The Righteous Caliphs period. Rule of those who were promised heaven.
Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali were personally designated by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as "caliphs who were on the straight path, held tightly to truth and justice, and attained perfection." It was a period of rule founded with the compelling power of a religion that first conquered Arabia and then, opening the doors of three continents, presented the opportunity for being located in the center of the world.
The period of these four great caliphs does not take its unique place in Islamic history due to the experience of its thirty-year reign, but its rich heritage that combined exemplar personalities who displayed asceticism and piety and spiritual elevation with material prosperity. Because with the accumulation of every step taken and every action made during this period the prophetic experience was transferred to life; in a sense it was a new experiment in real life conditions. Consequently, it is considered as a "proof" by Muslims. With this characteristic, the period of the four great caliphs forms the locomotive power of 14 centuries of Islamic culture and civilization and it is read about again and again in every era by distressed Muslims.
Actually the reign of the Righteous Caliphs is a period that naturally appeared together with the Prophet's death to fill the vacuum at the point of implementing the religious principles he had conveyed. However, much beyond this, conditions and the power of faith presented to this reign of power that was built with the spirit of the Prophet, a historical opportunity that would change the fate of the old world. While catching the opportunity to rule the possessors of ancient traditions, on the one hand, the people who have just emerged internal account-taking shoulder the responsibility of being an example for Muslim societies who will live until Doomsday, on the other hand.
History demanded that urgent solutions be produced for matters that had accumulated together with the acceptance of a new religion by peoples who had been nourished for centuries by cultures like the Persian and Byzantine. For geographical regions that had long since expanded beyond the barren Arabian borders were now being ruled. Everyday a new society was being renewed with an Islamic identity. People who had begun to spread this new religion, sparked in the Arabian Peninsula, in all four directions were returning to their homelands with a heavy human heritage in their saddlebags representing different religions, languages, cultures and traditions. Arising a region that had no state tradition, this power's becoming master in a short time in the dominant centers of civilization at that time drove them to live under the roof of a single state that demanded political, economic, social and cultural unity. The duty of rewriting the history of the former world populations whose destiny had changed fell largely to these four great sahaba as leaders of this new state. For destiny placed the duty of rightly understanding the last prophet and conveying his message to mankind on the shoulders of these caliphs.
Advancing towards Syria, Palestine, North Africa, Khorasan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Anatolian land in order to convey the transformation they had experienced to mankind, this volunteer army became a vehicle for the birth of a human heritage that was kneaded a single essence even if it included different interpretations. The small Islamic state born in Medina emerged this process as a great power that encompassed different geographical areas and societies. The experience put forth left a rich prescription to all believers that would illuminate 14 centuries. Every word, every step and every practice of Prophet Muhammad and every act that he approved or disapproved of became an example for Muslims who make decisions under changing circumstances. In a sense, Islam became a universal language in the hands of its practitioners. Thus, close to individuals and societies and aware of the necessities of practical life, this religion d one more of its miracles.
Meanwhile, the sahaba who had lined up in a row behind him in the Prophet's masjid were leaving this world one by one. In time, those who understood Muhammad best and were purified with his morality continued to decrease in number. Naturally, new methods and practices developed to keep religious principles in tact under changing world conditions. For these reasons, dispersed verses of the Quran were gathered together and written down, and the institution of jurisprudence was established based on opinion (vote).
Undoubtedly, under changing conditions differences appeared when interpreting practices and principles recommended by the Quran and the Prophet's sunnah. Equipped with different capabilities, each of the four caliphs brought a different perspective to ruling and the society and his priorities could change. In this respect, during the reigns of the four caliphs rather than seeing an unchangeable ideal social order, it is necessary to realize that Islam can have different interpretations and that these are acceptable when made with piety.
The period of the Righteous Caliphs includes events that have saddened all Muslims throughout history. Umar ibn Hattab, Zinnureyn Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu Talip all drank the sherbet of martyrdom during this period. Muslims fought with one another at the battles of the Camel and Siffon. Believers witnessed discord in the caliphate of Uthman. The first seeds of separation sown between the Khawarijis and the Muslim community were witnessed; also the first nucleus of the Shiite-Sunni schism appeared during this period. The Islamic society was tested during this first period, giving a lesson to all believers who would face this test until Doomsday. With the reign of these pious caliphs, they were taught that the world will not be cleansed of all evil and that the ideal should not be sought only in a state order that will be established in this world.
While the rule of those promised heaven emphasizes the importance of determination and sincerity in reaching the ideal, it also teaches being tolerant on the subject of differences. While giving the message that religion is not conformist in regard to forms, concerning the subject of the world order, it presents believers with rich options appropriate to every nature and temperament with which to build sound bridges with the Creator.