The Wars of Apostasy – First Muslim Civil War

October 1, 2008 at 1:50 am (Religion, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )


The ‘Ridda Wars’ 

Muhammad died in peace in 632 A.D. . With his conquest and conversion of prized Mecca, most of the Arabian peninsula, and the conversion of the peoples across the desert, Muhammad had managed to unite the unruly tribes of Arabia under a single God and single leadership. With Muhammad’s death came serious issues concerning the succession of Muhammad and importance of the role of Islam in society. Muhammad’s long time friend Abu-Bakr with popular public support became khalifah, or leader, of Muhammad’s newly founded empire and religion. However, his rise to the role was not uncontested, and many, many tribes rose up in defiance against him. 

Seeds of Heresy

Not everyone was in complete agreement with Muhammad and the Quran, a.k.a. Islam’s most holy book. Several leaders who had previously converted to Islam soon began committing acts of apostasy such as claiming to be prophets in their own right (Muhammad, according to more than 99% of Islam’s 1.7 billion followers, is the seal of prophets, meaning no other prophets are to come after him). An example of the many false prophets that claimed to come after Muhammad include leaders like Musaylimah, leader of the Banu Hanifa. Even while Muhammad was alive, Musaylimah he was a supposed magician, and claimed to be divine. These leaders would play vital roles in the upcoming wars of apostasy. 

Second figure to the left is an image of Abu-Bakr

Retaining and Extending Control


With the death of Muhammad, several leaders claimed the title of successor to Muhammad. While it was believed that Ali ibn Abi Talib should become khalifah (Muhammad’s cousin who also married Fatima, Muhammad’s longest lived daughter) he was thought to be to young to do so. The Muslim community in Mecca/Medina agreed that it would be Abu-Bakr who would be the central leader of Islam and so it was decided so it was decreed. With Abu-Bakr’s rise to power, leaders, seeing how Muhammad like any mortal could and did die, began skirmishes and began splitting apart as they did in pre-Islamic or Jahiliya times, seeing Muhammad and his religion as something of the past. Abu-Bakr sought to punish the apostates and retain control of these disorderly tribes. 

The Ridda / Apostasy wars begin

Abu-Bakr sent his generals in all directions to fight all and retake control of the rogue tribes. Of the major regions which rebel clans claimed independence from Mecca/Medina were Yemen, Oman, eastern present day Saudi Arabia (Nejd), and to Bahrain. 

While none of these provinces were easily taken and lives were lost, some proved to be of more historical interests than others. Most of the formerly Muslim tribes of Bahrain decided to rebel but were conquered by Abu-Bakr’s forces rather easily. At the time, the eastern most portion of Yemen known then and now as Mahra, under Abu-Bakr’s wing. Yemen proper came under control and the leaders of the revolt there were pardoned (they were not considered apostates but were told to repent for their sins committed against Medina/Mecca). The leadership of Hadramawt, today a province of Yemen, was not as easily forgiven.

Hadramawt’s leader put up a fatal fight to the end against the incoming Muslim forces. Most all men who fought under Hadramawt died in the fight and the women were taken prisoner back to Mecca/Medina. Oman also put up a large and lost war against Muslim forces. Laqit ibn Malik, another false prophet, led his forces to a disastrous defeat against the Muslims. He also was executed.

Last and not least was the Nejd province, known for being the most unruly of all provinces. These people were a primarily desert and nomadic Bedouins. Malik ibn Nuwayrah, a false prophet, fought for control of the region against invading Muslim forces. Malik claimed to be a prophet and divine in his own right but a successor to Muhammad as well. Admired by his people but always in conflict with Muhammad, he ruled a vast area that amounted to more land than Muhammad’s conquests thus far. He was defeated in battle against Khalid bin Walid who was also known as ‘the sword of God’. He afterwards was referred to al-kizzib, or ‘the liar’.

Malik ibn Nuwayrah is the last important figure not already mentioned who died as a result of the wars of apostasy / Ridda wars. After Muhammad’s death, he stopped sending taxes to Mecca/Medina. He went into hiding once he heard of Muslim advances afterwards but was eventually found in the deserts of Nejd with his family. He also signed a pact with a false prophet, which played a large role in his eventual downfall. He was only arrested and killed when not answering the loud call (azzan) to prayer. He was then convicted of apostasy and was consider a traitor to the Medina/Mecca state. He was killed the night he was convicted and his wife, said to be the most beautiful woman in all of Arabia, married the general who convicted him that very night (that being Khalid bin Walid). 

Abu-Bakr’s reign comes to an early end

Abu-Bakr prevailed and managed to kill and/or convert all apostates of the state and Islam in his short two year reign. All the battles and happenings mentioned above took place over the course of his two year rule, which afterwards he was succeeded by Umar ibn Khatab. The Ridda wars were the first to be fought between rebel Muslims / Apostates and the central Islamic authority (Mecca/Medina).  Abu-Bakr dies like Muhammad peacefully in his bed and had managed to conquer and retain control over a vast amount of area. The apostate wars had proved the Muslims victorious and their empire would continue to grow for decades to come. 

Work Cited

“Abu Bakr and Ridda wars.” 30 Sep 2008 <;. 

“Abu-Bakr.” Trustees of British Library – Brittanica Online. Brittanica Online. 30 Sep 2008 < illuminated-manuscript-in-the-British>.

“Malik ibn Nuwayrah.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia. 30 Sep 2008 <;.

“Musaylimah .” NationMaster. 2006. NationMaster. 30 Sep 2008 <;.




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