Chapter 6 : THE FIRST TWO CALIPHS
Even before the Holy Prophet (pbh) was buried, some Muslims who had gathered at the Hall of Bani Sa'ida, whether by accident of circumstance or pre-meditation, had already pleadged alligience to the Abu Bakr instead of following the Prophet's command to obey Ali. The supporters of Abu Bakr non-the-less, needed the alligience of Ali, who was an outstanding and faithful follower of the Prophet (Refer: Sahih Bukhari ). At least until the death of the Prophet's daughter, Ali never gave allegiance.
The government of Abu Bakr confisticated from Fatima the estate of Fadak althought she maintained that it was her absolute property as a gift from the Prophet himself. Despite her eloquoent speeches of protest, Abu Bakr refused to hand it back knowing that it would signal Ali's right to the succession in all spheres, spiritual as well as material. Abu Bakr instead made a counter-claim that Fadak belonged to the community and that Fatima, though entitled to the usufruct, could not hold the right of ownership.(Sahih Bukhari 5.546; 5.368; 5.60; Abu Dawood 2963). Until her demise on the 14th day of the sixth month of the 11 AH, 6 months after her father's, Fatima remained angry of Abu Bakr actions.
Meanwhile, widespread rebellion and apostasy had erupted among the Arab tribes in the peninsula due to the death of the Holy Prophet (pbh). The Muslims in Medina were forced to forget whatever ideological or personal differences they had and
If during the time of the Holy Prophet (pbh), Ali was very much involved in the affairs of the Islamic State, he did not take any active part in any of the apostasy wars and preserved his withdrawn attitude. With his excellent knowledge of the Qur'an and the Sunna he attempted to correct the mistakes of the government and was included in the council of the Caliphs but his advice was rarely if ever accepted by Umar, a ruling power even during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr.
In the year 634 CE, after just over two years in power, Abu Bakr passed away at 64. On his deathbed he had consulted Uthman Affan and Uthman's brother-in-law 'Abd ar-Rahman 'Awf and obtained their support to elect Umar as his successor. This private decision naturally brought protest from some of the other prominent Companions of the Prophet such as Talha but the decision was irrevocable.
The Caliphate of Umar saw spectacular conquests of the Persian and Byzantine provinces in which all the prominent Companions of the Prophet except Ali took active part. Neither did Ali hold any office except being in charge of Medina during Umar's journey to Palestine when he took with him all the other leading Companions and military commanders to approve
regulations of the conquest and the diwan or distribution of stipends. Caliph Umar's conquest of foreign lands as was his predecessor's quell of the apostate tribes within the Arabian peninsula, served consciously or unconsciously to keep internal feuds at rest.
After a militarily successful ten years of rule however, the powerful Caliph Umar was stabbed and seriously injured by a Persian slave named Abu Lulu. On his deathbed, he appointed six of the early Companions among the Muhajirun to choose one among themselves as the new Caliph. This committee was later known by jurists and theorists as the Shura or electorate body and its' six members were Uthman, Abd ar-Rahman Awf, his cousin Sa'd Abi Waqqas, Zubayr, Talha and Ali. Umar's own son 'Abd Allah was put in the capacity of an advisor.
Umar also meticulously laid down the regulations which had to be followed by the Shura: 1) The new Caliph must be a member of the Shura itself, elected by the majority vote of its members ; 2) In case of two candidates having equal support, the one backed by 'Abd ar-Rahman Awf, was to be nominated ; 3) If any member of the council shrank from participating, he was to be beheaded instantly ; 4) When a candidate had been duly elected, in the event that one or two members of the conclave refuse to recognize him, this minority or in the case of equal division of three members on each side, the group opposed to 'Abd ar-Rahman were to be slain. To enforce this order, 'Umar commanded Abu Talha al-Ansari of the Khazraj with fifty of his men, to stand guard.
According to some Historians, Abbas son of 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's uncle and then head of the Banu Hashim, the
By bestowing both the chairmanship and final authority of the Shura to 'Abd ar-Rahman Awf, 'Umar effectively blocked the chances of 'Ali and virtually guaranteed the nomination of Uthman. This was because 'Abd ar-Rahman was an old friend and brother-in-law of Uthman, whereas Sa'd and 'Abd ar-Rahman were cousins from Banu Zuhra and would naturally support each other. Even if Zubayr and Talha supported Ali, regulation 2) ensured that it was useless. 'Umar alledged that to allow both the Prophethood and the caliphate to combine in the house of Banu Hashim would make them arrogant and rejoiceful.
So after three days of debates and wrangling, 'Abd ar-Rahman offered the caliphate to Ali on two conditions : 1) that he should rule in accordance with the Qur'an and Sunna of the Prophet; 2) that he must follow the precedents established by the earlier Caliphs.
As the inheritor or warith of the Prophet's knowledge (Ref: Sahih Bukhari 3334), Ali refused to comply with condition 2). Abd ar-Rahman therefore turned to Uthman with the same conditions and Uthman accepted. On the 26 of the twelfth month of the 23 Hijira or 3 November 644 CE, when Umar passed away, Uthman became the new Caliph. This was not but with serious protests from Ali and opposition from some of Ali's old and ardent partisans, four of whom, Abu Dharr Jundab, 'Ammar Yasir, Al-Miqdad 'Amr and Salman al-Farisi, were to later be known as The Four Pillars or al-arkan al-arba'a of the Shi'a of Ali.