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Death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr's Appointment, and Shallum's Rebellion

In 632 CE, the Prophet Muhammed passed away. The council of Medina tried to elect a successor, Sa'd ibn 'Obada of the Khazraj, but the Muslims were bitterly divided, they even considered appointing two leaders: Judaic (Khazraj) and Sadducean (Quraish). A small number of companions of the Prophet chose Abu Bakr as Khalif, replacement. The followers of 'Ali did not approve of this, because it meant that the government would be controlled by the family of Quraish. 'Ali himself delayed in doing homage to Abu Bakr. Shallum attempted to rally some Bedouin tribes to depose Abu Bakr. Judaic and disaffected Sadduceans joined forces against Abu Bakr and his general Khalid. Khalid's forces were made up of many Christian converts to Islam. At least five kahanah, cohens, prophets had appeared in Arabia who claimed to be prophets along with Muhammad: a Judaic prophet in Medina and the prophetess Hefzibah (Sajah); and three Sadducean prophets al-Musaylimah al-Kathib, al-Aswad and Tulayha ibn Khuwaylid.

Some of the prophets had been assassinated during Muhammed's lifetime, but now the Judaic prophetess Hefzibah arrived from Mesopotamia at the head of a great host and joined Musaylamah in Yamamah.[1] Musaylamah's army of forty thousand achieved a degree of success against the first troops sent against him by Abu Bakr. Musaylamah's forces retreated into a garden surrounded by high walls. This garden later became known in history as the garden of death. The Muslims had never experienced this amount of fighting among themselves before. There were many deaths and much destruction. Many "readers", Muslims who recited the Qur'an by heart, were killed on both sides.[2] The rebellion was crushed, and Shallum fled to Al-Bahrein.[3] This group of Judaic zealots would later be called the Kharajites.[4]

Abu Baker did much to try and unite the faithful. He brought the mutinying tribes back under his control and he began to collect the fragments of what would become the Qur'an. But the struggle for unity of Islam brought about the codification of Islam, and the diversity that was once apparent under the Prophet was lost. Islamic tradition ascribes the preservation of Islam to Abu Bakr: "On the death of Mohammad, in a little bit the Faithful would have perished utterly. But the Lord strengthened the heart of Abu Bakr, and established us in the resolve to give place not for one moment to the Kafir;—giving answer to them but in these three words Submission, Exile, or the Sword."[5] In reality one form of Islam was being raised above the others, the Quraish' Sadducean variety as espoused by a major influx of Christian converts to Islam. But for now, there was peace between all the factions for the sake of the new faith.


  1. Al-Tabari
  2. The carnage amongst the "Readers" (those who had the Kor'an by heart) was so great as to give 'Omar the first idea of collecting the Qur'an, "lest any part of it should be lost."
  3. Joseph Schwartz, "sword incident"
  4. The rebels called themselves Kurra', Readers, although their opponents called them Kharaiji, separatists. Years later the rebel Exilarch David ben Anan would call his movement the Karaim, Karaites, Literalists.
  5. Tabari