The Contemporary Mainstream Muslim World, Absence of Khilafat…

Khilafah Ahmadiyya during Global initiation
Khalifatu Masih Khamis during Global initiation

The Contemporary Mainstream Muslim World, Absence of Khilafat and the Global Leadership Crisis – Pin-pointing the Pain and the Pay Points

Until its recent almost one hundred years of continuous drowning into the whirlpool of global leadership vacuum, the mainstream Muslim world had, in every age, always been headed by, at best, a global or, at worst, a regional, Khalifah or Sultan or leader who steered all ramifications of its affairs, settled its disputes and conflicts, and maintained and sustained its global unity, solidarity, harmony, peace and development.

Unfortunately, however, ever since early part of the 20th century that the Muslim world lost the Islamic global leadership system or the Caliphate, it had not only had to confront with the challenge of its re-institution, but also to battle with an array of resultant sinister effects of the conundrum which have turned the entirety of the Ummah into a hotbed of violent inter and intra-state feuds, intra-religious ideological skirmishes, political upheavals and absence of peace and security etc.  Indeed, as Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi starkly noted, “The Muslim world is passing through a crisis that has several dimensions. For it is at once a crisis of identity, a crisis of economic viability and political survival, a crisis of culture and civilization, and, above all, a crisis of thought and belief.”[1]  

This piece examines the almost century-old-conundrum of the absence of global Khilafat system, the global leadership crisis bedeviling the contemporary mainstream Muslim world. It highlights the consequent sinister effects emerging as a result of this challenge [the pain points], and directs the global Muslim mind towards what it views as the Islamically prescribed way out of the challenge of leadership crisis [the pay points].

One Community, One Leader: The Hallmark of the Ideal Prophetic Era        

In the beginning …When the Ummah was what it ought to be!  

It is noteworthy that at the inception of its historical formation in the cosmic scene, the Muslim Ummah directly came under and enjoyed the visionary, revolutionary and prophetic leadership of the Holy Prophet Muhammad [saw] who, on the strength of the Quranic teachings and the Prophetic mannerism, successfully established, organized and nurtured the socio-religious and politico-economic fabrics of the Ummah.  Intra-religious and communal unity, solidarity, harmony, peace and prosperity etc., were all that characterized the commonwealth of that foundational age of the Islamic world. It was the beginning of the Islamic age of renaissance, and the state of the Muslim Ummah was what it ought to be!

The Golden Classical Age: From Khilafat on the Precept of Prophethood to the Kingships and the Sultanates

The subsequent incident of the demise of the Holy Prophet [saw] could only cause temporary fear and anxiety over the issue of succession to the prophetic leadership as there are available both Scriptural promise and Prophetic prediction for the establishment of Khilafat or successorship on the precept of prophethood necessary for the continuity and sustenance of the prophetic mission and leadership legacy.

Thus, the Quran declares: “Allah has promised to those who 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 whose is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious.” [2]

And, as related by Hudhaifa bn Yaman [ra] , the course which the trajectory of the Islamic global leadership system would take in the world had equally been prophesied by the Holy Prophet of Islam, [saw] who said thus: Prophethood shall remain among you for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. Then a caliphate will be established in the precept of prophethood which will last for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. Despotic Kingship will follow. Its rule will last for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. After this tyrannical monarchies will follow. Their rule will last for as long as Allah wills. He will then cause it to end. The caliphate will again be re-instituted on the precept of prophethood. Thereafter the Holy Prophet [saw] became silent. [3]

Thus, today, pages of Muslim history books are replete with the accounts of how the foregoing promises have been fulfilled right from the day of the demise of the Holy Prophet which saw the emergence of the golden age of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs [632-661], followed by the successive epochs of the major dynasties of the Umayyads in Damascus [661-750] and the Abbasids in Baghdad [750-1258]. Similarly, the Sultanates of the Mamluks in Egypt [1260-1517], the Ottomans in Turkey [1283-1924], including a number of relatively regional dynasties of the Umayyads in Spain [929-1036], the Fatimids in Egypt [end 1171], the Safavids in Persia [began 1501], the Seljuks [ended 1194], the Ayyubis [began 1171] and the Mughals in India [ended 1857] etc. [4]

Contemporary Mainstream Muslim World and the Dilemma of a Headless Body: The Pain Points

Today, the contemporary mainstream Muslim world exists as a headless body, a disintegrated community with no single global leader. This state of affairs began when, in 1924, Mustafa Kamal Atau-Turk finally abolished the Turkish Caliphate that was hitherto holding sway over large territories of the Muslim world. There is no doubting the fact that, as A. M Ahmad noted, the abolition of the Caliphate left the Muslim World in confusion. This was because Muslim throughout history, identified their unity with this institution. It was hard for most Muslims to conceive the existence of the community without the institution of the Caliphate. But in reality they were politically too weak to organize themselves under a single leadership. [5]

However, ever since this unfortunate historical development occurred, various Muslim leaders and scholars of various climes have been organizing series of conferences, establishing a number of movements and writing a number of voluminous books with a view to re-instituting the Caliphate, but have all failed ignominiously to achieve this objective.  The renowned German Professor of Theology, Hans Hung, in his Islam: Past, Present and Future, gave a synopsis of the various fruitless efforts made in the past by the various Muslim leaders and scholars at re-establishing the Caliphate. He writes:

A first option, which at one time was a reality, was whether it was possible to reunite all Islamic peoples, Arab and non-Arab, in a great Islamic empire or a great Islamic federation. The classical period of Islam was when, under the ‘Abbasids, all Islamic peoples from Morocco to India and Central Asia were held together by a common Islamic faith and the one caliph of Baghdad: this was the great time of Islamic law, Islamic philosophy and theology, the Islamic world culture. It is understandable that…. in the 1870s such Pan-Islamic ideas were developed on the Arabian Peninsula—to ward off European colonialism— above all by al-Afghani and his disciple ‘Abduh. It is understandable that some organizations and parties strove later for a union of the different Islamic peoples, the Arabs, Turks, Persians and many others, under the leadership of the sultan in Istanbul. It is even more understandable that the Ottoman reform sultan, ‘Abd al-Hamid II (1876–1909), should have gratefully taken up this Pan-Islamic idea to support his endangered claim to rule.

However, at the same time this sultan suppressed the Arab national movement for precisely such political considerations. And when the Young Turks came to power in 1908–9 they opposed all Pan-Islamic efforts under the banner of Pan-Ottomanism—until the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1918 and the caliphate was abolished by Atatürk in 1924, so that Pan-Islamism lost its leading figure. Five Pan-Islamic conferences of religious scholars followed: in Mecca (1924), Cairo (1926), Mecca (1926), Jerusalem (1931) and Geneva (1935)—all without tangible results. After the Second World War, Pan-Islamism received fresh impetus with the foundation in 1949 of the Islamic World Congress in Karachi, in 1962 of the World Muslim League in Mecca and in 1970 of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah as an umbrella organization for Islamic governments. However, none of these organizations was able to integrate the national liberation movements in the individual Islamic countries. In 1947, after the partition of India, Pakistan became the first independent Islamic state; others followed. The Islamic movements and conferences could at best spread the idea of solidarity among Muslims and warn of the need for a common solution to economic and social problems. But to the present day, the creation of an Islamic federation remains a daydream. [6]

Global Khilafat Vacuum in the Mainstream Muslim World – The Sinister Effects

The Jewish Talmudic dictum: “Woe to the country which hath lost its leader; woe to the ship when its captain is no more,” [7] graphically represents a synopsis of the challenges, the conditions that invariable surface when a body becomes headless, when a community is bereft of its khalifah, its rightful leader.

Such, indeed, is what has become the condition of the mainstream Muslim world of our contemporary times. As Professor Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi pathetically lamented: the world ummah of Islam is undeniably the most unhappy ummah in the world in modern times. Despite the fact that it is the largest in number, the richest in land and resource, the greatest in legacy and the only one possessing the most viable ideology, the ummah is a very weak constituent of world order. It is fragmented into an endless variety of states, divided against itself, at loggerheads with other ummahs on all its frontiers, incapable of producing what it needs or consumes, of defending itself against its enemies. Above all, instead of being the ummatan wasatan (the median among the peoples of mankind) (Q. 2:142), which Allah ta’ala wished it to be, it is the prey of everybody. If it has made any contribution to the historical battle against disease, poverty, ignorance, hostility, immorality and impiety in modern times, it has been negligible. [8]

Indeed, today, the Muslim world is known for its inner strife, division, self-contradiction, as well as for its wars between Muslims and Muslims, its threat to World peace, its excessive wealth somewhere and excessive poverty elsewhere. On political front, the Muslims are divided; on economic front, they are under-developed and on religio-cultural front, illiteracy, ignorance and lack of earnestness have driven them into a blind alley. Stepped in superstition, mentally imprisoned by dogma, governed in daily life by customs and usages prescribed over a thousand years back, the Muslim is considered to be the “sick man” of the World today. All these deplorable factors have bedeviled the Muslim Nations of the World because of their forgetfulness of the Quranic Wisdom. The Teachers of such wisdom, the Ulama (scholars), are themselves on “sick-bed”, and are unable to cure the ailments of others. [9]

Adhering to the Global Muslim Community with a Single Global Khalifah or Leader: The Pay Points

And, now, the way forward? Expediently, the fact that all the various previous attempts to re-institute a global caliphate have all met with no success; the fact that all existing Muslims’ international bodies, e.g. Muslim World League, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference etc. have all failed to effectively and efficiently champion constructive and productive global intra-religious and inter-state relations and co-operations within/for the Muslim world shows that every member of the mainstream Muslim world must now, more than ever, seriously consider the expediency of:

[1] Assessing objectively and appreciating the fact that the Latter-day re-establishment of the Khilafat on the precept of Prophethood as predicted by the Holy Prophet [saw] presumed that this can only be actualized sequel to the emergence and then demise of a prophet of a sort; for, the emergence of a successor or Khalifa of a prophet must naturally be preceded by the emergence of a prophet who is to be succeeded. Thus, to realize this, the mainstream Muslims, the intelligentsias in particular, stand the task of critically re-examining the rationality of their concept of finality of prophethood which postulates the non-coming of a prophet of any sort in the world again. Obviously, they have, by this belief, shut the very door through which they expect the Khilafat based on the Precept of Prophethood to emerge – here lies the dilemma.

[2] Understanding and appreciating the fact that the establishment of Khilafat is the prerogative of Allah alone, merited only by any given global community of faithful and righteous Muslims, and cannot be actualized through human efforts of conveyance of ad-hoc conferences, establishment of movements, or the use of terroristic force as it is being attempted in some quarters by some radicalist-Islamist-terrorists etc.

[3] Looking around to discover and adhere to any existing globally organized Muslim community with a single global Khalifa or leader whose existence has passed the test of time, and whose global presence and influence enjoy a considerably high level of global followership with a hallmark of global solidarity, unity, harmony and sustainable peace and development pervading such an international community.

The foregoing third point is very crucial as it is in line with the following Prophetic instruction as narrated by Hudhaifah bn Yaman [ra] and authentically reported in the book of Traditions thus: “The people used to ask the Messenger of Allah [saw] about good, but I used to ask him about evil lest it might overtake me. Once I said: “O Messenger of Allah! We were in ignorance and in evil and Allah bestowed upon us the present good [through you]; will there be any evil after this good?” He said: “Yes.” I asked: “Will there be good after that evil?” He said: “Yes, but it would be tainted with smoke [little evil].” I asked: “What will its smoke be?” He said: “There will be some people who will follow a method other than my tradition. You will see their actions and disapprove of them.” I said: “Will there be any evil after that good?” He said: “Yes, there will be advocates to the doors of Hell, and whoever accepts their invitation to it will be thrown in it [by them].” I said: “O Messenger of Allah! Describe those people to us.” He said: “They belong to us and speak our language.” I asked: “What do you order me to do if such a thing should take place in my life.” He said: “Adhere to the group [Jamaat] of Muslims and their Chief [Imaam].” [talzim jama’ata al-muslimeena wa imaamahum] I asked: “If there is neither a group [of Muslims] nor a chief [what shall I do]?” He said: “Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite [i.e eat] the root of a tree, till you meet Allah while you are still in that state.”[10]  In another version of this Hadith, we have: If in these times any Khalifah of Allah is to be found, then you should obey him even if he were to cause you injury or appropriate your wealth.” [fa in kaana lillaahi ‘azza wa jalla yauma’idhin khalifatun daraba zhahraka wa akhadha maalaka fasma’ wa ‘ati’..] [11]

More so, it should be emphasized here that while the above Prophetic guidance has clearly put every contemporary member of the Muslim world under the obligation of searching for and adhering to any available global community of Muslim headed by a single global leader, it is however more imperative and compelling that whenever and wherever such a community and such a Khalifah, a leader is found, every Muslim must be unbiased and objective enough to investigate its rationales and embrace and adhere to it based on conviction. Now, in obedience to the Prophetic instruction, let everyone embark on a search for an answer to the poser: which of the existing plethora of Muslim communities uniquely stand out as an international Muslim community with a single global Khalifah as its supreme head?


It is an incontrovertible fact that the fate, the unity, the solidarity, the harmony, the progress, peace and development of the contemporary Muslim world all can only be actualized and continuously sustained through and under a single global Khalifah of Islam.

In the meantime, however, as the going gets tough and the tough gets going against the contemporary mainstream Muslim world, it steadily stands at the crossroad of the two options of: either [1] to search for, discover and adhere to, any available global Jamaat that is supremely headed by a single global khilafat institution established on the precept of prophethood, or [2] to continue to live forever under the ominous portent of the following Talmudic verdict:“Woe to the country which hath lost its leader; woe to the ship when its captain is no more.”


  1. Ghazi, Mahmood Ahmad, The Shorter Book of Muslim International Law, a Translation of Kitab Al-Siyar Al-Saghir, by Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaibani, 1998, Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Pakistan, Preface.
  2. The Holy Quran, Arabic Text and English Translation, Translated by Maulawi Sher Ali, 2014, Islam International Publications Ltd, UK. Ch. 24, v. 56
  3. Musnad Ahmad, vol. 5, p. 342, No. 17939; Mishkatul Masabih, Kitab al-Riqaq, Bab Al-Andhar wa al-Tahdhir
  4. A Brief Chronology of Muslim History, Data supplied courtesy of ISL Software
  5. Ahmad, A M [1990], quoted in Abdulfattah ibn Raji’s Studies in Islamic Political Thought and Ideology, 2008, Jam’iyya Junud Dinil Islamiyy, Nigeria, p. 277
  6. Hans Hung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 2007, One World Publications, England, p. 456-457
  7. The Talmud, p. 300
  8. Al-Faruqi, Ismail Raji, Tauhid – Its Relevance for Thought and Life, Preface
  9. Ahmad, A M, et al, p. 276-277
  10. Al-Bukhari and Muslim; At-Tabrizi, Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Khatib, Mishkat Al-Masabih – The Niche of Lamps, [2012], Dar Al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Lebanon, vol. 1V, pg 43
  11. Mustadrak Imam Hakim, Kitab al-fitan wa al-malahim, vol. 4, p. 432-433


About the writer:
Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo is a Hafizul Quran, an Islamic Missionary and the National Secretary of the Majlis Ansar Sultanil Qalam of Nigeria (Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here