Khilafat and Caliphate by Mubasher Ahmad, M.A., LL.B.


The Concept of Khilafat in the Holy Quran

For our discussion, we would like to make a distinction between “khilafat” and “caliphate” for reasons other than mere etymological development of the words.

In Arabic “khalifa” means “successor/deputy/vicegerent”, and “khilafat” is the dominion of a khalifa, or the institution that runs under the leadership of a khalifa.

In English, “caliph” is the chief civil and political Muslim ruler regarded as a successor of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).

But in the Holy Quran, the words khalifa (in singular) and khulafa or khalaa’if (in plural) have wider connotations than “caliph” and “caliphs” in English. For example, the Holy Quran uses the title of “khalifa on the earth” for Prophet Adam as “God’s deputy or vicegerent on the earth” (2:31). In Arabic we can call him Khalifatul-Allah, but we cannot call him as ‘God’s Caliph.’

Khalifat-ul-Maseeh OR Caliph of the Islam Ahmadiyya His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba)

Khalifat-ul-Maseeh OR Caliph of the Islam Ahmadiyya His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba)

Similarly, David is called a “khalifa”, a vicegerent of God in the Holy Quran: ‘O David!

We have made you a khalifa (vicegerent) in the earth; so judge between men with justice and follow not vain desires, lest it should lead you astray from the way of Allah.’ (38:27). But we never say “Caliph David” in the English language; he is called “King David”. Moreover, in the Holy Quran the words khalaa’if and khulafa (plural of khalifa) have been used for some nations or specific generations in the sense that God did a great favor to them and made them dominant over the earth:

“And remember the time when He made you as khulafa after the people of Noah, and increased you abundantly is constitution.” (7:75).

“And remember the time when He appointed you as khulafa after ‘Ad, and assigned you an abode in the land.” (7:75).

But in English we do not refer to any nation or generation as “Caliphs.”

The Holy Quran specifically uses the term khulafa indicating a special favor of Allah to the people not only by granting them worldly power, but more specifically as a spiritual reward for their righteousness. In this sense, to retain the blessing of khilafat, vigilance is required as it is a test and a trail for righteous people.

“And He it is Who has made you khalaa’if (successors to win favors of God) on the earth, and then exalted some of you over the others in degrees of rank, so that He may try you by that which He has given you” (6:166).

“Then We made you khalaa’if (successors) in the earth after them (i.e. the earlier generation), that We might see how you would act.” (10:15).

“Who answers the distressed person when he calls upon Him, and removes the evil, and makes you khulafa (successors) in the earth?Is there a God besides Allah? Little it is that you reflect” (27:63).

In this verse the blessing of khilafat is closely connected with God’s answering prayer of the distressed, and removing a sorrowful state. Again, “Verily, Allah knows the secrets of the heavens and the earth. Verily, He knows full well all that lies hidden in the breasts. He it is Who made you khalaa’if (successors/vicegerents) in the earth. So he, who disbelieves, will himself suffer the consequences of his disbelief” (35:40).

In the above quoted verses, the Holy Quran lays emphasis on the moral, ethical and spiritual aspects as a requirement for the believers to receive the favor of khilafat from God. “Allah has promised to those among
you who posses faith, and do good works, that …continue reading at

1 reply

  1. Surah Al Nur – Light upon Light

    Qasim Rashid

    [24:56] Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear: They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious.
    [24:56] تم میں سے جو لوگ ایمان لائے اور نیک اعمال بجا لائے اُن سے اللہ نے پختہ وعدہ کیا ہے کہ انہیں ضرور زمین میں خلیفہ بنائے گا جیسا کہ اُس نے اُن سے پہلے لوگوں کو خلیفہ بنایا اور اُن کے لئے اُن کے دین کو، جو اُس نے اُن کے لئے پسند کیا، ضرور تمکنت عطا کرے گا اور اُن کی خوف کی حالت کے بعد ضرور اُنہیں امن کی حالت میں بدل دے گا۔ وہ میری عبادت کریں گے۔ میرے ساتھ کسی کو شریک نہیں ٹھہرائیں گے۔ اور جو اُس کے بعد بھی ناشکری کرے تو یہی وہ لوگ ہیں جو نافرمان ہیں۔
    Read: Short English Commentary | Detailed English Commentary | Urdu Tafaseer اردو تفاسیر

    [24:57] And observe Prayer and give the Zakat and obey the Messenger, that you may be shown mercy.
    [24:57] اور نماز کو قائم کرو اور زکوٰۃ ادا کرو اور رسول کی اطاعت کرو تاکہ تم پر رحم کیا جائے۔
    Read: Short English Commentary | Detailed English Commentary | Urdu Tafaseer اردو تفاسیر

    [24:58] Think not that those who disbelieve can frustrate Our plan in the earth; their abode is Hell; and it is indeed an evil resort.
    [24:58] ہرگز گمان نہ کر کہ وہ لوگ جنہوں نے کفر کیا وہ (مومنوں کو) زمین میں بے بس کرتے پھریں گے جبکہ ان کا ٹھکانا آگ ہے اور بہت ہی بُرا ٹھکانا ہے۔
    Read: Short English Commentary | Detailed English Commentary | Urdu Tafaseer اردو تفاسیر


    Surah An Nur – Salmaan Al Utaybi (Quran recitation

    Non-Ahmadi Muslims Must Watch.

    Surah Al-Noor FULL سُوۡرَةُ النُّور Sheikh Mishary Rashid Al Afasy – English & Arabic Translation

    The Holy Quran : Chapter 24: Al-Nur النُّور

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