History Of Islam Essay Research Paper Question

History Of Islam Essay, Research Paper

Question: Assess the main achievements of the first four caliphs (632 to 661 AD). How powerful and united was the Arab Empire at the death of Ali? {1996}

Abu Bakr,, was the father-in-law of Mohammed and was the first converts to Islam. After the demise of Mohammed, Abu Bakar’s main objective was to maintain the heritage of the prophet. However, distance tribes refused to recognize Abu Bakr’s authority as their treaty relation was with the late Mohammed only. Thus after learning about the death of Mohammed, their nomadic instincts recoiled at the prospect of being subordinate to the men at Medina. These tribes refused allegience to Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s successor as they felt that they had no part in electing him. This *repudiation is known as The Ridda or Apostasy. In fact, many of the tribes involved had never formally adopted Islam and thus they reverted to paganism soon after the death of Mohammed. In order to reassert control over Medina, Abu Bakr sent Khalid, one of the pagan Korayish military leaders Mohammed converted on entering Mecca, to reconvert these tribes. He succeeded and the Arabs members, who were now convinced of the power of the Medina, expanded his Moslem army. Khalid also launched a surprise invasion eastward across the Euphrates and surrounded the provincial capital of Hira. Being a Ummayad, Abu Bakr had political and military powers to complement his religious authority and at the start of Abu Bakr’s reign, the Arabs were able to conquer the whole of the Middle East. In less than a century, the mobile Moslems were able to successfully defeat the Byzantine and in the entire fertile cresent.

At about 634, when Khalid was marching into Damascus, Omar another Ummayad, succeeded Abu Bakr as the next Caliph. Omar being more worldly and ambitious, asserted control over the raiding armies and gain control over the independent and far flung army commanders who were left to make their own decisions during Abu Bakr’s reign.

Omar issued military orders to Khalid but instead of attacking Damascus, Khalid was to gain control of the surrounding territories and eventually, the Arabs plunderes as far south as Gaza in Palestine. The battles in Palestine ended in Arab victories and with the weakening of Damascus’ power, it was conquered together with other major cities of the northern region by 636 AD.

After the Persians’ failed attempt to launch an offensive to regain control over the Western Mesopotamia. The Moslem army under the orders of Omar, counterattacked from the direction of Syria and destroyed the Persian army. They then proceeded to capture the entire Mesopotamia. Thus by 637, both Mesopotamia and Syria came under the Medina’s control.

In 639, a Bedouin General named Amr was sent to the frontier of Egypt with 4000 men and plundered across Eastern Egypt to the Nile Valley. Thus in 642, Amr captured the Byzantine Capital at Alexandria, but there was a brief recapture by the Byzantines in 645 but a Moslem counterattack drove the Byzantines out of Egypt by 646.

Caliph Omar also organised Syria and Mesopotamia into a single province, while Egypt was to exist as another. Governors appointed to rule the respective regions were Ummayads. In 640, Omar appointed Muawiya as the governor of Syria-Mesopotamia and in 642, he appointed his foster brother to administer Egypt. Although these governors owed their loyalty to Caliph Omar but in reality, they had absolute powers therefore they soon overtook Medina in importance.

In 644, a member of the small but growing “Shites” sect murdered Omar.

Caliph Othman reigned from 644-655 A.D. Although Othman like the earlier two caliphs, was an Ummayad, he was not as competent as them. In terms of character, Othman was uninspiring as he was cowardly, weak and guilty of Nepotism hence causing even more resentment. During his reign, the resentment for the Ummayad clans by the other clans intensified but the Ummayads continued to prosper at the expense of other clans. Lesser wealth was now coming back to Medina as the areas of conquests got smaller. Arab Expansion began to slow down during Othman’s reign as firstly there were no longer pressures on land among the Arabs. The Arabs now have sufficient land and thus had little need to expand their territories. Secondly, expansion was beginning to reach the natural boundaries such as the high plateau and unfriendly populations of Persia and Anatolia i.e. Eastern Turkey. Thus this gave the non-Ummayad Arabs more opportunities to channel their energies into intrigue against the Ummayads. In 656, Caliph Othman was assassinated and from then onwards, the role of the Caliph became a less religious and more political one.

Caliph Ali reigned from Ad 655-661.There were no profound achievements during the reign of Ali even though Ali was not an Ummayad and thus was supported by the non-Ummayad dissidents. Ali was also Mohammed’s son in law thus in terms of being a qualifying successor, Ali fitted the bill exactly. His supporters and himself wanted to establish a bloodline Caliphate, leading directly from Mohammed himself. However, Ali’s succession did not heal the diversity entrenched in the Moslem world. The Arabs regarded Ali as someone who profited from murder of one of their own. He had much difficulties in exerting control over the Moslems due to primarily their resentment towards him as a leader.Not only did Ali failed to bring the Moslems into unity, he diversified them even further by inciting a Civil War between himself and Muawiya. In 656, Muawiya (Governor of Syria) diverted his soldiers away from the front with the Byzantines and marched towards Medina. This thus resulted in Ali leading his troops out of Medina causing Medina to lose it place of being the capital of Islam to Kufa which is a more central position than Medina. This civil war also marked the first open case of warfare by Moslem on Moslem. Muawiya was not the only enemies of Ali, Aisha and two other rebels were too against Ali’s rule. Muawiya opposed to his rule because he being a kin to Othman, wanted to take revenge for Othman’s death. Muawiya was a powerful force as he had the backing of the dynamic Ummayad clan and also Amr, the General who conquered Egypt. After another major battle in Central Iraq in 658, Muawiya was able to rule Syria as a virtually independent state within Islam. In 661, Ali was assassinated in Kufa and this resulted in the Islamic world to become hopelessly split.


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