The Four Caliphs were the first four leaders of Islam that succeeded the Prophet Muhammad. They are sometimes called the "Rightly Guided" Caliphs because each of them learned about Islam directly from Muhammad. They also served as Muhammad's closest friends and advisors during the early years of Islam.
The Rashidun Caliphate
The time period under the leadership of the Four Caliphs is called the Rashidun Caliphate by historians. The Rashidun Caliphate lasted for 30 years from 632 CE to 661 CE. It was followed by the Umayyad Caliphate. The city of Medina served as the first capital of the Caliphate. The capital was later moved to Kufa.
The first caliph was Abu Bakr who ruled from 632-634 CE. Abu Bakr was the father-in-law of Muhammad and was an early convert to Islam. He was known as "The Truthful." During his short reign as caliph, Abu Bakr put down rebellions by various Arab tribes after Muhammad died and established the Caliphate as the ruling force in the region.
2. Umar ibn al-Khattab
The second caliph was Umar ibn al-Khattab. He is generally known just as Umar. Umar ruled for 10 years from 634-644 CE. During this time, the Islamic Empire expanded greatly. He took control of the Middle East including conquering the Sassanids of Iraq. He then took control of many surrounding areas including Egypt, Syria, and North Africa. Umar's reign came to an end when he was murdered by a Persian slave.
3. Uthman ibn Affan
The third caliph was Uthman ibn Affan. He was Caliph for 12 years from 644-656 CE. Like the other Four Caliphs, Uthman was a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad. Uthman is most known for having an official version of the Quran established from one originally put together by Abu Bakr. This version was then copied and used as the standard version moving forward. Uthman was killed by rebels in his home in 656 CE.
Imam Ali Mosque U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson
4. Ali ibn Abi Talib
The fourth caliph was Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law. He was married to Muhammad's youngest daughter Fatimah. He is considered by many to be the first male convert to Islam. Ali ruled from 656-661 CE. Ali was known as a wise leader who wrote many speeches and proverbs. He was assassinated while praying in the Great Mosque of Kufa.
Interesting Facts about the Four Caliphs of the Islamic Empire
The "ibn" in the names above mean "son of" in Arabic. So Uthman ibn Affan means "Uthman son of Affan."
Umar was known as Al-Farooq which means "the one who distinguishes between right and wrong."
Uthman was Muhammad's son-in-law. He actually married two of Muhammad's daughters. He married the second daughter after the first passed away.
Fatimah, Ali's wife and Muhammad's daughter, is an important and loved figure in the religion of Islam.
Under Muhammad, Abu Bakr served as the leader of the first Islamic pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.
Umar was a physically strong and powerful man, known as a great athlete and wrestler.
The Umayyad Caliphate took control after the death of Ali.