A caliphate is a type of an Islamic state with a leader who follows Islamic laws and rules. The Arabic term for a caliphate is Khilafah. The leader is the caliph, known as the Khalifa in Arabic. A Khalifa succeeds Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and acts as the leader of all Muslims and the Muslim ummah.
The term Khalifa is very specific, and a person must fulfill certain qualities to be a Khalifa. He must be the political as well as religious leader of the Muslims. He must be among the model and best Muslims in the community and be able to lead them in every way.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a Leader
The Prophet (PBUH) was the original leader of the Muslim community. In Makkah, there was no established Muslim state. Instead, the Muslims faced persecution. However, by virtue of being the messenger of Allah, he was automatically the unofficial leader. Eventually, when the Muslims realized that it would not be possible for them to be able to thrive in Makkah, they made the decision to move to Madinah.
Once they did shift to Madinah, things changed for the Muslims. Life became very different, and they eventually constituted the largest group of Madinah in terms of population. Hence, they now set up a proper Islamic state with a leader. The leader was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and whoever succeeded him would go on to become the Khalifa. This was the most important position in the Islamic state, and it came with many responsibilities.
Muhammad (PBUH) was the ideal leader for the Muslims. He embodied all the qualities that a Khalifa should aspire to have. Hence, he was an inspiration for all his successors and a role model for any Muslim leader. First and foremost, he was the messenger of Allah. Thus, he had the maximum amount of knowledge of the religion and its teachings. He was extremely devout in his worship of Allah, as one can expect from a prophet of Allah.
However, these weren’t the only qualities that lead to him being the leader. Everyone in the community respected him, not just as a prophet but as a leader as well. He knew how to strategize and ready his people for whatever predicament they faced. Furthermore, he always led from the front and set an example. He was the guiding light and the person all the Muslims looked up to.
The Selection of the Khalifa
After Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away, the Muslims required a new leader. At first, the Muslims were completely in shock. Some of the Muslims were unable to accept what had happened. Among them was Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA). However, it was Abu Bakr (RA) who calmed the Muslims down with an eloquent speech. He made them realize that Allah was the one and only supreme being. Meanwhile, everyone else was simply a human being, and all human beings eventually die. He emphasized the importance of worshiping Allah.
The Prophet (PBUH), toward the end of his life, often asked Abu Bakr (RA) to lead the prayer if he couldn’t do so. This may have been a sign that he should be the Khalifa. However, it was the decision-makers, i.e., the Muslims, who took a leadership role. The Sahabah (companions of the Prophet PBUH) eventually unanimously decided that Abu Bakr (RA) should be Khalifa.
For the second caliph’s appointment, it was Abu Bakr who himself appointed Umar (RA) as his successor. He decided that Umar (RA) was the best choice, and there would be no need to consider anything further. Hence, he appointed him before passing away in this manner. However, Uthman’s (RA) appointment was in the same way at Abu Bakr. The senior Sahabah former the shura council, and they chose him. After that, Ali (RA) became the fourth caliph in a similar manner as well.
Hence, we can see that there are different methods of selecting a Khalifa. The first four caliphs were known as part of the Rashidun Caliphate, i.e., the four rightly guided caliphs.
The Concept of Caliphate after Rashidun Caliphate
Muslims think of the first four caliphs as the four rightly guided caliphs. These are the only ones that we consider to be among the true leaders. After them, the Khilafah lost its purity and was influenced by other matters. The first four caliphs were from among the true companions of the Prophet (PBUH).
After the Rashidun Caliphate, the Khilafah took on a slightly different look. At times, it became a dynastic institution where families passed the baton from father to son or from one relative to another. At other times, there were other forms of succession. What was common between them, however, was that they lost the look of the original caliphates. Among the early caliphate were the Umayyad and Abbasid ones. These contained aspects of tyrannical rulers and they were usually dynastic.
Frequently Asked Questions About Khalifa of Islam
1. Who is the Present Khalifa of Islam?
There has recently been controversy regarding this matter. The reality is about present muslim khalifa of Islam that for everyday Muslims and according to the Islam we know, there is no present Khalifa of Islam. Any such title that is bestowed upon anyone right now is false, and any person claiming to be a Khalifa is one that no one can trust. An ideology that propagates that the Prophet (PBUH) had a successor, and he wasn’t the final prophet cannot be true.
2. How many present and all caliphs are there in Islam?
The first four caliphs of Islam were known as the rightly guided caliphs. These were the Khalifa comprised of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). About present khalifa we already said above there is no present khalifa of islam They were all upstanding Muslims and among the best of their generation. All of them closely knew the Prophet (PBUH), and their first priority was to worship Allah and obey the Prophet (PBUH). Everything else was secondary.
3. Who was the last Khalifa of Islam?
Most Muslims who believe in Allah and uphold the strong values of Islam consider Ali (RA) as the final rightly guided caliph. After his era, the Islamic State began to change direction, and ideologies that conflicted with Islam impacted it. Hence, while there were many Muslims who were caliphs after that, we can’t consider them to be in the category of rightly guided caliphs.
4. Did Allah mention the caliphate?
We can find the word Khalifa in the Quran twice. In Surah al-Baqarah, Allah says that He told the angels that He would place humanity on the Earth as a Khalifa. Then, He stated the word Khalifa in Surah Sad. He said that He had made Dawud (AS) an authority or leader in the land, and He told him to judge between the people in a just way.
The concept of the caliphate of the Khalifa is an important one in Islam. The four rightly guided caliphs were the ones who succeeded the Prophet (PBUH). There were various methods of succession that led to their appointments. However, after them, the caliphate began to take on a different purpose. Muslims don’t take guidance from the caliphs after the first four ones. Any reference to a current caliph is not legitimate.