Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All In The Family

The first and second successors to the Prophet Muhammad were his father in laws, while the third and fourth were his son in laws. 

The first successor, Abu Bakar Abi Quhafah, was not only the Prophet bosom friend, but also his father in law, because Abu Bakar was the father of Aisyah.  The second successor, Umar al Khattab, was the father of Hafsah, another wife of the Prophet.   Hence, Umar too was the Prophet's father in law. 

The third successor, Uthman Affan, became the Prophet's son in law because Uthman married two of the Prophet's daughters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthoom.  He married Ruqayyah first, and then Umm Kulthoom after Ruqayyah died.  The fourth successor, Ali Abu Talib, was not only the Prophet's son in law, but also a cousin to the Prophet.  He even grew up in the Prophet's household, as the Prophet grew up in the household of Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle who happened to be Ali's father.

These four successors were known in the annal of Islamic history as the rightly guided caliphs.

After that the caliphate turned into dynasties, beginning with the Umayyid dynasty and followed by the Abbasid dynasty.  Still, the founders of these dynasties are those closely related to the Prophet. 

As for the first, it was founded by Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan.  Muawiyah was the brother of Umm Habibah, one of the Prophet's wives, who was the daughter of Abu Sufyan.  He was therefore the Prophet's brother in law. 

The second dynasty was founded by Abu Abbas as Saffah and his older brother Abu Ja'far al Mansur, the descendants of Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib.  Abbas was none other than the Prophet's uncle.

This group of people who are closely linked with the Prophet had led the Islamic world with an almost absolute control for more that three hundreds years: about 30 years during the rightly guided caliph, about 90 years of the Ummayid dynasty and the first 200 years of the Abbasid caliphate. 

The Abbasid dynasty did not end until 1517, when the caliphate was transferred to the Ottoman family, but after the first 200 years, the family's control on the empire was very much weakened.  After the Mongols razed Baghdad to the ground in 1258, the Abbasid dynasty moved to Cairo, Egypt.  By then, their control was merely symbolic, since the family did not hold any political power at all. 

After the Abbasid dynasty, the caliphate moved to the Ottoman or Uthmaniyyah dynasty, which dominated the Islamic World until WWI in 1917.  Some sources said that the dynasty, which is not of Arab stock, but Turkic, derived its name from Uthman, the third caliph.  It is alleged that one of the descendants of Uthman Affan married a woman of Turkish origin, and from this family rose the Ottoman dynasty.  If the claim is true, it would appear that the long history of Islam is dominated by a few closely knit family, all related to the Prophet.

Sounds very much like the story of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism, is it not?  Well, such is almost always a case in every great endeavor.  The terms used of course are differents: companions, friends, associates, family members.  But they are essentially means the same thing.  After all, to whom would you rely, except those who you know very well and trust fully.

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