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Caliphate - 1 Leadership through Unified Agreement Rebecca...

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Leadership through Unified Agreement Rebecca Ney IMES 104a Throughout Muslim tradition, leaders were expected to be generous and charismatic, and wisdom was valued over treasure, and these attributes instilled respect within his followers. This notion of leadership was further cemented after Muhammad’s death. The caliphate had come into existence by “the consensus of the men around Muhammad” and the caliph was the chief executive of the umma. 1 The caliph was not a religious leader but a leader of a religious community. 2 During the time of Muhammad the method of unified agreement was practiced in order to decide the necessity and position of the caliphate in general—this system was directly influenced by Muhammad and therefore God. In turn, the Sunni method of succession most similarly and successfully employs this method through their notion of an election committee, and is therefore most representative of the ideal Islamic way. History is not nearly as straightforward as this in deciding the most Islamic, correct method for the succeeding rulers after Muhammad. The Muslim community became divided into three forceful sects over this issue. The Kharijites believed that the leader of the Muslim community could be any good Muslim, even a slave, provided he has the community's support yet must live completely free from sin. The Sunni’s believe that the caliphs are in charge politically and militarily but did not succeed Muhammad’s religious authority. 3 Conversely, Shiite leadership of the Muslim community is vested in the Imam who, though not a prophet, is the divinely inspired, religio-political leader of the community, and most importantly, he must be the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Ali. 4 The fundamental difference between Sunni and Shii Muslims is the Shii doctrine of the imamate as distinct from the Sunni Caliphate. 5 While these Arabic- speaking populations were united under a common language and a common kinship, 6 1 Peters, F.E. A Reader on Classical Islam . Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey, 1994. 121 2 Peters, 121 3 Esposito, 43 4 Esposito, 43 5 Ahmed, Akbar S. Islam Today. I.B. Taurus, 1999. 44 6 Kennedy, 16 1
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there was no central political and religious administration to maintain and develop this foundation. This began with Muhammad’s death as the vast majority of Muslims, Sunnis, believe that he died without designating his replacement or establishing a system for the selection of his successor, and in doing so left it up to the community to decide upon their leader. 7 The historical story continues that in 632 the elders or leaders of Medina selected Abu Bakr, the prophet’s father-in-law as caliph. Abu Bakr was respected for his sagacity and piety, and because he was a close companion of Muhammad.
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