Will you summarize the life of the four caliphs?

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Will you summarize the life of the four caliphs?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"The Era of the Four Caliphs", after the death of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) is a period when the religion of Islam spread by going beyond the Arabian Peninsula. This period, in which bright victories were gained and Muslims lived in peace and welfare, is a nice example of the Golden Age, which was informed by the Prophet (pbuh).

In this period, the boundaries of the Islamic state expanded to Tripoli in the west, Khorasan in the east and Caucasia in the north; thus, Islam, which spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula, was adopted by various nations in Asia and Africa. The political and legal foundations of the new Islamic state to be established were laid in this period. Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar, Hz. Uthman and Hz. Ali, who became caliphs in this order, followed the way of the Prophet (pbuh) and continued the just system in which the ethics of the Quran was dominant by spreading it to a vast area. Therefore, the period of the four caliphs is called "the Period of Khulafa ar-Rashidun" meaning "the Period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs". The same period is also called 'the Period of Republic' since the caliphs were chosen.

The Era of Hz. Abu Bakr (632-634)

Hz. Abu Bakr, who was a friend of the Prophet’s (pbuh) before his prophethood, was one of the first Muslims. Hz. Abu Bakr accepted Islam when the Prophet (pbuh) was alone and when he had not started to proclaim Islam openly. Hz. Abu Bakr, who was a close friend of Hz. Muhammad’s (pbuh) and a good representative of the Islamic ethics, became a means of guidance for many people like Hz. Uthman, Talha b. Ubaydullah, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, Zubayr b. Awwam, Abdurrahman b. Awf, and Abu Ubayda b. Jarrah.

When Hz. Muhammed (pbuh) became ill, he gave the duty of imamate (leading prayers) to Hz. Abu Bakr. After his death, upon the offer of Hz. Umar and his friends, Hz. Abu Bakr was chosen as the caliph. The following speech made by Hz. Abu Bakr after undertaking the duty of the caliphate to the people, which exists in historical resources, is quite significant:

"O people! I was elected as your administrator though I am not the best of you. If I do good deeds, help me. If I do bad deeds, show me the right way. Honesty is trust. Telling lies is treason. The weakest of you is strong near me; I will defend his right. The strongest of you is weak near me; I will take others’ rights from him."1

With these words, Hz. Abu Bakr summarizes the qualities that need to be present in an ideal administrator in the best way. Although his caliphate lasted for a short time (two years), this period is full of many achievements.

After the death of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), Hz. Abu Bakr established the authority of the state by gathering the Muslims among whom conflicts occurred.He made great efforts regarding the compilation and protection of the Quran. He became a means of spreading Islam outside the Arabian Peninsula, in Syria, Palestine and Iraq, for the first time. He declared war against the movements that did not exist in the essence of the religion and liars who claimed to be prophets. Thus, he enabled the Quran and Islamic ethics to be practiced just like in the period of the Prophet (pbuh).

Hz. Abu Bakr is one of the distinguished names among the Companions with his good character, mercy, humble personality, and his meticulousness in practicing the Islamic ethics.  He was always loved and respected by the public due to these characteristics. He had a character that did not welcome people's arrogant attitudes and that helped the poor and the needy; he felt very happy when he entertained guests. He saved many Muslim slaves; he paid significant amounts of money to the masters of the slaves in order to set them free.

Hz. Abu Bakr, who was a rich person engaged in trade, spent all of his money to spread Islamic ethics. Therefore, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated the following about him:

"The person who is in the first place in sacrificing his wealth is Abu Bakr. What a nice friend Abu Bakr is. There is Islamic brotherhood and love between us." 2

In conclusion, Hz. Abu Bakr maintained the unity of Islam with his strong belief, genius and qualities of superior statesman, leaving a strong state to those coming after him. 

The Era of Hz. Umar (634-644)

Hz. Umar, who was one of the notables of the Qurayshi tribe, was affected by the resoluteness of the Muslims who made no concessions about their faith despite all kinds of oppressions, and became a Muslim. According to a narration, he was the first person to declare that he was a Muslim openly. As Abdullah Ibn Masud puts it, "Umar's acceptance of Islam was a conquest."3 After that day, he was with the Prophet (pbuh) and became one of the leading defenders of Islam with his strong personality and resoluteness. He spent what he had to spread Islam. He was chosen as the caliph after the death of Hz. Abu Bakr and set a good example to his successors with his just administration.

Hz. Umar is known for his efforts in applying the ethics of the Quran and justice. He treated everybody equally when he applied justice; he never allowed elements like nobility, richness, kinship and ranks to prevent justice. He took all kinds of measures in order to apply justice fully on the land under his administration. Social justice became fully dominant in his period. He always acted with a feeling of responsibility toward the people. According to historical resources, his statement, "If a camel dies by the Euphrates, I will feel responsibility for it" regarding the issue is famous.

The importance Hz Umar gave to consultation

As a necessity of the ethics of the Quran, Hz. Umar consulted the views of Muslims and discussed with them whenever an issue occurred before making a decision. Thus, the most accurate idea emerged and he would act accordingly. This attitude of his caused people to do their own affairs by discussing with one another. Thus, a large scale of a tradition of consultation was established regarding important issues.

Many innovations took place in the period of Hz. Umar. The country was divided into administrative units. Qadis who were subject to the Caliph and governors were appointed. Thus, with the appointment qadis in justice, the administrative and judicial affairs were separated. The establishment and application of Hijri calendar, the establishment of a parliament, in which important issues of the state were discussed, and state treasury took place in this period.

During his caliphate, great conquests outside Arabia took place; Iraq, Iran, Khorasan, Syria, Palestine and Egypt were included in the Islamic land. In this period, the spread of the state to a wide geographical area made it necessary to organize in administrative, political, economic, and military fields. Hz. Umar laid the foundations of an institutional Islamic state to meet this need.

According to the historical resources, the letter sent to the qadis of the period by Hz. Umar became a guide for all the administrators coming after him:

"Never allow haste, shouting and the deeds that will degrade the parties while trying a case. For, calm and seriousness are essential for justice to be served. When the truth becomes manifest, it gains divine justice reputation. If the intention of a Muslim is good, Allah improves his relations with people. However, if his inside is different from his appearance, Allah will give him misfortunes. Therefore, the duty of the judge is to distribute the treasures of Allah's providence and mercy among His slaves."3

With the ethics of the Quran he had, Hz. Umar ruled the Islamic community in a way that gained people’s hearts and contributed a lot to the spread of Islamic ethics – with the permission of Allah.  

The Era of Hz. Uthman (644-656)

Hz. Uthman, who had high ethical virtues, was one of the superior people who accepted Islam. He was chosen as the caliph after Hz. Umar. Nobody objected to his caliphate due to the thought in the Islamic community that he was worthy of this duty; everybody paid allegiance to him. Before, his caliphate, he was close to the Prophet (pbuh). He was one of the revelation scribes. He was outstanding with his high ethics and rhetoric. He was an orator. He had a good memory; he memorized the whole Quran. 

One of the greatest services of Hz. Uthman to the religion of Islam was the reproduction of the Quran.During his period, a committee was established and the only copy of the Quran was reproduced because some people pronounced the verses of the Quran differently due to the difference of dialects. One copy was kept in Madinah and the other copies were sent to the other provinces like Makkah, Damascus, Kufa, Basra and Egypt; thus, the original of the Quran reached today. 

Hz. Uthman was careful about appointing appropriate people to the posts in his period. He gave importance to zoning and agriculture in order to elevate the level of welfare of the people living in Islamic land. He tried to improve vineyards and orchards. Many people living in the Islamic land accepted Islam in his period. A remarkable development of this period is that the Muslims became rich and started to lead a better life.

Besides, during the period of Hz. Uthman conquests continued in Iran, Caucasia and Africa; and the first armada was established; Cyprus, which was an island with a great strategic significance in the Mediterranean, was conquered. Great victories were gained against the Byzantine Empire; law and order was established in the land that was conquered.

The Era of Hz. Ali (656-661)

Hz. Ali is the son of Abu Talib, the paternal uncle of the Prophet (pbuh). As it is stated in historical resources, he was brought up by Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and educated by him.  

The most outstanding characteristics of Hz. Ali were courage, knowledge and rhetoric. It is accepted by everybody that he is one of the most knowledgeable people of the Islamic community. As the Prophet (pbuh) put it, Hz. Ali is "the door to the land of knowledge." He was with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) since his childhood and was his scribe. He did not leave the Prophet (pbuh) until he died. Thus, he attained a high level of knowledge regarding religious issues. Therefore, he was one of the first people that Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar and Hz. Uthman consulted.

After he became the caliph, he established a school so that Muslims would learn knowledge and science. He gave great importance to education. The Era of the Four Caliphs, which was one of the brightest periods of Islam, ended when Hz. Ali was martyred.


1. Hz. Muhammed ve Hayatı, DIB Yayınları, Ankara, 1996, p. 435.

2. Bukhari, Salat, 80, Fadailus-Sahaba, 3; Muslim, Fadailus-Sahaba, 1;Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 15.

3. Usdul-Ghaba, IV/151.

For detailed information,

- see Prof. Dr. Murat SARICAK, Dört Halife Dönemi.

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