The Founding of the Caliphate | Free Essay Example

The Founding of the Caliphate

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The foundation of the Caliphate, one of the most important features of Islam religious and political powers, remains an important topic of debate in the history of religion. Over the years, scholars have attempted to develop a number of theories to explain the actual foundation of the Caliphate. One of the major questions is whether the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) was the actual founder of the Caliphate or it was a result of the social and religious politics that emerged prior and after the death of the Prophet (Madelung 93).

Several scholars have supported the hypothesis that the first four Caliphs were not only religious leaders but also political and military leaders whose main purpose was to use military and political prowess and conquest to establish strong political empires based on the new Islamic faith. On the other hand, several scholars have argued that the Prophet himself was a social, political, and religious leader, whose successors only came to expand his work and will.

Moreover, a number of other scholars have supported the hypothesis that there is no clear successor to the Prophet Muhammad among his followers, with the foundation of the Caliphate largely based on elected individuals whose commitment and ability to provide religious mentorship like the Prophet Muhammad is highly controversial.

The paper will argue that despite the existence of evidence that a clear successor to the Prophet among his followers was lacking, the Caliphate is strongly a sociopolitical and religious setting, with the first four caliphs being the right founders, providing religious and political leadership. In addition, this paper argues that the Prophet himself was not the founder of the Caliphate, but the elected successors founded the system under the existing sociopolitical and religious issues in Medina.

Based on these scholarly findings, the paper also attempts to refute the historical hypothesis that the sword was the main methodology used by the first four caliphates to spread religion.

Maulana Muhammad Ali, a leading scholar in Middle East history, has developed one of the most distinctive scholarly analyses of the Caliphate and history of the early caliphs. In his writings, Ali develops an in-depth analysis of the foundation of the Caliphate following the death of Prophet Muhammad. The author attempts to describe the origin of the term “Caliphate”. Here, it is revealed that the term is an English word used to describe the Arabic term “Khalifa”, which means “the successor” or “the deputy”.

It has been revealed that prior to his death, the Prophet Muhammad was aware that the work he had initiated had given him an important religious position as a prophet and leader, which would eventually need another individual once his days were over. According to some scholars, the Prophet had Chosen Ali, his own son-in-law, and cousin, as his rightful successor (Madelung 129).

On the other hand, other scholarly work attempts to argue that the Prophet had not settled on any successor, but the best candidate for the job was Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s friend, and father-in-law. According to Maulana Ali (191), the election of Abu Bakr was based on a democratic election done among the Prophet’s disciples and guided by the power of Allah.

According to the author and this school of thought, this marks the beginning and foundation of the Caliphate. In fact, the scholar’s work attempts to agree with the hypothesis that the Prophet was not the founder of the Caliphate, but rather Abu Bakr’s election marked the foundation of the Caliphate.

According to a number of other schools of thought, the Prophets may not have been aware that his death would result in a new sociopolitical and religious leadership under the Caliphs. In fact, the Caliphate was founded not only under the Prophet’s religious work, but also under the existing political conditions in Medina. According to Madelung (54), it is impossible to study the foundation of the Caliphate without looking at the political divides and camps that were present in the city.

The Ansar, a group of religious helpers, were among the most powerful and significant political settings in the city. According to this school of thought, the Ansar feared the rule of the Quraysh group, one of their most powerful rivals. The Ansar leaders had sworn allegiance to Imam Ali, who was believed to be a less probable candidate to assume power after the demise of the Prophet. In his remarks at Saqifa, Ansar leader Hubab Ibn Mundhir declared that the Ansar was superior to the Quraysh (Gulen and Ceylan 86).

In addition, the group declared that the Muhajirun (immigrant Quraysh) were inferior and subjects to the Ansar. However, before they could settle on any leader, the Quraysh heard about the gathering at Saqifa and decided to join. An immense argument between the two groups followed and lasted for several days.

According to (Madelung 68), three issues were contentious and formed the actual factors that contributed to the foundation of the Caliphate. First, it was clear that the Quraysh group, from which all the Imams came from, dominated the politics of the time.

Secondly, the large number of the Ansar gave them military power over other groups, especially during the capture of Mecca. Thirdly, it was evident that the smaller Arab tribes were not willing to obey any other leader apart from those from the Quraysh. Fourthly, Abu Bakr had the strongest relationship with the Prophet.

According to Juda (67), these factors gave Abu Bakr the right to become the Prophet’s successor (The Khalif) rather than his allegiance to the religion.

However, due to his advanced age and declining health, Abu Bakr only ruled for two years before his death in 634 AD. However, his work remains significant in the advancement of Islam in Asia. Abu Bakr was able to unite the Quraysh, the Ansar, and other groups into a large army, which carried out expansive campaigns to spread Islam across Arabia.

Again, authors such as Maulana Ali (231) and Juda (59) use Abu Bakr’s succession as evidence of the democratic foundation of the Caliphate. Historians have shown that Abu Bakr’s death resulted in another election. Representatives from the Quraysh, the Asar, and other smaller groups, appointed Umar into the Caliphate.

However, it is worth noting that the democratic nature of the election is doubtable because Abu Bakr had initially anointed Umar as his successor. Authors such as (Gulen and Ceylan) refute this claim by showing Umar’s potential as the rightful candidate for the Caliphate. After Abu Bakr, Umar rule for ten years between 634 and 644 AD.

The leadership of Umar provides evidence that the Caliphate did not use the sword to spread religion. It was based on the idea that Islam state would exist even among the non-Muslims. For instance, it has been shown that Umar saw the need to build political and social structures for the future of the Caliphate. For instance, he did not coerce the non-Muslim groups in the captured states to convert to Islam. In addition, he did not attempt to centralize his government, unlike the Persians (Oxford University Press 431).

He democratically allowed his subjects to retain and practice their religions and belief systems, language, government, and customs. He only installed a governor (amir) and a financial officer (Tamil) in every state. These principles were followed and advanced under the leadership of Uthman, Umar’s successor.

Uthman intensified the Caliphate’s political conquest to advance the empire, but did not attempt to coerce people to covert or interfere with their social systems. In fact, he used the power to read as the means of spreading religion. For instance, he ordered the formal writing of the Quran, which was taught the new schools and homes in all the captured areas.

In conclusion, it is evident that the Caliphate was founded under democratic terms. In addition, these factors provide evidence that the founders of the Caliphate did not use military power to spread religion, contrary to common beliefs. Rather, the Caliphs used the sword to advance their empire, just like the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and Romans had done.

Annotated Bibliography

Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Early Caliphate. Dublin, OH: Ahmadiyya Anjum Ishaat, USA, 1985. Print.

The author is one of the most prominent writers and researchers in the history of Islam and the Muslim world. He has written extensively in this topic. In this book, the author reviews the history of the Caliphate by analyzing the life and works of the first four Caliphs- Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.

This book is important to my study because it provides evidence that the Caliphate was founded after the death of the Prophet. It carries out an in-depth analysis of the life and works of the four Caliphs, which support my hypothesis that the foundation of the Caliphate was a normal sociopolitical rather than a religious movement.

Oxford University Press. Caliph and Caliphate: Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guide. London, OUP, 2010. Print.

This book develops an intensive review of some important historical accounts and research articles about the foundation and progress of the Caliphate. It shows how the Caliphs emerged after the death of the Prophet.

The book is an important source of firsthand knowledge about the topic. It provides a selective guide and an important background for my study.

Gulen, Fethullah, and Elvan Ceylan. “A comparative approach to Islam and democracy.” SAIS Review 21.2 (2001): 133-138. Print.

This article attempts to provide a detailed analysis of Islam as a religion based on the work of the first four Caliphs. It argues that Islam was founded on democratic grounds, contrary to the wrong beliefs that jihadists were used to spread the religion. The author shows that the foundation of the Caliphate set the trend of spreading religion in a democratic manner.

This article is important in my study because it provides a detailed analysis of the relationship between religion and political advancements after the Prophet’s demise. It forms a strong background to support my hypothesis.

Juda, Jamal. “The Caliphate in Early Islam (A Study in Political and Religious Thinking and its â Development in the Islamic State during the Initial Phase of Foundation).” An-Najah University Journal for Research 18.1 (2003): 51-82. Print.

This article is one of the most detailed empirical researches in the current topic. It critically analyzes a wide volume of historical and religious materials to analyze the schools of thought that attempt to describe the foundation and nature of the Caliphate during the early Muslim advancement.

In my proposed study, I will use this article to show evidence of several schools of thought about the topic and their claims. I will use it to show how the Caliphate was founded.

Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. London, Cambridge university press, 2010. Print.

This book is an important historical account that examines the political, social, and economic issues affecting the society during the time of the Prophet and their impacts on the state after his death.

The book is important in my study because it does not take a partisan approach to history, but examines the foundation of the Caliphate from a historian’s point of view.

Works Cited

Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Early Caliphate. Dublin, OH: Ahmadiyya Anjum Ishaat, USA, 1985. Print.

Gulen, Fethullah and Elvan Ceylan. “A comparative approach to Islam and democracy.” SAIS Review 21.2 (2001): 133-138. Print.

Juda, Jamal. “The Caliphate in Early Islam (A Study in Political and Religious Thinking and its â Development in the Islamic State during the Initial Phase of Foundation).” An-Najah University Journal for Research 18.1 (2003): 51-82. Print.

Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. London, Cambridge university press, 2011. Print.

Oxford University Press. Caliph and Caliphate: Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guide. London, OUP, 2010. Print.