The History of the Muslim World: The Rightly-Guided Caliphate
What was it that made the Prophet (PBUH) strong? Why did he manage to overcome his enemies? Allah’s (SWT) aid and guidance, no question about it. It was in the name of Allah (SWT) that the Muslim community (ummah) was formed in Mecca headed by the Prophet. It was in the name of Allah that, in an attempt to protect themselves from the persecution of idol worshippers, this community migrated to Medina whose residents converted to Islam and offered the Prophet to be their ruler. It was in the name of Allah that the light and power of Islam spread from Medina to Mecca and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.
After the Prophet’s (PBUH) death the question arose who will take over the ummah? At that moment all of the future Caliphs were there among the Prophet’s (PBUH) companions. Abu Bakr was the most resolute and determined of them all. He realised only too well that the Prophet’s (PBUH) death may give rise to tumult and dissent, he came out into the square and said to those gathered there, ‘Those of you who worshipped Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. Those of you who worshipped Allah, know that Allah is never-ending and never dies!’ Abu Bakr called himself a ‘deputy’ of the Prophet in his earthly mission, in Arabic, a ‘caliph’.
After the Prophet’s (PBUH) death, many Arab tribes renounced their allegiance to the ummah. Abu Bakr’s army went forth to bring back into the caliphate the people of Oman, Yemen, Bahrain and all other dissenters in the Arabian Peninsula. Abu Bakr also laid the foundations for the continued spread of Islam and the conquering of Persia and Byzantine.
The next Caliph Umar subdued to the Caliphate the Byzantine provinces of Palestine, Egypt and Persia. When Caliph Umar entered Jerusalem through the opened gate wearing an ordinary khalat robe, the kind which beggars would be seen wearing, all of the city’s residents prostrated themselves before him. This was exactly the meaning and the greatness of the Rightly Guided Caliphate: only Allah possesses greatness, man is His servant while the Caliph double that because he gives all he has to his people.
In the regions which the conquered the Caliphs would repeal all the taxes and replaced them with just two; a small jizya tax and the land tax kharaj for land owners. To all those who converted to Islam, financial aid was provided out of the funds of the ummah and a relief from all the taxes for several years after which only one additional tax was imposed on top of the jizya: the zakat of several percent of the income. Needless to say, such leniency won the Caliphate the sympathies of all the conquered nations.
The third Caliph Uthman chose to live in luxury and often dipped into the treasury to satisfy his personal needs. A conspiracy against him led to his assassination. Caliph Ali who came after him managed to win the civil war which started as a result but was himself slain by an assassin. His opponent Muawiya from the Umayyad family was quick to assume power and became the next Caliph. His enthronement in 661 heralded the end of the Rightly Guided Rashidun Caliphate era which lasted for thirty years after the Prophet’s death, and the beginning of the Umayyad Caliphate.