Islamic Caliphates


Caliphate (“Khilafat” in Arabic) was a semi-religious political system of governance in Islam, in which the territories of the Islamic empire in the Middle East and North Africa and the people within were ruled by a supreme leader called Caliph (“Khalifa” in Arabic – meaning successor). Caliphs were initially the sole sovereigns of the empire left behind by Prophet Muhammad and added vast territories of surrounding rival empires to it. They were initially selected by a group of senior members of a primitive parliament who kept in mind the will of the people. The first four caliphs, who were nominated in such a way, are referred to as the Rashidun (rightly guided) caliphs by mainstream Sunni Muslims; Shia Muslims consider only Ali, the fourth one, to be legitimate and discard the claims of the first three by branding them as usurpers.

More about: Islamic Caliphates


  • 632
    Muhammad dies in Medina, not clearly naming a successor to lead the Muslim people.
  • 632 - 634
    Abu Bakr becomes the first caliph (successor to Muhammad) of the Rashidun Caliphate.
  • 634 - 644
    Umar ibn al-Khattab succeeds Abu Bakr, becoming the second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate.
  • 637
    Muslim invasion of the Levant. The Byzantines are driven out.
  • 644 - 656
    Uthman ibn 'Affan succeeds Umar to become the third caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate.
  • 651
    Arab Rashidun Caliphate conquers the Sasanian Empire.
  • 656 - 661
    Ali ibn Abi Talib succeeds Uthman to become the fourth and final caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate.
  • Oct 680
    Husayn ibn Ali, Shia Islam's third imam, is beheaded by Yazid I's force at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq.
  • 750
    Fall of the Umayyad Caliphate.
  • 750
    Start of the Abbasid Caliphate.
  • 756
    Abd al-Rahman I establishes the Emirate of Cordoba.
  • 909 - 1171
    Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt.
  • 1258
    The Mongols conquer the Abbasid Caliphate. During this campaign there is the infamous sacking of Baghdad and murder of the caliph.