Sunday, May 8, 2011

Election of Abu Bakr to Caliphate

Election of Abu Bakr to Caliphate

After Muhammad's death, previously dormant tensions between the Meccan immigrants, the Muhajirun, and the Medinan converts, the Ansar, threatened to break out and split the Ummah. Other Arabic tribes also wished to revert to local leadership and split from Medina's control. In some places, people claiming prophethood started to establish leaderships to oppose Medina, e.g. Al-Aswad Al-Ansi and Musaylimah. All of which are events that lead to splitting the Muslim community. The Ansar, the leaders of the tribes of Medina, met in a hall or house called saqifah, to discuss whom they would support as their new leader. When Abu Bakr was informed of the meeting, he, Umar, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah and a few others rushed to prevent the Ansar from making a premature decision. Accounts of this meeting vary greatly. All agree that during the meeting Umar declared that Abu Bakr should be the new leader, and declared his allegiance to Abu Bakr, followed by Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, and thus Abu Bakr became the first Muslim caliph, who was given the title, Khalifa-tul-Rasool (Successor of messenger of Allah), a title only accepted by Sunni Muslims. Shias criticise Abu Bakr for forsaking the funeral of Muhammad to attend the political gathering, and believe that Muhammad had already appointed Ali in his lifetime as his successor. This view portrays Abu Bakr and Umar as plotters in a political coup against the Alids. The Ismaili Shia Institute researcher Wilfred Madelung portrays Abu Bakr as a political opportunist whose character as the founder of Sunni Islam has been extensively embellished by subsequent kings and emperors (caliphs) making it difficult to openly criticise him. Some sects of Islam like Shia strongly believe that Abu Bakr deceived Ali, keeping Ali from his right as khilafat since he was true successor to Muhammad.

Reign as a Caliph

After assuming the office of Caliphate Abu Bakr's first address was as follow:

I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you.

Abu Bakr's Caliphate lasted for 27 months, during which he crushed the rebellion of the Arab tribes throughout Arabia in the successful campaign against Apostasy. In the last months of his rule, he launched campaigns against the Sassanid Empire and the Eastern Roman EmpireUmar and Uthman) that in just a few short decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history. He had little time to pay attention to the administration of state, though state affairs remained stable during his Caliphate. On the advice of Umar and Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah he agreed to have a salary from state treasury and abolish his cloth trade. (Byzantine Empire) and thus set in motion a historical trajectory (continued later on by


Troubles emerged soon after Abu Bakr's succession, threatening the unity and stability of the new community and state. Several Arabic tribes revolted against Abu Bakr. In four of the six centres of the insurrection, the rebells rallied around people who claimed to be prophets, the most prominent among these was Musaylimah. The tribes claimed that they had submitted to Muhammad only, and that with Muhammad's death, their allegiance had ended. This was common practice in pre-islamic Arabia. After the death of a tribal leader the alliance with the tribe of that leader was regarded as having ended. Thus several tribes acted in accordance to this pre-islamic practice and refused to pay Zakat. Abu Bakr, however, insisted that they had not just submitted to a simple human leader but joined the Muslim religious community, of which he was the new head. So, in contrast to pre-islamic times, their allegiance was not seen as having ended at all.

This was the start of the Ridda wars (Arabic for the Wars of Apostasy). The apostasy of central Arabia was led by self-proclaimed prophet Musaylimah of in al-Yamama, while the other centers were to the south and east in Bahrain, Oman, Mahra region and Yemen. Abu Bakr planned his strategy accordingly and formed the Muslim army into 11 corps. The strongest corps, and this was the main punch of the Muslim army, was that of Khalid ibn al-Walid and was used to fight the most powerful of the rebel forces. Other corps were given areas of secondary importance in which to bring the less dangerous apostate tribes. Abu Bakr's plan was first to clear the area of west and central Arabia (the area nearest Medina), then tackle Malik ibn Nuwayrah, and finally concentrate against the most dangerous enemy Musaylimah. After series of successful campaigns, Khalid ibn al-Walid finally defeated Musaylimah and his tribe, the Banu Hanifa, in the Battle of Yamama. The Campaign of the Apostasy was fought and completed during the eleventh year after Hijra. The year 12 Hijri dawned, on 18 March 633, with Arabia united under the central authority of the Caliph at Medina.

This phenomenon was later regarded as primarily a religious movement by Arabic historians. However, the early sources indicate that in reality it was mainly political. After all, the revolting Arabs only refused to pay Zakat (Charity), but they did not refuse to perform the salah. This however is disputed and explained by Muslim scholars in that the dictation of Zakat was one of the Five pillars of Islam and its denial or withholding is an act of denial of a cornerstone of faith, and is therefore an act of apostasy. Bernard Lewis states that the fact that Islamic Historians have regarded this as a primarily religious movement was due to a later interpretation of events in terms of a theological world-view. The opponents of the Muslim armies were not only apostates, but also - if not most of them - tribes which were largely or even completely independent from the Muslim community. However, these revolts also had a religious aspect: Medina had become the centre of a social and political system, of which religion was an integral part; consequently it was inevitable that any reaction against this system should have a religious aspect.

The Qur'an — preservation

According to Sunni Islam, Abu Bakr was instrumental in preserving the Qur'an in written form. It is said that after the hard-won victory over Musaylimah in the Battle of Yamama fought in 632, Umar (the later Caliph Umar), saw that many of the Muslims who had memorized the Qur'an had died in battle. Fearing that the Qur'an may be lost or corrupted, Umar requested the Caliph Abu Bakr to authorize the compilation and preservation of the Book in written format. After initial hesitation, Abu Bakr made a committee headed by Zayd ibn Thabit which included the memorizers of the Qur'an and Umar and to collect all verses of the Book. After collecting all Qur'anic verses from texts in the possession of various sahaba, Zayd ibn Thabit and members of his committee verified the reading by comparing with those who had memorized the Qur'an. After they were satisfied that they had not missed out any verse or made any mistakes in reading or writing it down, the text was written down as one single manuscript and presented in a book form to the Caliph Abu Bakr. It is believed that this process happened within one year of the death of Muhammad when most of his sahaba (companions) were still alive.

Prior to his death, Abu Bakr gave this authorized copy of the Qur'an to Umar - his successor. It remained with him throughout his tenure as Caliph (10 years). Prior to his death, Umar gave this Book to his daughter Hafsa bint Umar, who was one of the wives of Muhammad. Umar did not nominate his successor on his deathbed, and thus preferred to leave this copy with Hafsa so as not to indicate his personal preference of who would be the next caliph. Later on, it became the basis of Uthman Ibn Affan's definitive text of the Qur'an which was published far and wide merely 18 years after the death of Muhammad. Later historians give Uthman Ibn Affan the principal credit for re-verification and publishing the Qur'an. Shi'as reject the idea that Abu Bakr or Umar were instrumental in the collection or preservation of the Qur'an.

Military expansion

Once the rebellions had been put down, Abu Bakr began a war of conquest. Whether or not he intended a full-out imperial conquest is hard to say; he did, however, set in motion a historical trajectory that in just a few short decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history. Abu Bakr began with Iraq, the richest province of Persian Empire. He sent his most brilliant general Khalid ibn al-Walid to invade the Sassanid Empire.

Invasion of Sassanid Persian Empire

After the Ridda Wars, a tribal chief of north eastern Arabia, Muthanna ibn Haris, raided the Persian towns in Iraq. With the success of the raids, a considerable amount of booty was collected. Muthanna ibn Haris went to Medina to inform Caliph Abu Bakr about his success and was appointed commander of his people, after which he began to raid deeper into Iraq. Using the mobility of his light cavalry he could easy raid any town near the desert and within moments could disappear again in to the desert, into which the Sassanid army was unable to chase them. Muthanna’s acts made Abu Bakr think about the expansion of the Rashidun Empire. 

Abu Bakr started with the invasion of Iraq. The problems faced by Abu Bakr were that the ArabsAl-Yamama when Abu Bakr sent him orders to invade the Sassanid Empire. Making Al-Hirah the objective of Khalid, Abu Bakr sent reinforcements and ordered the tribal chiefs of north eastern Arabia, Muthanna ibn Haris, Mazhur bin Adi, Harmala and Sulma to operate under the command of Khalid along with their men. In about third week of March 633 (first week of Muharram 12th Hijrah) Khalid set out from Al-Yamama with an army of 10,000. The tribal chiefs, with 2,000 warriors each, joined Khalid; Thus Khalid entered the Persian Empire with 18,000 troops. After entering Iraq with his army of 18,000, Khalid won decisive victories in four consecutive battles: Battle of Chains, fought in April 633; Battle of River, fought in the 3rd week of April 633; Battle of Walaja, fought in May 633 (where he successfully used a double envelopment manoeuvre), and Battle of Ullais, fought in the mid of May 633. By now the Persian court already disturbed by the internal problems, was down and out. In the last week of May 633, Hira capital city of Iraq fell to the Muslims after resistance in the Siege of Hira. After resting his armies, in June 633 Khalid laid siege of Al Anbar, which resisted and was eventually surrendered after a siege of a few weeks in July 633 after the Siege of Al-Anbar. Khalid then moved towards the south, and conquered the city of Ein ul Tamr after the Battle of Ein ut Tamr in the last week of July 633. By now, almost the whole of Iraq (Euphrates region) was under Islamic control. Khalid got a call of help from northern Arabia at Daumat-ul-Jandal, where another Muslim Arab general, Ayaz bin Ghanam, was trapped among the rebel tribes. Khalid went to Daumat-ul-jandal and defeated the rebels in the Battle of Daumat-ul-jandal in the last week of August 633. Returning from Arabia, he got news of the assembling of a large Persian army. He decided to defeat them all separately to avoid the risk of defeat to a large unified Persian army. Four divisions of Persian and Christian Arab auxiliaries were present at Hanafiz, Zumiel, Sanni and Muzieh. Khalid devised a brilliant plan to destroy the Persian forces. He divided his army in three units, and attacked the Persian forces in brilliantly coordinated attacks from three different sides at night, starting from the Battle of Muzieh, then the Battle of Sanni, and finally the Battle of Zumail during November 633. These devastating defeats ended Persian control over Iraq, and left the Persian capital CtesiphonSassanid Persians, Byzantine Romans and Christian Arabs in the Battle of Firaz in December 633. This was the last battle in his conquest of Iraq. While Khalid was on his way to attack Qadissiyah, a key fort in the way to Persian Capital Ctesiphon, he received the letter of Caliph Abu Bakr and was sent to Roman front in Syria to assume the command of Muslim armies to conquer Roman Syria. feared the Persians with a deep, unreasoning fear which ran in the tribal consciousness as a racial complex and was the result of centuries of Persian power and glory. In return the Persian regarded the Arab with contempt. It was important not to suffer a defeat, for that would confirm and strengthen this instinctive fear. To make certain of victory, Abu Bakr decided on two measures; that the invading army would consist entirely of volunteers; and he put in command of the army his best general Khalid ibn al-Walid. After defeating the self-proclaimed prophet Musaylimah in the Battle of Yamama, Khalid was still at unguarded and vulnerable for Muslims attack, before attacking the Persian Capital Khalid decided to eliminate all Persian forces from south and west, he accordingly marched against the border city of Firaz, where he defeated the combined forces of the

Invasion of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire

With a successful invasion of Sassanid Persian province of Iraq, Abu Bakr’s confidence grew. He concentrated four large corps at Zhu Qissah and sent them to Roman Syria. Each corps was assigned its own commander and its own target. The leaders of the different corps received intelligence of a concentration of large Byzantine armies at Ajnadayn while on the march. The army stopped its advance and the leaders wrote to Abu Bakr for help. Since the Moslem position in Iraq was stable by now, the Caliph accordingly wrote to Khalid to take half of his forces of Iraq to Syria and to assume command of all Muslim armies in Byzantine Syria. The Byzantine province of Syria in those days consisted of modern day Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and southern Turkey. There were two routes towards Syria from Iraq, one was via Daumat-ul-Jandal and the other was through Mesopotamia passing though Ar Raqqah. Since it was believed that the Muslim armies in Syria were in need of urgent reinforcement, Khalid avoided the conventional route to Syria via Daumat ul Jandal because it was a long route and would take weeks to reach Syria. He also did not take the Mesopotamian route because Roman garrisons held northern Syria and northern Mesopotamia. A conflict with these Roman forces would have forced Khalid to spend too much time while Muslim armies were being outflanked in Syria. Khalid selected, instead, a short and unconventional route to Syria, passing though the Syrian Desert. Although probably hyperbole, some sources state that his soldiers marched for two days without a single drop of water before reaching an oasis that Khalid had selected in advance. Khalid thus entered Northern Syria at a point where he was least expected, catching the Byzantine forces on their right flank. More recent historians have suggested that this surprises attack unhinged the Byzantine defenses in Syria.

Khalid entered Syria in June 634 and quickly captured the border forts of

Sawa, Arak, Tadmur, Sukhnah. Qaryatayn and Hawarin after the battles of Qaryatayn and Hawarin. After dealing with all these cities, Khalid moved towards Damascus, passing though a mountain pass which is now known as Sanita-al-Uqab (Uqab pass) after the name of Khalid's army standard. From here he moved away from Damascus, towards Bosra, the capital of Ghassanid Arab kingdom, a vassal of Eastern Roman empire. He had ordered other Muslim commaders to concentrate their armies at Bosra, which were still near the Syrian-Arabia border. At Maraj-al-Rahab, Khalid defeated a Ghassanid army of Christian Arabs in a quick Battle of Marj-al-Rahit. Meanwhile Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah, the supreme commander of Muslim armies in Syria had ordered Shurhabil ibn Hasana to attack Bosra.The later laid siege of Bosra with his small army of 4000 men. Roman and Ghassanid Arab garrison, noticing that this might be the advance guard of the larger Muslim army to come, decided to attack and destroy Shurhabil’s army. They came out of the fortified city and attacked Shurhabil, surrounding him from all sides; Khalid reached the arena with his advance guard cavalry and saved the day for Shurhabil. The combine forces of Khalid, Shurhabil and Abu Ubaidah then laid the siege of Bosra, which surrendered some time in mid July 634. thus effectively ending the Ghassanid Dynasty.

Here Khalid took over the command of Muslim armies in Syria from Abu Ubaidah, as per the instructions of Caliph. The massive Byzantine armies were concentrating at Ajnadayn to push the invading armies back to desert. Early Muslim sources have mentioned its size to be 90,000, while most of the modern historians doubt the figures, but consider this battle to be the key to breaking the Byzantine power in Syria. According to the instructions of Khalid all Muslim corps concentrated at Ajnadayn, where they fought a decisive battle against Byzantine on 30 July 634. Defeat at the Battle of Ajnadayn, left Syria vulnerable to the Muslim invaders. Khalid decided to capture Damascus, the Byzantine stronghold. At Damascus Thomas, son in law of Emperor Heraculis, was in charge. Receiving the intelligence of Khalid's march towards Damascus he prepared for the defences of Damascus. He wrote to Emperor Heraculis for reinforcement, who was at Emesa that time. Moreover Thomas, in order to get more time for preparation of a siege, sent the armies to delay or if possible halt Khalid's march to Damascus, one such army was defeated at Battle of Yaqusa in mid-August 634 near Lake Tiberias 90 miles from Damascus, another army that halted the Muslim advance to Damascus was defeated in Battle of Maraj as Saffer on 19 August 634. These engagements delayed Khalid’s advance and gave Thomas enough time to prepare for siege. Meanwhile Heraculis's reinforcement had reached the city, which he had dispatched after the bad news of Ajnadyn. Before Heraculis's another regiment could reach Damascus, Khalid had finally reached Damascus. Khalid reached Damascus on 20 August and besieged the city. To isolate the city from rest of the region, Khalid placed the detachments south on the road to Palestine and in north at Damascus-Emesa route, and several other smaller detachments on routes towards Damascus. Heraculis's reinforcement was intercepted and routed at the Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab, 20 miles from Damascus. Khalid's forces withstood three Roman sallies that tried to break the siege. Khalid finally attacked and conquered Damascus on 18 September 634 after a 30-day siege. According to some sources the siege lasted for four or six months. Heraculis, having received the news of the fall of Damascus, left for Antioch from Emesa. The citizens were given peace on the terms of annual tribute; the Byzantine army was given a three-day peace to go as far as they could. After the three-day deadline was over, the Muslim cavalry under Khalid's command attacked the Roman army, catching up to them using an unknown shortcut, at the Battle of Maraj-al-Debaj, 190 miles north of Damascus. Abu Bakr died during the siege of Damascus and Umar became the new Caliph. He dismissed his cousin Khalid ibn al-Walid from the command and appointed Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah the new commander in chief of Islamic army in Syria. Abu Ubaidah got the letter of his appointment and Khalid's disposal during the siege, but he delayed the announcement until the city was conquered.



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