Who or what The Khalifa of Islam would be was defined by The Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the various prophecies The Prophet (sa) made in his lifetime.
“Prophethood shall remain among you as long as Allah 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. A tyrannical monarchy will then follow and will remain as long as Allah shall will and then come to an end. There will follow thereafter monarchial despotism to last as long as Allah shall will and come to an end upon His decree. There will then emerge Khilafat on precept of Prophethood.”
The Holy Prophet (sa) said no more (Masnad Ahmad)
More than 1400 years ago, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) also made a prophecy that said,
“My people will be divided into 73 sects, all of them will be in the fire except one.”
The companions asked,
‘Who are they O Messenger of Allah,’
Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“They are those who will be like me and my companions.” (Trimizi, Kitabul Iman).
The government of Pakistan and the leaders of all the rest of 72 sects of Islam (other than Ahmadi Muslims) clearly distinguished the identity of the true sect when they collectively signed legislation in 1974 that declared all Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan. This decision, however, did ironically provide an interesting, if not unique, distinction of one group of Muslims from the other 72 sects fulfilling the prophecy of Holy Prophet(sa).
“… His electors can have no idea of later functions and development of the office. … The sole condition of his appointment was the maintenance of the heritage of the Prophet.”
After the assassination of the Hazrat Ali (ra) (661 A.D.), the last of the four rightly-guided Khalifa, the question of the right to successorship resulted in a major split in Islam into Sunni and Shia branches. Spirituality was lost and replaced by a political institution or caliphate
This reign of caliphs as kings and monarchs continued over the centuries till the last caliph of Cairo was captured in 1517 by the Ottoman sultan Selim I. The Ottoman sultans then claimed the title of caliph and brandished it for four centuries until it was abolished in 1924 by the Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, the founder of Turkish Republic.
What do people mean when they talk about the caliphate? The Arabic word khalifa means successor. The term caliph is simply an anglicized version of khalifa. The terms khilafat and caliphate, though derived from khalifa and caliph respectively, have different connotations. Khilafat refers to the Islamic institution of spiritual successorship, whereas caliphate implies a politico-religious Muslim state governed by a caliph. The institution of khilafat is based on the precept of prophethood; and therefore, like prophethood, it can exist and flourish without a state. Khilafat is a divinely guided institution. At its core it is divine Will with human participation. The Holy Spirit superintends the election process. It is much like the Pope in Catholicism.
The general Muslims erroneously envision a political institution of caliphate somewhat like the European Union for Muslims. The extremists want a political-religious hegemony and use it as a cover for their carnage and conquest and to advance their misguided ways. True spiritual leadership of Khilafat is a divinely appointed office. Any man made effort to restore it will not succeed. It will die its own death.
What often escapes notice is that the separation of Church-Mosque and State has fully crystallized, only gradually in human history. There was no separation of Temple and State in the Roman Empire and everyone was made to worship the State Gods and that led to persecution of the early Christians, who refused to be polytheist. In recent times the Popes have limited themselves to moral and spiritual dimension of the humanity, leaving secular leadership to the elected political leaders, but this was not always the case. Pope Urban II and Pope Innocent III were certainly military leaders in as much as they initiated and stoked the First Crusade.
After a hiatus of 13 hundred years, the Ahmadiyya Khilafat in Islam re-emerged in accordance with the prophecies of Prophet Muhammad. This is one of the most significant events in the history of Islam whose full impact is yet to be seen.
This community, an embodiment of The Khalifa of Islam, categorically rejects militancy in every form and wages an intellectual jihad of the pen. When faced with bitter persecution, it practices patience and perseverance. When subjected to intolerance, it preaches peace and tolerance. It champions the cause of the dispossessed and works towards uplifting the downtrodden through its international humanitarian efforts.
The Ahmadiyya Khilafat has conquered no land and possesses no earthly dominion, but it wields its influence over the hearts and minds of millions by winning over one man and one woman at a time. It is a force for good in the world, and exemplifies, once again, an institution grounded in the precepts of prophethood.