Islamic form of government, considered a successor state to the realm of Muhammad

A caliphate is a state ruled by an Islamic leader known as a caliph. This is a person considered a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and a leader of the entire Muslim community.[1]

The Rashidun caliphs directly succeeded Muhammad as leaders of the Muslim community. They were chosen through shura, a process of community consultation that some think is an early form of Islamic democracy.[2] During the history of Islam after the Rashidun period, many Muslim states, mostly hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.[1] Caliphs were not thought of as having the same prophetic power as Muhammad did.[3]

In the Sunni branch of Islam a caliph should be elected by Muslims or their representatives.[4] Followers of Shia Islam, however, believe a caliph should be an imam chosen by God from the Ahl al-Bayt (the "Family of the House", Muhammad's direct descendants).

History change

Rashidun, AD 632-661 change

Abu Bakr, the first successor of Muhammad, nominated Umar as his successor on his deathbed, and there was consensus in the Muslim community to his choice. Umar's successor, Uthman Ibn Affan, was elected by a council of electors (Majlis). But soon he was seen more as a "king" than as an elected leader. Uthman was killed by members of an opposition group. Then Ali took control. He was very popular with many, but he was not accepted as caliph by the governors of Egypt. Later on even some of his own guard were against him. He had two major rebellions and was assassinated after a tumultuous rule of only five years. This period is known as the Fitna, or the first Islamic civil war.

Muawiyah, a relative of Uthman, and governor (Wali) of Syria became one of Ali's challengers. After Ali's death he became Caliph. Under him, the caliphate became a hereditary office for the first time. He founded the Umayyad dynasty.

In areas which were previously under Persian or Byzantine rule, the Caliphs lowered taxes, provided greater local autonomy, greater religious freedom for Jews and indigenous Christians, and brought peace to peoples that were demoralized and disaffected by the casualties and heavy taxation that resulted from the years of Byzantine-Persian warfare.[5]

Umayyads, AD 661-750 change

The Caliphate, 622-750
  Expansion under Muhammad, 622-632
  Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphs, 632-661
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

Under the Umayyads the Caliphate grew rapidly. Islamic rule expanded westward across North Africa and into Hispania and eastward through Persia and then to Sindh and Punjab in modern-day Pakistan. This made it one of the largest unitary states in history and one of the few states to ever extend direct rule over three continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia). Although not ruling all of the Sahara, homage was paid to the Caliph by Saharan Africa by various nomad Berber tribes.

Because they were not elected by Shura, the Umayyad dynasty was not supported by everyone within the Muslim community. Some supported prominent early Muslims like Al-Zubayr; others felt that only members of Muhammad's clan, the Banu Hashim the descendants of Ali, should rule. There were numerous rebellions against the Umayyads, as well as splits within the Umayyad ranks (notably, the rivalry between Yaman and Qays). Eventually, supporters of the Banu Hisham and the supporters of the descendants of Ali united to bring down the Umayyads in 750. However, the Shiˤat ˤAlī, "the Party of Ali", were again disappointed when the Abbasid dynasty took power, as the Abbasids were descended from Muhammad's uncle, `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and not from Ali. Following this disappointment, the Shiˤat ˤAlī finally split from the majority Sunni Muslims and formed what are today the several Shiˤa denominations.

The Umayyad Caliphate became the rulers of the Islamic world. Although they maintained the Sasanians' administrative practices, the Umayyads considered Islam as primarily an Arab religion and were wary of Persian culture. They made people use the Arabic language in Persia, leading to the end of the Middle Persian or Pahlavi alphabet in favor of the new Arabic/Persian alphabet. They tried to assimilate Persians as they had "Arabized" and assimilated the Egyptians and the Assyrians, but with much less success.[6]

The Caliphate in Hispania change

During the Umayyad period Hispania was a province of the Umayyad Caliphate ruled from Damascus, Syria. Under the Abbasids Al-Andalus (or Hispania) split from the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad to form their own caliphate. The Caliphate of Córdoba ruled the Iberian Peninsula from the city of Córdoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in technology, trade and culture. Many of the masterpieces of Spain were built in this period, including the famous Great Mosque of Córdoba. The title Caliph was claimed by Abd-ar-Rahman III on January 16, 929. He had been known as the Emir of Córdoba. All the Caliphs of Córdoba were members of the Umayyad dynasty. They had held the title Emir of Córdoba and ruled over roughly the same territory since 756. The rule of the Caliphate is known as the heyday of Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula, before it split into taifas. Spain had a significant Muslim population until 1610 when the Catholic-instigated Spanish Inquisition, expelled the Spanish Muslim (Morisco) and Jewish populations.

Abbasids, AD 750-1258 change

The Abbasids had an unbroken line of Caliphs for over three centuries, cultivating great intellectual and cultural developments in the Middle East. By 940 the power of the Caliphate under the Abbasids was less as non-Arabs, particularly the Berbers of North Western Africa, the Turkish, and later the Mamluks in Egypt in the latter half of the 13th century, gained influence. Sultans and emirs became more independent. The Caliphate endured as both a symbolic position and a unifying entity for the Islamic world. During the period of the Abassid dynasty, their claims to the caliphate were challenged. The Shiˤa Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah of the Fatimid dynasty, which claimed descendance from Muhammad through his daughter, claimed the title of Caliph in 909. They created a separate line of caliphs in North Africa. Initially covering Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the Fatimid caliphs extended their rule for the next 150 years, taking Egypt and Palestine, before the Abbassid dynasty was able to turn the tide, limiting Fatimid rule to Egypt. The Fatimid dynasty finally ended in 1171. The Umayyad dynasty, which had survived and come to rule over the Muslim provinces of Spain, reclaimed the title of Caliph in 929, lasting until it was overthrown in 1031.

Shadow Caliphate, 13th-16th century AD change

1258 saw the conquest of Baghdad and the execution of Abbasid caliph al-Musta'sim by Mongol forces under Hulagu Khan. A surviving member of the Abbasid House was installed as Caliph at Cairo under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate three years later. The authority of this line of Caliphs was confined to ceremonial and religious matters, and later Muslim historians referred to it as a "shadow" Caliphate.

Ottomans, 16th-20th century AD change

The Ottoman Empire in 1683.

Ottoman rulers were known primarily by the title of Sultan and sometimes also used the title of Caliph. Mehmed II and his grandson Selim I used it to justify their conquest of Islamic countries. As the Ottoman Empire grew in size and strength, Ottoman rulers beginning with Selim I began to claim Caliphal authority.

Ottoman rulers used the title "Caliph" symbolically on many occasions but it was strengthened when the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517 and took control of most Arab lands. The last Abbasid Caliph at Cairo, al-Mutawakkil III, was taken into custody and was takem to Istanbul, where he reportedly surrendered the Caliphate to Selim I.

After the Ottomans lost a war with the Russian Empire they signed a peace treaty with Russia in 1774. The Sultan had to surrender large territories, including some with large Muslim populations, such as Crimea, to the Russian Empire. However, Sultan Abdul Hamid I claimed a diplomatic victory by making himself the protector of Muslims in Russia as part of the peace treaty. Russia was the protector of Christians in the Ottoman Empire. This was the first time the Ottoman caliph was acknowledged as having political significance outside of Ottoman borders by a European power. Although the Ottoman borders were shrinking, the powers of the Ottoman caliph increased.

Around 1880 Sultan Abdul Hamid II reasserted the title as a way of countering the spread of European colonialism in Muslim lands. His claim was most accepted by the Muslims of British India. By the eve of the First World War, the Ottoman state, despite its weakness in Europe, represented the largest and most powerful independent Islamic political entity. But the sultan also enjoyed some authority beyond the borders of his shrinking empire as caliph of Muslims in Egypt, India and Central Asia.

Khilafat Movement, AD 1920 change

In the 1920s the Khilafat Movement, a movement to defend the Ottoman Caliphate, spread throughout the British colonial territories in Asia. It was particularly strong in British India, where it formed a rallying point for Indian Muslims and was the one of the many big anti-British Indian political movements. Its leaders included Maulana Mohammad Ali, his brother Shawkat Ali, and Abul Kalam Azad, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, and Hasrat Mohani. For a time it worked in alliance with Hindu communities and was supported by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was a member of the Central Khilafat Committee.[7][8] However, the movement was weaker after the arrest or flight of its leaders, and a series of offshoots splintered off from the main organization.

End of Caliphate, AD 1924 change

On March 3, 1924, the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as part of his reforms, constitutionally abolished the institution of the Caliphate. Its powers within Turkey were transferred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (parliament) of the newly formed Turkish Republic. In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed the title but most Muslims did not accept it.

Famous caliphs change

  • Abu Bakr - First Rashidun (Four Righteously Guided Caliphs) of the Sunnis. Subdued rebel tribes in the Ridda wars.
  • Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab) - Second Rashidun. During his reign, the Islamic empire expanded to include Egypt, Jerusalem, and Persia.
  • Uthman Ibn Affan - Third Rashidun. The Qur'an was compiled under his direction. Killed by rebels.
  • Ali (Ali ibn Abu Talib) - Fourth and last Rashidun, and considered the first imam by Shi'a Muslims. His reign was full of internal conflict.
  • Hasan ibn Ali - Fifth Caliph (considered as "rightly guided" by many Sunnis as well as Shias). He ruled for six months only and handed the powers to Muawiyah I in order to unite the Muslims again.
  • Muawiyah I - First caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. Muawiyah started dynastic rule by appointing his son Yazid I as his successor, a trend that would continue through subsequent caliphates.
  • Umar ibn AbdulAziz - Umayyad caliph considered by some (mainly Sunnis) to be a sixth true and legitimate caliph under Islamic Laws of electing Caliph.
  • Harun al-Rashid - Abbasid caliph during whose reign Baghdad became the world's preeminent centre of trade, learning, and culture. Harun is the subject of many stories in the famous work One Thousand and One Nights.
  • Suleiman the Magnificent - Early Ottoman Sultan during whose reign the Ottoman Empire was biggest.
  • Abdul Hamid II - The last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power.
  • Abdülmecid II - The last Caliph of the Ottoman Dynasty, the 101st Caliph in line from Caliph Abu Bakr and nominally the 37th Head of the Ottoman Imperial House.

Related pages change

References change

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kadi, Wadad & Shahin, Aram A. 2013. Caliph, caliphate, in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought: 81–86.
  2. "The Roots of Democracy in Islam". 2002-12-16. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  3. Pollard, Elizabeth; Rosenberg, Clifford; Tignor, Robert (2011). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. New York,New York: Norton. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-393-91847-2.
  4. "Gharm Allah Al-Ghamdy". Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  5. John Esposito (1992) p.36
  6. "From Ancient Persia to Contemporary Iran". Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  7. "The Khilafat Movement". Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  8. "The Statesman". Archived from the original on 2007-04-16. Retrieved 2008-06-10.

Further reading change

Other sources change