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Slide 1 - The Succession to Muhammad Islamic History: the First 150 Years © 2006 Abdur Rahman
Slide 2 - Session Plan Understanding Muhammad’s Impact The Death of Muhammad & the Election of Abu Bakr Opposition: the ‘Wars of Apostasy’ The Beginnings of the Conquests
Slide 3 - Section I: The Impact of Muhammad
Slide 4 - Muhammad’s Significance Muhammad: the Final Prophet ‘Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but is the Messenger of God and the seal of the Prophets (Khatam al-Nabiyyin)’ (33:40) Bearer of the Quran ‘Your Companion [Muhammad] is neither astray nor being misled, Nor does he speak from (his own) desire. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him’ (53:3) Muhammad the Lawgiver
Slide 5 - Muhammad’s Significance Political Orientations Constitution of Medina Political Sovereignty for God Alone… God invoked at beginning and throughout ‘Whenever a dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble arises among the people of this document it shall be referred to God and to Muhammad, the Apostle of God’ The Concept of Ummah (Nation)
Slide 6 - Section II: The Succession to Muhammad
Slide 7 - Issues The succession to Muhammad is perhaps the most important episode to face the emerging Muslim community The deeper question lying behind these events can be summarised thus… Who has the right/authority/legitimacy to take up Muhammad’s legacy? As the last prophet, Muhammad’s legacy of crucial importance in Islamic salvation history Given its importance, it is not surprising that it was an issue of intense debate Indeed, this question was the primary issue during the first 150 years of Islamic history Virtually every school of thought can, in some way, trace its origins to early debates regarding the succession to the Prophet
Slide 8 - The Sources As such, our sources all have opinions to offer Because, as we saw, Hadith style history predominates at this time, most of the standard works rely on certain groups of individuals Texts which take different viewpoints, use different sources This means that there is a degree of confusion our sources They often disagree on key points and it is not always easy to reconcile them
Slide 9 - Muhammad’s Death Muhammad dies in 11AH, at Medina Buried in the Mosque at Medina Removal of Muhammad’s authority crucial For the nascent Muslim community, it meant an end to his charismatic leadership It also had an impact on internal and external relationships Authority deeply personal in Arab society at this time Removal of authority also behind Apostasy Wars Umar’s threat Abu Bakr: ‘Whoever worships Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead. Whoever worships God, let him know that God lives and can never die’
Slide 10 - The Election of Abu Bakr The details of this event are complex, especially given the unfamiliar names of people and tribes Although a detailed understanding is not necessary, the importance of this event in later history makes understanding it in outline essential During the funeral preparations, one of the tribes of the Ansar (‘Helpers’), the Bani Sa’idah, meet to appoint a leader Led by their chief, Sa’d b. Ubadah Disparate calls, though main emphasis on their leadership of the community Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr are informed of this and rush to attend meeting Accompanied by Abu ‘Ubaydah al-Jarrah, another senior Companion Ali busy preparing Muhammad’s body for burial
Slide 11 - The Election of Abu Bakr Abu Bakr responds by pointing to Ansar’s rank An attempt at compromise: ‘We are the leaders, and the helpers; matters shall not be decided without your consultation, nor shall we decide them without you’ (al-Tabari, I.1840) Differing reactions: some for and some against After subsequent argument, Abu Bakr attempts to pledge allegiance to Umar Umar rejects this and gives bay’ah to Abu Bakr Umar’s justification noteworthy: ‘No, by God, we shall not undertake [to hold] this authority over you, for you are the best of the Muhajriun, the ‘second of two when they were in the Cave’ [9:40], and the Apostle of God’s deputy (khalifa) over the prayer and prayer is the most meritorious obedience (din) of the Muslim’ (I.1842)
Slide 12 - The Election of Abu Bakr These remarks underline the later Sunni view of Abu Bakr’s merit, and hence legitimacy There are other voices… Ali was not at the meeting and hence was not consulted He seems to have had some support there After the Saqifah meeting, some sources show Ali withdrawing to Fatima’s house Accompanied by his clan (Bani Hashim) and al-Zubayr (a notable companion) Umar is said to have threatened violence His strong reaction provoked by realisation of danger of disunity ‘By God, there was nothing we could do better at that time than to give bay’ah to Abu Bakr. We feared that if we had left the people without concluding a bay’ah, they would have done so on their own. Then we would have had to agree to something we did not like, or risk dissension’ (Tabari, 3. p.203-206, quoted by Ayoub, 2003, 16)
Slide 13 - The Reaction of Ali Ali refuses to pledge support Some reports put this at 6 months The Oasis of Fadak al-Bukhari: Vol. 4, Book 53, No. 325, Narrated 'Aisha: ‘After the death of Allah 's Apostle Fatima the daughter of Allah's Apostle asked Abu Bakr As-Siddiq to give her, her share of inheritance from what Allah's Apostle had left of the Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting) which Allah had given him. Abu Bakr said to her, "Allah's Apostle said, 'Our property will not be inherited, whatever we (i.e. prophets) leave is Sadaqa (to be used for charity)." Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle got angry and stopped speaking to Abu Bakr, and continued assuming that attitude till she died. Fatima remained alive for six months after the death of Allah's Apostle’
Slide 14 - An Alternative Account Tabari’s account Abu Bakr says to Fatima… ‘I did hear the Messenger of God say, “We prophets do not give any inheritance. Anything we leave behind must remain as public charity [sadaqah]” Still, the people of Muhammad’s house will have their share of this wealth. By God, I will never see anything that the Messenger of God did, but that I will do the same’ (Tabari, vol. 3, p.208; Ayouob, 2003, 21)
Slide 15 - The Reaction of Ali Tabari: I.1869 states that she was buried by her close family (Bani Hashim) as was customary Ali’s (or later Shia) view interesting
Slide 16 - The Reaction of Ali ‘I am the servant of God and the brother of the Messenger of God. I am thus more worthy of this office than you. I shall not give allegiance to you [Abu Bakr & Umar] when it is more proper for you to give bay’ah to me. You have seized this office from the Ansar using your tribal relationship to the Prophet as an argument against them. Would you then seize this office from us, the ahl al-bayt by force? Did you not claim before the Ansar that you were more worthy than they of the caliphate because Muhammad came from among you – and thus they gave you leadership and surrendered command? I now contend against you with the same argument…It is we who are more worthy of the Messenger of God, living or dead. Give us our due right if you truly have faith in God, or else bear the charge of wilfully doing wrong’ (Ibn Qutaybah, vol. 1, p.29; quoted in Ayoub, 2003, 18)
Slide 17 - The Reaction of Ali Ali… ‘What prevented us from allegiance to you was not our denial of your virtue, nor was it envy of anything with which God has favoured you. Rather we believe that we have a rightful share in this affair, which you have denied us’ (Tabari, vol. 3, p.208; Ayoub, 2003, 21)
Slide 18 - The Election of Abu Bakr Abu Sufyan offers military support to Ali A reminder of pre-Islamic rivalries within the Quraysh tribe Ali refuses to accept it: ‘Though you have always had nothing but animosity towards Islam and its people, yet you can cause it no harm. We consider Abu Bakr worthy of the caliphate’ (al-Tabari, vol. 3, 209)
Slide 19 - Other Voices There are a number of passages which reveal a somewhat different picture Ibn Qutaybah records Ali as saying to Abu Bakr: ‘By God, we shall never excuse you, or be released from our allegiance to you. The Messenger of God himself brought you to the fore [to lead the prayer during his final illness] in order to unite us in our religion. Who would then dare remove you from the task of managing our worldly affairs? (vol. 1, p.29) Sa’id ibn Zayd was asked when Abu Bakr was decided upon and how: ‘It was on the day the Messenger of God died. This was because the people did not wish to remain even for part of a day without unity’ (Tabari, vol 3, p.208) Apparently unanimous, according to Sa’id
Slide 20 - Reflections Not always clear what to make of such reports Emotions and tensions running high in the aftermath of Muhammad’s death Abu Bakr & Umar motivated by desire for unity Ali keen to defend what he saw as his rights Some of the speeches seem to read like later theological ideas of who should have been leader and why In other words, there well have been some re-editing Casting the views of later generations into the mouths of the Companions (?)
Slide 21 - A Brief Pause Turn to the person next to you and spend a couple of minutes summarising the lecture thus far. Questions?
Slide 22 - Section III: The Apostasy Wars
Slide 23 - The Apostasy Wars Arab authority deeply personal Prophet’s death caused a number of tribes to think that their ties with Medina had lapsed Abu Bakr styles himself Khalifat Rasul Allah (‘Successor of the Messenger of God’) Refusal to pay Zakat (the poor due) Abu Bakr responded with unexpected force, declaring that those who refused to pay the Zakat were to be considered apostates Abu Bakr insists on sending an expedition to avenge Muslim defeat by the Romans at Mu`ta This expedition ordered by the Prophet Led by Usama ibn Zayd (son of Muhammad’s freedman Zayd and formerly his ‘adopted’ son)
Slide 24 - The Apostasy Wars ‘So the people said to [Abu Bakr], “These are the majority of the Muslims. The Arabs, as you see, have mutinied against you, so you should not separate the troop of Muslims from yourself”. Abu Bakr replied, “By Him in Whose hands is Abu Bakr’s soul, even if I thought that beasts of prey would snatch me away, I would carry out the sending of Usama just as the Apostle of God ordered. Even if there remained in the villages no one but myself, I would carry it out’ (Tabari I. 1848) This left Medina poorly defended
Slide 25 - The Apostasy Wars ‘`Ubaydallah b. Sa’d – his uncle – Sayf; al-Sari – Shu`ayb – Sayf – Hisham b. `Urwah – his father: After the oath of allegiance had been rendered to Abu Bakr and the Ansar had come together on the matter over which they had differed, he said that Usama’s mission should be completed. Now the Arabs apostasized, either generally or as particular individuals in every tribe. Hypocrisy appeared, and the Jews and Christians began to exalt themselves, and the Muslims were like sheep on a cold and rainy night because of the loss of their Prophet and because of their fewness and the multitude of their enemy’ (Tabari I.1848)
Slide 26 - The Rise of ‘False’ Prophets Some of these rebellious tribes are led by claimants to prophecy Although there were others, the most famous of these ‘false’ prophets was Musaylimah Known to Islamic tradition as al-Kadhab (‘the Liar’) Musaylimah said to have received ‘revelation’ and to have issued a call to prayer Tabari apparently records some of this material: ‘By the blackest night, by the blackest wolf, by the mountain goat, Usayyid has not defiled a sacred thing’ (I.1933) If this is an accurate record, Musaylimah is clearly trying to copy the style of the Quran Musaylimah was active during Muhammad’s last years
Slide 27 - The Rise of ‘False’ Prophets Reported to have said that God had made him a Prophet and had given him one half of the earth The other half was for Muhammad and Quraysh Although these claims rejected, they are interesting in highlighting just how large an impact Muhammad’s success had had In other words, if Muhammad had not successfully changed the face of Arab tribal politics, Musaylimah’s claims would have had no meaning
Slide 28 - Khalid ibn al-Walid Abu Bakr appoints Khalid ibn al-Walid to recruit and lead a Muslim force in response to this ‘revolt’ Khalid ibn al-Walid a member of the Quraysh aristocracy Renowned military leader An opponent of Islam for many years, only converting shortly before the conquest of Mecca Responsible for the stalemate at the Battle of Uhud Khalid sets about his work with gusto Defeats apostate tribes one by one, before defeating and killing Musaylimah in battle However, Abu Bakr’s resolute action seems to have been particularly important
Slide 29 - Section IV: The Beginnings of the Conquests
Slide 30 - Motivations? Within 100 years of Muhammad’s death, the Islamic empire stretched from northern Spain to the borders of India Moreover, as we shall see, this outward expansion continued almost to the end of our period What, then, were the drivers behind the conquests? Previous western scholarship has tended to focus on economic and geographical factors That is, the conquests were either about seizing booty or over population However, such arguments only offer a very partial explanation Ideological (religious) factors also need to be taken into account Although some were probably influenced by material gain, there can be no real doubt that emergent Islam also exercised considerable influence Donner (in Early Islamic Conquests) that it was the coming together of many different factors which produced this drive
Slide 31 - Motivations? In the unstable environment of 7th century Arabia, security was also an important factor Thus the early expeditions against northern tribes should be understood as attempts to securely establish the early Islamic state In the earliest period, manpower seems to have been an issue Abu Bakr refuses to allow ‘apostate’ tribes to take part This sanction remained in place until early in Umar’s caliphate, when a serious military situation made such measures necessary However, this will be the subject of the next session
Slide 32 - Early Encounters Muslim emissaries to the Roman empire and the Arab client kingdom of the Ghassanid tribe seem to have been murdered Muhammad sent a punitive expedition Provoked Roman response: Mu’ta Early encounters in Syria little more than skirmishes, but signs of a greater conflict building In Iraq, al-Muthanna ibn Haritha of the Banu Shayban tribe had converted to Islam Began raiding the Arab fringes of Iraq on his own intiative
Slide 33 - Abu Bakr’s Ethics of War 'Oh army, stop and I will order you [to do] ten [things]; learn them from me by heart.  You shall not engage in treachery; you shall not act unfaithfully; you shall not engage in deception; you shall not indulge in mutilation; you shall kill neither a young child nor an old man nor a woman; you shall not fell palm trees or burn them; you shall not cut down [any] fruit-bearing tree; you shall not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel except for food.  You will pass people who occupy themselves in monks' cells; leave them alone, and leave alone what they busy themselves with.  You will come to a people who bring you vessels in which are varieties of food; if you eat anything from [those dishes], mention the name of God over them.  You will meet a people who have shaven the middle of their head and have left around it [a ring of hair] like turbans; tap them lightly with the sword. Go ahead, in God's name; may God make you perish through wounds and plague!‘ (Tabari I.1850)
Slide 34 - The Death of Abu Bakr Abu Bakr dies after a mere two years in charge Again, this is another ‘crunch point’, in that a political vacuum would have been dangerous Abu Bakr thus directly appoints Umar as his successor ‘I have chosen for the management of your affairs one who is the best of you in my estimation. Yet you all feel slighted because each one of you wanted this office for himself. You anticipate great worldly wealth and prosperity, although prosperity has not yet come. Indeed, it shall come, so that you will sleep on cushions of silk brocade behind silk curtains. By God, it is better for a man to have his own head cut off, without it being a punishment for a transgression, than to be swept up in the pleasures of this world! You shall be the first among the people to go astray and to hinder others from the straight way’ (Tabari, vol. 3, p. 429-30, qutoed in Ayoub, 2003, 31) According to some sources, this move angered Ali and the Hashim clan Umar an altogether different kind of person As we will see in the next session