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Slide 1 - Uthman & Crisis of the Early Caliphate Islamic History: the First 150 Years
Slide 2 - Session Plan Perceptions & Perspectives Uthman ‘s Background The Shura Committee Uthman & the Bani Umayya The Murder of Uthman: Causes & Consequences
Slide 3 - Section I: Perceptions
Slide 4 - Perceptions Uthman’s caliphate lasted for some 12 years In some ways, Uthman’s caliphate marks a turning point The conquests brought about large scale and important social changes Shift from nomadic to sedentary life styles Vast expansion of Islamic state Accumulation of vast wealth It was during Uthman’s caliphate that these issues began to come to the fore Uthman’s caliphate thus marks a transition, in some senses This transitional nature probably accounts for the wide divergence of subsequent opinion
Slide 5 - Perceptions Some early writers saw Uthman’s caliphate as being divided into two periods: An early period, lasting some six years or so This early period is often viewed as ‘good’, in which Uthman is portrayed as following his predecessor’s example (or sunnah) A later period (the remainder of his caliphate) During this period, Uthman is said to have been increasingly at the mercy of his Umayyad relatives According to this view, this latter period sees Uthman diverge and fall away from this sunnah He is thus said to have favoured his relatives and have given them preferential treatment, despite the fact that many of them were relatively late converts to Islam Cf. Umar’s concept of sabiqa (or ‘precedence’)
Slide 6 - Perceptions Such a picture seems, to me, to be overly formulaic Moreover, as we explored last time, in reading early Islamic history we have to account for the influence of later thought The true picture is thus more complicated Modern writers offer interpretations Gibb, for example, sees the crisis as essentially a conflict between the Meccan aristocracy and the ‘tribesmen’ Hinds, in an influential article, argues that these difficulties caused by the immediately post-conquest nature of his time
Slide 7 - Perspectives As we shall see, Uthman is an important figure in early Islamic history As such, there are a range of views on him within the Islamic tradition Broadly speaking, we can discern three main perspectives The Sunni view: Uthman was a companion of Muhammad and a legitimate caliph (one of the four ‘rightly guided caliphs’) The Shia view: Uthman (along with Abu Bakr and Umar) had usurped control of the Muslim community from Ali The Khawarij view: Uthman had started out as a legitimate caliph but had gone astray and so had had to be removed
Slide 8 - Section II: Uthman’s Background
Slide 9 - Uthman’s Background Full name: Uthman ibn Affan ibn Abu’l-`As ibn Umayya Uthman thus a member of the wealthy clan of Umayya A close relative of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and many other influential members of Quraysh See the family tree provided Unlike most members of his extended family, Uthman was an early companion of Muhammad As such, Uthman was one of the few converts from the Meccan elite Uthman thus had a unique position Uthman married two of Muhammad’s daughters, Ruqayya and after her death, Umm Kulthum This gave him a distinct advantage, in terms of social prestige, over Abu Bakr and Umar Known as Dhu al-Nurayn due to this marriage (‘One of Two Lights’)
Slide 10 - Uthman’s Background Muhammad himself was aware of Uthman’s particular status Ibn `Asakir relates that Muhammad would cover his bare legs in Uthman’s presence, which he would not do for Abu Bakr or Umar Uthman does not seem to have been a warlike person Exempted from fighting at Badr, said to have run from the Battle of Uhud (according to Ibn `Asakir’s report) He was however a very wealthy individual, and used this wealth in the service of the Muslim community Uthman financed important military operations Despite this support, he still seems to have possessed great wealth Uthman was also a useful link for Muhammad to the Meccan aristocracy, especially in negotiating the treaty of al-Hudaybiyya
Slide 11 - Section III: The Shura Committee
Slide 12 - The Shura Committee Broadly speaking, shura means ‘consultation’ In this context, it refers to the group of six senior companions appointed by Umar to decide upon his successor Umar considered them all to be important members of the Muslim community It is noteworthy that they are all senior companions of Muhammad (cf. Umar’s policy of sabiqa) Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (one of the ‘10 promised paradise’) Uthman ibn Affan Ali ibn Abi Talib (Muhammad’s son-in-law) Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (a senior companion) al-Zubayr ibn Awwam (an early companion and the Prophet’s cousin) Talha ibn Ubaydallah (an early companion)
Slide 13 - The Shura Committee Umar seems to have decided upon this course of action quite early on However, the individual members were chosen on his deathbed Umar convinced that all Quraysh had a right to caliphate And, that it should be decided by consultation However, important to note that this does not mean public election Rather, the decision here was restricted to important members of the community In later Islamic political theory, these were the ahl al-hall wa al-aqd (‘Those who loosen and bind’)
Slide 14 - The Shura Committee Abdur Rahman ibn Awf said to have given up his claim in return for a casting vote Uthman and Ali were the two main candidates Debate continued for 3 days Let’s look at Tabari’s report of the event now… See the Handout for the passage
Slide 15 - The Shura Committee `Abd al-Rahman questioned Ali & Uthman in public about what your might call their ‘policies’ ‘”God’s agreement and covenant is binding on you. Will you indeed act in accordance with the Book of God [i.e. the Quran], the practice [sunna] of His Messenger and the example of the two caliphs after him?” To which Ali is reported to have said: ‘I hope to do this and act thus to the best of my ability’ The translation here does not fully draw out the significance of the reply, which was felt to be somewhat equivocal support for Abu Bakr & Umar
Slide 16 - The Shura Committee Uthman responded with a simple, unequivocal ‘yes’ These passges are all drawn from Tabari I. 2786 It was on this basis that Abd al-Rahman gave the caliphate to Uthman This point is drawn out more forcefully by Tabari in an alternative version Ali’s response is more forceful: ‘Indeed no, but [only] based on my own effort in all this and in accordance with my own ability’ (I. 2793) Uthman’s first act was to decide on the fate of Ubaydullah ibn Umar, who had murdered 3 people he suspected of being involved in his father’s murder Uthman paid the blood money on his behalf and freed him Very much against the advice of Ali
Slide 17 - A Brief Pause Turn to the person next to you and spend a couple of minutes summarising the lecture thus far. Questions?
Slide 18 - Section IV: Uthman & The Banu Umayya
Slide 19 - The Caliphate Uthman’s understanding seems to have been affected by the circumstances of his election Madelung argues he was quite unprepared for his election and it as a direct act of God Madelung interprets a number of important acts in this light Official Titles Abu Bakr called himself ‘Successor of the Messenger of God’ (Khalifat Rasul Allah) Umar called himself ‘Sucessor of the Successor of the Messenger of God’ (Khalifat Khalifat Rasul Allah) Possibly feeling that this was too cumbersome, he then adopted ‘Commander of the Faithful’ (Amir al-Muminin) Uthman seems to have styled himself ‘Deputy of God’ (Khalifat Allah) He also used Amir al-Muminin
Slide 20 - Khalifa The word Khalifa basically means ‘successor’ or ‘deputy’ and is used in the Quran in a number of senses Adam is called a Khalifa (2:28) and here the term most probably means ‘deputy’ In 38:25 David is also described as Khalifa (probably with the same meaning) The Umayyad caliphs all either used Amir al-Muminin or Khalifat Allah Generally speaking, the mature Sunni view is that the term khalifat Allah is an abbreviation of Khalifat Rasul Allah This difference is important If Uthman meant ‘successor’ then his policy would presumably be more restricted If the term meant ‘Deputy of God’ then Uthman presumably felt he had a wider ranging authority This topic is one of lively current debate and exploring this question further would make a good essay topic
Slide 21 - Land Uthman seems to have approached the distribution of land and wealth in a different manner to his predecessors Al-Baladhuri relates an interesting story on this point At a certain point, Ali, Talha, Sa’d and `Abd al-Rahman came to complain Uthman answered that he used his wealth to support his family ‘Did not Abu Bakr and Umar have kin and maternal relations?’ he answered: ‘Abu Bakr and Umar sought reward in the hereafter by withholding from their kin, and I seek reward by giving to my kin’ (Ansab al-Ahsraf V.28) Some writers, such as Madelung, argue that this was an outgrowth of Uthman’s view of his own role Uthman also granted his cousin Marwan ibn al-Hakam (the future caliph and father of Abd al-Malik) a fifth of the war booty of Africa This fifth (khums in Arabic) is allotted by the Quran to the Prophet for the running of the Islamic state
Slide 22 - Land He also seems to have given money from the public treasury to his close relatives al-Baladhuri’s report: ‘He took the sums of money and borrowed money from the treasury saying: Abu Bakr and Umar left what belonged to them of this money, but I take it and distribute it to my kin from it. The people criticised him for that’ (Ansab al-Ashraf V.25) The estate at the Oasis of Fadak (which Abu bakr and Umar had counted as public land) was given to Marwan ibn al-Hakam Another similar estate in the Mahzur valley of Medina was given to Marwan’s brother al-Harith (see family tree) Uthman also made alterations to the existing use of former crown lands (sawafi) Prior to the conquests, these lands had belonged to the Byzantine and Persian crowns.
Slide 23 - Land Umar held that these lands should be used as the communal property of the garrison cities Thus the sawaf of Kufa should be used as the communal property of Kufa, to pay their subsidies Grants from these lands were also given to prominent companions, such as Abdullah ibn Masud, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas and others Uthman then allowed the exchange of privately owned land in Arabia for former crown land in Iraq Grants from this land was then given to prominent Medinans who had fought at al-Qadisiya
Slide 24 - Governing the Provinces One of the major contemporary criticisms of Uthman was that of nepotism Although these charges can be viewed in a number of ways, many members of the wider Bani Umayya were appointed governors by Uthman Thus shortly after his accession, Ali ibn Adi ibn Rabia (of Abd Shams) was made governor of Mecca Amr ibn al-As was dismissed from Egypt and replaced by Abdullah ibn Sa’d Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, a respected companion, was dismissed from Basra, which was then given to Uthman’s maternal cousin, Abdullah ibn Amir ibn Kurayz (Abd Shams) Abdullah was also given control over Bahrain and Uman, along with their military forces This was surprising given Abdullah’s youth, being only 25 at the time
Slide 25 - Governing the Provinces al-Walid ibn Uqba appointed to the governorship of Kufa (in Iraq) in 26 AH As we have seen, at this time, Kufa was one of the largest and most important garrison cities (amsar) Tabari reports that al-Walid initially governed well, until being accused of public drunkenness and eventually removed (I. 2840 – 2850) Tabari reports that Ali flogged al-Walid himself Another relative, Sa’id ibn al-As, made governor in al-Walid’s place Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan appointed governor of Syria by Umar Uthman confirmed him in his governorship and augmented his province by adding to it Qinnasrin, Hims and Upper Mesopotamia This meant that Mu`awiya had a very large province and army under his personal command Indeed, during Uthman’s reign, Mu`awiya led numerous raids against Byzantine territory, penetrating to some 100 miles from Constantinople As we shall see, Mu`awiya’s control of Syria and its armies were to important later on
Slide 26 - Opposition These measures provoked opposition Sa’id ibn al-As is said to have commented that that Iraq was a ‘garden of Quraysh’ During an absence in Medina, serious rioting prompted Uthman to dismiss Sa’id and reinstate Abu Musa al-Ash`ari A number of prominent companions began to express their discontent Many of these seem to have been particular supporters of Ali and the Bani Hashim Or, they were claimed as such by later Shiite writers Ammar ibn Yasir, a prominent early convert of humble origins, was reportedly beaten by supporters of Uthman Abdullah ibn Masud, another prominent companion, seems to have been similarly treated
Slide 27 - Opposition Abu Dharr al-Ghifari A prominent and early Bedouin convert Of an ascetic bent He is reported to have publicly denounced the large fortunes of many people His agitation seems to have caused discontent and Uthman sent him to Syria He continued his agitation there and Mu’`awiya eventually returned him to Medina There is a divergence of opinion in some of the sources about his treatment Some sources state that he was treated well during his return journey Others state that he was tied to a camel and treated harshly He then left and went to al-Rabadhah (just outside of Medina), where he died soon afterwards See Handout provided
Slide 28 - Opposition More importantly, a number of senior companions began to withdraw their support Talha ibn Ubaydullah withdrew his support and seems to have criticised Uthman sharply Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf is reported to have become extremely discontented and in his last years refused to speak to Uthman He is also reported as refusing to let Uthman bury him
Slide 29 - Section V: The Murder of Uthman
Slide 30 - The Death of Uthman With the dismissal of Amr ibn al-As from the governorship of Egypt, discontent became open rebellion The sources refer to letters sent to the provinces encouraging revolt from Talha ibn Ubaydullah and Aisha bint Abi Bakr (Muhammad’s widow) A group of Egyptian soldiers marched on Medina, calling on Uthman to repent for his misdeeds They were joined by others from Kufa, where they laid siege to Uthman’s house Uthman at first seems to have acceded to their demands, but once they left he seems to have been persuaded by Marwan to change his mind This drew the rebels back to Medina, where a second siege then began Attempts at negotiating a solution wore on for some time, but eventually came to nought On 17 Dhu’l-Hijja, the peace was broken when a freedman of Marwan killed one of the besiegers
Slide 31 - The Death of Uthman Uthman’s house was then attacked Uthman ordered his guards to lay down their arms and leave According to the sources, these included sons of the some of the most prominent companions, such as Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr al-Hasan ibn Ali al-Husayn ibn Ali The sources state that Uthman was murdered by Muhammad ibn Abi Bar, Kinana ibn Bishr, Sudan ibn Humran and Amr ibn al-Hamiq Muhammad was Abu Bakr’s son, and since his father’s death had been raised by Ali (his mother had married Ali) Uthman was said to have been murdered whilst reciting the Quran And, this image of a pious old man, murdered unjustly is the predominant image of the Sunni tradition
Slide 32 - Consequences The murder of Uthman marked a major turning point in early Islamic history Although there had been problems, up to this point that had not boiled over into armed conflict Also, although Umar had been murdered, Uthman’s death had been caused by other Muslims This set a very dangerous precedent The deed sent shockwaves around the Muslim world It also caused a deep split amongst Muslims A wide range of views Some groups believed that Uthman had to be removed for his alleged wickedness Others felt that he had been killed unlawfully In some ways, the question of Uthman’s murder became the key defining issue of the time
Slide 33 - Consequences In the immediate aftermath, Ali was elected caliph in Medina However, unlike his predecessors, Ali’s election was concluded hastily, in somewhat confused circumstances That said, he seems to have received the unanimous support of the Medinan and Meccan aristocracy Most of the other provincial governors seem to have quickly acknowledged his authority All except Mu`awiya, the governor Syria We will look more at this in the next session
Slide 34 - Assessment In assessing Uthman’s caliphate, it is important to understand the nature of the times he faced During the course of some 25 years (after Muhammad’s death) the Muslim state had expanded dramatically from a small, semi-nomadic polity to a large imperial power This created social, economic and political tensions Moreover, the growing need for centralised government also played an important role