A Caliph is the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad the Prophet died, a caliph (successor) was chosen to rule in his place. The caliph had temporal and spiritual authority but was not permitted prophetic power; this was reserved for Muhammad. The caliph could not, therefore, exercise authority in matters of religious doctrine.
About the Book
The Caliphate, is based upon the Annals of Ibn-al-Athir, a singularly impartial annalist, who lived and wrote at Mosul in the early part of the thirteenth century A.D. Ibn al-Athir's work is an epitome and continuation of the much older historian Tabari.
The value of Tabari's work lies in the fact that it consists almost wholly of citations from much older sources, some of which are nearly contemporary with the events recorded. All of these lived under the 'Abbasid dynasty, yet this fact does not appear to have prejudiced their results so much as one might expect.
In his book The Caliphate, Sir William Muir has observed that the history of the period has been colored by the jealousy and animosity between the Umayyads and the Abbasids. When the Abbasids came to power they tried to tarnish the history of the Umayyads. Sir William Muir observes that in these accounts, Marwan the unpopular cousin of Uthman has received constant abuse as the author of Uthman's troubles. Marwan is painted as the evil genius, but all this is tinged by the Abbasid and anti-Umayyad prejudices. Sir William Muir holds that the story of large free gifts to Marwan which formed one of the grounds of impeachment against Uthman reads like a party calumny.
Sir William Muir's, The Caliphate is a work of classical value and leaves one with a strong impression of the author's extreme accuracy in reproducing the statements of his authorities, as well as of the soundness of his judgement in weighing the evidence in support of the accounts.
About the Author
Sir William Muir was a profound Arabic scholar, and made a careful study of the history of the time of Muhammad and the early caliphate. His chief books are a Life of Mahomet and History of Islam to the Era of the Hegira; Annals of the Early Caliphate; The Caliphate, an abridgment and continuation of the Annals, which brings the record down to the fall of the caliphate on the onset of the Mongols; The Koran: its Composition and Teaching; and The Mohammedan Controversy, a reprint of five essays published at intervals between 1885 and 1887. In 1888 he delivered the Rede lecture at Cambridge on The Early Caliphate and Rise of Islam.