Ali bin Abu Talib, the Fourth Rightly-Guided Caliph of Islam


Ali bin Abu Talib was a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, the son of the Prophet's sympathetic uncle Abu Talib. Ali was adopted into the Prophet's household when he was just a young boy. At an early age, Ali was one of the first people to embrace Islam after the Prophet received the call to prophethood. Ali later married the Prophet's daughter, Fatima, and lived a very humble life. He worked as a laborer and supported the work of the Prophet, and they were known for their generosity and patient spirit.

The couple had two children, Hassan and Hussain. During battles, Ali was brave and heroic, frequently fighting in defense of the Muslim community. He became known as "the lion of Allah."

Selection As Caliph

After the death of Uthman, twenty-four years after the Prophet Muhammad's death, the Islamic world had reached a state of fragmentation and crisis. The senior Companions of the Prophet insisted that Ali become caliph. Conditions within the Islamic state had deteriorated, and they wanted a strong and well-respected person to restore order. There was corruption among regional rulers, and some took Uthman's murder as an opportunity to further rebel against the state. Ali was reluctant, but agreed to take over as caliph.

Strengths As Caliph

Ali is most known for his courage when facing challenges, and for his simple lifestyle. His rule as caliph was plagued with internal troubles and hostilities within the expanding Muslim world.

Ali attempted to remain strong and fair despite these circumstances.

End of Rule

After four years of efforts to restore order in the fragmented Muslim state, Ali was largely met with more hostility. Some resisted his rule, insisting that Ali be more firm in punishing Uthman's murderers. Ali agreed to meet in arbitration with one of his staunchest critics, Mu'awiyah.

Some dissidents protested Ali's decision to accept arbitration. In the end, one of the dissidents stabbed Ali during morning prayers, and he died three days later.

Shia vs. Sunni Views

Shia Muslims believe that Ali was the only rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad, and should have taken over leadership of the Muslim community directly after the Prophet's death. They disregard as illegitimate the caliphs who ruled before him. This difference of opinion ultimately led to the split between Shia and Sunni Muslims.


656 - 661 A.D.


After the death of Ali, the community was as fragmented as ever, and the days of the Rightly Guided caliphs was over. Mu'awiyah in Jerusalem established the Umayyad caliphate, and began to reunite and expand the Islamic state.

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Huda. "Ali bin Abu Talib, the Fourth Rightly-Guided Caliph of Islam." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2016, Huda. (2016, February 1). Ali bin Abu Talib, the Fourth Rightly-Guided Caliph of Islam. Retrieved from Huda. "Ali bin Abu Talib, the Fourth Rightly-Guided Caliph of Islam." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).