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August 12th, 2009

Meaning of title ‘khalifa’

A quote from a very interesting article ‘The Contradictions of the Khilafat Movement’ by Hamza Alavi on Pakistani Blog ‘Pak tea House’ :

Meaning of the word ‘Khalifa’
It is important to be clear at the outset about the meaning of the word Khalifa and the way in which that word was later transformed linguistically by Umayyad Monarchs to legitimise their rule, having seized power by military force. The word Khalifa is derived from the Arabic root khalafawhich means ‘to follow’ or ‘to come after’. It means a ’successor’ in the sequential sense, not in the sense of inheritance of properties or qualities. When Prophet Mohammad died, Hazrat Abu Bakr was elected to succeed him. He was consequently called ‘Khalifat al-Rasool Allah’ or the successor of the Messenger of Allah. In its true meaning (successor) the word Khalifadoes not indicate any kind of office or status such as that of a ruler, the sense in which it came to be used later. Khalifa meaning ’successor’ could be used meaningfully only with reference to a specified ‘predecessor’. Hazrat Abu Bakr was Khalifa only with reference to his predecessor, al-Rasool Allah.

The head of the Muslim Umma, Hazrat Umar, who succeeded Hazrat Abu Bakr could have been called Khalifat al-Khalif al-Rasool Allah, or the ‘Successor to the Successor to the Messenger of Allah. With every succession thereafter one more ‘Khalifat al’ would have had to be inserted before such a title of the previous one. That would have been quite absurd. The question of using the word Khalifa for those who came after Hazrat Abu Bakr simply did not arise. Instead, Hazrat Abu Bakr’s successors,Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Uthman and Hazrat Ali, the three successive elected heads of the Umma were each designated by the title ‘Amir al-Mu’minin’ or the Commander of the Faithful.

In year 2000, late Abdul Mannan Omar sahib son of Maulana Noor Ud Din (rta) explained exactly the same meaning of word ‘Khalifa’ to me. I even wrote post on Qadiani Jamaat now defunct forum based in Canada ‘’. I questioned use of word ‘Khalifa-tul-Masih’ for Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, Mirza Nasir Ahmad and Mirza Tahir Ahmad. (Now I can include Mirza Masroor Ahmad, too). I asked Qadiani Jamaat friends only Maulana Noor ud Din deserved to be called ‘Khalifa-tul-Masih’ and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad should be called ‘Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-al-Masih’ etc. Of course I was ridiculed by Qadiani Jamaat posters. Now I am glad same point is presented by some one who is not a Lahori and not writing about the Qadiani Khilafat.

Link to blog article:

17 Responses to “Meaning of title ‘khalifa’”

  1. August 13th, 2009 at 6:13 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    Question for Lutf, and T. Ijaz etc:
    Based on definition of word Khalifa provided by Hamza Alavi (copied in my above post), will you agree with me that Qadiani jamaat friends should address
    Mirza Mahmud Ahmad as ‘Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-al-Masih’
    Mirza Nasir Ahmad as ‘Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-al-Masih’
    Mirza Tahir Ahmad ‘Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-al-Masih’;
    Mirza Masroor Ahmad as ‘Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-Khalifa-tul-Khalifa-al-Masih’??
    Thanks in advance for your reply.

  2. Each khulafa was a successor of the Promised Messiah.  Khalifa I (first successor) Khalifa II,(second successor) etc.  I have no spiritual, logical or intellectual problem with this.

  3. August 14th, 2009 at 7:08 pm
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    @ T. Ijaz:
    Your reply “each khulafa was a successor of the Promised Messiah.  Khalifa I (first successor) Khalifa II, (second successor) etc” is not true linguistically and grammatically, as based on word Khalifa, as explained in above article. This is the reason
    Hazrat Omar (RA) was NOT called Khalifat al-Rasool Allah 2
    Hazrat Osman (RA) was NOT called Khalifat al-Rasool Allah 3
    Hazrat Ali (RA) was NOT called Khalifat al-Rasool Allah 4.

    Why Hazrat Omar (RA), Hazrat Osman (RA), Hazrat Ali (RA) were called ‘Amir al-Mu’minin’ or the Commander of the Faithful?
    Please note meaning of word Khalifa were well understood even by foolish Talibans in Afghanistan. This is the reason Mulla Omar was addressed as ‘Amir al-Mu’minin’, and not as ‘Khalifat al-Rasool Allah’. Although in their opinion they were replicating Muslim rule of 30 years after Rasool Allah (SAWS).

  4. In my personal opinion the khilafat after the HP did not work. Khilafat is not a perfect system. 3 of the 4 khalifas were assasinated. Khalifas should serve a 4 year term. Khalifas should be able to be impeached. In fact, all leaders, of any organizational structure should not have total power, there should be a system of checks and balances.

    A famous quote from Mr. Acton is as thus:
    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    The model of leadership in the USA is the best model to follow. We vote for a president every 4 years. If a president has behaved improperly, he should be dealt with accordingly.

    These are my personal opinions only.

  5. Bashir sb,

    Khilafat alaa minhaajun Nabwwat can not be based on human choice. It has to be from God. As Hazrat Maulana Noor ud Deen (ra) re-iterated on a number of occasions. Sometimes addressing a number of prominent people very sternly..

  6. August 15th, 2009 at 7:11 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    In the first khutba mentioned above by Mr Lutf (17 October 1913), Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din says:

    “You think ill of others. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din does not work out of hypocrisy. He works only for Allah. This is my belief about him. Of course, he can make mistakes. I am happy with his works. There is blessing in them. Those who spread mistrust about him are hypocrites.” (p. 622)

  7. Jahangiri sahib, find the first edition copy of Hazrat Nurddin’s biography ‘Mirqatul Yaqeen’ compiled by Akbar Shah from 1912, who later joined Lahori jamaat. You will find Hazrat  Umar referred to as 2nd Khalifa of the Nabi and Hazrat Nuruddin as Khalifa Awwal (the First) implying a 2nd, 3rd etc to come. As to why I am stressing first edition is known to Zahid Aziz sahib!
    Ahmadis didn’t have problems with the concepts. Not sure why you are tying to confuse the issue now.

  8. August 16th, 2009 at 12:57 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    You very well said, “Khilafat alaa minhaajun Nabwwat can not be based on human choice”. It goes to first adult male who does ba’it of Mamur-min-Allah. This point is very well explained in book ‘Sirr-ul-Khilafah’ (The Secret of Caliphate): by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (Translated by Mirza Muhammad Hussain):
    As explained in this book we see Hazrat Maulana Noor Ud Din sahib become ‘Khalifa-al-Masih’.
    This also brings to point that person, who succeeds a Khalifa of Mamur-min-Allah, does NOT directly become Khalifa of Mamur-min-Allah, but rather Khalifa of Khalifa of Mamur-min-Allah. Please see my post, in this thread, addressed to T. Ijaz dated August 14 for further explanation of this point.
    Khalifa-al-Masih Maulana Noor Ud Din further made this point clear by addressing his successor as ‘Mera Janisheen’ (my successor) in his statements. He did NOT address his successor as Khalifa-al-Masih II.
    In British raj, in order to belittle title of Muslim’s Khalifa (a leader in political sense) they named barber as khalifa. This new word for barber is used in Urdu literature. Now, if we accept that any person can INVENT NEW MEANING of word Khalifa and accept it as “Islamic terminology” then I think barber who use to cut HMGA hair is most qualified to be called “Khalifa-al-Masih” (Barber-of-Masih).
    Mir Nasir Nawab, maternal grandfather of Qadiani Jamaat khalifa II Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, use to call Khalifa-al-Masih Maulana Noor Ud Din a “Nai” (barber).

  9. That statement from ‘Mirqatul Yaqin’ is written by the editor of Badr, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq.

    A puzzling point is that these khalifas are known as khalifas of the Promised Messiah (1, 2, 3 etc), but the khilafat system is said to be a continuation of the Khilafat-i Rashida of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, which had been interrupted by tyrants after 4 khalifas. So doesn’t that make these khalifas to be khalifas of the Holy Prophet Muhammad?

    Moreover, the Promised Messiah himself claims to be a khalifa of the Holy Prophet promised in that well-repeated khilafat verse of chapter 24.

  10. August 17th, 2009 at 4:20 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    @ T Ijaz:
    Your assertion “Hazrat Nuruddin as Khalifa Awwal (the First) implying a 2nd, 3rd etc to come” is wrong according to Arabic grammar. Late Abdul Mannan Omar sahib son of Khalifa-al-Masih Hazrat Nuruddin sahib explained to me that according to Arabic grammar when word ‘Awwal’ is used with word ‘Khalifa’ as in Khalifa-Awwal that does NOT mean that there has to be a ‘Khalifa-Sanni. Again ‘Khalifa-Awwal’ is same as ‘Khalifa (without word Awwal)’. So, please do not assume that Hazrat Nuruddin was called Khalifa-Awwal, to imply there will be Khalifa-Sanni, Khalifa-Salas etc.

    If you are wondering about Abdul Mannan Omar sahib command of Arabic Grammar, just ask some Arab to judge his Arabic after reading Muqadma (the Preface) of Musnad Imam Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal:
    Again your statement “Ahmadis [Qadiani Jamaat] didn’t have problems with the concepts. Not sure why you are tying to confuse the issue now” is wrong. I am NOT confusing the issue. I am trying to clarify WRONG CONCEPTS in minds of Qadiani jamaat friends. This is the reason I provided quote from Hamza Alavi’s article. So, that I may not be accused of “Lahori-Conspiracy”. If still you have problem, I would ask you to read Tafseer of Holy Quran by Hazrat Nuruddin on word ‘Khalifa’.
    We can call any person anything but that does not mean that person does become that in reality. Just because some people call some ordinary person a Mamur-min-Allah does NOT make that person becomes a holy person.

  11. Jahangiri sahib, I’m only presenting Urdu stuff, not Arabic. Besides in Mirqatul Yaqeen, they link ‘2nd Khalifa of nabi with ‘1st Khalifa’ , presenting a linkage of the numerical nomenclature for succession, as described.
    The Mirqatul Yaqeen quote was very prominent in a periodical and featured in a prominent biography of Hz Nuruddin in his lifetime. If the statements were so egregious, illogical and downright heretical, there was a high likehood it would have been pointed out, perhaps by Hz Nuruddin himself, or scholars around him.

  12. August 18th, 2009 at 4:41 pm
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    Imam Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti Mujaddid of 9th Islamic century in his famous book ‘Tarikh al-khulafa’ writes [I am writing from my memory, what I have heard]: Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) on his official correspondence used to write “from Khalifat al-Rasool Allah”. Hazrat Omar Farooq (RA) use to write “Khalifa-tal-Abu Bakr”. Some people use to address him as “Khalifat al-Khalif al-Rasool Allah”. It was obviously very cumbersome. So, on suggestion of his companions he accepted the official title of Amir al-Mu’minin.


  13. If ahmadis were practicing a theory in which they were haphazardly using the word prophet in metaphoric context, then doesnt that make as null and void all of your assertions? Is it possible? I think it is!!

    Didnt Jesus haphazardly use the phrase “son of god”. Didnt this get jesus into lots of trouble? Dont you believe that this was just metaphorical expression that was overly used?

    So why do you object when ahmadis possibly did the same?

  14. For Rashid Jahangiri:

    Be aware:

    1. Suyuti believed that Jihad with the sword was permissable.

    2. He also believed that jesus would return from the sky physically.

    3. He also believed that another prophet was destined to appear.

    4. He also believed that Jesus’ birth was an immaculate conception.

    5. He also believed that Muhammad actually physically ascended to heaven and physically descended to the earth, the mihraaj was not a vision.


    So why are you using Suyuti as a source of good information. You should either use him, or not use him at all.

    Question: when did HMGA claim that this was just a vision? What year and what book?

  15. August 19th, 2009 at 6:21 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    @ Bashir:
    There is difference between REPORTING HISTORIAL FACTS and having certain beliefs/ understandings. Beside Imam Suyuti others have reported and given details and reasons behind addressing Hazrat Omar as  Amir al-Mu’minin. I am unable to understand why you asked such question? Are you questioning Hamza Alavi quote?
    Should we reject Imam Suyuti report on historical event, just because he did not understand some concepts regarding Jesus?

    Bashir to answer your earlier question: So why do you object when ahmadis [Qadianis] possibly did the same?
    In my reply I will provide quote from Hamza Alavi article. I am sure in it you will figure answer to your question:
    When the Umayyad Dynasty was set up in Damascus, its legitimacy was disputed and fought over. Unlike the elected headship of the umma, here was a seizure of power by military force…….The Umayyad rulers having become monarchs through military force, looked for a legitimating symbol to sanctify their regime. For that they chose the word Khalifa. They hoped thereby to attach to themselves the legitimacy that was associated with the title of Mohammad’s successor,Hazrat Abu Bakr. In so doing they changed the meaning of the word. The word Khalifa was no longer to mean ’successor’ to a specified predecessor. It was now to mean monarch or ruler……After that and after the time ofImam Hussain, the people who had taken over power [viz. the Umayyads)arrogated to themselves the title of Khalifa 14 because they thought that the title of Khalifa was more exalted (muqaddas) than that of Commander of the Faithful. 15”

  16. You cant use someone as a reliable source of information if you differ with that person on so many points.

    Muslims(all) disregard Tabari because of many reasons. It is not fair to use him when he writes somthing that fits your needs. That’s not honest.

    Before HMGA, Ibn Ishaq was the only writer to ever claim that the mihraaj was a vision.

  17. December 21st, 2014 at 3:36 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    Word Khalifa explained by Islamic Scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamdi.

    Please watch following video at 50 seconds.