Turkish mercenaries rather than Persian mercenaries.
This proved to be disastrous. The Turks were heathen. They did not even bother to
learn Arabic, and were hated by the public. They were arrogant to the citizenry of
Baghdad, and were rude to them. Things got so bad that Mutasim was forced to move
his capital north to Samarra. When he did this, he essentially expressed his
preference for the Turks over the Arabs.
Within seven years, a son of Mutasim named Mutawakkil became the Caliph. During his
reign, he told his eldest son Muntasir that he would be the next Caliph. Years after
he made his promise, he fell in love with one of his Greek concubines, and he agreed
to let his son with her, Mutazz, become the next Caliph. Muntasir, suddenly left
without a throne, conspired with one of the leading Turkish generals, Bugha, to kill
his father. When Mutawakkil was killed in 861 C.E., the Abbasid Empire was destroyed. The Turks finally realized the power that they had over the Caliphate, and all future Caliphs were mere puppets.
After realizing that they were being ruled by Turkish heathen rather than
descendants of the Prophet, many states left the Empire. Please click here to view
an animation showing the disintegration of the Abbasid Empire. While the Caliphs
were nothing more than puppets and were not allowed to rule, they did exist in name
until the Mongols destroyed Baghdad (and all of Persia) in 1258 C.E.
Al-Khulafaul Bawahid: 861 C.E-1055 C.E
After 861 C.E., the Turkish army essentially controlled the caliphate. But
by 907 C.E., they were quarrelling amongst themselves and Empire was almost in a
state of anarchy. The capital was moved back to Baghdad, but that did little to add
In the mid-tenth century, a revolt by the Buwaihids, a Shiite tribe of Central
Asia, erupted. Finally, in 945 C.E., Ahmed ibn Muwaih, the leader of the Buwaihids,
occupied Baghdad. He ordered the caliph to bestow upon him the title "Muizz al Dowla,
" or "he who makes the state mighty." Within a few months, Ahmed ordered the
blinding and imprisonment of the Caliph. Ahmed did allow the Caliph's son, Mutia, to
be the next Caliph and keep his title, but Mutia was given no actual power.
The Buwaihids cared little for Syria and the lands that lay adjacent to there.
As such, the Byzantine, who were experiencing a military revival, took Cyrus Island
in 964 C.E., and were able to devastate Syrian towns. The Arab historian Muqaddasi
wrote, in 985 C.E., that "...the people of Syria lived in terror of the Greeks, who
have driven many people from their homes and devastated the country districts..."
Muizz al Dowla died in 967 C.E. and was succeeded by his nephew Adhud al Dowla.
Adhud's greatest threat was that of a rival caliphate in Cairo (under the Fátamids).
As a result, he showed consideration for the Abbasid Caliph.While Adhud was
unpopular in Baghdad due to the heavy taxes he waged, he was wise with the money he
raised. He imposed law over Iraq and West Persia, and he rebuilt the ruined cities
of Iraq. Roads and bridges were also reconstructed. When he died, his sons fought
with one another, plundering the land in the process and destroying Adhud's
reconstructions. The Buwaihid Empire essentially fell apart, until, in 1055 C.E., a
new wave of conquerers came from the West.
The Samanid Empire: 900 to 999 C.E.
During the waning years of the 9th century, the Tahirid Empire was being overrun by the Brassworker. The Abbasid Caliph of the time, Mutadhid, urged a powerful family in the area, the Samanids, led by Ahmed ibn Ismail, to suppress the Brassworkers. The Caliph preferred the cultured Samanids to the Brassworkers.
The Samanids were able to defeat the rebels to become the rulers of Trans-Oxiana (the area between the Aral Sea and the Hindu Kush Mts.) and Khurasan (Eastern Persian). They established their capital at Bukhara, and ruled for almost a hundred years, from 900 to 999 C.E.
The Samanid Empire was placed in the center of caravan routes that stretched from China and Persia to Iraq and Eastern Europe. Due to this fact, and the fact that the Samanids themselves were adroit administrators (they dug canals, beautified the cities of their Empire, encouraged agriculture, and they repaired the roads of the Empire), the Empire became extremely affluent.
In particular, the capital city of Bukhara prospered. In the words of author John Glubb, "Under the Samanids, Bukhara enjoyed an extraordinary florese of Muslim culture, almost comparable to that of Baghdad under Mamoon."
In the tenth century, the streets of Bukhara were filled with poets, scholars, historians, philosophers, and, in particular, physicians. Ibn Sina, a famous doctor, was able to cure the king of Bukhara of an illness after all other doctors had given up hope. Afterwards, he founded hospitals in the region. Al Razi, with the help of Samanid wealth, wrote his famous work on medicine during this time.
Unfortunately, the Samanids built up their armies with the help of Turkish slaves. On May 16th, 999, the Samanids were utterly defeated by their former slaves (led by Mahmmod ibn Sabuktakeen), at the battle of Merv. The refined Samanid Empire thus came to an end.
Al-Khulafaul Saljuk: 1042 C.E.-1099 C.E
Let us now review what has been happening in Iraq, Syria, and Persia.
The Samanids, after nine Ameers (rulers), fell into decline after 999 C.E. The
Buwaihids likewise, fell apart as anarchy replaced stability in the early part of
eleventh century. The time was ripe for a new ruler.
The Ghuzz were a nomadic tribe that grazed the area between the Aral and the
Caspian Seas and the steppes north of the Aral Sea. They lived off their flocks,
and their prinicipal occupation was war. While most of the Ghuzz were not Muslim,
the leader of the tribe, Tughril Beg the Seljuk, was a devout Sunni Muslim.
It will be remembered that the Samanid Empire fell apart after the rebellion of
Mahmood ibn Sabuktakeen. While Mahmood was a capable ruler, his son and successor
was not. The Seljuk (now the common name of the Ghuzz), led by Tughril Beg, soon
conquered the entire region by 1042 C.E. By 1044 C.E. the Abbasid Caliph, Qaim, had
heard of the Seljuks in the East. Because of the civil war that was taking place
between the Buwaihid princes, Qaim felt that this was the perfect time to get rid of
his Shiite rulers. He far preferred the Sunni Seljuk to the Shiite Buwaihid.
Qaim sent emissaries to Tughril Beg in 1055. Being a Muslim, Tughril Beg
received the emissaries with profound respect. That same year, Tughril Beg led his
Seljuk army into Baghdad and took the city. While the Caliph still lacked any
political power, under the Seljuks he was deeply respected as a religious figure.
Tughril Beg was succeeded by his nephew Alp Arslan after his death in
August, 1063. Alp Arslan was a shrewd man who quickly married off his children to
the children of the Eastern princes - thereby amicably reuniting most of East Persia
with the rest of the Empire.When Alp Arslan secured the East, he moved his attention
to the Byzantines. On Friday, August 19th, 1071, the army of Alp Arslan utterly
defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Lake Van. Asia minor was now in the hands
of the Seljuk.
After these wars, Alp Arslan died. He was succeeded by his eldest son,
Malik Shah. Under Malik Shah's rule, the Empire reached its pinnacle of glory.
Malik Shah was educated, and passionately interested in the sciences, especially
astronomy. He established an observatory in Persia, which he placed under the
administration of Omar Khayyam, the famous mathematician and author of the Rubaiyat.
During Malik Shah's reign, the Seljuks kept control of Asia Minor. This denied the
Byzantines the area from which they recruited soldiers. The Byzantine Emperor Alexius
Comnenus found himself short on men during the late 1080's. He asked the help of
Pope Urban II in retaking Asia Minor. The Western Europeans knew little of Middle
Eastern geography, and did not realize the importance of Asia Minor. The city of
Jerusalem, however, was a familiar city to the Christians. In 1092, Malik Shah died, and the Seljuk Empire became torn by civil war. Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem became impossible; the pilgrims were robbed and murdered in the anarchy (before the strife, pilgrims were allowed - Muslims were remarkably tolerant of the Jew and Christians).
Urban II's plea for help was dumbfoundingly successful. Tens of thousands of soldiers
marched South from Constantinople into Asia Minor, the Syria, and then Jerusalem.
But by this time, the Seljuk Empire had fallen apart. Finally, on July 15th, 1099,
Jerusalem fell to the Christians.
The Seljuks were unable to defeat the Crusaders. Instead, that task fell to
Saladin of the Ayoubids (an Empire centered around Cairo, Egypt). Before we study
the Ayoubids, however, we must learn about the history of North Africa from 800 to
Al-Kulafaul Othmanly: 1300 C.E. -1922C.E.
Early in the 14th century the Turkish tribal chieftain Othman, or Osman,
founded an empire in western Anatolia (Asia Minor) that was to endure for almost
six centuries. As this empire grew by conquering lands of the Byzantine Empire and
beyond, it came to include at the height of its power all of Asia Minor; the
countries of the Balkan Peninsula; the islands of the eastern Mediterranean; parts
of Hungary and Russia; Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus, Palestine, and Egypt; part of
Arabia; and all of North Africa through Algeria.
(See also Balkans; Byzantine Empire.)
The Early Empire, 1300-1481
The dynasty that Othman (1258-1326) founded was called Osmanli, meaning "sons of
Osman." The name evolved in English into Ottoman. The Ottoman Empire was Islamic in
religion. During the 11th century bands of nomadic Turks emerged from their home in
Central Asia to raid lands to the west. The strongest of the Turkish tribes was the
Seljuks. In time they established themselves in Asia Minor along with other groups
of Turks. Following the defeat of the Seljuks by the Mongols in 1293, Othman emerged
as the leader of local Turks in the fight against the tottering Byzantine Empire.
The final conquest of the Byzantines was not achieved until 1453 with the fall
of Constantinople (now Istanbul), but by that date all the surrounding territory was
in Ottoman hands. The initial areas of expansion under Othman I and his
successors--Orkhan (ruled 1326-59) and Murad I (ruled 1359-89)--were western Asia
Minor and southeastern Europe, primarily the Balkan Peninsula. During Orkhan's reign
the practice began of exacting a tribute in children from Christian subjects.
The boys were trained to become soldiers and administrators. As soldiers they
filled the ranks of the infantry, called the Janizaries (also spelled Janissaries),
the most fearsome military force in Europe for centuries. Murad conquered Thrace, to
the northwest of Constantinople, in 1361. He moved his capital to Adrianople
(now Edirne), Thrace's capital and the second city of the Byzantine Empire.
This conquest effectively cut off Constantinople from the outside world. Adrianople
also controlled the principal invasion route through the Balkan Mountains, giving
the Ottomans access to further expansion to the north.
During Murad's last victorious battle against Balkan allies, he was killed. His
successor, Bayezid I (ruled 1389-1402), was unable to make further European
conquests. He was forced to devote his attention to eastern Asia Minor to deal with
a growing Turkish principality, Karaman. He attacked and defeated Karaman in 1391,
put down a revolt of his Balkan subjects, and returned to consolidate his gains in
Asia Minor. His successes attracted the attention of Timur Lenk (Tamerlane).
Encouraged by Turkish princes who had fled to his court from Bayezid's
incursions, Timur attacked and overwhelmed him in 1402. Taken captive by Timur,
Bayezid died within a year. Timur soon retired from Asia Minor, leaving Bayezid's
sons to take up where their father had failed. The four sons fought for control
until one of them, Mohammed I, killed the other three and took control. He reigned
from 1413 to 1421 and his successor, Murad II, from 1421 to 1451. Murad suppressed
Balkan resistance and eliminated all but two of the Turkish principalities in Asia
Minor. The task of finishing the Balkan conquests and seizing all of Asia Minor fell
to Murad's successor, Mohammed II (ruled 1451-81). It was he who completed the siege
of Constantinople in 1453 and made it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The whole
Balkan Peninsula south of Hungary was incorporated as well as the Crimea on the north
coast of the Black Sea. Asia Minor was completely subdued.
In addition to conquering a large empire, Mohammed II worked strenuously for
consolidation and an adequate administrative and tax system. He was assisted by the
fact that the whole Byzantine bureaucratic structure fell into his hands. Although
Islamic, Ottoman sultans were not averse to using whatever talent they could attract
The Golden Age, 1481-1566
Three sultans ruled the empire at its height: Bayezid II (1481-1512),
Selim I (1512-20), and Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520-66). Bayezid extended the
empire in Europe, added outposts along the Black Sea, and put down revolts in Asia
Minor. He also turned the Ottoman fleet into a major Mediterranean naval power.
Late in life he became a religious mystic and was displaced on the throne by his
more militant son, Selim I.
Selim's first task was to eliminate all competition for his position. He had his
brothers, their sons, and all but one of his own sons killed. He thereby established
control over the army, which had wanted to raise its own candidate to power. During
his short reign the Ottomans moved south- and eastward into Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Arabia, and Egypt. At Mecca, the chief shrine of Islam, he took the title of caliph, ruler of all Muslims. The Ottoman sultans were thereafter the spiritual heads of Islam thereby displacing the centuries-old caliphate of Baghdad.
By acquiring the holy places of Islam, Selim cemented his position as the religion's
most powerful ruler. This gave the Ottomans direct access to the rich cultural
heritage of the Arab world. Leading Muslim intellectuals, artists, artisans, and
administrators came to Constantinople from all parts of the Arab world. They made
the empire much more of a traditional Islamic state than it had been.
An added benefit of Selim's efforts was control of all Middle Eastern trade
routes between Europe and the Far East. The growth of the empire had for some time
been an impediment to European trade. In time this led European states to seek
routes around Africa to China and India. It also impelled them to face westward and
led directly to the discovery of the Americas.
Selim's surviving son, Süleyman, came to the throne in an enviable situation.
New revenues from the expanded empire left him with wealth and power unparalleled in
Ottoman history. In his early campaigns he captured Belgrade (1521) and Rhodes (1522)
and broke the military power of Hungary. In 1529 he laid siege to Vienna, Austria,
but was forced to withdraw for lack of supplies. He also waged three campaigns
against Persia. Algiers in North Africa fell to his navy in 1529 and Tripoli
(now Libya) in 1551. In more peaceful pursuits he adorned the chief cities of Islam
with mosques, aqueducts, bridges, and other public works. In Constantinople he had
several mosques built, among them the magnificent Süleymaniye Cami named for him.
Imperial Decline, 1566-1807
During Süleyman's long reign the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its
political power and close to its maximum geographical extent. The seeds of decline,
however, were already planted. As Süleyman grew tired of campaigns and retired to
his harem, his viziers, or prime ministers, took more authority. After his death
the army gained control of the sultanate and was able to use it for its own benefit.
Few sultans after Süleyman had the ability to exercise real power when the need
arose. This weakness at home was countered by a growing power in the west.
The nation-states of Europe were emerging from the Middle Ages under strong
monarchies. They were building armies and navies that were powerful enough to
attack a decaying Ottoman military might.
In 1571 the combined fleets of Venice, Spain, and the Papal States of Italy
defeated the Turks in the great naval battle of Lepanto, off the coast of Greece.
This defeat, which dispelled the myth of the invincible Turk, took place during the
reign of Selim II (ruled 1566-74). But the empire rebuilt its navy and continued to
control the eastern Mediterranean for another century.
As the central government became weaker, large parts of the empire began to act
independently, retaining only nominal loyalty to the sultan. The army was still
strong enough, however, to prevent provincial rebels from asserting complete control.
Under Murad III (ruled 1574-95) new campaigns were undertaken. The Caucasus was
conquered, and Azerbaijan was seized. This brought the empire to the peak of its
Reform efforts undertaken by 17th-century sultans did little to deter the onset
of decay. The Ottomans were driven out of the Caucasus and Azerbaijan in 1603 and
out of Iraq in 1604. Iraq was retaken by Murad IV (ruled 1623-40) in 1638, but Iran
remained a persistent military threat in the east. A war with Venice (1645-69)
exposed Constantinople to an attack by the Venetian navy. In 1683 the last attempt
to conquer Vienna failed. Russia and Austria fought the empire by direct military
attack and by fomenting revolt by non-Muslim subjects of the sultan.
Beginning in 1683, with the attack on Vienna, the Ottomans were at war with
European enemies for 41 years. As a result, the empire lost much of its Balkan
territory and all the possessions on the shores of the Black Sea. In addition,
the Austrians and Russians were allowed to intervene in the empire's affairs on
behalf of the sultan's Christian subjects.
The weakness of the central government, as manifested by its military decline,
also showed itself in a gradual loss of control over most of the provinces. Local
rulers, called notables, carved for themselves permanent regions in which they ruled
directly, regardless of the wishes of the sultan in Constantinople. The notables
were able to build their power bases because they knew of the sultan's military
weakness and because local populations preferred their rule to the corrupt
administration of the faraway capital. The notables formed their own armies and
collected their own taxes, sending only nominal contributions to the imperial
Selim III (ruled 1789-1807) attempted to reform the empire and its army. He
failed and was overthrown. When Mahmud II (ruled 1808-39) came to the throne, the
empire was in desperate straits. Control of North Africa had passed to local
notables. In Egypt Muhammad 'Ali was laying the foundation of an independent kingdom.
Had the European nations cooperated, they could have destroyed the Ottoman Empire.
In 1826, five years after Greece began its fight for independence, the
Janizaries revolted to stop reforms. Mahmud had them massacred and constructed a
new military system in the style of European armies. He also reformed the
administration and gained control over some of the provincial notables, with the
exception of Egypt. By the time of Mahmud's death the empire was more consolidated
and powerful, but it was still subject to European interference.
Mahmud's sons, Abdülmecid I (ruled 1839-61) and Abdülaziz (ruled 1861-76)
carried out further reforms, especially in education and law. Nevertheless, by
mid-century it was evident that the Ottoman cause was hopeless. Czar Nicholas I of
Russia commented on the Ottoman Empire in 1853: "We have on our hands a sick man,
a very sick man."
The Sick Man of Europe, 1850-1922
The conflicting interests of European states propped up the Ottoman Empire until
after World War I. Great Britain especially was determined to keep Russia from
gaining direct access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea. Britain, France, and
Sardinia helped the Ottomans during the Crimean War (1854-56) to block the Russians.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 brought Russia almost to Constantinople. The
Ottomans were forced to sign the harsh Treaty of San Stefano, which would have ended
their rule in Europe except that the European states called the Congress of Berlin.
It succeeded in propping up the old empire for a few decades more.
Abdülhamid II (ruled 1876-1909) developed strong ties with Germany, and the
Ottomans fought on Germany's side in World War I. Russia hoped to use the war as an
excuse to gain access to the Mediterranean and perhaps capture Constantinople.
This aim was frustrated by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and withdrawal from the
war. Ottoman defeat in war inspired an already fervent Turkish nationalism.
The postwar settlement outraged the nationalists. A new government under the
leadership of Mustafa Kemal, known as Atatürk, emerged at Ankara (see Atatürk).
The last sultan,Mohammed VI, fled in 1922 after the sultanate had been abolished.
All members of the Ottoman Dynasty were expelled from the country two years later.
Turkey was proclaimed a republic, with Atatürk as its first president.
Wallahu A'lamu Bissawab
Map of the Uthman Caliphate
Further reading about the Muslim Khilafah
World Conspiracy to Abolish the Muslim Caliphate
THE O.I.C. (ORGANISATION OF ISLAMIC CONFERENCE)