The period of Kalifa l-Rashidun is the best period in Islamic history as stated by Prophet Muhammad: the best of people is the people within my century, then the next century then the next century; and it is a requirement to follow the way of Kalifa l-Rashidun as they were upon the prophetic tradition. The period of the Kaliphate upon this Prophetic Tradition lasted thirty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. The main achievements of the kalifa I-Rashidun which also changed societies include the spreading of Islam out Arabian Peninsula. The expansion of Islamic rule through the Kaliphate enhanced the fair treatment the people regardless of their religion and cultural background. This directly led to large numbers of people at the time into embracing Islam as their religion. The Kaliphate also introduced guidelines on the ownership and treatment of slaves, which resulted in elevated the position of slaves within society. In addition the Islamic shura system was established as a fair and just system to select the leadership of the kalifa. Welfare was also a major society changing achievement of the kalifa I-rashidun (El-Hibri 2010).
One of the significant achievements of the Kalifa l-Rashidun is that they spread Islam out of Arabian Peninsula taking people away from paganism and harsh cultural traditions. The first three Kalifas played a central role in ensuring the Islam and its way of life was instilled into populations that were conquered. The spread of Islam outside of the Arabian Peninsula started from the time of Abu Bakr and continued through Umar and Uthman’s time. During this period, Islam spread across vast areas, Islamic state became much bigger, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan and a large area of the African continent. Lapidus (2002, p. 31) stated that “the conquest led to the formation of a new regime, to the migration and settlement of large number of Arabians in the cities and towns of the Middle East, and extensive urbanization and economic development”. The capitulation of these vast territories to the Islamic advance was assisted considerably by the corrupt and oppressive rulers in place at that time. According to Khan (2010, p. 1) “there were two superpowers in the world, namely the Holy Roman Empire (its eastern wing was known as the Byzantine Empire) and the Persian Empire”. In addition, in Roman people use to deal with interest, and the government demanded high taxes from the people, particularly the farmers which led them to sell their farms and migrate to the cities. Another issue facing the people of these territories was the ongoing conflicts and devastating wars between each other. In Persia, people were not equal in status and people were divided into layers of society. This unjust and bias system increased the troubles in that society. Moreover these empires were unable to curb theft, provide basic women’s rights, such as inheritance. As a result of Kaliphate spreading Islam, they established governing systems based upon justice, peace and the God-taught benefits of mankind. Islam removed differences between people in terms of status, colour, culture, sex and ethnic. They prohibited interest. The system gave money to the needy, both Muslims and non Muslims from the Kaliphate’s own treasury. Theft decreased due to the very harsh punishment for those found guilty of stealing. Women were honoured by giving them their rights of inheritance (Brockelmann 1944).
Following the spread of Islam out of Arabian Peninsula, Muslims conquered many new countries which were still non-muslim. Some of the conquered lands were populated with Christians and Jews. Under Islamic law Christians are considered ‘people of covenant’ which in turn meant they needed to pay the jizya Tax. The revenue from this tax is used to ensure that they are protected by the state from any harm and they do not have to do any military duty. Whilst they are citizens of the state, the jizya also ensures they are never ordered or assigned to anything against their wishes and beliefs. In Islam no one can be forced to become a Muslim, Allah SWT said in the Quran “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” 2.256; also in Islam it is forbidden to interfere with the religion of dhimmis. The treatment between Umar Bin Al Khattab and the Christians of Jerusalem is shown through his saying, “The protection is of their lives, and properties, their Churches and Crosses. Their Churches shall not be used for habitation nor shall they be demolished, nor shall injury be done to their Crosses” (Ul-Hasan 1982, p.147). Based upon the mercy and easiness of Islam, Umar bin Al Khattab dropped the jizya tax from poor dhimmis to remove the hardship and relieve them. In fact Umar supported the poor dhimmis financially by giving them money from the Kaliphate’s own treasury. It is also permissible for dhimmis to resort to their personal religious laws showing the beauty, acceptance and understanding of Islam generating love the Islamic religion leading many dhimmis to accept Islam as a religion of Allah, implementing Islam in their lives, defending it and spreading it to the non-Muslims far and wide (Levy-Rubin 2011).
Islam was the first religion during the Kaliphate to augment guidelines for the fair treatment of slaves. The second Kalifa, Umar introduced broad changes in order to reduce the hardships of slavery and if it were possible, to reduce slavery to a bare minimum. Some significant steps of the steps taken by him in achieving this include, Umar giving a fatwa that any female slave with a child has to be freed as soon as her master passes away. This was intended to reduce the number of slave women considerably. Umar also gave the order that prohibited masters from separating their slaves from their kindred; for instance if there are two brothers owned by one master, the master cannot separate them from each other. When Muslims captured enemy combatants, Umar preferred to take ransom for them rather than make him or her a slave. In addition, as a way of raisin the status of slaves, Umar at times invited the slaves to have a meal with him and asked their masters to have meals with their slaves, and he said May “the curse of God be upon those who feel ashamed to sit and have meals with slaves" (Ul-Hasan 1982, p.141). In Umar’s time it was permitted for a Muslim slave to give protection to a non Muslim as any Muslim normally does. As a result of these guidelines, slavery decreased markedly in the Islamic world and in fact many slaves became scholars such as Nafi’ who is the teacher of Imam Malik (Ul-Hasan 1982).
Before Islam, Arabs did not have a single unified leader, rather each tribe had their own leadership and he would command total obedience from everyone under his rule. In fact Arabs were divided even amongst blood relationships, According to Ali (1983, p. 13) stated that “Every clan, every tribe, had been independent, and none had ever been under the sway of a rival clan or tribe.” Rival tribes often engaged in prolonged conflict with the strong tribes invading weak tribes and taking all their possessions. The tribal system and leadership based on blood lines was uprooted by the Shura system established by the Kalifas. Shura is one of the major aspects in the Islamic governing system; it is the practice of inclusive dialogue and analysis of the main issues affecting the Islamic nation. The Shura Council known as ‘Ahlul halli wa Alaqd’ consists of predominant and influential people of society who are the experts, specialists and scholars, trusted by society in their religion and knowledge. The shura system was used very distinctively in the times of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali. This shows that there was no dictatorship at the time of the Kalifa l-Rashidun, people had the right to choose the representatives that were to be in the shura and the shura members subsequently established a structure for electing the Kalifa. The shura system was one of the reasons for the spread Islam due to working out and choosing the right and best decisions relating to the Muslim Nation (Brockelmann 1944).
The Islamic Kaliphate expanded at the time of Umar bin Al Khattab encompassing current countries such as Syria, Iraq and Egypt, consequently, the income increased significantly for the Islamic treasury. Additionally, further wealth was added through trade taxes, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr money was immediately distributed to the needy. Umars’ time saw a larger income and so he strategized the most effective and productive way of collecting and distributing money without overlooking anyone or anything. This stage needed two steps, the first being the introduction of book keeping for the Islamic state including and income budget system, so that all the money coming in to the state were properly accounted. The second step introduced the genealogy to know the tribes, families, marriages, inheritance, military organisation and connect to the kinship and so forth. By introducing genealogy, the Umar Kaliphate established a system to distribute wealth to those who deserve it. This way the states’ budget is more controlled, monitored and efficient. This made the welfare system become more official and organised and changed the conditions of the poor and society generally.
Overall, the kalifa I-Rashidun had a very significant result by spreading Islam out of Arabian Peninsula and changing societies. The systems put in place by the Kalifas gave people their rights and allowed them practice their religion under Islamic law. These achievements led to changes in societies that came under the Islamic sphere, when compared to the legal and cultural systems in place before Islam. For the first in the middle-east the masses had a say on electing the leadership of the Kaliphate. The Kaliphate system introduced legislation to give women rights that were not in place in any other part of the world at that time. A strong orientation towards social equity and fairness was also present in the rulings and guidelines set by the Kalifas. When combined, these achievements by the Kaliphate system led to the creation of a powerful empire with strong economic and social development throughout society.
Ali, M 1983, The early caliphate. Lahore: The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishā'at Islām. viewed 24 October 2013, available at
Brockelmann, C 1944, History of the Islamic people. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
El-Hibri, T 2010, Parable and politics in early Islamic history. New York: Columbia University Press. Lapidus, I 2002, a history of Islamic societies. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Levy-Rubin. M 2011, Non-Muslims in the early Islamic Empire, New York: Cambridge University Press. http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=7nzn22BNxl4C&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=Non-Muslims+in+the+Early+Islamic+Empire:+From+Surrender+to+Coexistence+&ots=PKlmROjhXW&sig=x3DlJfHGeJffZSlwkG-z5yjatd4#v=onepage&q=Non-Muslims%20in%20the%20Early%20Islamic%20Empire%3A%20From%20Surrender%20to%20Coexistence&f=false
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not based on affiliation with one or more distinct states or political structures outside of which an Arab would find himself in the Diaspora or the irredenta.” (Grunebaum 1963, p. 5).
History of the caliphs
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