In a comprehensive and original study of the early history of Islam, Wilferd Madelung describes the conflict that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, between his family, Hashim, and his tribe, Quraysh, for the leadership of the Muslim community. He pursues the history of this conflict through the reign of the four 'Rightly Guided' caliphs to its climax in the first Inter-Muslim War. The outcome of the war, which marked the demise of the reign of the Early Companions, led to the establishment of dynastic despotism under the Umayyad caliphate and to the lasting schism between Sunnite and Shi'ite Islam. In contrast to recent scholarly trends, Professor Madelung brings out 'All's early claim to legitimate succession, which gained support from the Shi'a, and offers a radical and convincing reinterpretation of early Islamic history after the death of Muhammad. This important and original study will make a major contribution to the scholarship of the period and rekindle the debate over the succession to Muhammad.