It seems that nowadays it has almost become normal for people to question everything they see. People like to ask a lot of questions that scrutinise many things such as our government, worldly affairs and even religion. These questions can sometimes come across as being hostile towards the subject matter and can cause a great deal of offence to others. Islam is also a recipient of these questions. People, especially in the west, attempt to scrutinise the beautiful teachings of Islam by twisting some teachings in a way so that they may seem to be controlling and oppressing. We all know that Islam is only a religion of peace and love, and is neither controlling nor oppressive.
One of Islam’s beautiful teachings, which is scrutinised and questioned regularly, is the teaching of Khilafat (Caliphate) and how it may link to totalitarianism and dictatorship over its people. The people who ask questions like these cannot be blamed for their ignorance; the real blame lies in the Middle East. In terms of current affairs, extreme Islamist groups such as ISIS, whose atrocities have made breaking news all over the globe, have claimed that they have established an ‘Islamic State’ and with it a Khalifa. This ‘spiritual leader’ only conveys a message of extreme violence and hate. In contrast to this, there is no doubt that the beauty of Khilafat has nothing to do with the tyrannical concept of dictatorship. God Himself appoints a Khalifa as the spiritual father of His ummah; and for him to fulfil his duty which was decreed by God, he must spread a message of love and never a message of hate.
What is Khilafat?
Khilafat is the spiritual successor of a prophet that aims to guide and maintain the Ummah (entire Muslim community) for the community to stay together under the true teachings of Islam. The Khalifa is commissioned by God and divinely guided to counsel everyone in the way of Islam. Many Muslims who take the covenant of allegiance (Bai’at) by the Khalifa’s blessed hands are willing to sacrifice anything for him as they believe that the Khalifa is not only a successor of God’s prophet but also directly under the influence of God Himself. Due to this incredibly elevated status that a Khalifa has, he is deemed as the most spiritual, pious and knowledgeable person alive and not a single living soul can exceed his status in the eyes of The Divine.
God states in the Qur’an:
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَى لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
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 rebellious.The Holy Quran (24:56)
The Love of a Khalifa
We can see from this verse in the Holy Qur’an that security and peace would be given to the successors. God purposefully used the word ‘peace’ as it is a fundamental teaching in Islam to act peacefully and lovingly towards one another, which juxtaposes the idea of totalitarianism and absolute control (dictatorship). We can see from world history that dictators tend to be extremely tyrannical and oppressing towards their people. For example, according to many historians such as Simon Sebag Montefiore, the dictatorship of Stalin over the Soviets led to the death of twenty million soviet residents.
On the other hand, a Khalifa respects and loves every one of his followers. The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" stated that ‘the chief of the people is a servant to them.’ A Khalifa is the ultimate chief, a chief not commissioned by mortals, but by God Himself. As the Khalifa is the chief of God’s community, the Khalifa must be patient and loving towards his people and must treat them in the best possible manner.
On 6th June 2014, the World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" delivered his weekly Friday Sermon from the Kalbach Sports and Recreation Centre in Frankfurt. Almost five thousand Ahmadi Muslims attended the sermon and it was televised live across the world on MTA International. His Holiness abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" said:
“Which leader or dictator is there who keeps a personal connection with each of his citizens? On the other hand the Khalifa of the time maintains a personal connection with Ahmadi Muslims from amongst every race and from all parts of the world. It is Khilafat alone that cares for and feels the pain of every Ahmadi Muslim and prays for them.”
How can we even begin to comprehend the love and affection a true Khalifa has for his people? There are countless recorded examples that show the affection of a Khalifa towards his people. For example, the current Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper", would deny a car and rather get soaked in torrential rain to see just a small number of his followers that have come to receive him (taken from Abid Khan Sahib’s diary of the 2016 Canadian tour). Has there ever, in the history of humanity, been a dictator who has a love for his people as much as a Khalifa has a love for his followers? No one can ever testify to having witnessed a true loving dictator.
A Dictator’s Reign of Terror
A significant point to address is that a dictator is a ruler who has total control over his state and nothing can come in between the dictator and what he desires. The dictator can wish to use extreme force against his people in order to get things done, and this has been seen a plethora of times in the history of the world. In Chapter eighty-eight of the Holy Qur’an, God addresses the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and says ‘thou art but an admonisher; thou has no authority to compel them.’ This Qur’anic verse makes it crystal clear that even the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" did not have the authority to compel and/ or dictate people. The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" is considered to be the most elevated person to ever exist in the eyes of Allah. If The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" was told by God that he cannot compel people then how can we say that a Khalifa has the authority? A Khalifa is, once again, a champion of Islam and therefore a servant of our Master the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him"; how can the Khalifa be called a servant of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" if they believe that they have the authority to compel people? It would not make sense for a servant to have more authority over his master; therefore this testifies that a Khalifa does not have the authority to be a dictator over his people. There have been many examples in the past which reflect the tyrannical and extreme ideologies that a dictator enforces on his people. We all know the cases of dictators such as Hitler and Stalin who killed millions of innocent people for their own political means as they instilled fear into the hearts of their populaces. Dictators are feared by their followers due to the infinite power they have. Hitler, for example, would go as far as putting people in concentration camps if they refused to do as little as saluting him one would never even imagine that a dictator cares for his followers, however, it is widely accepted that a dictator only chases after his own worldly desires and not the necessities of his people. How can we ever compare the blessed institution of Khilafat with the worldly concept of dictatorship?
A problem of dictatorship that can be witnessed in today’s world is that the dictators give themselves an elevated status. Their population is indoctrinated and almost brainwashed into thinking that their leader, a tyrant, is some divinely appointed leader that has mystical and absurd powers. This gives the dictators a much-undeserved sense of exceeding power which they address to themselves to be ‘God-like.’ Dictators such as Kim Jong Un of North Korea are seen as living gods amongst their people. This inauthentic status has only been created through generations of people being brainwashed and intimidated.
The inauthenticity of the status of dictators shows how incredibly arrogant and vain they can be. It is easy to say that they may not even possess a fragment of good humanistic qualities a true leader should have. A true Khalifa, alternatively, has been seen to possess such charismatic and striking qualities that even those who haven’t even sworn to their allegiance have been left stunned. Once, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper", on his tour of Germany in 2017, stopped with his entourage at a petrol station; the German people began to question whether or not the Khalifa abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper" was a king or a prince. This truly shows the incredible status a Khalifa has even to a person who does not follow him. The humbleness and extremely high moral standards of a Khalifa show how a Khalifa is surely appointed by God Himself and that he puts his followers’ necessities as a priority and almost completely leaves all of his personal interests for the sake of serving his community. A true Khalifa really does abide by the hadith ‘a chief of the people is a servant to them’, and by this, he is fulfilling his duty appointed to him by God.
A dictator, on the other hand, has no duty. They are appointed by no establishment or person. They only appoint themselves and only look out for their own prospects. A dictatorship is in no way favourable by God; many dictators consider themselves as the most powerful people on this earth that have unlimited power. They attribute the attributes of God to themselves as if they are some sort of deity, and this is extremely wrong in the eyes of The Divine. For example, some North Koreans consider their dictator, Kim Jong Un, as an omnipotent being who can read people’s minds. Leaderships such as these are of no importance and they are absolutely futile in the eyes of God.
In the Qur’an, God has stated not to ‘create disorder in the earth.’ Dictators and worldly leaders are at the epicentre of creating disorder in the earth with their extremely petty international disputes which make headlines. We are all aware of the disturbingly frequent clash between US President Trump and the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un over twitter (between 2017 and 2018). Such insensible and childish disputes between two powerful leaders actually create international tension, and the ties between the United States and North Korea are becoming increasingly worse. It is sad to see world leaders calling each other out on social media and literally putting the world at risk with their extremely petty and pathetic arguments. Both Kim Jong Un and Trump claim to have an extreme arsenal of nuclear weapons, and both of these leaders foolishly attempt to threaten one another in front of the entire world to see.
This childish behaviour which has been dubbed as ‘the war of words’ shows how world leaders and dictators do not have any sense of sensibility and responsibility within themselves. To threaten another country with an arsenal of nuclear warheads can do nothing but create more disorder in the earth, going against God’s Commandment. Conversely, a Khalifa is an extremely caring and modest human being that has never been seen to be unjust or insensible. A Khalifa, being the greatest servant to God alive, abides by God’s commandments to the fullest, and therefore, rather than creating disorder in the earth, he creates peace and love.
A Message of Peace
Whenever Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper", speaks to non-Muslims or non-Ahmadi Muslims he always stresses the fundamental teaching of Islam which is to maintain peace. The current Khalifa, in fact, holds a National level Peace Symposium event annually to address around a thousand, mostly non-Muslim guests about the desperate need for peace in a world so rife with violence and injustice, and on the brink of nuclear war. For a Khalifa to bring people from all walks of life under this one event to celebrate and embrace a message of peace truly shows the extent of a Khalifa’s love for humanity.
Something worth mentioning when talking about the love for humanity is that a Khalifa loves mankind in all parts of the world, even if they have not pledged allegiance to him. However, if there is such a thing as a dictator who truly loves people, then this dictator will only look out for his people and no one else. A dictator is only loyal to his own country and his own followers, whereas a Khalifa is at the service of all of mankind. A Khalifa is a cure for the world that guides and counsels people so that they may be led to the right path. This is another fundamental difference between Khilafat and dictatorship which boldly outlines how Khilafat is an incredibly divine phenomenon.
It is so simple to easily distinguish between the beautiful establishment of Khilafat and the oppressing concept of dictatorship, as the two concepts are incredibly contrasting to one another. A key difference between these contrasting concepts arises when you actually look at the true Khulafa from the past. After the death of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", the elected Khulafa that followed him, and the Khulafa that followed the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" which aimed to revive the teachings of Islam, all bear witness to one fact. The men elected to lead the world in terms of spirituality never chose their fate; i.e. they never chose to be successors of the prophets they followed as they were commissioned by God Himself.
Worldly dictators, on the other hand, have always been seen hungry for infinite power. This means they always attempt to choose their fate and try and make sure that they are always in control through violence and terror. We have seen Khulafa that have mentioned that it had never crossed their mind that they would be commissioned by God, and it has also been recorded that their commissioning came as an immense and emotional shock. The current Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad abaabbreviation for "May Allah be his helper", once said that he still cannot believe it, to this day, that he has been commissioned by God to be a Khalifa. Before they become dictators, leaders who came into power pled for more and more power until they become full-fledged dictators. They have always been, and always will be, hungry for power as they cannot get enough of it.
Dictators are like parasites that feed off of all the efforts of their people, and they are never satisfied as they always want more and more. Many examples of dictators from the past, such as Hitler, who drove out the original leader of the Nazi party through fear, were seen to be hungry for more and more power. Hitler himself was famously known for attempting to conquer the world. He failed, of course.
It was this failure of worldly dictators such as Hitler, which brings me on to my next point; God is not with those who oppress. The Holy Qur’an states that ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’ If God Himself, the most Supreme Being in the universe and beyond, chooses not to compel people in terms of religion, then how can mere mortals have the audacity to compel others? What right do the insignificant dictators have for them to compel another soul? We have seen in history, time and time again, that God has destroyed even the largest of dictatorships. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), for example, lasted seven decades and it was considered a superpower at its time, now there is barely any trace left of the Soviet Union, and it has been dismantled completely. Khilafat, contrasting to this, has been protected by God. God has promised His true community that He will Himself protect the blessed institution of Khilafat which sets out to spread the true teachings of Islam sent down to the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and revived by the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". There have been countless times that Khilafat has been saved by God, such as the split of the Ahmadiyyat Jama’at in 1914 which endangered Khilafat, as a minority were doubtful for the newly elected Khalifatul Masih II raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them". The Khilafat of Hazrat Mirza Bashirudin Mahmood Ahmad raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them", however, not only proved the truthfulness of the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", but proved that God protects the Jama’at and its Khalifa. His Khilafat lasted fifty-one years, and his Khilafat witnessed the Ahmadiyyat Jama’at spread at a rate never seen before.
In simple words…
To put it simply; Khilafat is a heavenly and divine concept, whereas dictatorship focuses on military and political gain. A dictator has not the slightest of patience, and a dictator cannot even endure a single thing that goes against his ideology. A Khalifa, on the other hand, is extremely patient and asks his followers for feedback on whatever changes that he may want to implement.
An incredibly simple analogy that we can all understand is that a hen will do anything to keep her chicks away from harm. For example, if a lion attacks the chicks, then she (the mother) would attack the lion without any hesitation or fear. Likewise, a Khalifa would do and sacrifice anything for the protection and safety of his followers, which shows the world the unconditional love He has for us.
It is said that a dictator resembles that of an unwanted guest in a house, who takes over the house without anyone wanting them to. The residents of the house want the guest to leave, but they do not have the audacity or the courage to make him do so. A Khalifa, on the other hand, is like the father of the house.
A father, just like a Khalifa, looks after and takes care of everyone in that house and sacrifices all his time and energy for his family. The difference between a Khalifa and a dictator is like the difference between the earth and the heavens. The difference is so great that it is simply not conceivable.
Conclusion – Our Duty
As Ahmadi Muslims, we are servants of God and His Khalifa so therefore we should be the defenders of the one we pledge our allegiance to. It is our duty to defend and protect the beautiful teachings of Islam, including its fundamental teaching of Khilafat and succession. When people criticise and attempt to dub fundamental Islamic principles as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘backwards’, we should be the first ones to defend our faith. Consequently, when you find people attempting to attack the teaching of Khilafat and comparing it to a concept such as dictatorship, it is our duty to try and convince them that Khilafat completely juxtaposes dictatorship.
What would be the point of us sacrificing our life for God if we cannot sacrifice our dignity for the sake of His Khilafa? Even if we think that we do not have it in ourselves to defend Khilafat, we must at least try to defend it. Today, Islam is being attacked from all sides and it is our duty, as devotees of God, the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", the Promised Messiah asabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and the Khulafa, to defend Islam in any capacity which is possible.
Never has the experience of comfort been expressed when encountering a dictator. In fact, quite the opposite occurs. The recipient of oppression can only feel fear when in the presence of the oppressor. There is no doubt that a dictator is nothing but an evil and arrogant being who is only good at instilling fear into the hearts of his ‘followers.’
Khilafat, on the other hand, has lasted and will last for as long as God wills. We witness Khilafat today and we gain blessings from the Khalifa on a daily basis. We see him as the perfect role model for us who is alive today, and when we receive counsel from him we are extremely satisfied and are immersed in a state of comfort. We feel replenished and refreshed when our Khalifa speaks to us, and once he is in our presence we cannot take our eyes away from him. Just by witnessing his majesty and holiness, God helps us realise that this man is indeed the truth and he is indeed the cure for humanity. This leads me to conclude without any sort of hesitation or speculation that Khilafat can win over hearts whereas dictatorship can only instil fear into the hearts of the oppressed.