During the era of the Four Caliphs, which followed the death of Prophet Muhammad (saas), Islam spread far beyond the boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula. It was a time when Muslims won great victories and lived in comfor table ease—in all, a good foretaste of the Golden Age predicted by the Prophet (saas).
In this period, an Islamic state stretched from Tripoli in the west to Horosan in the east and the Caucasus in the north. After Islam emerged from the Arabian Peninsula, it was adopted by various peoples and nations in Asia and Africa. During this period, the new Islamic states were to found their political and legal foundations. The caliphs Abu Bakr (ra), Umar (ra), Uthman (ra) and Ali (ra) followed in the footsteps of our Prophet (saas), continuing to spread the just moral teachings of the Qur’an over an ever-increasing territory. For this reason, the era of the Four Caliphs is known as Khulafa’ ar-Rashidin, or the era of the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” Since these four were elected to their position of caliphs, this same period is called the Republican Era.
WHAT WILL THE GOLDEN AGE BE LIKE?
In order to understand how the era of the Four Caliphs resembled the Golden Age, it will be useful to look briefly at the predictions of our Prophet (saas) about it.
According to Islamic texts, the Golden Age will come shortly before the end of the world; it will be a time when the moral teachings of the Qur’an will dominate and people will practice the Islamic religion. Conditions will enable people to live in peace and contentment. Former hardships will vanish, and be replaced by the blessings of justice and plenty. During this period, all manner of immorality, injustice, falsehood and degeneracy that run contrary to religion will be eradicated. This happy time will be the blessed time of peace, contentment, justice, plenty and the dominance of Islamic morality that all believers have been expecting for centuries. (see Harun Yahya’s book, The Golden Age). In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah reveals to His faithful servants that Islamic morality will dominate throughout the world:
Allah has promised those of you who believe and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their religion with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security. They worship Me, not associating anything with Me. Any who disbelieve after that, such people are deviators. (Qur’an, 24:55)
The Golden Age will last for more than half a century and, in many ways, will resemble the Blessed Period of our Prophet (saas). We call this period the Golden Age because our Prophet (saas) described it as similar to Paradise. It will be marked by the abundance of every type of goods and harvest of crops, the establishment of security, justice, peace, and happiness; and the use of advanced technology for humanity's comfort, ease, joy, and peace. No one will feel in need, for all goods and services will be available to satisfy everyone’s material needs.
Many hadiths say that “weapons will be silenced,” and thus herald a world filled with peace. In the Golden Age, enemy nations will become as one harmonious family and re-establish peace, friendship, and love among their leaders and peoples.
Here are some hadiths in which the Prophet speaks about the Golden Age:
"The younger ones wish they were grown-ups, while the adults wish they were younger. . . The good become even more good, and the wicked ones are treated well."
(Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p. 17.)
Earth will be filled with equity and justice, just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
The earth fills with justice. (Imam Rabbani, Mektubat Imam Rabbani (Letters of Imam Rabbani, Vol. 1, no. 251.)
. . . Justice will prevail to such an extent that every possession taken by force will be returned to his owner; furthermore, some other person’s thing, even if it rests within one’s teeth, will be given back to its owner. . . . Security will pervade all the Earth, and even a few ladies will be able to fulfill their hajj without the company of men.
(Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 23.)
The Golden Age will be a blessed time when Allah’s commands will be honored completely, when justice, self-sacrifice and generosity will flourish. No one will be oppressed by want, but every need will be supplied. Everyone will consider the comfort, well-being and prosperity of others. Through this sharing, everyone will be on the same level of prosperity. Hunger, misery and many other problems will resolve themselves.
In addition to the Golden Age’s abundance, technological developments and artistic achievements, public life will be very pleasant. Those who have faith in Allah and practice their religion will be granted a life even more wonderful than they could have imagined. In the Qur’an, Allah promises good things to His servants who do good and obey the moral teachings of the Qur’an:
Allah calls to the Abode of Peace and guides whom He wills to a straight path. Those who do good will have the best and more! Neither dust nor debasement will darken their faces. They are the Companions of Paradise, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surah Yunus: 25-26)
Another aspect of the Golden Age revealed by the Hadith literature is that the original religion will no longer be misunderstood. In the Golden Age, all heretical misunderstandings that entered Islam after the time of our Prophet (saas) will be eliminated, and the original religion will be restored:
“Just as in the case of the Prophet, the requirements of the religion will be fulfilled.” (Ismail Mutlu, Kiyamet Alametleri (The Signs of the Last Day), Mutlu Publications, Istanbul, 1999, p. 163.)
At that time will be removed all the distortions that hinder an individual’s approaching Allah and living His religion; Islam will be cleansed of all later mythical accretions—false beliefs and methods of worship—and all that is not germane to religious morality.
We must take note of the zealous efforts on the part of sincere Muslims in returning of religious morality to its origins. During this period, the disagreements and divisions that have arisen in the Islamic world will be repaired. Muhyidin Ibn al-Arabi, one of the greatest scholars in the history of Islam, wrote the following words in his book entitled Futuhat al-Makkiya (The Revelations of Mecca):
. . . Religion will be practiced as it was in the time of the Prophet. There will be no religious sects in the world. The only denomination left will be the religion of pure truth. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 24)
Even this short summary is enough to let us imagine what the Golden Age will be like. Now, let us see how the Caliphs’ personalities, activities and administrative genius created an environment that prefigures that of the Golden Age.
The Period of Abu Bakr (ra) (632-634)
Abu Bakr (ra) was a friend of our dear Prophet (saas) before he received his prophetic call. He was one of the first people to receive the message and to become a Muslim. Abu Bakr (ra) accepted Islam at a time before it was openly proclaimed and the Prophet was alone by himself. A close friend of our Prophet (saas) and a fine representative of Islamic morality, he was responsible for leading several individuals to the practice of Islam notably Uthman (ra), Talha ibn Ubaydullah (ra), Sa’d ibn Abi Vakkas (ra), Zubayr ibn Awwam (ra), Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf (ra) and Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah (ra).
When Muhammad (saas) fell ill, he appointed Abu Bakr (ra) as imam, or leader. And when the Prophet (saas) died, Abu Bakr (ra) was chosen as caliph on the recommendation of Umar (ra) and his friends. Historical sources record a very significant speech given by Abu Bakr (ra) to the people after his becoming caliph:
I have been given authority over you, but I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty, and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if Allah will; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if Allah will.
(“Abu Bakr, First Caliph,”www.cyberistan.org/islamic/abubakr.html)
With these words, Abu Bakr (ra) perfectly sums up the duties of the ideal leader. Even though his caliphate lasted only two years, it was very influential.
After the death of our Prophet Muhammad (saas), disagreements emerged among some factions of Islam, Abu Bakr (ra) called these Muslims together and re-established his political authority. He labored intensely to collect and preserve the texts of the Qur’an. He was instrumental in spreading the religion of Islam from the borders of the Arabian Peninsula into Syria, Palestine and Iraq. He opposed false prophets and movements not founded upon religious morality, thus ensuring that the Islamic religion and the moral teachings of the Qur’an remained the same as they were in the time of our Prophet (saas).
His good character, mercy, humility and meticulous practice of the Qur’an’s moral teachings in his life brought him great respect among the companions of the Prophet (saas). These qualities earned him great love and adulation from the people. He disliked arrogance and took pleasure from helping the poor and those who had fallen upon hardship; he loved receiving guests and entertaining them. He secured the freedom of many Muslim slaves by paying their owners significant sums of money. As a wealthy merchant, he spent all his abundance to spread the moral teachings of Islam. For this reason, the Prophet (saas) said of him, “In the giving up of his wealth, Abu Bakr is most notable. What a good friend he is! We are joined by the love and brotherhood of Islam.” (Sahih Bukhari, Tirmidhi Hadiths)
With the strength of his faith, his genius and excellent statesmanship, Abu Bakr (ra) preserved the unity of Islam and left a strong state for those who came after him.
The Period of Umar (ra) (634-644)
A prominent member of the Qureysh tribe by the name of Umar (ra) was affected by Muslims’ unbending devotion to their faith despite all pressures exerted on them and accepted Islam. He is said to have been the first to declare openly that he accepted Islam. As Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (ra) said, “It was a victory when Umar (ra) became a Muslim.” (Usdul-Gaba, IV, p. 151)
After his conversion, he took his place in the company of our Prophet (saas) and because of his strong character and determination, became a leading proponent of Islamic morality. He used his wealth for the spread of the faith. After Abu Bakr (rar) died, Umar was chosen as caliph and proved to be a model of the administration of justice for those who came after him.
Umar (ra) is known for his efforts to the establishment of justice and his devotion to the moral teachings of the Qur’an. When dispensing justice, he treated all people equally, with no regard for anyone’s name, wealth, connections or rank. He used every resource at his disposal to ensure the uncompromised dispensation of justice in the areas under his administration.
During his time in power, social justice reigned everywhere. He always felt a deep sense of responsibility for his people. He reportedly said, “If a camel was dying of exhaustion on the banks of the Euphrates, I would feel responsible for it.”
The Importance of Consultation for Umar (ra)
If some dispute arose, Umar (ra) would consult with other Muslims according to the principles of the Qur’an, and seek their opinions making a decision. In this way the best course of action would emerge, which they could then acted upon. So, in any important matter, a tradition and a habit of widespread consultation was established—the reason why the people worked in consultation with one another.
Many innovations occurred in the time of Umar (ra). After a while, the country was divided into administrative units. Governors and kadis (judges of the laws) responsible to the caliph were appointed.. With the appointment of kadis, justice and administration were separated for the first time. These years saw the adoption of the Muslim calendar, or Hijri; and a popular assembly and a public treasury were established.
During the caliphate of Umar (ra), many victories were won outside Arabia and Iraq. Iran, Horosan, Syria, Palestine and Egypt all became Muslim territories. As its land expanded, the Islamic state had to organize its administration together with its political, economic and military components. To answer these requirements, Umar (ra) laid the foundations for an institutionalized Islamic state.
According to historical texts, a letter reportedly sent by Umar (ra) to the kadis became a guide for subsequent generations of administrators:
During trials, do not permit excess movement, shouting or undignified behavior. In order for justice to be done, there must be peace and quiet. When the laws are seen to be respected, the Divine of Justice is honored. If a Muslim has good intentions, Allah orders his relationships with others, but He brings disaster on those who are two-faced. The duty then of a judge is to ensure that Allah’s treasury of mercy and the people’s daily needs are distributed to His servants with justice.
His practice of the moral values of the Qur’an allowed Umar (ra) to administer in a way that won the hearts of the whole of Islamic society. In this way—according to Allah’s will—he contributed greatly to the spread of Islam’s moral teachings.
The Period of Uthman (ra) (644-656)
Uthman (ra) with his superior moral values, was the one of the first to accept Islam.
Before becoming caliph, he was one of those closest to our Prophet (saas). In addition to possessing a very pleasant and effective way of speaking, he possessed an excellent memory and learned the Holy Qur’an by heart. Furthermore, he had a great knowledge of the hadiths, the words of the Prophet (saas), and as amanuensis of the revelation, performed great services for Islam.
He was chosen to be caliph after Umar (ra). Nobody objected to his election to the rank of caliph because he was regarded as worthy of it throughout Islamic society, and everyone swore allegiance to him.
During his caliphate, certainly one of Uthman (ra)’s greatest services in the propagation of Islamic moral values was how he had copies of the Holy Qur’an copied and sent to various Islamic centers. Due to differences of accent in his day, the verses of the Qur’an were being read out in different ways, so the Blessed Uthman (ra) set up an institution for the copying of the entire Qur’an. One duplicate was left in Medina, and others sent to Mecca, Damascus, Kufa, Basra, Egypt and other locations.
In the course of his work as caliph, Uthman (ra) made sure that suitable candidates were selected for various appointments. He was determined to develop agriculture and public works so as to raise the level of prosperity in the Islamic community, and he worked to develop gardens and vineyards. One noticeable development that occurred in this period was the increase in the wealth of Muslims and their greater prosperity compared with their lives in the past. And partly as a result, many of those unbelievers living in Islamic territories became Muslims.
The lifetime of Uthman (ra) saw a continuation of Islamic victories in Iran, the Caucasus and Africa. A maritime force was established and took the strategically important Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Many important victories were won against the Byzantines, and order and justice were established in the territories won.
The Period of Ali (ra) (656-661)
Ali was the son of Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (saas). Historical accounts tell us that he grew up near our Prophet (saas) who later became his guardian.
Ali had the salient characteristics of courage, wisdom and eloquence. Everyone agreed that Ali (ra) was one of the greatest scholars in the Islamic community. As our dear Prophet (saas) said of him, “He is the door of Wisdom City.” At the Prophet’s side since his childhood, he learned the Qur’an from him and served him as amanuensis and help meet until the Prophet (saas)’s death. For this reason, Ali (ra) came to know a great deal about religious matters and as a result, was called to be among the advisors to Abu Bakr (ra), Umar (ra) and Uthman (ra).
After becoming caliph, he established schools for the education of Muslims, on which he placed great importance. When he was martyred, the Period of the Four Caliphs, one of the most glorious periods in Islam, came to an end.
Glad Tidings of the Golden Age
In many of the Prophet’s hadiths that have come down to us, we are told that Islamic morality will once again have dominance in the world, during a period to be known as the Golden Age. We call this period “the Golden Age” thanks to the glorious descriptions of it in the words of our Prophet’s (saas). And, by the will of Allah, it will be similar to the Blessed Period we have just described.
During this Age, just as throughout the Blessed Period and the era of the Four Caliphs, the morals of the Qur’an will prevail, and all around the world, there will be love, peace, comfort, justice, abundance and wealth. The Prophet Muhammad (saas) foretold the Golden Age and the emergence of the Mahdi who will be the leader during the End Times:
In the last of times, there will be a khalifa [successor] who will distribute wealth without even counting it. (Sahih Muslim)
The Golden Age will grant a beautiful life to Muslims in this world. As our Prophet (saas) said, this period will be a foretaste of Paradise, a blessing from Allah, and a great reward. With its abundance, as well as its peaceful and comfortable environment, this is a time that every servant of faith who devotes his life to Allah would like to live to see. For all Muslims, it is doubtless a great honor to be accorded the good news of this period.