[ by Charles Cameron — caliphal succession as a marker in Egyptian-Iranian diplomacy at NAM ]
Describing Egyptian President Morsi‘s speech in Iran at the Non-Aligned Movement conference, Rodger Shanahan of Australia’s Lowy Institute wrote, tellingly:
Invoking the names of the first four caliphs (which never goes down well in uber-Shi’a Iran), his condemnation of the Syrian regime (an Iranian ally) caused the walkout of the Damascene delegation and stole much of the positive messaging that Iran would have been hoping for from this meeting.
Sunni Islam recognizes four “rightly guided” Caliphs as the successors to the Prophet: first among them was Muhammad‘s friend Abu Bakr, who was succeeded by Umar – who when he conquered Jerusalem, is said to have entered it on foot, and guaranteed the protection of the Christians and their churches – third, Uthman, remembered for establishing the definitive text of the Quran, and finally the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Of these, Ali alone is recognized by the Shia, who consider him the Prophet’s rightful heir and their own first Imam.
As the photo above suggests, Morsi, a Sunni, and Ahmadinejad, a Shia, are precisely three caliphs apart.