Caliphate: Validity in Question

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This is an extract from the final chapter of the book Islamic Caliphate: The Missing Chapters. This recently launched book is a comparative study of three models of caliphate: The Ahmadiyya, the Ottoman and the ISIS. This study reveals that while the Ottoman and the ISIS caliphates both claimed to be successors of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam, both failed to deliver the claim when it came to practice. However, the Ahmadiyya caliphate – with its very humble resources – ran parallel to both (1908-1924 and then 2014-2017) and served the cause of the Islam in the best possible way by taking forward the mission of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam.

In the opening chapters, we have seen that caliphate, as a term, is taken to mean the successorship of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. We have also seen that after the first four Rashidun, hundreds of caliphs from a number of dynasties claimed the office. We have also seen that all of them – the Ummayads, the Abbasids and the Ottomans – practiced the rule of inheritance in passing down the title.

Before delving further into the question of who can be justly called the successor of the Prophetsa, we stop here and observe that dynastical rule could and can in no way be a valid formula of successorship of the Prophet Muhammadsa. The office is a spiritual one and hereditary succession can in no way guarantee the successor to be spiritually capable of taking on the position.

We see that the Ahmadiyya caliphate has practiced the method of Shura for succession of caliphs by ensuring that the person elected is fully capable in terms of religious understanding, spiritual leadership and administrative decision-making. This makes the Ahmadiyya caliphate the only one that followed the method of succession advised by the Prophetsa himself and practiced by his first four Rashidun caliphs.

Then there is the issue of defining successful leadership; success being inherent in the concept of caliphate as discussed in light of Islamic canonical sources and their classical, medieval interpretations. History bears witness that the Ummayads, the Abbasids and the Ottomans spent most of their time, energy, resources and human resources in warfare and territorial occupation.

Their contribution towards secular learning cannot be undermined as it was during the rule of the Ummayad and the Abbasid dynasties that Muslim scholars prospered in the fields of philosophy, mathematics and sciences. But to align any success of any caliphate, the spiritual decline and constantly emerging sectarian cleavages at the hands of the clergy cannot be just put aside. Caliphs are meant to lead the nation just as the Holy Prophetsa did – morally, spiritually and religiously. The caliphs from the three main dynasties failed to do so. What was witnessed instead was a spiritual decline in Muslims who subsequently became weary of Islamic Shariah and resorted to innovations in the name of tariqa (mystic practices).

We have seen in the preceding chapters that the Ahmadiyya caliphate, on the other hand, always called Muslims to the fundamental teachings of Islam. One has to pledge that they will practice all tenets and pillars of faith to be accepted in the allegiance of the caliph (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, Conditions of Bai‘at and Responsibilities of an Ahmadi). The migration of the Ahmadiyya caliphate from their headquarters in Pakistan to London was for the reason that the anti-Ahmadiyya laws did not allow the caliph to practice as a Muslim – breaching the law meant imprisonment and hence the termination of his caliphal role (https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/05/06/pakistan-pandering-extremists-fuels-persecution-ahmadis). Most of the millions of pages of literature produced by the Ahmadiyya caliphate calls its adherents to have a living relationship with God, to pray to Him, to practice every command of God and to live their lives according the Quran (www.ahmadiyya-islam.org/khalifa).

What services a caliph renders for the cause of propagation of Islam is another decisive factor in terms of validity of the claim to the office of the caliphate of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam. Thousands of mosques (built in every continent of the world), thousands of missions, hundreds of health  and educational facilities for the underprivileged parts of the world, humanitarian projects like providing water to the underdeveloped areas (www.amjinternational.org/activities/humanitarian-projects), translations of the Quran in hundreds of languages spoken across the globe, printing and publishing literature to educate the world about Islam (www.amjinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/A4_Report_2014_03_Web.pdf), and the lectures and addresses delivered by the caliph himself to various parliaments and congregations around the world, are all witness to the fact that no other claimant to Islamic caliphate has ever been able to render services for Islam at such a scale (www.ahmadiyya-islam.org/khalifa).

The moral character of a person is another touchstone to determine how much they qualify for a position sacred enough to be the successorship of the Holy Prophetsa. Books of history testify that many caliphs from the Ummayad, Abbasid and Ottoman dynasties were immersed in the habits of drinking and womanising. As “Amirul Momineen” – leader of the faithful – they would feel free to point to a “believing” girl and have her in their harems; women of the disbelieving subjects were taken to be more of an object and any of them could be summoned to satisfy the desires of the so-called caliphs. Some Ottoman caliphs are said to have had up to five hundred women as concubines in their harems – all waiting to be called for a lucky night. Sultan Abdel Hemid II (1842-1918) is said to be born to a Russian concubine of his father, Sultan Abdul Mejid, who, when informed of the child’s birth, did not even know which woman had given birth to his child – the heir to the throne as next “caliph”. Illegitimate conjugal relations, leading to illegitimate birth of future caliphs, is something that no Muslim would want to associate to the successor of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam (Shahab ud-Din an-Nuwayri, Niahayat al-Arab fi Funoon al-Adab [commonly known as Nihaya], Vol. 4).

The characters of the Ahmadiyya caliphs, on the other hand, have always been seen with great respect by their followers and non-followers alike. This one factor should, again, be helpful in understanding the true nature of caliphate.

The list of decisive factors is long. (Contemporary Muslim writers like Haroon Mughal have discussed how the caliphates that followed the Rashidun were not representative of the Islamic definition of caliphate and that a true caliph is required to lead the ummah [www.qz.com/546973/only-a-real-islamic-caliphate-can-stand-up-to-the-sham-of-isil].)

I conclude this work with one last factor. At a time when the Prophetsa of Islam and the religion of Islam come under attack by a vast population of the world; when Islam becomes a symbol of terror and the Prophetsa of Islam is branded as the founder of religious fanaticism, who is it that comes forward as a defender of Islam? As seen in preceding chapters, it has always been the Ahmadiyya caliph. The British Parliament, the Parliament of New Zealand, the Canadian Parliament, Capitol Hill in the USA, the Irish Parliament, African heads of states, all invite Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, the Ahmadiyya caliph to speak to them about the Islamic viewpoint on various contemporary world issues.

We find no other example from the Muslim leadership – if there does exist one – to have approached all influential heads of states and faith leaders in as systematic a manner to invite them to understand the true teachings of Islam and to play their role in eradicating religious differences for a better, pluralistic world; the only Islamic leader to have done so has been Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, the Ahmadiyya caliph, who not only did so but also publicised the correspondence to set an example (World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace – Included are letters written by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa to the Pope, the Queen of England and the heads of states of Israel, Iran, USA, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Canada).

The intention is not to end this work by giving a judgmental answer. It is rather to invite members of the academia and those interested in the subject to come up with an analysis of their own. The motive is to open an avenue for academics to research and fill a gap in the scholarly study of Islamic caliphate.

Another intention of this work has been to draw attention to the astounding and bitter fact that the international media all along seemed more interested in the work of a caliphate that stood for hate, violence, terrorism and brutality. Why the work of the caliphate that stood for love, peace, harmony and interfaith collaboration never got the same level of media interest is a question we would want to, at the least, be raised if not answered.

If the circles of both the academia and the media reply by way of judging the status of Ahmadiyya as a “heretic” movement, or a sect that is declared “out of the pale of Islam” by the orthodox Muslims, I would advise that the theological debate be left aside as almost all Islamic sects have declared each other the same.

The Ahmadiyya caliphate was around and fully functional in the later years of the Ottoman caliphate; it was around and globally functional when the ISIS caliphate rose and fell. However, it never got to be studied in a systematic, academic and scholarly manner as it deserves.

No claims have been made in this work. It is not being presented as a complete work on the topic of Islamic caliphate in the modern day. This work is just a means to provide a steppingstone for those who wish to carry out research in this field.

(The book Islamic Caliphate: The Missing Chapters is available at www.amazon.co.uk and other regional Amazon outlets)

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