conflict arose among the followers of Mohammed, between the party of Ali, his son-in-law,
and the party of the Caliphs. Ali and his sons, the grandsons of Mohammed, were killed in
battle with other Muslims and with them Mohammed's blood line perished. Ali is regarded by
the Shias and some Sufis as the true representative of Mohammed's teaching who was not
tainted by the violence and luxury that the Caliphs assumed.
However, in support of the Sunni view (those who accept the Caliphs), we should
note that all three early Caliphs-Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, whom the Shias do not accept
and who promoted the Islamic invasion and conquest of Africa and the Middle East-were
among the closest living disciples of Mohammed. Mohammed took daughters of the first two
among his wives and married two of his daughters to the third.
If anyone would have known Mohammed and been in a position
to continue his work, it would have been them. The Caliphs were not like Saint Paul of
Christianity, who never knew Christ personally, but the direct disciples of the Prophet.
What they did, they felt, through their own experience of the Prophet, was fulfilling.