Caliphate – The Lifeline of the Ummah


The Review of Religions takes all responsibility for any errors in translation

(This speech was delivered in Rabwah, Pakistan, on the 25th October 1953 by His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) on the annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association – Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya)

After reciting the TashahhudTa’awwuz and Surah Al-Fatihah, His Holiness said:

‘Yesterday, despite the fact that I only spoke briefly, when I returned home I felt unwell and had a fever all day long. Even today I have a sore throat, a constant cough, fever, and body aches, as a result of which I do not think I can speak as much as I did yesterday. However, since this is the concluding session of the annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association [Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya] I have decided to come here for a short while. After speaking for a few minutes, I will leave and the remaining programme can continue as planned.

Around the world, people are born, and they die; there is not a single person who can live forever. However, if nations wish to live forever, they can do so. It was this very hope that Jesus, peace be upon him, wished to instil by saying:

‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you for ever.’[1]

Through this statement, Jesus, peace be upon him, wished to remind people about this point that since death is decreed for every individual, he too shall one day, depart from them, but if they wished to live forever, they could do so. An individual cannot live forever, but nations can – should they wish to do so – and if this is not the case then they too shall perish.

The Promised Messiah (as) has also alluded to this point, wherein he says:

“For it is essential for you to witness the second Manifestation also, and its coming is better for you because it is everlasting, the continuity of which will not end till the Day of Judgement. And that second Manifestation cannot come unless I depart. But when I depart, God will send that second Manifestation for you which shall always stay with you…” [2]

In this extract the word “always” means that you all can live on for as long as you wish, however, even if everyone collectively wished for the Promised Messiah (as) to continue living on, this would not happen. Indeed, if you wish for the Second Manifestation to continue amongst you, then that is possible.

There are two aspects to the Second Manifestation; firstly, divine succour and secondly, Caliphate. If a nation wishes and makes themselves worthy, they can be recipients of both divine succour and Caliphate. Issues always arise when one’s mind-set deteriorates. If one’s mind-set remains firmly rooted in moral principles, then there is no reason why God Almighty would abandon any nation. Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوۡمٍ حَتّٰى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنفُسِھِمۡ


Meaning that Allah the Almighty never changes the way He deals with a group of people, until their hearts become corrupted. This is something that every single person can understand, and nobody can say that it is difficult for them to comprehend this principle. Not even the most ignorant person to whom this was explained to could claim that they failed to comprehend this fact. If having failed to understand it the first time, they would most certainly be able to comprehend it if it was explained a second time. However, even a small and trivial matter such as this is overlooked by nations. Death is decreed upon everyone, and if an individual dies, then no blame shall be upon that individual. But death is not necessarily decreed for nations. If a nation wishes to subsist forever, they can do so. However, they destroy themselves with their own hands. Through the Holy Prophet (sa), Allah the Almighty gave the companions a teaching whereby had their progenies acted upon those teachings, they would have survived. Yet they abandoned it, as a result of which they perished.

The entire world questions – and people have posed this question to me as well many times – that despite the fact that God Almighty gave the Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa) the most sublime teaching –  which contained the remedy for every social ill and issue – and the Holy Prophet (sa) demonstrated these teachings through his practice, but ultimately what happened to this teaching? And why did it finish after just 33 years?

In comparison, the Caliphate amongst Christians [i.e. the Papacy] is of a lesser significance, yet the Papacy is continuing even until today. There is no doubt that amongst the Christians there are denominations who have rebelled against the pope, yet the majority of Christians accept him, and they have benefitted from this organisation and structure. However, the Caliphate remained within the Muslims for 33 years and then it ceased. The Islamic social infrastructure remained intact for 33 years after which it finished. Neither did the Islamic republic remain nor did anyone remain to care for the poor. Nor did those people remain who would educate others, look after their food, clothing and all other necessities. The question naturally arises, why did this all come to an end? The reason is that the attitude and mind-set of the Muslims became corrupted. If their mind-set remained pure and unadulterated, then there was no reason why this blessing would have been taken away from them.

Thus, strive to attain the pleasure of Allah the Almighty and always attach yourself to the institution of Caliphate. If you do this, then the Caliphate shall remain among you for all times. The Caliphate has been entrusted in your hands by God Almighty so that He can say, ‘I have entrusted the Caliphate with you and if you so desire, it can remain established among you forever.’ If Allah wished, He could have established it through Divine commandment. However, God has issued a decree that He shall keep it established so long as the people wish for it to remain among them. It is as if God wishes to hear this declaration from your tongues whether or not you wish for the Caliphate to remain with you. Now if you remain silent or at the time of election show complete disregard of the criteria that qualifies one of being worthy of the station of Caliphate, for example, if you elect someone who is unworthy of being the Caliph, then you will lose this blessing of God.

The reason why I was moved to speak on this, is that last night at approximately 2 am I saw a vision, in which I saw the notes of an author or historian written with an indelible pencil or blue ink in the English language. I was unable to read the notes clearly, but of what I could make out, it contained a discussion on why the Muslims became corrupted so soon after the Holy Prophet (sa), despite the fact that God Almighty conferred extraordinary favours upon the Muslims by giving them the best way to live and most excellent economic system. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (sa) demonstrated to them how to practically act on those teachings. Despite all this, the Muslims stumbled, and they became corrupted. All this was written in those notes in the English language, but the strange thing was that instead of the English being written from left to right, it was written from right to left. However, I was able to read it. Even though the writing was distorted and the words were not clear, I could still make out some of the words. One of the sentences I could make out was the following:

“There were two reasons for it; their temperament becoming 1) morbid [and] 2) anarchical.”

This sentence explains why this calamity befell the Muslims. This mentions the two reasons which developed within the Muslims as a result of which they became corrupted; firstly, they became “morbid”, i.e. they developed unnatural tendencies and became spiteful, and the second reason was owing to their anarchical views. I pondered over the matter and indeed both these aspects are correct. The Muslims brought destruction upon themselves. 

In terms of becoming “morbid”, they were destroyed because the success they gained was because of Islam and owing to the Holy Prophet (sa), it was not due to any personal quality of theirs. The Holy Prophet (sa) was born in Makkah and the people of Makkah were not known for any prestige. People honoured them but only for the sake of being custodians of a shrine. When they would go to meet other people, they would only honour them for this very reason, or at the most they considered them to be traders. Nobody would recognise them as an organised government. Furthermore, they were considered so worthless that other rulers deemed it lawful to take tax from them forcefully. For example, the King of Yemen who decided to invade Makkah, an incident which has been recordedwhich in the Qur’an as ‘The People of the Elephant’ [Ashab al-Fil]. 

After the Holy Prophet (sa) was appointed as a prophet, he spent 13 years in Makkah. In this period, only a few hundred people accepted him and joined his community. After 13 years he migrated [to Madinah] and eight years after the migration, all of Arabia came under one rule. Subsequently they gained so much power that mighty empires became fearful of them. At the time, the world was ruled by two major empires; firstly, the Byzantine Empire, and secondly, the Persian Empire. The Byzantine Empire spanned eastern Europe, Turkey, Abyssinia, Greece, Egypt, the Levant and Anatolia, and the territories under the Persian empire included; Iraq, Iran, many Russian territories, Afghanistan, and some areas of India and China. At the time, these were the two major empires. In contrast to this, the Arabs paled into insignificance. However, eight years after the migration, all of Arabia came under the rule of the Holy Prophet (sa). Then, when the Christian tribes rebelled on the frontiers, initially the Holy Prophet (sa) went to deal with it and as a result, the disorder was averted temporarily. But a short while later, the tribes instigated another rebellion, and the Holy Prophet (sa) sent an army to crush the uprising. This army dealt with many of the tribes and formed covenants with others. Then, approximately two and a half years after the demise of the Holy Prophet (sa), the Arabian peninsula came under Islamic rule, and in fact, the Islamic rule extended out of Arabia and began to spread to other places. Five years after the conquest of Makkah, the Muslims attacked the Persian Empire and conquered some of its areas. Over the course of a few years, they attacked and defeated the Byzantine Empire and other major powers in their path. Throughout history, such a magnanimous victory and an extraordinary transformation cannot be found anywhere else. 

In history we find the example of Napoleon, but the forces up against him were not more powerful and greater in number than his. He was up against Germany, which at the time was divided into 14 smaller states. Likewise, its power was also divided. A famous American president was asked in relation to Germany, to which he replied: “one is a lion, two or three are foxes and some are mice.” The “lion” was in reference to Russia, foxes meant the other governments, and the mice referred to Germany. Meaning that Germany’s power at the time was divided. Russia was a major power, but despite this Germany clashed with Russia and lost. Similarly, Germany failed to defeat Britain and as a result was at the mercy of the allies. The second notable person was Hitler, in fact there were two prominent individuals; Hitler and Mussolini. Both of them gained some considerable success but eventually both of them were defeated.

Amongst the Muslims, the leader who gained a vast empire in a short space of time was Timur – or Tamerlane. But his case was the same, although his empire extended different corners of the world, he failed in his attempt to conquer the entire world. For example, he wished to conquer China, but was unable to do so. But when he was about to die, he said: “I see piles of human bones all around me that are reproaching me.”

From the time of Prophet Adam (as) until recent times, the only person to gain success whereby he started off completely alone was the Holy Prophet (sa). In a short space of time he managed to bring Arabia under his command. After his demise, one of his successors – or Caliphs – gained victory over a major empire, and after him, another successor managed to conquer the remaining nearby territory. This extraordinary transformation that occurred was not the work of any man but was the work of God.

When the Holy Prophet (sa) passed away, Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) became the first Caliph. When news of the Holy Prophet’s (sa) demise reached Makkah, Abu Quhafah, the father of Abu Bakr was seated in a gathering. When the messenger relayed the news that the Holy Prophet (sa) had passed away, everyone went into a state of shock. Everyone thought that owing to the state of affairs in the land, Islam would now become dispersed. The question of “what would happen now?” was on everyone’s lips. The messenger said: “After the demise of the Holy Prophet (sa), rule has been established, a man has been elected as the Caliph.” They asked him who had been appointed as the Caliph, to which the messenger replied: “Abu Bakr”. Astonished by this, Abu Quhafah asked: “which Abu Bakr?” The reason for his astonishment was that he knew the status of his own tribe and knowing this he could never have imagined that his son would become the king of all of Arabia. The messenger replied that it was Abu Bakr, who belonged to such and such tribe. Even after hearing this, Abu Quhafah still asked, “which branch [of the tribe] does he belong to?” The messenger replied that he belonged to such and such branch [of the tribe]. Upon this, Abu Quhafah asked, “Whose son is he?” and the messenger replied: “He is the son of Abu Quhafah.” Upon hearing this, Abu Quhafah recited the Islamic declaration of faith and said: “Today, I am fully convinced that the Holy Prophet (sa) was sent by God Almighty.” Prior to this incident, the father of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) was a Muslim by name only. But following this, he became a Muslim wholeheartedly. He understood that the Holy Prophet’s (sa) claim was true, because Abu Bakr’s tribal status was not such that all of Arabia would pledge allegiance to him. This indeed was God’s religion. 

However, soon after, the mind-set of the Muslims became corrupted, which led them to believe that all their victories was as a result of their own power. Some began to claim that the real power was with the Banu Umayyah, hence they were more deserving of the Caliphate. Some claimed that the real power of the Arabs was with the Banu Hashim. Some said that it lay with the Banu Muttalib. On the other hand, some claimed that the Ansar were rightful heirs to the Caliphate as they had opened their doors for the Holy Prophet (sa). In a short period of time, the mind-set of the Muslims became “morbid” and corrupted. Every tribe tried to acquire the Caliphate by force and as a result the Caliphate ended.

The second reason for why the Muslims lost their way was due to anarchy. Islam established a spirit of equality between everyone. However, the Muslims failed to realise that in order to establish equality one requires organisation, without which Caliphate is not possible. Islam was established for the sake of organisation and discipline, but in addition to this, it was to ensure that the discipline was not implemented in an oppressive way, rather a discipline in which people were to supress their baser self so that the [Muslim] nation succeeds overall. But only a few years later, the Muslims began saying that the treasury belonged to them and if the ministers stand in their way, it is as if they have killed their due right. This spirit corrupted the Muslims. They ought to have understood that their governance was given to them and established by God Almighty. Therefore, it would have been best if they left it within the hands of God. Allah the Almighty states in Surah Al-Nur that it was God Who would make them Caliphs, but the Muslims thought that it was they who made Caliphs. When they thought that it was they who made Caliphs, God Almighty said: “If this is the case, then you go ahead and make anyone you please as the Caliph”. Hence, for a certain time they were able to devour the carcases killed by those before them; i.e. that of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra), Umar (ra), Uthman (ra) and Ali (ra), but a dead carcase cannot be consumed forever. A doe or a buck, a hen and cockerel which is living will provide its meat and eggs for a long time. But a slaughtered chicken or goat can only give a set quantity of meat, after which the meat will become rotten. Muslims who lived through the Caliphates of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra), Umar (ra), Uthman (ra) and Ali (ra), were given fresh and wholesome meat to eat, as it were. But owing to their own foolishness, they began to think that it was their due right. In this manner, they devoured their soul and the chickens and goats they were consuming became rotten carrion. After all, how long will you be able to consume the meat of a slaughtered goat? One goat usually contains meat equal to approximately 10 -12 Seer [4] [unit of weight] or 25 – 30 Seer and will eventually run out. This is akin to the Punjabi proverb: ‘a madman wanders about carrying his old tattered shoes.’

They began to face humiliation from every direction. They were ruined and the chastisement of God Almighty befall them. Christians have managed to preserve their lifeless Caliphate until today, but these wretched ones buried the prosperous and living Caliphate with their own hands. And they did this only to chase after momentary pleasures, for worldly gain and cravings, and to fulfil their fleeting passions.

The promises that God Almighty vouchsafed to the Muslims are binding even today. When Allah the Almighty promised:

وَعَدَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مِنكُمۡ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصّٰلِحٰتِ لَيَسۡتَخۡلِفَنَّھُمۡ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ كَمَا ٱسۡتَخۡلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن  قَبۡلِھِمۡ

[‘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;’] [5] 

God Almighty specifically mentioned the clause:

ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ  وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصّٰـلِحٰتِ

[…to those among you who believe and do good works…]

He did not single out Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) in this verse, He did not specifically mention Hazrat Umar (ra), nor Hazrat Uthman (ra) or Hazrat Ali (ra). Similarly in this verse, this promise has not been made to the Muslims of the past, or to those living in the first century [after the advent of Islam] or the second century. Rather, this promise was made to all Muslims, whether they lived in the past or those that will come 200 or 400 years from today. Whenever they become the embodiment of  ءَامَنُواْ and عَمِلُواْ ٱلصّٰلِحٰتِ  whereby they remove their carnal passions, they will make the success of Islam their focal point. They will abandon their vested interests, be they personal, for their own community, their own groups, their own tribe, area or country. At this stage the promise of God Almighty will become manifest for them:

لَيَسۡتَخۡلِفَنَّھُمۡ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ كَمَا ٱسۡتَخۡلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِھِمۡ

[He will surely make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them]

Allah the Almighty promised this to everyone; whether they are from Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Europe, Asia, the Americas, living in different islands or across Africa, that He will certainly appoint Successors and Deputies for them in the earth:

لَيَسۡتَخۡلِفَنَّھُمۡ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ

This promise was not confined to people of Syria, Arabia, Nigeria, Kenya, India, China and Indonesia etc., rather there are other countries as well. Hence, it refers to every single country of the world. I.e. the promised Caliphate was for the entire world, as God Almighty has stated that He would make Caliphs for you in all the world:

كَمَا ٱسۡتَخۡلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِھِمۡ

In the same manner He made Caliphs appear among the people before you. In this verse, the similitude of people is not from the word  ٱلۡأَرۡضِ  [the earth], rather the similitude is in the word ٱسۡتَخۡلَفَ  i.e. appointing a successor. This would mean; “We will appoint Caliphs for those people, just as we made Caliphs among the people before them. Furthermore, the Caliphs We will appoint will be such that their influence will span the entire world.”

Therefore, remember this promise of God Almighty. In order to uphold and strengthen the Caliphate, you must always strive to your utmost. You are all young, your resolve should be unyielding and your minds ought to be sharp, so that you can save this ship [of Ahmadiyyat] from being destroyed and sinking. Do not become that rock which makes the river divert around it, rather your duty is to become that very channel which enables water to flow easily. You are like a tunnel whose job is to disseminate the blessings of God received through the Holy Prophet (sa). If you succeed in achieving this, then you will become a nation that will never perish. But if you become an obstacle in the path of divine blessings, and give into your personal interests whereby you only look out for your friends, relatives and close ones, then remember, that will be the beginning of your peoples’ destruction. Then your nation will not survive for long and you will perish just like those people perished before you. However, the Holy Qur’an never closes the doors of progress for any nation. Indeed, in this world, a person cannot live forever, but a nation can subsist. Thus, whosoever progresses, they will be blessed, and whoever refrains from moving forwards, they bring about a death upon themselves, and nobody can come to the aid of the one who chooses to commit suicide.’

(The Daily Al-Fazl, Rabwah, Khilafat Special Edition, May 1961)


[1] The Bible, John, 14:16 

[2] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Will, (Tilford, UK: Islam International Publications Ltd, 2005) 7

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 13:12

[4] Seer also spelt “Ser” was a unit of weight in British India. One Seer was equal to approximately 2 pounds, or 1 kg [Publisher]

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 24:56