From the very beginning, Allah has been sending His Prophets to mankind, to inform them of their purpose in life – to worship the One God, that through worshipping God and following God’s ways, mankind can attain righteousness and attain spiritual prosperity and progress. To ensure the message of the Prophet continues and there is a strong body of believers, Allah has also set up a heavenly system of leadership which is called Khilafat (sometimes spelt Caliphate). Khilafat means successor and after the prophet, a successor or Khalifa continues his work guiding and developing the believers. It is a wonderful bounty of Allah, which ensures unity of believers and enables the believers to continue to do righteous deeds and to serve God and mankind.
The Holy Qur’an relates:-
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.”
Holy Qur’an, Chapter 24, Verse 56
This pattern was continued with the inception of Islam, the universal religion for all mankind. Allah sent to the believers, the Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who was the most excellent exemplar and who established the Unity of God and showed us how to follow the path to God. In his lifetime, he completely fulfilled his mission and taught us the Islamic faith and how to worship Allah. After he passed away, Allah established the system of Khilafat.
Khilafat is a successor after the prophet in the form of a person who represents the deceased prophet and the Khalifa is the vicegerent and his subordinate. He is the central authority. This is the basic principle of Khilafat.
All Muslims understand its need as well as importance. This need was felt after the sad demise of the Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Islam is based on unity, the belief of One God and brotherhood.
This unity can only be maintained as long as there is only one Imam (leader) for the entire Muslim nation. Khilafat provides us with a system to have one Imam for the entire Ummah (Muslim nation). It is therefore understood from the Qur’anic verse above that whenever the Muslims cease to have only one Imam among them, Khilafat will be taken away from them.
In this connection, the Holy Prophet Muhammad may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said:
‘O Muslims! This prophethood will remain with you as long as Allah wishes it to remain. Then it would come to an end, to be replaced with Khilafat which would be on the pattern of prophethood, and would remain as long as Allah wills.
Then this Khilafat would also come to an end. Then there will be Kingship and will remain as long as Allah wills.
Then there will be the rule of the oppressors and that period too will come to an end.
After that, Khilafat on the pattern of prophethood, would re-emerge.’
Musnad Ahmad: Vol.5, P.404
After saying this, the Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said no more, which indicates that this new Khilafat would continue till the Day of Judgement.
In accordance with the prophecy of the Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, after the end of his prophethood, Allah established Khilafat on the pattern of prophethood. This is referred to as Khilafat-e-Rashidah (rightly-guided Khilafat). This lasted for just thirty years (from 632AD to 661AD), but during that time, Islam gloriously spread not only all over Arabia, but as far and wide as Persia, Syria, Cyprus and Northern Africa.
As the prophecy then continues, this Khilafat-e-Rashidah was followed by Khilafat which lost its spiritual guidance (the pattern of prophethood) and became worldly Kingship. This Kingship eventually became corrupted and the rule of the oppressors took over. Islam entered into a very dark period. But Allah would not leave it in such a state.
As the prophecy finishes, ‘Khilafat on the pattern of prophethood, would re-emerge. Allah Almighty raised the Reformer of the Latter Days – the Leader, the Imam, the Saviour, the Guided One, raised to the status of the Promised Messiahmay peace be upon him, who we believe was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. He claimed to be that person – the Promised One – who is awaited by all the religions to guide mankind back to God. He was bestowed these titles through his immense love for God and the Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
As the Promised Messiah he is the spiritual reflection of Jesus, displaying his teachings of ‘love and forgiveness’. As the Mahdi he is the spiritual reflection of Holy Prophet may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, displaying the true teachings of Islam.
He was given the duty to unite all of mankind under the one chosen religion of God – Islam. The purpose of his coming was: the revival of Islam and enforcement of its teachings, its law, its rules and regulations, to ensure the spiritual and moral prosperity of Muslims. His work is now being continued through his Khalifahs who lead his community to be true followers of Islam.