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Khulafaur - Rashidin [The Guided Khalifas]

Abubakar [the first Caliph 572-634CE]

Early life

  • He was born in the 572 CE, two years after the birth of the Prophet.
  • His real name was Abdul Kaaba, meaning ‘the slave of the Kaaba’, which he was given by his parents (during the Jahiliya).
  • This name was given to him since he was the only child in his family who had survived death and his parents therefore dedicated him to the Kaaba.
  • His famous name, Abubakar, was because of his love for camels.
  • When he embraced Islam, the prophet gave him the name Abdullah, meaning the servant of Allah (SWT).
  • He was given the title As – swidiq by the prophet meaning ‘the testifier of truth’ after Israa wal- miraaj because he accepted the narration of prophet’s journey without hesitation and any question.
  • His father was Uthman bin Aamir but his nickname was Abu Quhafah.
  • He was from Banu Tamim and his family was among the nobles of Makkah.
  • At first, he did not view Islam as anything serious and only converted after the conquest of Makkah.
  • His mother was Salma bint Sakhar but was commonly known as Ummul Kheir and was among the early converts of Islam.
  • Abubakar had good characters and never indulged in the evils like taking alcohol, gambling among others.
  • He was wise, a good orator and conversant with Arabic genealogy.
  • He was a respected man in the community and a close friend to the prophet.
  • When he was 18 years, he started his business journeys to Yemen and Syria.
  • Before he embraced Islam, the Quraish used to send him on serious assignments on behalf of the Arabs of Makkah.


His conversion to Islam

  • Abubakar was a close friend of the Prophet even before the Ba’ath (Prophet hood) and first revelation.
  • Abubakar was on a business trip at the time when the Prophet received the first revelation.
  • He received the news about the prophet teaching Islam and readily believed in him.
  • He was the fourth person to accept Islam and the first grown up among men.
  • Abubakar persuaded Uthman Ibn Affan and Talha bin Ubaidullah and many others to become Muslims.

Companionship with the Prophet

  • We earlier mentioned that Abubakar was a very close friend to the prophet even before his conversion to Islam.
  • He was therefore willing to support the Prophet in the spread of Islam.
  • He financially assisted the spread of Islam during its early phase.
  • His occupation gave him an opportunity to meet many people; he therefore campaigned for the prophet in his mission to persuade people to embrace Islam.
  • He convinced many Swahabas to embrace Islam; key among them is Uthman bin Affan.
  • On the onset of persecutions, Abubakar used his wealth to buy the freedom of slaves who were being tortured by their masters.
  • Can you mention any of the slaves who were purchased by Abubakar (RA)?
  • He is among the companions of the prophet who endangered their lives to protect him.
  • For example, when Aqba bin Muit was strangling the prophet with a piece of cloth, he appeared and shielded him.
  • In the battle of Badr, he protected the prophet from the infidels.
  • During the battle of Uhud, he courageously shielded the prophet from the stones and arrows that were being thrown by the Makkans.
  • He married off his daughter Aisha, to the prophet in order to strengthen their relationship.
  • During Hijra, he bought the horses that they used and accompanied the prophet in the journey.
  • In the signing of the treaty of Hudaibiyyah, he was sent as an ambassador to the Quraish.
  • On the 9th year after Hijra, the Prophet appointed him to lead the Muslims who were going for pilgrimage.
  • During the same period when the prophet was ill, Abubakar (RA) was given the responsibility of leading the Muslims in prayers.
  • He took part in all the battles, advised the prophet, and consoled him when in difficulty.
  • Upon the death of the Prophet, Abubakar (RA) took the initiative of conducting the burial ceremony.

Election of Abubakar as a Caliph

  • After the death of the Prophet (PBUH), it was important that the Muslim Ummah get a leader.
  • The activities of the community had to proceed as usual.
  • The prophet did not appoint a successor before he died but Abubakar used to lead the prayers for three days before his death.
  • Before his burial, the issue of his successor became a big debate between the Ansar and Muhajirun.
  • The Ansaar of Madina met at a place called Saqiifah.
  • The main aim was to choose a leader who was Saad Ibn Ubaidah.
  • When the Muhajirin of Makkah heard this, they all came to an agreement to have a leader from the Quraish.
  • Abubakar suggested Umar bin Khatttab or Abu Ubaida bin Jarah.
  • Umar bin Khattab rose up and proposed Abubakar’s name with justification.
  • The Ansaar and Muhajirun had a lengthy discussion on the issue until they unanimously agreed that Abubakar (RA) should be the caliph.
  • On the next day, after the prophet’s burial all the Muslims gathered in the mosque.
  • Abubakar took the mantle of leadership and climbed on the pulpit to deliver his inauguration speech as follows:

    “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 rested from him the rights of others if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. However, if I disobey God and His Messenger you owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer. God have mercy upon you.”

    Such was the first Caliph of Islam. Indeed, the world would be a better place to live in, if we had leaders like Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (RA).

Challenges faced by Abubakar when he took over the Caliphate

  • When you are new in any leadership position, you may be faced with several challenges.
  • Abubakar was no exception as he had just taken the leadership from the Prophet.
  • He therefore had to face several challenges, which include the following:

1. The Ridda wars also known as ‘the Wars of Apostasy’

  • There were a series of military campaigns launched by Abubakar (RA) against rebel Arabian tribes during 632 and 633 CE, just after the Prophet died.
  • The rebels' position was that they had submitted to Muhammad as the prophet of God, but owed nothing to Abubakar.
  • Some rebels followed those who claimed prophethood.
  • Most of the tribes were defeated and brought back to Islam.
  • The peoples surrounding Makkah did not revolt.

2. Refusal of some Muslims to pay Zakat

  • The news of the death of the Prophet (PBUH) made some new Muslims think that the Islamic State would crumble and they refused to pay Zakat.
  • Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (RA) declared, "By Allah (SWT)! Even if a single thread is due from a man, he must give it. If he refuses, I will declare war against him."
  • They therefore had to accept the rules and pay Zakat.

3. The fight against the false prophets

  • Upon the death of the Prophet, some Arabs laid claim to the Prophecy and became imposters and renegades.
  • Tulaiha, Musailamah, Aswad Ansi and a woman named Sajah claimed that they were prophets and caused a great deal of confusion.
  • Abubakr (RA) was quick to take action against these imposters.
  • Khalid bin Walid (RA) was sent to deal with Tulaiha who fled to Syria and later became a Muslim.
  • Ikramah (RA) and Surahbil (RA) were sent to take action against Musailamah, but they were defeated.
  • Therefore, Abubakr (RA) sent Khalid bin Walid (RA) to continue with the mission against the notorious Musailamah who had since married Sajah.
  • In the fight that followed Musailamah was killed. On the other hand, Aswad Ansi, the other false prophet, was killed by the Muslims of Yemen.

4. Completing the planned war expedition to Syria

  • Before the death of the Prophet, he had sent Usama bin Zaid to conquer Syria.
  • The army had not gone far when the Prophet fell ill and died.
  • So they had to cancel their mission.
  • When Abubakar (RA) became a caliph, the question was raised whether the army should be sent again or should remain to defend Madina.
  • Abubakar made a firm decision and said, "I shall send Usama's army on its way as ordered by the Prophet, even if I am left alone."

5. Compilation and preservation of the Qur’an

  • As a result of the death of a number of memorizers, caliph Abubakar was forced to compile the Qur’an.
  • This was a challenging task and he had to select the correct panelist to compile the Quran.
  • Zaid bin Thabit was given the responsibility to chair the group.

6. Conquering the external enemies

  • The Persian and Romans were constantly attacking the Muslims.
  • Abubakar had therefore to take action against these groups.
  • He started by sending Muthanna and Kahlid been Walid to conquer this empire.
  • After a successful battle, he send four armies led by Ubaida bin Jarah, Amr bn al As, Yazid bin Abi Sufiyan and Surahbil to fight the Roman Empire.
  • Khalid bin Walid was sent to reinforce the Muslim army.
  • The Romans were defeated during the battle of Yarmuk.

His Illness and Death

  • He served for two years and three monthly.
  • One day he took bath on a cold day and got a fever.
  • For fifteen days, the high fever did not drop and he grew weaker everyday to an extent that he could not perform congregation prayers in the mosque.
  • He appointed Umar (RA) to lead the prayers.
  • He was anxious to avoid trouble on the question of succession and he consulted al – shura committee on who would lead the Muslims after his death.
  • Majority proposed Umar (RA) to be their next leader and he personally proposed him.
  • He later called his daughter Aisha, wife of the prophet to do the following:
    • To share the piece of land he had given to her with his sisters and brothers.
    • To clear his debts from Baitul maal using the wealth he had left behind.
    • To be buried in the same old cloth he was wearing.
  • Abubakar (RA) died on Tuesday Jamadul Awal 13th A.H / August 634 C.E aged 63 years and was buried in his daughter’s house lady Aisha by the side of the holy prophet.

His outstanding qualities

  • He was a man of simple habits and absolute devotion and leading a very simple life
  • He sympathized with the poor and needy in the community
  • He was humble, generous and moderate in position.
  • He always sought solutions to problems based on the teachings given in the holy Qur’an and the prophet’s traditions (Hadith).
  • He was the strongest supporter of the Prophet (PBUH).
  • He sacrificed his wealth and possessions for the sake of Islam.
  • He enforced the observation of the principles of Islam like Zakat, Saum, Swalat and Hajj.

His major achievements

  • As the immediate successor of the prophet, he gave Islam a new face.
  • He laid a foundation stone of the caliphate. His election as a caliph showed democracy in Islam.
  • He supervised his officials keenly despite his soft heartedness; he was very strict and would take stern action on any official who would misuse his office.
  • He managed to maintain the unity and integrity of Islam after the death of the prophet.
  • He fought the impostors (false prophet) like Musailama al Kadhab.
  • He fought against those who refused to pay Zakat.
  • He improved the army through;
    • formation of battalions with each headed by a commander,
    • Addressing the challenges of the military.
    • Creating the post of the commander in chief as the head of the army.
    • Insisting on the moral values of the army.
    • Directing the commanders on the Islamic teachings on war.
    • Budgeting for war materials like weapons and amours.
    • Constantly inspecting the military camps to uphold discipline.
  • He made rules on the administration of justice and inheritance.
  • He improved the Islamic revenue system by establishing an independent department where money was deposited.
  • He used to give aid to the women, the old and the needy.
  • He set into motion the process of compilation of the Qur’an
  • He fought for the rights of all the people including the minorities and gave them protection in even the non-Islamic states around. He reduced the tax and asked only those who were able to pay.
  • He successfully fought against Bida’ (innovations).
  • He destroyed all the incorrect hadith that he had collected for fear of misleading the Muslims.
  • He established the departments of law, justice and Islamic Shariah to carry out research and find a critical approach to solutions in the community.
  • He expanded the Muslim empire through military conquests and established eight provinces, which included, Taif, sanna, Madina, Najran, Bahrain, Damtul Jandal. He conquered Syria and Iraq.

Caliph Umar (RA) [The Second Caliph of Islam]

Birth and early life

  • Umar (RA) was born in a respected Quraish family of the Adi clan in the year 583 CE, thirteen years after the birth of Muhammad (PBUH).
  • He was the son of Khattab bin Nafeel, his father and Khatmah bint Hashim Bin Mughira, his mother.
  • His family was respected for its extensive knowledge of genealogy.
  • When he grew up, Umar (RA) was proficient in this branch of knowledge as well as, horse riding, swordsmanship, wrestling and the art of speaking.
  • He also learned to read and write while still a child, a very rare thing in Makkah at that time.
  • Umar (RA) earned his living as a merchant.
  • This made him to travel to many foreign lands where he met all kinds of people.
  • This experience gave him an insight into the affairs and problems of the community.
  • Umar (RA)'s personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straightforward.
  • He always spoke whatever was in his mind even if it displeased others.
  • These qualities made the Quraish always ask him to be the mediator when resolving disputes.
  • He is famous in Islamic history as "Al Farooq" meaning, "One who distinguishes between Right and Wrong."
  • We shall see much later in this chapter that this among other qualities made him very successful when he became a caliph.

Umar (RA)’s conversion to Islam

  • His acceptance of Islam is also very famous.
  • Umar (RA) was twenty-seven when the Prophet (PBUH) proclaimed his mission.
  • The ideas that Muhammad was preaching annoyed him as much as they did the other notables of Makkah.
  • He was therefore very bitter at any one who accepted Islam.
  • When his slave-girl called Basina accepted Islam, he beat her until he himself was exhausted and told her, "I have stopped because I am tired, not out of pity for you."
  • The story of his embracing Islam is an interesting one.
  • One day, full of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him.
  • A friend by the name Nu’aim bin Abdullah met him on the way.
  • When Umar (RA) told him what he planned to do, his friend informed him that Umar (RA)'s own sister, Fatima, and her husband had also accepted Islam.
  • Umar (RA) went straight to his sister's house where he found them reading from pages of the Qur’an.
  • He violently fell upon his sister’s husband but his own sister tried to interfere and was hurt.
  • Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, "Umar (RA), you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam."
  • These words had a strange effect upon Umar (RA) (RA).
  • He wondered, “Which was this faith that made even weak women so strong of heart?”
  • He asked his sister to show him what she had been reading.
  • They were reciting the verses of sura a- Taha as follows:
    Ta Ha
    We have not sent the Qur’an to thee,
    To be an occasion for thy distress,
    But only as an admonition to those who fear God.
    A revelation from Him,
    Who created the earth and the heavens on high.
    God most gracious,
    Is firmly established on the throne of authority…” [Q 20: 1-8]
  • As Umar read the verses repeatedly, he felt as if these verses were addressing him in person.
  • He was at once touched by the words of the Qur’an and immediately grasped their truth.
  • He went straight to the house of Arqam, where the Prophet and the Muslims were offering prayers and vowed allegiance to him.

Companionship to the Prophet

  • The soundness of Umar (RA)'s judgment, his devotion to the Prophet (peace be on him), his outspokenness and uprightness won for him a trust and confidence from the Prophet which was second only to that given to Abubakar.
  • He made the following contributions to the prophet’s mission:
    • He openly declared his conversion to Islam, which gave hope to many Makkans who were still frightened to accept Islam.
    • He gathered the Muslims and offered prayers openly at the Kaaba. This boldness and devotion of an influential citizen of Makkah raised the morale of the small community of Muslims.
    • He was a close companion of the prophet and would advice him in times of need. The Prophet gave him the title 'Farooq', which means the 'Separator of Truth from False hood.'
    • He was among those who migrated to Madina and assisted the Muhajiruns to settle. He publicly declared that he was proceeding to Madina and even challenged the Quraish to stop him but none attempted.


  • In the previous subtopic, we have learnt in the history of Caliph Abubakar that he died of an illness.
  • When Abubakar felt that his illness was fatal, he called upon the Muslims to consult them about who would become the next Caliph.
  • He nominated Umar (RA) and Ali.
  • Then the Muslims chose Umar (RA) by their majority.
  • Based on the consultation and the Muslims' choice he announced to them that Umar (RA) would be the Khalif after him.
  • After the death of Abubakar, the Muslims came to the mosque and gave the banner of Khilafah to Umar (RA).
  • As was reported by several historians Abubakar consulted Uthman, Abdur-Rahman bin Auf, Ali, Usaid Ibnu Hudhair, Sai'd Ibnu Zaid and many other swahabas from Muhajirin and Ansar.

As a Caliph

  • Umar (RA) was a very brave and straightforward person.
  • He was tough and uncompromising in Islamic principles.
  • He was a great and talented ruler.
  • During his Caliphate, vast areas of the Roman and Persian empires and the whole of Egypt came under Islamic rule.
  • He was also a gifted orator.
  • He was very concerned for the welfare of the Muslims.
  • He left an honorable legacy for Muslims after him.
  • The Holy Qur’an was given to him by Abubakar (RA) for safe-keeping.
  • Umar (RA) was a strong disciplinarian.
  • He noticed the tremendous popularity of Khalid bin Walid and felt that people would lose trust in Almighty Allah (SWT) and put all their trust in Khalid bin Walid.
  • He feared that if this were to happen, it would increase the self-esteem of Khalid bin Walid that would also breed arrogance, so he removed Khalid and appointed Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah as the Commander in Chief of the Muslim army.
  • Khalid bin Walid happily accepted the orders of Umar (RA) and then served as an ordinary soldier.
  • This is an example of the Islamic teachings of obedience to leadership!
  • Umar (RA) gave his government an administrative structure. Among key reforms he brought are:
    • He formed a regular system of government with the parliament forming his shura and discussing all affairs of the state.
    • Setting up the departments of treasury.
    • Organizing a strong army with regular salaries set up for soldiers.
    • Public revenues were established and the baitul Maal in Madina expanded and restructured. Officers were appointed with book keeping system to take charge of the branches in all the districts.
    • A population census was held.
    • Elaborate land surveys were conducted to assess equitable taxes.
    • He established several colonies, which formed new cities.
    • He divided the areas, which came under his rule into provinces and appointed governors.
    • Architecture was greatly improved; with new roads, bridges and mosques for the regular people, guesthouses for the travelers, forts and military camps for the army, houses for government officials, roads, and wayside hotels built.
    • In Agriculture, canals were dug to increase the produce.
    • Provision was availed for the support of the poor and the needy from public funds.
    • He defined by example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims.

Reforms brought by Umar in the Muslim navy

  • He introduced pension to the Muslims who participated in the battle of Badr.
  • He introduced a fixed salary for the army men
  • Arms and ammunition were given priority for the defense of the state.
  • The families of the soldiers were given financial support.
  • He organized training for the army, for example they were expected to learn swimming,
  • He established army centers, military camps and barracks where small army units were set up.

Defeat of the Persians and the Romans

  • Khalid bin Walid had left Muthanna in command of the Muslim forces on the Iraqi front when he rushed to Yarmuk.
  • Sayyiduna Muthanna was finding it difficult to counter the enemy and went personally to Madina to ask Abubakar (RA) for re- enforcements.
  • Abubakar (RA) had, by that time passed away.
  • Muthanna (RA)’s absence from the Iraqi front made things worse there.
  • The Iranians regrouped under the command of Rustam and recaptured the lands taken by the Muslims.
  • Umar (RA) sent Abu Ubaidah as Commander, to deal with the situation.
  • Both the Persian columns were defeated, but Rustam sent an even larger army and defeated the Muslims.
  • Umar (RA) raised another army and defeated the Persians.
  • However, the Persian court sent yet another larger army, and forced Muthanna to withdraw.
  • The report of the new situation was sent to Umar (RA) and reinforcements under the command of Saad bin Abi Waqqas were sent.
  • The Persian and Muslim army met at Qadisiyah.
  • After a long battle on several fronts, the outnumbered Muslim army defeated the 120 000 Persian soldiers and recaptured Hirah and its surroundings in 14 A.H. (636 C.E).
  • After the long siege, Khalid bin Walid took the Romans by surprise and entered the city.
  • The Governor surrendered and a peace treaty was signed.


  • A Persian non-Muslim, named Firoz and nicknamed "Abu Lulu," complained to Umar (RA) about his master, Mughirah bin Shuba, who imposed tax on him.
  • Umar (RA) told Firoz that the tax was reasonable which made him angry.
  • The next day, during the Fajr Swalat, he stabbed Caliph Umar (RA) six times in the back, severely wounding the Caliph.
  • Umar (RA) (RA) passed away three days later in 23 A.H.
  • He was 63 years old.
  • He ruled the Islamic State for 10 years, 6 months and 4 days.

Achievements and Reforms of Caliph Umar (RA)

  • In a short space of 10 years, Sayyiduna Umar (RA) had been well-known for his outstanding achievements and reforms in Islam. Some of these include:-
    • The establishement of the "Baitul Maal" (People's treasury for the state and public).
    • Participation in the battles fought during the Prophet’s and Abubakar’s time when he accomplished the expeditions planned in Syria.
    • Setting up Judicial courts of Justice in the country where Judges and Magistrates handled all cases.
    • Establishment of an army headquarters for the defense of the country.
    • His suggestion to caliph Abubakar (RA) to compile the Qur’an and send memorandum that the Qur’an must be recited correctly.
    • Construction of roads, canals and mosques in the state and the conquered areas.
    • Establishment of Madrassas and learning centers and facilitation of the salaries for Imams, Mu'adhins and Ustaadhs.
    • Construction and improvement of the Mosques with facilities for the pilgrims in Makkah and Madina.
    • Police Stations and prisons were built.
    • Introduction of the first Islamic Lunar calendar beginning from the Hijrah.
    • Introduction of Proper weights and measures in business.
    • Writing down of several hadith which he sent for compilation and publication.
    • Construction of orphanages and welfare homes for the elderly.
    • Establishment proper punishment system and banning slavery.

Uthman Ibn Affan (The Third Caliph of Islam)

Birth and early life

  • His full name is Uthman bin Affan bin Abu-Al- As.
  • He was born in 576 CE in Makkah, six years after the birth of the Prophet.
  • He belonged to the Banu Ummayah, a family that was highly respected from the Quraish tribe.
  • He was also known as Abu Abdullah or Abu Omar.
  • He was the son of Affan and Arwa bint Khuraiza.
  • He married Ruqayyah (RAA), who was the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH) and after she passed away, the prophet offered her another daughter, Ummu Kulthum (RAA).
  • Because of this, he earned the title "Dhun Noorain" meaning "Possessor of Two Lights."
  • He is a relative to the prophet through his grandmother Baiza, who was the daughter of Abdul Mutalib.
  • He learnt the skill of reading and writing when he was young and when he grew up, he engaged in trade and was very prosperous because of his honesty, truthfulness and sprit of hard work.
  • He was a very rich cloth merchant and was known as "Al Ghani" meaning, "The Generous."

His conversion to Islam

  • The friendship between caliph Abubakar and Uthman was linked with the trading profession and they became very close friends.
  • Abubakar explained to Uthman about Islam who was impressed by the message and readily accepted it at the age of thirty- four and wanted to meet the prophet.
  • His conversion deepened the enmity between the Banu Ummayyad and Banu Hashim who had been arch enemies.
  • All through, Uthman kept away from the family prejudices.

Companionship to the prophet

  • Immediately after converting to Islam, he became a very close friend of the prophet.
  • He was among the first persons to migrate to Abbysinia when the persecutions persisted.
  • Uthman along with his family readily migrated to Madina in support of the prophet.
  • While in Madina, negotiated a price for the well of Ruma and paid twenty thousand dirhams to ease the water shortage.
  • When Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim armies were going to fight the Byzantines at Tabuk, he asked the wealthier people to give from their wealth and property to support and equip the soldiers.
  • Uthman presented 200 saddled camels and 200 ounces of gold.
  • During the treaty of Hudaibbiya, he was send as an emissary to the Makkan Quraish.
  • Uthman would buy slaves for the purpose of setting them free and that although he was wealthy he was often without servants because of this habit.
  • He was among the companions who accompanied the prophet during the farewell pilgrimage.

Election as a Caliph

  • At the time when caliph Umar (RA) was lying on his deathbed, he was pressurized by the people to nominate the next caliph.
  • He therefore presented the following six companions who were among the most eminent Companions of the Prophet out of which the next caliph was to be elected from:
    • Ali bin Abu Talib
    • Uthman bin Affan
    • Talha bin Ubaidullah
    • Zubeir ibn Awwam
    • Abdul Rahman bin Awf
    • Sa’d bin Abi Waqas
  • He asked them to finalize the nominations utmost three days after his death.
  • Talha bin Ubaidullah was not present in Madina at that time.
  • Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf offered to withdraw his own claim if others agreed to abide by his decision.
  • Zubeir and Sa’d bin Abi Waqas were in favour of Uthman, who proposed Ali’s name.
  • The third night had come yet they had not agreed.
  • On the fourth day after consultation with the other Muslims, Abdurrahman proposed Uthman and the Muslims unanimously agreed with the decision.

Challenges faced by Caliph Uthman

  • Hostility from new, Muslims in newly Islamic lands.
  • During his caliphate, some new converts started to accuse him of not following the example Prophet and the preceding caliphs in matters concerning governance.
  • However, the Companions of the Prophet always defended him.
  • These accusations never changed him.
  • He remained persistent to be a merciful governor.
  • Conspiracy to remove him from the caliphate headed by Abdullah ibn Saba’.
  • His enemies raised allegations against him and even attacked him and laid a siege for forty days but he did not react to them.
  • He did not even use the treasury funds to shield his house or himself.
  • His opponents finally plotted against him, surrounded his house, and encouraged people to kill him.
  • The claims of Abdullah ibn Saba’ brought unrest in the Muslim state.
  • For example, when he appointed Abdullah bin Amir as the new governor of Basra, they accused him of appointing a ‘raw’ young man and that he was filling all the key posts with his relatives.
  • False accusations were directed at him.
  • He was accused that he rewarded his governors and favoured some like the governor of Egypt had been given the entire spoils of war, that he had set aside public pasture for himself, that he had given land to his friends, that he was using the Baitul Maal for his family (he gave his daughters gems and other precious stones.)
  • His own people like Amar betrayed him when he was send to Egypt but decided to join the Sabites who were enemies of the caliph.

The alleged accusations of Uthman and their refutations

Allegation/ accusation  Refutation 
 Nepotism –he was accused of appointing incompetent officials from his kinsmen to replace the experienced companions  Those he appointed from his clan like Walid bin Uqba had been previously appointed by Umar (RA) as governor of Jazira. Said conquered Tabristan and Armenia, while
Abdullah capture Armenia.
 He used property from Baitul Maal to benefit his relatives. For example, he gave his daughters precious jewellery from Baitul maal while Abdullah bin Khalid was given 300,000 dirhams.  It is well known that Uthman (RA) was the wealthiest man among the swahabas and used his wealth for the sake of Islam. He bought a well, expanded the prophet’s mosque and equipped the military. If he could spend, such amounts for the sake of Allah (SWT), why not on his relatives?
 He exiled some great companions like Abdullah bin Masoud and Ammar bin Yassir  Caliph Uthman (RA) had some misunderstanding with these companions but
was only a difference of opinion.
 He ordered for the stoppage of the allowances of some companions like Abdullah ibn Masoud  It is true that Uthman (RA) was in disagreement with them but after the death of Abdullah ibn Masoud, Uthman displayed justice by paying all the areas to his heirs
 Burning copies of the Qur’an  When there arose differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, Uthman in consultation with other swahabas requested Zaid been Thabit to produce a standard copy using the original manuscript kept by Hafswa. He then asked those swahabas with personal copies to destroy them.
 He denied the general public grazing land in Madina and made them government-grazing grounds.  During Uthman’s reign, the number of horses and camels increased leading to a need for a larger pasture ground since they were for the good of the state.

Outstanding qualities of the caliph

  • Uthman was a man known to be pious and his heart was filled with love for Allah (SWT) and His messenger.
  • He was generous, and modest in his actions, A shy man, who spoke few words.
  • He was known for his humbleness.
  • Uthman would often spend the nights in prayers.
  • He was known to fast often, sometimes on alternative days.
  • In spite of his wealth, he lived simply and would often sleep, wrapped in a blanket, on the sand of the mosque.
  • Uthman gave freely from his wealth to please God and His messenger Muhammad.

Death of Caliph Uthman

  • The final six years of Uthman’s caliphate were marked with rebellion.
  • Some of the governors that had he had been appointed were rebellious and to some extent unjust.
  • In this way, the seed of hatred and discontent spread and many Muslims began to love luxuries.
  • Conspiracies arose and it was difficult for Uthman to differentiate between friends from hypocrites.
  • He was reluctant to shed the blood of any Muslim and preferred to persuade with kindness.
  • The rebels called for Uthman to step down and indeed many of the companions advised him to do so.
  • He however remained true to his covenant of serving the Muslims but his enemies laid a siege at his house for a period of forty days.
  • The rebels broke into his house and murdered him.
  • As the assassin’s sword struck, Uthman was reciting the following verse. “So God will suffice for you against them. And He is the All Hearer and the All Knower.” [Q 2:137]
  • Such was the tragic end of one of the most pious, kind and selfless men in Islam.

Achievements of Caliph Uthman

  • He narrated many Hadith directly from the Prophet and was one of very few scribes who were able to write down Qur’an.
  • He participated in all battles except the battle of Badr and in the battle of Uhud he, together with Ikrama bin Abu Jahal counter attacked the enemies.
  • He made the army that was established by Umar (RA) more progressive by introducing subsistence allowance, separating the military from general administration, increased the military barracks and appointed permanent army officers.
  • Uthman also participated in the migration to Madina and here he assisted Prophet Muhammad in establishing the Muslim nation. Prophet Muhammad even referred to him as his assistant.
  • He constructed checkpoints, caravan inns and water fountains and improved the roads, leading to the capital to improve infrastructure built canals in Egypt to improve Agriculture.
  • He sent prominent companions of Prophet Muhammad, as his personal deputies to the provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the conditions of the people.
  • He equipped the Muslim fighters during the expedition of Tabuk.
  • He united Damascus, Jordan and Palestine into one Province under one governor for easier administration.
  • He divided then empire into twelve provinces with more than 100 districts.
  • He gave governors written appointment letters and a code of conduct for their service.
  • Uthman reminded the armies to follow the clear guidelines set down by Umar ibn Al Khattab and asked them never to forget that they were defending the believers.
  • Markets were constructed and market officers appointed to maintain security and order.
  • He extended the conquest campaigns started by Caliph Umar (RA) to expand the Islamic empire. This included parts of Spain, Morocco, and Afghanistan.
  • Uthman took the initiative to standardize the Qur’an. He ordered some of the most trusted companions to make these copies and sent five copies to the provinces.
  • Because of the new conquests and expansion of the empire, the wealth in Baitul Maal increased and Uthman decided to raise the allowances of the people to 100 dirhams and doubled the share of the Prophet’s wife. He even permitted people to take loans from the Baitul Maal to boast their trade.

Contributions of Uthman (RA) towards Islam

  • He preached Islam during the early days especially to the prisoners of war and publicised Islam to the non Muslims.
  • More mosques were constructed in the empire during his time.
  • He was one of the scribes of the prophet and wrote many letters and memoranda.
  • Uthman also became a reference point for those trying to learn the rituals of worship. He understood and was able to instruct others in the rituals of ablution, prayer, and other Islamic obligations.

Caliph Ali Bin Abi Talib [The fourth Caliph]

  • After the death of Uthman (RA), the caliphate did not come to a standstill.
  • Caliph Ali bin Abi Talib was born on 13 Rajab/ 17th of March in the year 600 AD in Makkah.
  • Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) named him Ali meaning “The exalted one”.
  • He belonged to the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe.
  • He was given the title Haydar which means lion and at the advent of Islam, he was referred to as Assadullah which means the lion of Allah (SWT).
  • This is because he was brave and ready to defend the religion of Allah (SWT).
  • Ali was a son to Fatima bint Asad and Abu Talib, the prophet’s uncle; and therefore a first cousin of the Prophet (PBUH).
  • When Ali was five or six years old, a famine occurred in and around Makkah, affecting the economic conditions of Ali's father, who had a large family to support.
  • The Prophet then took Ali into his home to raise him.
  • The Prophet (PBUH) loved 'Ali dearly and called him by many fond names.
  • Once the Prophet found him sleeping in the dust, he brushed off 'Ali's clothes and said fondly, "Wake up, Abu Turab (Father of dust)."
  • Later on Ali married the Prophet’s youngest daughter, Fatimah, and remained in close association with him for nearly thirty years.

Conversion to Islam

  • Ali was ten years old when the Divine Message came to Muhammad (PBUH) who then started preaching Islam.
  • We have earlier mentioned that Ali was raised in the household of the Prophet.
  • One night he saw the Prophet and his wife Khadijah bowing and prostrating.
  • He was eager and inquired from the Prophet about the meaning of these actions.
  • The Prophet told him that they were praying to Allah (SWT) Most High and that he too should accept Islam.
  • Ali said that he would first like to ask his father about it.
  • He spent a sleepless night thinking about it, and in the morning he went to the Prophet and said, "When God created me He did not consult my father, so why should I consult my father in order to serve God?" and he accepted the truth of Muhammad's message.
  • Caliph Ali readily accepted Islam without questioning and became the first male convert to Islam and the second one after Khadija.
  • Before his conversion to Islam, he had never bowed down to the idols as the other young men of his time did.
  • This earned him the title Karama –llah-Wajhi, which means ‘May Allah (SWT) Honor his face.
  • He married Fatima, the daughter of the prophet, who bore him three sons namely, Hassan, Hussein and Muhsin and two daughters, Zainab and Ummul Kulthum.
  • Ali (RA) also married other wives and had many other children.

His companionship to the prophet

  • In the first three years, Muhammad (PBUH) invited people to Islam in secret, and then he started preaching publicly.
  • Allah (SWT) then commanded him to invite his closer relatives come to Islam thus;"And warn thy nearest relatives" [Q 26:214].
  • He gathered the Banu Hashim clan in a ceremony and announced at invitational events that whoever assisted him in his invitation would become his brother, trustee and successor.
  • Ali, who was thirteen or fourteen years old is the only one who stepped forward to help him.
  • This invitation was repeated three times, but Ali was the only person who answered to the Prophet’s call.
  • During the persecution of the Muslims, Ali stood firmly in support of the Prophet.
  • He was as well among the Muslims who stood firmly with the Prophet during the Boycott of the Banu Hashim.
  • He slept in the bed of the Prophet when the Quraysh planned to murder Muhammad.
  • At the same time, the Prophet entrusted him with the valuables that had been given to him for safekeeping, to be returned to their owners when he left Makkah.
  • Ali migrated to Madina shortly after the Prophet’s Hijra. Once there, the Prophet told Ali that Allah (SWT) had ordered him to marry off his daughter.
  • While in Madina, he was among the key supporters of the Prophet and had the following contributions:
    • During the construction of the first mosque, he fully participated by
      fetching bricks, mud until the exercise was complete.
    • Ali was extremely active in his service, leading parties of fighters in
      battles, and carrying messages and orders.
    • Ali took part in the early caravan raids from Makkah and later in almost all the battles fought by the small Muslim community with great distinction, particularly in the expeditions of Khaybar.
    • During the expedition of Tabuk, he was left behind to take care of the Prophet’s family.
    • He was among the flag bearers of the Muslims, took part in the duel, and killed his opponent, Walid bin Utba, during the battle of Badr.
    • In the Battle of 'Uhud he sustained more than sixteen wounds. In this battle, he also had the special role of protecting Muhammad when most of the Muslim army fled from the battle field and it was said "There is no brave youth except Ali and there is no sword which renders service except Zulfiqar- referring to the sword owned by Ali."
    • He was the flag bearer during the expedition of the Banu Nadhir, Banu Quraiz and Banu Sad
    • He was commander of the Muslim army in the battle of Khaybar.
      Following this battle the Prophet (P.B.U.H) gave Ali the name Asadullah, which in Arabic means "Lion of Allah (SWT)".
    • Ali also defended Muhammad in the Hunain in 630 CE.
    • He was instructed to write down the Treaty of Hudaibiyya, in 628 CE.
    • He was also among the scribes of the Prophet and acted as his personal secretary. The Prophet would always call upon him to bring the pen and the inkpot whenever there was new revelation.
    • As Islam began to spread throughout Arabia, Ali helped establish the new Islamic community through educating those who embraced Islam.
    • As a close friend of the Prophet, he supported him during difficulty and in sickness and took part in the preparation for his burial.
    • He assisted in the cleansing of the Kaaba during the conquest of Makkah.
    • Ali was so reliable and trustworthy that Muhammad asked him to carry the messages and declare the orders.

Election as a Caliph

  • After 'Uthman's martyrdom, the office of the Caliphate remained vacant for about three days which were marked by chaos which were led by Abdallah bin Saba’, the leader of the hypocrites.
  • Many people including Abdallah bin Saba’ insisted that 'Ali should take up the office, but he was disheartened by the fact that the people who pressed him hardest were the rebels, and he therefore declined at first.
  • He proposed Taalha bin Ubaidullah and Zubeir bin Awwam.
  • When the notable Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) urged him, however, he finally agreed and was sworn in on 21st of Dhul Hijja 35 AH.
  • Majority of Muslims in Madina pledged their support for him.

Ali's Caliphate

  • As mentioned previously, 'Ali accepted the caliphate very reluctantly.
  • Uthman's murder and the events surrounding it became a cause, of civil strife.
  • 'Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to incompetence among governors.
  • He therefore decided to dismiss all the governors who had been appointed by 'Uthman and instead, appointed new ones.
  • All the governors accepted to step down except Muawiyah, the governor of Syria.
  • He claimed that he would only step down after Uthman’s murderers had been punished.
  • The Prophet's widow 'A'isha (RA) also took the position that 'Ali should first bring the murderers to trial.
  • Due to the chaotic conditions during the last days of 'Uthman caliphate, it was very difficult to establish the identity of the murderers, and 'Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not lawfully proved, thus a battle between the army of 'Ali and the supporters of 'A'isha (RA) took place.
  • This is the battle called Camel.

Challenges faced by Ali (RA) when he took over as caliph.

  • We learnt in the previous section of this chapter that caliph Uthman was martyred.
  • It is definite that any empire which loses its leader through such means will be faced with rage, riot and calls for revenge and punishment.
  • The death of Uthman therefore possed the following challenges to the new caliph, who was Ali (RA):
    • Establishing the Islamic state and providing a strong political leadership. He had to appoint Qaiys bin Sad as the governor of Egypt who then decided to support Muawiya, the rival of Ali (RA). Ali’s intervention led him to resign so Ali (RA) had to appoint the young and incompetent Muhammad bin Abubakar. This lead to the Egyptian’s rebellion and he lost his hold of Egypt.
    • Avenging the death of Uthman. He was compelled to bring to book the killers of Uthman (RA). This was difficult since the only witness, Naila, Uthman’s wife only saw Mohammad bin Abubakar who did not physically kill the Caliph.
    • Refusal of some Ummayad governors like Muawiyya to step down.
    • Some companions like Zubeir failed to pledge loyalty to him.
    • ivil wars like the battles of camel and siffin, which came about when Aisha (RAA) and Muawwiya demanded that the murderers of Uthman should pay blood money.
    • The trick played by Amr bin Al ‘as during the battle of Siffin weakened his control of the caliphate even though he did not step down.
    • The split of Ali’s army to form the Khawarij made the caliph to lose most of his supporters.
    • Because of constant revolts from the Kharijite, Ali (RA) had to face them in the battle of Nahrawan.


The Battle of Camel (35 AH/656 CE)

  • Aisha (RA), the widow of the Prophet was on her way to Madina from performing Hajj when the news of Uthman’s murder reached her.
  • She then decided to go back to Makkah and call for support from the Makkans to avenge the murders of Uthman.
  • He received support from key leaders like Marwan ibn al Hakam, Talha bin Ubaidullah, Zubeir bin Awwam,Yaala bin Mubaddah among others.
  • Aisha (RA) then set out with a large army of about two thousand soldiers.
  • On the other hand, Ali moved to Basra with his army in defense.
  • He tried to send groups to peacefully negotiate and all was fine until Abdallah bin Saba’ incited his followers to make secret attacks during the night to Aisha’s army.
  • This sent a wrong signal of betrayal on the side of Ali’s army.
  • A fight finally broke out and Aisha was riding on the back of a camel thus the battle is referred to as ‘The battle of camel.’
  • Ali’s army won the battle leaving close to ten thousand Muslims dead.
  • Both Talha bin Ubaidullah and Zubeir bin Awam were killed in this battle while Aisha was taken as a captive and sent to Madina.
  • She later realized her error of judgment and never forgave herself for it.

The Battle of Siffin

  • The situation in Hijaz, which included Makkah and Madina, became so troubled that 'Ali moved his capital to Iraq.
  • Muawiyah now openly rebelled against 'Ali.
  • Caliph Ali then moved with his army towards Syria in order to bring it under his control.
  • Together with him was an army of fifty thousand men.
  • This army camped at a place called Siffin then Ali sent out three men to go and peacefully negotiate with the army of Muawiyya.
  • Muawiyya refused to accept any amicable solution before the murderers of Uthman (RA) had been punished.
  • There was unrest during the following month which prompted Ali to send another emissary led by Adi ibn Hatim to reach an agreement with Muawiyya’s army.
  • The same response as earlier was given and a fierce battle ensued between their armies.
  • Muawiyyas army comprised of eighty thousand men.
  • This is called the battle of Siffin.
  • The battle continued for eight days and the side of Ali was emerging victorious.
  • Muawiyya then asked for the opinion of Amr bin al ‘Aas, one of his commanders.
  • Amr suggested to his army to attach copies of the Qur’an on their spears as they
    shouted ‘let the Qur’an decide.’
  • The fight was then stopped for some time.
  • All this while, almost seventy thousand people had died.
  • Finally the two sides agreed to have arbitration.

The Arbitration

  • They appointed an arbitrator from each side.
  • Ali’s side at first appointed Abdallah ibn Abbas, but the Sabites claiming that he was a relative of Caliph Ali (RA) rejected him.
  • They then proposed Abu Musa Al ‘Ashari who was accepted by all.
  • Muawiyya’s side chose the shrewd Amr bin Al ‘Aas
  • The two arbitrators together with four hundred men from each side met at a place
    called Damatul Jandal situated between Iraq and Syria in the month of Shaaban, AH, six months after the battle had stopped.
  • They then agreed on the following:
    • Both Ali and Muawiyya should withdraw their right to the Caliphate position.
    • The Muslims should appoint a third party as the Caliph.
  • Amr bin Al ‘Aas then asked Abu Musa Al Ashari to start by publicly denouncing the
    candidature of Ali.
  • After this announcement, there was more confusion and conflict within the army of Ali.
  • Some people felt that Ali had deceived them and withdrew their support for him.
  • This group formed the Khawarij (meaning those who went away, left, or decamped).
  • They had not been in favor of arbitration with Muawiyya’s side right from the first day.
  • They were about twelve thousand people and they moved to Nahrawan and started attacking small groups of Muslims and anyone who was supporting the Caliphate.
  • This further weakened Ali’s power and he started sending some companions to talk to them but they did not heed.
  • He then declared an amnesty on the group.
  • This forced three thousand of them to surrender.
  • He then sent troops to fight the remaining rebels until the group completely disintegrated and some ran to Bahrain.
  • Even though the Ali's caliphate was marred with civil strife, he introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and collecting of revenues.

Death of Caliph Ali (RA)

  • It was the fortieth year of Hijrah.
  • The fanatical group called the Khawarij, claimed that neither 'Ali, the Caliph, nor Muawiyah, the ruler of Syria, nor 'Amr ibn al-'As, the ruler of Egypt, were worthy of rule.
  • In fact, they went as far as saying that the true Caliphate had ended with Umar (RA) and that Muslims should live without any ruler over them except Allah (SWT).
  • They vowed to kill all the three leaders, and dispatched assassins in three directions.
  • They then chose on three people to carry out the task.
  • The three were:
    • Amr bin Bakr was to kill Amr bin Al A’ as.
    • Barrak bin Abdullah was appointed to kill Muawiyya.
    • AbdulRahman Ibn Muljim was to kill Ali (RA).
  • The assassins who were deputed to kill Muawiyah and 'Amr did not succeed and were captured and executed, but AbdulRahman Ibn-Muljim, the assassin who was commissioned to kill 'Ali, accomplished his task.
  • One morning when 'Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Abdulrahman Ibn Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword.
  • Abdulrahman ibn Muljim was arrested and killed.
  • On the 20th of Ramadhan, 40AH, three days later, Ali (RA) died ending the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam.

Achievements of Caliph Ali (RA)

  • He was among the best scribes of the prophet and played a key role in the compilation and standardization of the Qur’an.
  • He participated in the battles that took place during the prophet’s time in defense of Islam.
  • He laid a foundation of intellectualism by being one of the most learned people at his time.
  • He personally protected the Prophet during times of danger.
  • He was devoted in the course of Allah (SWT) and on the forefront in the spread of Islam and very knowledgeable in both Qur’an and Hadith.
  • He was a good administrator, used to send inspection teams to the provinces, and would take stern measures on those found misusing state funds. For example, he pressurized Masqala to repay the money he had loaned from the Baitul Maal.
  • He introduced new forms of taxation on forestry and horses to increase the state revenue. He raised 400,000 dirhams from the forestry taxes; however, he was considerate and did not force the poor to pay taxes.
  • He was highly experienced in war and came up with new strategies in the army like constructing border posts along the borders of Syria, a safe and strong fortress to protect women and children.
  • He constructed a new bridge along river Euphrates.
  • He was one of the members of the shura committee during the time of the first three Khalifas and helped in making key decisions in the empire and supported them in administration.
  • He took charge of the Muslim empire during the time of hardship and civil strife and struggled to ensure there was calm and peace.

Spread of Islam in East Africa

Condition of East Africa before the Advent of Islam

  • The east coast of Africa lies between Sofala and Mogadishu which is a stretch of 3000km.
  • It has inlets and deep harbor, with reefs where boats can easily anchor.
  • There are a number of islands such vas Zanzibar, Pemba, Lamu Mombasa, Pate etc.
  • The East Africa coast stretches from Pate to Kilwa islands.
  • Its inhabitants were Bantus who had migrated from Central Africa to a place called Shungwaya before they dispersed to other areas of the coast.
  • They had well organized economic, social and political activities determined by the Coastal setting and Geographical features.
  • They engaged in farming, fishing, keeping domestic animals among other activities.
  • They were the followers of African Indigenous Religion with most of them having belief in their ancestral gods.
  • They performed rituals to appease their gods.
  • Their social lives combined holistic elements of a community enshrined in the rites of passage like marriage, circumcision among others. 

The Early Visitors along the East of Africa

  • There are many factors that attracted the early visitors to the East Coast of Africa.
    • The presences of the natural harbors made it easy for the early visitors to
      settle at the coast.
    • Availability of clean and fresh water and adequate food supply to secure
      their stay.
    • The natural hospitality of the inhabitants of the East African Coast gave
      them security and encouraged good social relationship.
  • Other than the East African Coast providing safe grounds for the settlers, they too had their own reasons for coming to the coast.
  • Among these groups are;
    • Greeks: They originated from the Mediterranean where they had gained maximum control of the trade in the Sea. They traded in oriental goods like weapons, cloths, in exchange for palm oil, rhinoceros horns, ivory, slaves, cinnamon, frankincense, Arabic gum, tortoise shells and live animals from the East African inhabitants.
    • Sumerians: originated from the Persian Gulf where the first ship building industry started. They pioneered the sea route-trade and gained access to the Indian Ocean.
    • Serbians: The Serbians had a large kingdom in Yemen and used the seasonal monsoon winds to travel regularly to and from the East Africa, especially Zanzibar. They took control of the passage from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean; around 1 BC they regulated the Indian Ocean from Sindh (now in Pakistan) and the Persian Gulf. It was the same time that the trade entered the flow in Zanzibar islands.
    • Other early visitors to the East African coast were the Phoenicians, from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. They reached Zanzibar and Kilwa in about 1000 BC on their way to Sofala, in Mozambique for gold, silver and ivory. About 600 BC, a Phoenician fleet sailed the south part of Zanzibar and navigated Africa before returning to the Mediterranean, three years later.
    • About 526 BC when the Persians conquered Egypt, they opened the access to the Red Sea. After the decline of Greek domination, Persia again became the strongest naval power on the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar. Despite the Arab settlement in the coast of East Africa, the Persians continued to trade through the upheaval.
    • In the sixteenth century, the coast was open to Europeans when the Portuguese established a base in Mombasa as part of the sea route to India. They came mainly to conquer and spread Christianity. We shall study more about the Portuguese rule along the East African Coast later in this chapter.

Sources of Historical Information

  • Through the chronicles kept in some Muslim states. These records give the name of some of the ruling dynasties for example the chronicles of Kilwa that gives the names of the Sultans who ruled the states and some of the events that took place there.
  • Some writings of the Arab Geographers who visited the Coast like Al Masoud who wrote that there lived some people at the Coast who spoke Swahili and traded with the visitors in Ivory and other trade goods.
  • Great Historians like Idris also left behind important writings giving an account of the lives of the people of Mombasa, Barawa, Zanzibar, and Mogadishu.
  • Other early dated monuments indicate the presence of the settlers at the coast. This is in the Great Mosque of Mogadishu built in 1238 and the mosque of Fakhr al-Din in 1269 both in Somalia, Kufic inscription in the Kizimkazi Mosque in Zanzibar dated to 1107 CE and the fort Jesus in Kenya 1593 CE.
  • There are also various early accounts by travelers. In 1531, Ibn Battuta visited the coast. He travelled as far south as Kilwa in southern Tanzania and described the people and buildings of the coast. For example, he said that the Sultan of Mogadishu was Abubakar bin Omar and that merchants inhabited the city. In the early fourteenth century, a Chinese embassy visited and described the coast.
  • The Coastal traditions and legends also provide information about the leaders found at the coast.
  • Archeological studies from the excavation of the ruins like the Gedi and most recent, Shanga in Kenya give information about the coast. We get evidence of the Islamic culture present at the coast through the of house hold items such as Arab glass ware, jewelry, Arabic architecture among others.

Early Muslim settlers and the formation of city-states along the East Coast of Africa

  • We have learnt that some of the reasons for the coming of the Arabs were due to internal disputes in Arabia.
  • Most of the groups refused to submit to the leaders of the time and therefore had to find new homes and permanent settlement.
  • The East African coast became strategic for them because of the already established social interaction, closeness and trade relationship.
  • This among other reasons facilitated the emergence of city-states along the East coast of Africa.
  • City-states were independent territories governed by sultans and were therefore centers for administration and trade.
  • These states evolved from agricultural villages that produced goods on a small scale.
  • Over time, these villages intensified their small-scale agricultural economies to create surpluses for trading.
  • The city-states spread along the shores of the Indian Ocean at the East coast of Africa.
  • They included Pate, Lamu, Kilwa, Sofala, Malindi, Mombasa, Banadir, Barawa, Mogadishu, Comoro, Pemba and Zanzibar.
  • Apart from the groups we have mentioned, other settlers who came to the East African coast were Muslims.
  • Most of these groups migrated from Arabia to the East Coast of Africa because of religious and political factors.
  • Thirty years after the death of the prophet, there broke a civil strife in Arabia and Iraq.
  • Many Muslims fled their homes seeking Shelter and`refuge.
  • These people had known the sea routes to the East African Coast before and travelled back and forth.
  • Most of them therefore ended up in the East African Coast.
  • Let us now closely look at some of these groups:

1. The two brothers from Oman

  • These were SuleIman and said who refused to submit to the rule of the Umayyads at the time of Abdul Malik bin Marwan in Damascus.
  • They ran away from their homes and sailed to the shores of the East African Coast together with their families and supporters.
  • They landed at Pate Island in Lamu and settled there.

2. The people of al-Hassa

  • These were Arabs from al Hassa region in Persia.
  • They arrived in Banadir in the 10th century.
  • They were however pushed southwards by the Amu Zaid group.
  • They ended up forming the cities of Mogadishu and Barawa.

3. Amu Zaid group

  • They came from Iraq after the rebellion that took place during the time of Caliph of Hisham in 724 C.E.
  • They started the Zaid sect whose followers had already left in 710 C.E and settled in Banadir and Mogadishu.

4. The Shirazi group (975 C.E )

  • The family left Shiraz for the East African Coast in the 10th C.
  • They landed at several places along the coast and settled in Mombasa, Pemba, Kilwa and Comoros Island.
  • The Shiraz group founded the Zenj Empire.
  • They included Hassan bin Ali and his six sons.

The role of the City States in the spread of Islam along the East African Coast

  • Visitors who came to the East African Coast settled in the city states located along the Coastal stretch of East Africa.
  • The inhabitants of these city states, who were mostly Muslims, welcomed visitors and this facilitated the spread of Islam.
  • These city states played the following roles:
    • They provided clean water and adequate food supply for the visitors. These encouraged them to stay and attracted more Arabs to visit them.
    • There natural harbors enabled their ships to dock as they came with the
      trade goods.
    • They provided a safe and secure environment for the Arab to stay in. The local leaders ensured that the Arabs were not attacked nor their trade caravans robbed. The presence of such security provided a peaceful atmosphere for the spread of Islam.
    • Being centrally placed close to the interior made it possible for the Arabs to get the trade commodities. The people from the interior would bring their valuable trade goods like ivory and gold in the city-states.
    • They provided resting places for the Arabs as they came from their homes. The Arabs could spend some time in these places thus spreading
    • They provided storage facilities for the Arab traders when they came with their goods or whenever they were going back to their homes.

The Swahili

  • We are all aware that Kiswahili is a language spoken and studied as a subject in the Kenya curriculum.
  • It is also a National and an official language in Kenya according to the new Constitution, promulgated in 2010.
  • You will realize that many people along the coast of East Africa speak Kiswahili.
  • These groups of people came to settle along the coast from Shungwaya, which is to the East of Somalia.
  • Among these groups were the called ‘Wangozi.’
  • They settled in the Northern parts of Kenya but were displaced by tribes like Pokomo, Rendile and Somalis and forced to move southwards.
  • They are Wangozi; from the word ‘Ngozi’, that means ‘skin.’
  • This is because they used skin to make clothing, bedding, containers and ropes and measured their pieces of land using it.
  • When the early visitors came to the East African Coast, they were able to interact with the ‘Wangozi’ and the other Bantu speaking tribes.
  • The Arabs were among the early visitors who came to the coast in the 7th century.
  • They described the East African coast as ‘Sahil’, which in Arabic means ‘south coast.’
  • Its plural, ‘Sawahil’ meaning ‘the vast coast line.’
  • It is also believed that when the Arabs asked the inhabitants of this area who they were, the inhabitants responded that they were ‘Watu wa Siwa Hili.’
  • This is the origin of the co notated word ‘Waswahili’ that is composed of two words, siwa (Meaning big Island) and hili (meaning ‘this’).
  • The word therefore means ‘people of this island.’
  • Another meaning is believed to have come from the response of the inhabitants to the question by saying they were,‘Watu wa Ziwa Hili’.
  • ‘Ziwa’ meant the vast water body, referring to people inhabiting along the mass water body, referring to the ocean.
  • Therefore, Waziwahili later co notated to Waswahili.
  • In addition, the language they spoke was “Kiswahili.’
  • The interaction between the Coastal natives and the Arabs and Persians further contributed to the cultural infusion among the Waswahili and numerous loan words to Kiswahili language.

The Portuguese in East Africa

  • The King of Portugal in the year 1492, Phillip (II) sent Vasco da Gama to find an alternative sea rout to India.
  • He had to go round the Cape of Good Hope since the Portuguese were not in good terms with the Arabs and the Byzantine Empire.
  • He arrived in Mozambique in 1498 but was not welcomed and set out for Mombasa where he arrived on fourth of April the same year.
  • The people of Mombasa did not welcome him and he therefore proceeded to Malindi where he was warmly welcomed by the Sultan and shown the sea route to India.
  • After discovering this sea route, the Portuguese took control measures to safe guard it.
  • Moreover, this allowed the Portuguese to directly trade with the Far East through the sea.
  • The presence of many Arabs and Muslims at the Coast did not amuse Vasco Dagama and he reported this to his country.

Reasons why the Portuguese came to the East African Coast

  • After the exploration of Vasco Dagama to the East African Coast, the Portuguese put their focus on the East African Coast.
  • Among the early visitors from Portugal was Alfonso De Albuquerque, send as a viceroy in Goa India, in 1501 and was to oversee the trade activities along the East African Coast.
  • Don Francisco De Almaida followed in 1505 and conquered Kilwa, an Island in Southern Tanzania, later Mombasa and Zanzibar.

Reasons that led to the coming of the Portuguese:

  • For trade expansion, they wanted to trade with the Africans at because they had commodities like ivory, which the Portuguese did not have.
  • Economic reasons, they had wanted to have a share in the profits from the trade that already existed. They wanted to control gold trade at Sofala, to obtain tribute and taxes and to get other goods like silk.
  • Political reasons; they wanted to conquer the East African Coast and have their rule established there.
  • They came to explore the unknown lands and navigate the untouched seas in East Africa.
  • They were anxious to prevent the Egyptians and Turks from sending help to their fellow Muslims on the Coast.
  • They wanted to make ports and calling stations along the coast where their ships would dock to obtain fresh food supplies.
  • Establish Christianity and counter spread of Islam.

Success of the Portuguese rule

  • When the Portuguese had taken control of the East African Coast, they put stringent measures to ensure they did not lose any part of it.
  • The following factors made them very successful in their rule:
    • They were technologically and militarily superior to the coastal people; they had bigger weapons, stronger ships, well-trained soldiers who used fire arms as opposed to the primitive weapons like bows and arrows used by Africans.
    • They were able to get reinforcement from their headquarters in Goa, India using the carracks.
    • They had an advantage of the control of the sea where they could attack without warning.
    • Their soldiers were employed on short-term basis and as such, each worked very hard to accomplish his term and go back home.
    • They had no rivals challenging them.
    • They built a fortress (Fort Jesus) to protect themselves.
    • They knew the modern fighting techniques.
    • The locals were ill equipped and did not have ships to carry their soldiers.
    • The local soldiers were inadequately trained to counter the Portuguese.
    • Local leaders of the towns along the East African Coast were not united i.e. Mombasa and Malindi.
    • The coastal allies in the Indian oceans like Turkey and Persia had a weak navy that could not match the Portuguese navy.

Methods taken by the Portuguese to establish their rule

  • They made the inhabitants pay heavy taxes.
  • They ruled by torture i.e. burnt down houses, looted the towns of Mombasa, Sofala.
  • They killed many Muslims.
  • They forced Muslims to convert to Christianity.
  • They interfered with the Indian Ocean Trade.

The results of the Portuguese rule

  • The Muslims hated the Portuguese because of their harsh rule.
  • These led to constant wars in the city-states.
  • The Muslims could not be able to match the Portuguese fighting skills.
  • They then sought assistance from the Oman Arabs to expel the Portuguese.
  • The sultan called lmam Seif bin Sultan agreed and sent a large expedition, which laid a siege on Mombasa town for three years.
  • The conditions at the Coast became unbearable.
  • The Portuguese could not access food and fresh water; there were outbreak of diseases like cholera.
  • Their movement was restricted and they could not go beyond the Fort.
  • This tortured them psychologically and they surrendered to the Sultan.
  • These harsh conditions, made the Portuguese lose hope of controlling the East African Coast and finally lost their strong position in Mombasa, Pemba and Kilwa.
  • By 1700 AD, the Portuguese had been completely expelled from the East African Coast, except Mozambique, which remained under their rule.
  • Sultan Seif appointed governors from the Mazrui family to rule over Mombasa, Pate and Zanzibar before returning to Oman.
  • He also asked the Nabhani family to rule the North Coast.

Contributions of Sayyid Said to the East African Coast

  • Sayyid Said became the ruler of Oman but later left to settle in Zanzibar in 1832.
  • He later made it the capital of his East Africa dominions.
  • His reign was a boom for the islands and brought developments as follows.
    • He increased the trade contact along the Coast and the merchants would travel into the interior to bring goods like skins, hides, ivory and slaves.
    • Zanzibar grew to be a great commercial center with many buildings and shops.
    • He encouraged farming by establishing clove plantations.
    • He encouraged the Indian moneylenders to settle at the coast and this boasted the trade activities.
    • The development of trade links with the interior led to good relations between the interior and the Coastal inhabitants like the Akamba and Mijikenda.
    • There was expansion of trade links between the East African Coast and Arabia.
    • His rule led to increased Arab settlement along the coast, which facilitated more and more of the Africans to convert to Islam.

Modes of Islamisation

  • We have mentioned earlier in this chapter that the Arabs encountered several challenges in their quest to spread Islam in the East African Coast.
  • However, some factors favored them and made their task easier.
  • Let us consider the following;
    • The construction of Kenya Uganda railway. This facilitated movement of both Arabs and the people in the interior in search of trade goods.
    • Due to such movements, the Arabs were able to settle interior areas like Kisumu and interacted with the local people thus spreading Islam. Some of the Asian workers constructing the railway line formed permanent settlement schemes after the construction of the railway line. These families were also instrumental in the spread of Islam as these areas attracted the more and more local people.
    • When the British arrived at the East African Coast they employed Muslims as Jumbes, Aqidas, as messengers, guards, cooks, tax collectors, interpreters and guides for the colonial government. This employment made them meet many people whom they taught about Islam.
    • Every community and religion has its own practices and traditions. The Africans, for example, practiced Polygamy. They also had their rites of passage. When the Arabs came to East Africa, many local tribes compared the Islamic practices to their own and they saw some resemblance and thus readily accepted Islam.
    • Islamic teachings like greetings, hospitality, and kindness among others also attracted the local people. This increased the number of converts among the people especially in the urban areas.
    • The main aim of the Arab’s visit to East African roast was trade. This made them establish trade links with the local people who included among others the Akamba in Kenya. The Arabs also engaged in slave trade and had links with the Wanyamwezi in Tanzania and the Waswahili of the Kenyan Coast. A majority of people during this period embraced Islam and in so doing were not sold as slaves.
    • Intermarriage between the Arabs and the local people resulted in families that practiced Islam.

Influence of Islam at the Coast

  • The Arabs brought Islam along the East African Coast.
  • We cannot therefore fail to mention the Arabs when we discussing the influence of Islam as a religion.
  • Let us now discus the following influence:

1. Conversion to Islam

  • The inhabitants of the East African Coast were followers of African Traditional Religions.
  • The Mijikenda, for example believed in a god called Mulungu.
  • However, through the influence of the Muslim Arabs lead to most of them converting to Islam.
  • Several mosques were constructed to facilitate the prayers as prescribed by the Islamic religion.

2. Material culture

  • Apart from the Arabs influencing the locals religiously, their material culture is reflected among the Africans.
  • This is evident in the use of Arabic architecture in the construction of mosques and houses.
  • Others include Islamic manners of dressing, for example, attire like the kanzu and buibui for men and women respectively.

3. Education

  • The Islamic form of education is witnessed in most of the areas that were exposed to the Arabs.
  • This include the Madrassa system, integrated schools which offer both Islamic Religious Studies and secular education, some schools offer their education programs for half a day .i.e. morning to noon.

4. Ruling families

  • Some of the areas in East Africa have witnessed Muslim rulers who have established ruling families for a long time.
  • When Sultan Seif of Oman was leaving, he left the Mazrui family in charge of Mombasa and Nabhani family at North Coast.
  • These families command respect have been influential at the coast up to date.

5. Language

  • Many people at the coast use Kiswahili as a mode of communication.
  • The Arabic language was also learnt in the Madrassa in order to facilitate communication with the Arab traders.
  • They encouraged the use of Kiswahili Language and did not replace it with their Arabic language.

6. Trade

  • With the interaction of the Arabs and the coastal peoples, trading activities flourished.
  • The natives facilitated the trade by bringing the trade goods from the interior to the coast.
  • Sometimes they accompanied the Arabs into the interior to guide them access the goods.
  • They engaged in economic activities such as fishing, and maritime.

7. Growth of city states

  • Urban centers developed due to the increase in trade activities along the coast of East Africa.
  • Most of the people moved from the interior to these flourishing centers.
  • These states provided amenities like mosques, libraries and madrassa’s.
  • Among these states include Kilwa, Sofala, Zanzibar

8. Emergence of the Swahili culture

  • The Swahili people had their own culture which was different from that of the local
  • They lived in Swahili villages which still exist at the Coast, in Tanganyika, Zanzibar among other areas.
  • These villages saw them living together as one united people under one religion of Islam.
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