The first four caliphs
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In 632, after the death of the Mohammad Prophet, a successor should be designated.
Mohammad did not indicate his successor but he indicated that Abu Bakr, one of his more faithful companions and father of Aïcha, his young preferred wife, will direct the collective prayer after his death.
Let us note that, later, Shiites will claim that the Prophet had designated Ali, his cousin, like his successor.
Moreover, Mohammad does not have a son, according to the tradition, the “qualities” are transmitted by blood between men.
There is thus well a problem of caliph legitimacy (literally the word caliph means in Arabic that which follows, which succeeds) the more so as there is not any rule of succession in this matter.
The stake is of importance for the young community of believing because the death of the Prophet lets very quickly appear dissensions. First of all, there is the confrontation between Aïcha, in the room of which Mohammad died, and Fatima, his daughter who she is the wife of Ali. Fatima estimates to have to inherit the goods of her father.
Another tension appears between the first companions of the Prophet come with him from Mecca to Medina, the “emigrants” (Muhagirun), and the other one who joined them in Medina, the “Ansars”. All and sundry claim legitimacy to designate among them the first successor (we will speak from now on about Caliph).
Abu Bakr belongs to the group of the “emigrants”. He is a genealogist (nassab). It is a prestigious function because the genealogist is the alive memory of the group. He interprets the dreams. Moreover, he is “Hakam”, i.e. tribal referee. Abu Bakr is thus a remarkable man called “Al Saddiq”, the sincere one, the faithful one among the faithful ones. He constitutes a model of the perfect Moslem. It seems that Abu Bakr was invited to a meeting of Ansars during which the latter prepared to appoint a caliph in the absence of emigrants of Mecca. Finally, its wisdom manages to avoid the bursting and he is indicated Caliph. More modestly, Abu Bakr, takes the title of “successor of the Envoy of God”.
His caliphate is of short duration (approximately two years). He faces several risings of tribes victoriously. These disorders are known under the name of “Ridda” or wars of apostasy (of disavowal) because several characters, whose woman, try to return to the practices of before Islam. Abu Bakr dies into 633 (or 634).

Omar, another companion of the Prophet, succeeds to him. Under “Caliph of the Envoy of God”, he adds that of “Prince of Believing” which supposes a military function and which announces his future conquests. His Caliphate lasts ten years (634-644). It is marked at the same time by a great stability and the conquests which make emerge the Arab world on the world political scene of the time.
Conversion with the Islam of Omar resembles, in a certain manner, with the conversion of Paul to the Christianity.
In Mecca, Omar, who was a keen enemy of the first Moslems, would have threatened her sister who received at it one reciting of Koran. It is at this time, but the precise circumstances are unknown for us, that Omar, forgetting his anger abruptly, would be converts to become one of the most faithful companions of Prophet.
Omar launches the community of believing in the conquest of Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Which are the reasons of this brutal irruption of the Arabs out of their peninsula?
The Bedouins tribes lived, in particular, with the trade at long distance and also with the economy of the spoils. Moreover, it was not rare only those which missed food - let us keep in memory the particularly hard climatic conditions of the Arabic peninsula - practised the raid on the goods and the herds of other tribes. It was a vital need. The community of believing created by Mohammad constitutes the new shape of tribe whose members are bound by the faith and not by the blood. It is interdict with the Moslems to be made the war between them. Since Islam is spread largely among the Arab tribes of the peninsula, the recourse to the raid and the saving in spoils become impossible with all their consequences. It is urgent to cross the borders. The privileged targets are fertile Mesopotamia under Sassanid domination and Syria, also fertile, pertaining to the Byzantine Empire. The two great empires become exhausted in a permanent confrontation. The Sassanid Empire is with end of breath. As for the Byzantines, the religious intolerance of the emperor of Constantinople causes that the dissenting Christian minorities of Syria become allied Arab conquerors who are received like liberators. This feeling favour with the conquerors is all the more strong as the Moslems do not carry out forced conversions.
Face to the imperial armies with a great number of mercenaries, the Arab riders has the top easily. They attack by small very mobile groups. The research of the spoils and especially their faith constitute very strong motivations.
The Byzantines are beaten of Agnadayn in July 634. Damascus falls first once into 635 and taken again into 636. This same year, the victorious battle close to the Yarmuk River is decisive. Palestine and Syria are conquered. Jerusalem is taken in 638. There Omar hastens to come to request. After a first defeat with the battle of the Bridge, the Arabs gain in 637 an important victory against Sassanids at Qadisiya. From this event, all goes very quickly. As of 638 or 639, the capital of Sassanids, Ctesiphon, is invaded. The Moslems melt two towns: Kufa and Basra. These towns are named “Misr”, i.e. permanent military camps which are used as relay for the later stages of the conquest.
The Sassanid emperor takes refuge in his strategic province of Khurasan. Armenia and the large town of Edess fall in 639.
In 642, the totality of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Syria and Palestine are with the hands of the Moslem Arabs. The conquerors are with the doors of Egypt Byzantine.
The Arabs gain a first victory over the Egyptian and Byzantine troops with Peluse into 639 and one second with Heliopolis in 640.
In 642, Alexandria negotiates its rendering but it is taken again by the Byzantines in 646.
As of 643, the Arabs create the misr of Fustat which becomes their regional capital. The conquerors prepare to walk in direction of Cyrenaïque.
Omar is mortally wounded in 644 but it has time to organize his succession before dying. He creates a council of six members to which belong, in particular, Othman and Ali. It is agreed that the successor of Omar will be designated in the three days following his death.

Othman is named Caliph. Its caliphate lasts twelve years. His principal work is the koranic recension whose consequences are determining for the future of the community of the believing.
At the same time for religious and political reasons; the written setting of Koran constitutes an essential stake. This work of recension, which lasts several years, produces some consequences naturally. The precise choice of the words and their significances implies the fixing of a reading and an interpretation of the crowned text. That blames the capacity of reciting of Koran which holds of it until now the memory and the purity. Ali, who with the reputation to be a particularly pious man, has a reading of Koran which is not that chosen by Othman.
In addition to the theological debate, the koranic recension results in to mobilize grammarians whose remarkable work contributed to make of Arabic an important language of culture. During this time, the conquest continues. Cyprus is taken in 649.
In his exercise of the capacity, Othman privileges the blood tie. He distributes grounds and names at stations - keys of the members of his family. His nepotism causes hostility more and more and finishes by him being fatal. A mutiny bursts in Fustat in 656 in connection with the distribution of the grounds. The mutineers go to Medina where the Caliph resides. They block the access of his residence during 40 days. Finally, Othman is assassinated. It is the Fitna, the discord, which leads to the bursting of community.

Ali is designated Caliph by the opponents of Othman. Three months later, a first revolt bursts. It is directed by two former companions and Aïcha which takes part in the battle known as “of the camel”. Revolted are beaten and Aïcha is assigned with residence with Medina.
Another man opposes Ali. Mu’wwiyya, governor of Syria and cousin of Othman, shows Ali not to have avenged death of his predecessor and he refuses to make allegiance with the new Caliph. Ali relieves him of his post of governor but Mu'wwiyya refuses this decision. He holds up the bloody shirt of Othman at the time of a speech to the mosque of Damascus and is presented in the form of an avenger of the assassinated Caliph. He claims blood and not only the price of blood like wants it the Bedouin tradition. The two armies clash at Siffin close to Euphrates River, in 657. The fate of the battle is undecided. The governor of Damascus proposes an arbitration, which refuses certain partisans of Ali who declare that God must decide fate of the weapons. They give up Ali. These men are called Kharigits (what means exclude them or those which are excluded).
Ali accepts the arbitration which takes place with Adrah (close to Petra) in 658. It is declared that Othman was killed wrongfully and that Ali was to avenge his death. The arbitration favours thus Mu'wwiyya and legitimates his disobedience to Ali. The same year, Kharigits are crushed with the battle of Nahrawwan. Only some manage to flee. The majority of fugitive finds refuge in North Africa.
In 660, the winner of Siffin is made proclaim Caliph. Damascus becomes the residence of the caliph. From now on, there are two Caliphs: Mu’wwiyya in Damascus and Ali with Kufa, in Iraq, where he took refuge with his partisans.
This situation hardly lasts. In 661, Ali is assassinated by a Kharigit. He was the fourth and the last of the “well guided” Caliphs (Rachidun), companions of Prophet.
Consequently, it is the bursting of the community of believing. Three groups appear: Partisans of Mu’wwiyya(Sunnites), partisans of Ali (Chi’ its) and Kharigits.
The capital of the caliphate leaves the Arabic peninsula definitively. Home page