Fighting Within and Without
Muhammad’s first successor, or caliph, was Alm Bala, one of his earliest followers. In 634, he was succeeded by Umar. In 644 Uthrnan succeeded him. He was succeeded by Ali, Fatima’s husband and Muhammad’s cousin in 656. Three of the first four caliphs were assassinated. Leaders of successful raids often aroused the jealousy of the Caliph. The caliphate was disbanded in 1924 when the Ottoman Empire fell.
Ali, who married Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, became the fourth caliph in 656. He was the first caliph the Shiites recognize. Ali was murdered and buried in Najaf, Iraq. The Shiites believe a pilgrimage to the shrine at his tomb is worth 100,000 martyrdoms and forgives present and past sins. His first son, Hassan, succeeded him. He had 60 wives and was poisoned, The Koran limits Muslim men to 4 wives, Sura 4:3.
In 680 Husain, Ali’s second son, and his entire family were brutally killed by Sunni forces. They placed his head on display in Damascus, and trampled his body by horses. Even today, Shiites observe the tenth day of Muhartan in remembrance of this event. His tomb at Kerbala has become a Shiite shrine. A pilgrimage there is said to have the value of 1000 pilgrimages to Mecca, 1000 martyrdoms, and 1000 days of fasting.
Islam was then spread by means of the sword more than ever. The second caliph, Umar, reigned 10 years. He defeated Syria, Jerusalem, Egypt, Persia, and Mesopotamia. The next two caliphs took parts of India, all of North Africa, and part of Europe. For 100 years the Muslims were unstoppable. No religion has spread as fast in its first 100 years as Islam.