Jerusalem Archaeological Park
The Period of the Four Righteous Caliphs (632-660 CE)

Following the death of the prophet in 632 CE, a period of great unrest stirred in the Islamic world. Muhammad's place was now occupied by caliphs (literally: substitutes) who were considered the prophet's heirs. This period is characterized by bloody warfare that brought about the murder of three of the first four caliphs.

Since Muhammad neither produced an heir nor set rules for appointing one, his authority was passed on to four men considered the most righteous of Muslims, who were close to the prophet and shared family ties with him. These continued to rule as caliphs from Medina, and were the spiritual, political and military leaders of the Muslim people. The first caliph was Abu Bakr, a close friend of Muhammad and the father of `Aisha, the favorite of the prophet's nine wives. Abu Bakr fought against the Bedouins, who were reluctant to support Islam following the death of Muhammad. Subsequently, he managed to regain the Bedouins' support and in 634 CE declared holy war against the Byzantine Empire. The Bedouin-Muslim force, headed by Khalid, set out to capture areas outside the Arabian Peninsula: Syria and Palestine in the north, Iraq and Persia in the west and North Africa and Egypt in the east. The battle of July 634 CE was the first major Muslim victory over Byzantium. But Abu Bakr, who had returned to Medina, did not live to see this victory, having died of malaria two years earlier. His appointed heir was `Umar b. al-Khattab.
`Umar, who ruled for ten years, and is considered the most righteous of the caliphs. After the total defeat of the Byzantine forces in the battle by the Yarmuk River (August 636 CE) and after a two-year siege, Jerusalem was taken by the Muslims (638 CE). `Umar entered Jerusalem, where he received the city's submission from Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 644 CE `Umar was stabbed to death by a Persian Christian slave, while praying in a Mosque. Othman was then appointed caliph.
In order to guarantee his reign caliph Othman appointed family members and friends to governmental positions. One of the rewarded family members was Mu`awiya, a descendant of the Umayyad family, who became governor of Syria in Damascus. Following Othman`s assassination during prayer (656 CE), `Ali, Muhammad's cousin and husband of his beloved daughter Fatima, ascended the throne. A fierce fighter for the Islamic cause and a scholar in the Suna (the traditions which served as the basis for the Islamic ways of life), `Ali's appointment marked the first usurp in the Islamic world. Opposing `Ali were the Quraysh magistrates and especially `Aisha, Muhammad's widow, as well as Mu`awiya. `Ali left Mecca and settled with his followers at Kufa in Iraq. The two wings of Islam crystallized in those fights: the Shi`a `Ali`s supporters and the prophet's family and the Sunites centered around Mu`awiya; between the two were the Harijiya, who had dropped out of `Ali`s camp.

In 658 Mu`awiya became the caliph. `Ali set out to fight his oppressors: the Umayyads and the Harijiyas. `Ali was assassinated in 661 at the entrance to the Mosque in Kufa by a Harijiya who was out to revenge his brother's death. This event closed the door on a period known in the Sunite tradition as 'the period of the four righteous caliphs'. Mu`awiya was now the pronounced caliph of the Umayyad kingdom.

The Rightly-Guided or patriarchal' or 'orthodox' caliphs

(Al-khulafâ' Al-râshidûn)

11/632 Abû Bakr 'Atîq, Ibn Abî Quhâfa, al-Siddîq

13/634 Abû Hafs 'Umar (I)b. al-Khattâb, al-Fârûq

23/644 Abû 'Amr or Abû 'Abdallâh or Abû Laylâ 'Uthmân b. Affân, Dhu 'l-Nûrayn

3540/65661 Abu 'l-Hasan 'Alî Tâlib, al-Imâm al-Murtada

40/661Umayyad caliphs

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