Our Paper on the Concept of Khalifah
The Covenant
Definition of the Khalifah/Caliph
Chronology of The Khilafah/ Caliphate
The Khulafa-ur-Rashidun (The Rightly Guided Caliphs)
Muslim Sultanate in South-East Asia
Muslim Nation-States (20th C. till Present)
Related Articles on Khalifah/ Caliph
Important Links


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.

Allah Says:
"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)

Allah Says:
"They want to extinguish Allah’s 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]



After giving praise and thanks to Allah (The One True God), Abu Bakr (ra) addressed the Muslims gathered at the Prophet’s 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."


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.


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 discontented Egyptians.

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 world.

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 been wronged:
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!

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 stability.

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 1100 C.E.

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 or capture.

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 territorial extent.

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 treasury.

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

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