The expansion of Islam came at its expense
After the death of the Islamic prophet Mohammed in 632 AD, which came as a surprise to his followers, a dispute arose over who should lead the Muslim community in the future. Abu Bakr, an early companion of the Prophet and the father of his favorite wife Aisha, asserted himself in the election against Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muhammad's cousin and, through his marriage to Fatima, his son-in-law. From 632 to 634, Abu Bakr ruled the Muslim community (“Umma”) as the first rightly guided “caliph” (successor) and thus as religious and political leader.
Abu Bakr banishes the disintegration of the Muslim state
Abu Bakr's time is marked by the "Ridda" wars (632 - 633 AD): Some tribes on the Arabian Peninsula threatened to fall away from Islam ("Ridda" - apostasy from Islam), as they fell apart through the death of their contractual partner Mohammed no longer felt bound by the agreements. Abu Bakr and his troops emerged victorious from the wars: the Arabian Peninsula was completely Muslim again, and the disintegration of the Islamic theocratic state was over. In 634 AD Abu Bakr died and was buried next to Mohammed in Mecca.
Expansion to the great empire under Umar
Umar ibn al-Chattab was elected to succeed him (634 - 644 AD), who was originally a bitter opponent of Mohammed, but later became one of his closest confidants and his father-in-law. Under Umar's rule, the Islamic state developed into a great empire which, after victorious campaigns, expanded into Egypt and Syria, into what is now Iraq and into Iran.
Umar introduced the Islamic calendar, expanded the administration and developed a new tax system. Christians and Jews received the special status of a “Dhimmi” (guardian) as “Ahl al-Kitab” (family of the book). When the Muslims took Jerusalem in 637 AD, Umar is said to have refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher so that it would remain a church for Christians and would not be converted into a mosque. The Omar Mosque in Jerusalem, built in 1193 AD by Salah ad-Din's son, still commemorates this incident today.
First politically motivated murder among Muslims of Umar
In response to the conquest of the Sassanid Empire, Umar was murdered by an enslaved Persian soldier in AD 644. Umar had set up an electoral body during his lifetime, which Uthman ibn Affan elected as his successor (644 - 656 AD). Uthman was Mohammed's two-time son-in-law and was considered a devout Muslim. Although there were some conquests during Uthman's rule, he founded a naval force and implemented some economic reforms, but his greatest achievement is in the religious field. He obtained a uniform version of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims, which is still valid today for the majority of believers.
Uthman belonged to the Umayyad clan in the Quraish tribe. When awarding political offices, he preferred his relatives, with which the caliph made many enemies. In 656 AD, the situation escalated into a rebellion that eventually culminated in the assassination of Uthman by a Muslim rebel. It was the first time that a politically motivated murder had been committed among Muslims.
The divisions among Muslims begin with Ali
His cousin, the Umayyad Muawiya, claimed Uthman's successor. However, Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected. Calm did not return during Ali's reign (656 - 661 AD): In the year of his election, Muhammad's widow Aisha entered the war against Ali in the "camel battle" near Basra in what is now Iraq, because she accused him of murdering Uthman to have been involved. Their troops were subject to the "Shiat Ali" (the followers of Ali), but with this battle a civil war began and with it the first "Fitna" (religious split).
At the Battle of Siffin (557 AD) in what is now Syria between Ali's army and Muawiya's troops, Ali entered into negotiations with the enemy. Some of his followers did not agree, split off and founded the Kharijite community. Until he was murdered by a Kharijite in 661 AD, Ali devoted himself mainly to fighting this rebellious group during his reign.
Shiites only recognize Ali as a caliph
The Shiites, the second largest Muslim denomination, emerged from those followers who remained loyal to Ali after the Battle of Siffin. While the majority of Muslims, the Sunnis, the four elected first caliphs, are considered to be right-wing ("rasidun"), the Shiites only recognize Ali as the rightful caliphs and the only divinely legitimized successor of the prophets. Ali's successors, in turn, have to trace their family tree back to Ali in order to legitimize their claim to power.
After Ali's death, Muawiya took over the caliphate, which was only recognized by the Sunnis. Muawiya introduced the line of succession and established the Umayyad dynasty, which ruled for nearly 100 years until the Abbasids forcibly overthrown it in AD 750. In the 16th century the caliphate passed to the Ottomans until Ataturk abolished it in 1924 - more on this in Islamic History.
Review article on Islam
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