Objective of the Quraysh Group

Having lost their past influence as the keepers to the House of Idols, the Quraysh group foresaw an even greater opportunity to master an entire nation and its sizable wealth upon the death of the Prophet. Thus, they patiently waited to seize control of the leadership after the death of the Prophet, and they succeeded in their plans, for they held the first three caliphates and spawned the first Muslim dynasty – the Bani Umayyah.

Consequently, this group resolved to complete rule of the Muslim ummah to be in their hands. They might have begun some internal conflicts had some not agreed amongst themselves to allow three subdivisions of the Quraysh to hold power successively: the tribe of Taym, the tribe of Uday, and the tribe of Fihr. Initially, they planned to first allow Abu Bakr to represent his tribe of Taym; then Umar b. al-Khattab would represent his tribe of Uday, and then Abu Ubaydah b. al-Jarrah would represent his tribe of Fihr; however, as it happened, Uthman b. al-Affan (from the Umayyah tribe) later replaced Abu Ubaydah b. al-Jarrah. Finally, after the tribe of Fihr had completed its turn, the tribe of Taym would then take control again and the cycle would continue. They felt that this rotating agreement would ensure harmony within the Quraysh group and preserve the stability of their order.

However, the group excluded one vital section of Quraysh, namely the Bani Hashim tribe, the one to which the Prophet belonged. They did so overtly, under the pretext that Bani Hashim was already too powerful since the Prophet sprang from them. As Umar b. al-Khattab explained, “The reason we did not want Bani Hashim to assume power after the death of the Prophet was that Quraysh disliked seeing both prophethood and leadership (imamah) vested in the family of Bani Hashim.”[1] This is precisely where the start of the problem began for Muslims. Initially it did not stem from Islamic ideology, or interpretation of the revelations, or the sunnah, but rather, from the old Arab rivalry that was deeply entrenched and seeded into the jealous veins of some of the branches of the Quraysh tribes. Just as Umar b. al-Khattab said, they “disliked” seeing another family invested with so much interest.

[1]Ibn al-Atheer, Al-Kamil fil-Tarikh, 3:24; Al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, 2:223

When Power and Piety Collide by Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini