The Importance of the Institution of Khilafat for the Modern Age

A speech presented at the Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Community UK 2008 held in Hadeeqatul Mahdi, Alton, Hamshire.

Seen and Unseen Qualities of Khilafat Ahmadiyya

Allah the Almighty tells us in the Holy Qur’an, that everything in this world is important and serves a purpose. As true Muslims, moreover, as Ahmadi Muslims, we know and believe that everything in the world has its seen and unseen properties, and more often than not, with reference to both the spiritual and material realms of Allah – the Unseen bears greater importance for our spiritual health. Therefore, we are inevitably led to ponder not just upon its seen and tangible, but also on its intangible and unseen properties in the light of the Holy Qur’an, and upon the links between these two properties and the qualities of the institution of Khilafat.

In the Surah “Al-Nasr”, so named after the clear Promise of Divine Help for all true Muslims, Allah says:

When the help of Allah comes and the Victory,

And you see men entering the religion of Allah in troops,

Glorify thy Lord with His praise and seek forgiveness of Him. Surely, He is oft-returning with compassion. (Ch.110.:Vs.2-4)

Here, as in many other places in the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty speaks not only to the Holy Prophet(saw),  but also to his spiritual posterity – the rightly-guided Khalifas of the age Through them, Allah also speaks and gives instruction to all of us.

As ever in the Holy Qur’an, the meaning of this Surah is manifold and inexhaustible. In relation to the blessed institution of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat, the grand centenary of which we all are celebrating this year, this brief Surah alone might present us with a topic for discussion lasting for days on end. But even if we take just one aspect of this Surah, then probably the most important is that it tells us of the absolute need and the true essence of Khilafat – as the only true religious system, upon which the entire Islamic Ummah should be organised. Let us once again read this verse of the Surah “An Nasr”:

“Glorify thy Lord with His praise and seek forgiveness of Him”.

In light of the present discourse we may presume that the first part of this injunction of Allah refers to the seen and obvious, and the second part – to the unseen and physically intangible features of Khilafat in Islam.

Khilafat as a Perfect System of unity and Order

If one is asked to explain briefly what ‘Islam’ is, one may well say: “Islam is the sense of Unity.” Indeed, true Islam, as we see every moment in the fold of Ahmadiyyat, is the sense of unity and brotherhood among people – emerging from the unique and wonderful sense and realisation of Tawhid, the Unity of Allah. Alas, we see that in the so-called Muslim world beyond the fold of Ahmadiyyat, there is no unity in any, let alone this, grand sense of this word. Even brotherhood, where it can be seen, is being built more on materialistic and political, rather than spiritual and religious grounds.

How is then is this selfless unity to be established and maintained in the modern world, when many people, devoid of any common ideals, now question the very need for being united, asking whether it is indeed necessary to establish and maintain any unity at all? In this modern or, rather, post-modern world, many people will bluntly say that unity is not essential any more. This will not necessarily be the result of corruption of one’s heart and soul; nay, this will be the result of one particular philosophy, which, in the wake of idealistic communism and thoroughly pessimistic Existentialism, removed them to become the main materialistic philosophy to replace religion in the modern world.

This philosophy, called Post-Modernism, teaches that all truths and ideals are always relative; that there is no absolute truth in the universe; instead all truths and all beliefs are equal insofar that they have importance only for those who hold them.

For the many proponents of this philosophy of Post-Modernism, which has in the last thirty odd years permeated all thinking and all cultural, as well as political, activities of the Western world under the hypocritical banner “there are no taboos in a liberal democracy”, it is enough for an individual to do what he or she has a passing whim to do – without any thought of the consequences of such behaviour for the society and its future.

In the absence of unity and any desire for unity, we see only disintegration, and nothing else. To the question, why it is so, the answer in Islam is as scientific, as it is religious – “because it is only unity (as a coordination of mutual links in a formal system) that begets orderliness”. Speaking in scholarly terms of physics, disunity, in any formal system, is chaos, and chaos is death – death being the end of the very purpose of existence for such a system. It is as true in the world of physics, as in any human society.

In societies, where religion plays a lesser role or none at all, the social system is allegedly maintained by the application of laws. The laws may be good or bad, but these laws say nothing about the purpose of such society – they are there just to organise this society in a particular way. This lack of purpose, in the atmosphere of ever-increasing permissiveness, will inevitably bring any post-modernist society to a point of utter disappointment and frustration with the laws that do not work and do not prevent lawlessness any more, after which point a catastrophic chaos can ensue.

So, does God want unity and order in the world? Does He offer us these ideals and their understanding as the purpose of our life, or are the proponents of post-modernist philosophies right, and all ideals are imaginary and there is no such thing as one truth for all people? Those are not vain questions, because there indeed are various unions in the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, enjoying varied success in what they do. Some Muslim scholars and politicians, before and now, attempted to establish their own Khilafat of sorts. After the Khilafat movement of 1919-1924, there was  Maulana Maudoodi, the Taliban, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, to name just a few. But is it not about them that Allah Almighty says in the Surah “Al Hashr”:

Thou thinkest them to be united, but their hearts are divided. (Ch.59:V.15)

It is enough to have a look at the photographs from the most recent convention of Muslims scholars of various sects of Islam in Saudi Arabia to see how keen they are, in reality, to mend their differences and unite. These pictures of the Ulema is proof enough of their desire to be selfless and unite for religious reasons. Of course, they seem to have been already united in opposition to Khilafat Ahmadiyya, but even then “their hearts are divided” as to who will have the lion’s share of the material gains and political benefits of such intolerant behaviour. They are raging in open rebellion for all to see and fear, but the Truth is not with them, for the genuine Truth is always hidden in the unseen.

The  Holy Qur’an reminds us that the world around us and our inner world is full of signs “for those who understand”. How vital is it then for all of us not only to use, but also to always intensify our quest for understanding? Let me give you an extarordinary example from nature to illustrate and to answer the above-said question.

An example from nature:

According to zoologists, flamingos are able to occupy habitats too extreme for most other creatures. Their favoured food of blue-green algae (for the Lesser) and brine shrimp (for the Greater Flamingo) thrive in alkaline or saline water, usually in shallow, ephemeral lakes. In East Africa, huge flocks of Lesser and Greater Flamingo breed in the most inhospitable of all the Rift Valley lakes – Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. The surface temperatures at Lake Natron can exceed 65°C and the flamingos are also able to withstand high levels of chlorides, sulphates and fluoride.”1

So, in immense multitudes, flamingos live in the most adverse circumstances. At the end of the day they always have to cleanse themselves of alkaline and other chemical depositions on their feet and feathers, or else these depositis will eventually become so heavy as to prevent their movement and make them die of hunger. The film I saw showed one of these unfortunate young birds with large stony deposition on its legs – it was dying, unable to move, fly and feed itself. But how do the others avoid a similar tragic fate?

In a way most extraordinary even for humans, let alone humble birds, their behaviour presents nothing less than a miracle of Allah. Multitudes of flamingos can bathe and cleanse themselves in just one steam. These birds, by the Will and Grace of Allah, all stand in line patiently waiting for their turn to bathe and thus survive the extremity of their habitat. They do not fight to get to the stream first – they are steadfast and patient, as if they understand that the entire survival of their flock depends in their sacrificial patience. Instead of chaos, one sees perfect order and perfect harmony, which would be the envy of some humans in similar circumstances.

The answer to this miracle is as grand as it is simple – the God-given instinct of these remarkable birds make them take care of their survival not as individual birds, but as species in their unity, and therefore, makes them maintain order, for any chaos under the circumstances would prove fatal for all of them. Even birds understand the ultimate precious-ness and necessity of Unity – why is it so difficult for humans to understand the same?

What do we learn from this example of living nature? We learn that the Divine treasure of unity always presupposes a structured order, and there can be no attainment of unity without a structured order – neither in Nature nor, respectively, in religious or any other human communities. But while a human community might rely on its man-made rules and common material purpose, a true religious community by which we mean the one that has no material purpose whatsoever – relies only on those rules and follows those patterns of social behaviour revealed by Allah the Almighty.

The importance of Khilafat – in its most obvious and tangible aspect – is in the task of maintaining religious and social bonds among true believers, to organise them for good deeds beneficial for all and to send out this bright example of unity to the entire humankind. It can be only done through Khilafat – the only structure in Islam able to support and maintain unity and brotherhood among believers and to help them strive together for the fulfilment of the purpose of human life. And what is this purpose if not a lifetime of attaining and preaching Tawhid – the awesome, magnificent and all-encompassing Unity of our God Almighty!

We know that Islam, by the grace of God, is today the fastest-growing faith in the world. But it is a special blessing of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at that many of those new converts, who, according to Allah’s promise in the Surah “Al-Nasr”, are “entering the religion of Allah in troops”, directly enter the fold of Ahmadiyya Khilafat, which is the perfect expression of the Unity of Muslims in Islam.

Seeing this steady growth of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at, one starts to realise why the Surah “Al-Nasr” enjoins the Khalifa and Imam of the Time to “glorify thy Lord with His praise”. But also, when so many people of different backgrounds enter the fold of Ahmadiyyat, it must be ensured that all of them realise the preciousness and grandeur of Khilafat Ahmadiyya. From the very beginning of their new life in the Jama’at, they must adhere to the concept and practice of Khilafat with all their being. Khilafat is that mirror, in front of which they have to cleanse and beautify their souls, and it is because of this that we are admonished in Surah “Al-Nasr”:

Glorify thy Lord with His praise and seek forgiveness of Him

Surely, He is oft-returning with mercy. (Ch.110:V.4)

Only through seeking forgiveness from Allah, can we hope to cleanse and purify ourselves as to be worthy of the spiritual jewel of Khilafat. Alhamdulillah, we are comforted and inspired by the Divine Promise that such forgiveness will indeed come, but only if we shall tread on the right path of Khilafat and treasure it more than our own lives. Khilafat is the life of the faith itself. If we, the Ahmadis, are the body of Ahmadiyyat, then Khilafat Ahmadiyya is its very soul, and the Khalifa of the time is its beating spiritual heart!

Khilafat Ahmadiyya is the most important and most magnificent blessing that could have come to a human being and any human community. Not only Ahmadis, but all Muslims in the world pray for Khilafat many times every single day, even if though they may not realise it!  They are doing so, when they are pronouncing the second part of the Durood Prayer(invoking the blessings of Allah on the Holy Prophet(saw)):

‘Allahumma Barik ‘Ala Muhammadin Wa ‘ala Aali Muhammadin Kama Barakta ‘Ala Ibrahima Wa ‘ala A’Aali Ibrahima Innaka Hameedun Majeed’

“O God! Bless Muhammad and the House of Muhammad as You blessed Abraham and the House of Abraham; indeed, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious”

Do they understand that the greatest blessing of Allah to the spiritual Houses of Muhammad(saw) and Abraham was the path of Prophethood and, respectively, the path of Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood? It is for Khilafat Ahmadiyya and its continuous prospering that we beseech and ask Allah The Almighty while daily pronouncing the second part of the Durood. The fact that we ask for it so many times a day is in itself a proof of its vital importance and absolute necessity. And so, the importance of the philosophy and practice of Khilafat Ahmadiyya is, for the modern world, an ever-increasing one.

All unbiased people who can see the orderly and God-fearing functioning of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat, will bear witness that this religious and social system perfectly reflects the Promise of God Almighty given in the Surah “Al Nur”, where Allah says:

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… (Ch.24:V.56)

We can see with our own eyes and feel with our own hearts that the blessed Khilafat Ahmadiyya has indeed been established as the long-awaited example for Muslims and the entire humanity. Khilafat Ahmadiyya has established the true system of Islam on earth and has indeed given peace of heart and mind to all who have the honour and the privilege to belong to it. All holy martyrs of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at and those of our brothers and sisters who endure life and selflessly strive for Allah under grave persecution, find their peace and comfort in the Divinely-ordained  institution of Khilafat – in the bond of love and affection existing between them and their Khalifa. And those who are unlucky enough to leave, for any material reason, the fold of Ahmadiyyat, learn on their own unhappy experience the truth of Allah’s warning, that it is only in the fold of Khilafat that

..They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then whoso  is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious. (Ch.24:V.56)

And rebellious they are – all those who are devoid of Khilafat at this most crucial juncture of world history! In the growing chaos of intolerance and violence in the name of religion, in the vain and hopeless search for unity of the Islamic Ummah by various forceful or crafty political means, in all greedy and selfish hypocrisy of all attempts at inter-Islamic bonding, Khilafat Ahmadiyya remains the only true vision of Unity, the only beacon of light in the utter darkness of the Latter Days prophesied by the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) and illumined by Hadhrat  Mirza Gulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi(as), after whose revelations the concept of Khilafat has been reborn in Islam one whole century ago.

The Unseen Crucial Importance of Khilafat for the Modern Age

In order to appreciate another, unseen and intangible, but still a crucially important aspect of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat, we have to again turn to the best and grandest of men, to the Khataman Nabiyyeen, Muhammad Mustafa(saw), and to the Mahdi promised and prophesied by him! Throughout this Jalsa, throughout the centenary year, indeed, throughout the entire existence of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at its Holy founder and its members repeat and study the vital Ahadith according to which the Holy Prophet(saw) said2:

“Prophethood shall remain among you as long as God shall will. He will bring about its end and follow it with Khilafat on the precepts of prophethood for as long as He shall will and then bring about its end. An unimaginative kingship shall then follow to remain as long as God shall will and then come to an end. There shall be then a despotic rule, which shall remain as long as God shall will and come to an end upon His decree. There will then emerge Khilafat on the precept of Prophethood… The Holy Prophet said no more.”

As we know, this prophecy of the Holy Prophet(saw) has been fulfilled in the emergence of  Khilafat Ahmadiyya. The Promised Messiah(as), himself, gave us the glad tidings that the Khilafat of the Holy Prophet shall be restored through him. In his Al-Wassiyat he says:

“Do not be grieved by that which I have told you and let not your hearts suffer anxiety, for it is necessary for you to see the Qudrat-i-Thaniyya – the Second Manifestation of Divine Power. Its coming is the better for you, for it is permanent and will not be cut off till the Day of Judgement. This second manifestation will not happen till after my departure.”

To further elucidate us on the issue of Khilafat in Ahmadiyyat, he says:

“Since it is not possible for a man to live forever, God has planned to keep alive, forever up to the last days, His messengers who bear a mark of distinction over the rest of His creatures. To this end He has established the institution of Khilafat so that the world shall never remain without the blessing of prophethood”.

So, the immensely important feature and property of the Khilafat Ahmadiyya is not of an earthly, but of heavenly and Divine nature! Its utmost importance is that it is established on the precepts of Prophethood, as warranted by the Holy Prophet(saw), fourteen hundred years ago, and as proved and confirmed by the Promised Messiah and Mahdi(as) Both eras of the true Khilafat are thus built on the precepts of Prophethood, and, therefore, the supreme religious authority of all Khalifas in Ahmadiyyat firmly rest upon the well-known instruction of the Holy Prophet(saw),  who is reported to have said:

“Follow in my footsteps and in the footsteps of Khulafah-e-Rashideen who are fully guided.”

For those who may argue that there are other social and hierarchical systems in various schools of Islam, or even in other religions, the irrefutable answer is thus given as to the uniqueness of the Khilafat Ahmadiyya. There were and there are attempts at establishing Khilafats of sorts made by different Khilafat movements, but they seem to have forgotten that the true Khilafat cannot be established by men, but by Allah alone. Indeed, even the Catholic Church might say that they have a kind of a Khilafat with the Pope at its helm. But neither the Catholic Church, nor any other religion beyond Islam can be blessed with Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood, as the only unlimited and everlasting Prophethood is that of the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw), who, in himself, confirms the truth of all other prophets of God.

Khilafat in Islam only became possible, because Allah Himself promised ever higher spiritual status to Muslims striving along the path to spiritual perfection, saying:

And whoso obeys Allah and this Messenger of His shall be among those on whom Allah has bestowed His blessings, namely: the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and the Righteous. And excellent companions are these. (Ch.4:V.70)

But again – precisely because of the prophecy of the Holy Prophet(saw), no other religion and no community in Islam can hope to attain the spiritual glories of Khilafat, if they do not recognise that the new Khilafat in Islam may emerge only and necessarily on the precepts of prophethood, and this is tantamount to recognising the truth of Ahmadiyyat in its entirety.

Thus the Ahmadiyya Khilafat bears witness to the truth of Ahmadiyyat, and the importance of this fact for the modern world just cannot be underestimated.

If we truly realise that grand unseen property of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat is its foundation on the precepts of Prophethood, we also realise that the spiritual importance of Khilafat Ahmadiyya for the modern world is today even greater than its social example.

The Ahmadiyya Khilafat presents a valid alternative to any political or humanitarian structure for selflessly resolving the many problems of humanity. It establishes the existence of the living Prophetic tradition in Islam and, thorough the phenomenon of Prophethood, establishes and proclaims the very Existence of God, to which existence Khilafat Ahmadiyya – in its utterly sacrificial, completely selfless and, therefore, all but unbelievable existence with prophetic Divine foresight – is the most obvious, most trustworthy and most irrefutable proof.

Khilafat Ahmadiyya is, therefore, proof for the entire world of the Existence of God that humankind needs and craves for.

It is in this sense we should understand that Khilafat Ahmadiyya – is indeed the continuous and trustworthy Second Manifestation of His Divine Being. It is, true to the words of the Promised Messiah(as), “Qudrat-i-Thaniyya – the Second Manifestation of Divine Power, which is permanent and will last until the Day of Judgement”.

Khilafat Ahmadiyya Is A State Of Worship And The Living Miracle Of Allah

We know that Islam does not need supernatural miracles to prove its truth. We know one miracle in Islam, the grandest of all, and that is, the Holy Qur’an. But today, witnessing the results of the centenary of Khilafat Ahmadiyya, we can add that Islam has got another miracle in support of the Truth of the first one – the functioning of Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood, which is getting stronger by the day, despite all selfish and power-hungry opposition in the world!

May the entire world witness Khilafat Ahmadiyya with loving eyes! They will then see not only the true religious system uniting true believers by bonds of love and common striving for the good of humanity but also that this is, the only system that is uniting, in the present, both the past and the future, thus preserving for today and tomorrow, for all generations to come, the very essence of Prophethood as the living and inexhaustible channel of Divine revelation.

It is only Khilafat Ahmadiyya that, at every moment of our lives, grants us the way to worship Allah as He Himself wants us to worship Him. As it is said in the Surah “Al-‘Asr”:

By the testimony of time,

Surely, man is in a state of a loss,

Except those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to accept truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast. (Ch.103:Vs.2-4)

And so, those who adhere to Khilafat Ahmadiyya will never suffer a loss as a Jama’at – this is the Divine promise of Allah fulfilled in the very existence of Khilafat in our age. Khilafat Ahmadiyya is the living proof of the blessings of prophethood always instructing and admonishing us with wisdom and lofty examples of the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) of his rightly-guided Khalifas and of the Khalifas of Ahmadiyyat.

Islam exists in the world to establish Allah’s Being and His Unity for all to see and realise. In this respect, the Ahmadiyya Khilafat is not just the religious and social organisational system in Islam. It is not only a visible system – it is something invisible to feel and experience. It is, therefore, the state of communal as well as individual worship in Islam, for we worship Allah not only by our individual and congregational prayers, but also by our deeds and thoughts, and fulfilled promises, as it is shown in the Surah “Al-‘Asr”.

All of that is being done by us within the frame of Khilafat. This is why our attitude to Khilafat Ahmadiyya is one of religious nature, and this is how we must judge our sincerity towards fulfilling our obligations towards it.

But Jama’at Ahmadiyya exists not for it own benefit – it is established for the benefit of the whole of humanity! Therefore, may Allah bring about the long-awaited revolution in attitudes and, first of all, make praying Muslims of the world finally realise the objective of praying during their daily worship. May this understanding lead them towards the right path – which is the path of Khilafat of the Holy Prophet(saw), and its continuation in Khilafat Ahmadiyya!

And we must treasure our Khilafat as the most sacred religious institution and in our daily efforts, always remember the New Centenary Pledge devised by our Khalifa, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, forever affirming that “we shall strive till the last breath to safeguard the institution of Khilafat and its stability and shall direct our progeny after progeny to always be bonded with Khilafat and be given the blessings of it, so that Khilafat Ahmadiyya continues to go on safe and sound and the propagation of Islam may go on through Ahmadiyyat till the Day of Judgement and the flag of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), may fly higher and higher than all other flags in the world.

O Allah, grant us the capacity to fulfil this pledge.


1. In the book “Masnad-i-Ahmad” it is reported by Hudhaifa as quoted by Mishkat in the chapter Inzar-wa-Tahzir.