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, and he embraced Islam at an early age. Ali later married the Prophet's daughter, Fatima, and lived a very humble life. The couple had two children, Hassan and Hussain. Ali was known for being 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, the Islamic state was fragmented and in 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. 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. When he died three days later, the community was as fragmented as ever, and the days of the Rightly Guided caliphs was over.
Shia vs. Sunni Views:
Shia Muslims believe that Ali was the only rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad, and 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.