The careers and achievements of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs

The word caliph means ‘successor’. The four Rightly Guided Caliphs were those who succeeded Muhammad as leaders of the Islamic empire. They were:

  • Abu Bakr
  • Umar
  • Uthman
  • Ali

Abu Bakr (632-34CE)

Abu Bakr was chosen as the first successor. His daughter was the wife of Muhammad and the two were close friends. Abu Bakr was a holy and righteous man who cared for the less fortunate. He helped to defend Makkah (Mecca) and assisted in the creation of the Qur’an by gathering material.

Umar (634-44CE)

Umar was chosen by Abu Bakr. He was a man who was known to have a violent temper, but was a great and strong soldier.

His conversion story is famous as he tried to stop his sister converting to Islam before being inspired and changed by the words of the Qur’an himself. He was also a companion of Muhammad.

Although he had a temper, Umar was a good man who put others before himself. He introduced a tax system to help those less fortunate.

Uthman (644-56CE)

Uthman was the son-in-law of Muhammad. He was appointed by a council of six men who Umar elected. He helped organise the Qur’an and was a very religious man. However, he was murdered as he was a weak leader who had become very unpopular with the people.

Ali (656-61CE)

Ali grew up with Muhammad in the same household and the two were very close. He was married to Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. From an early age, he believed in Muhammad as a prophet.

Muslims known as Shi’ahs believe that Ali is the true successor of Muhammad. They refer to him as the first imam as opposed to the Fourth Caliph.

Ali was a good soldier. He was assassinated in 661 at the mosque at Kufa, Iraq, after the civil war.

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