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  • Writer's pictureSyed Nasser

What is Khalifat and How is a Khalifa Chosen?

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

The Promised Messiah (as) took his first oaths of allegiance in 1889, and continued in his unswerving defence of Islam until his death in 1908. In 1905 he published a book warning his community of his impending demise, and comforted them with God’s promise that the community will not die with him. In his book, ‘The Will’ he described how when Prophets come, God shows two manifestations of His Power.

The first is in the raising of the Prophet himself. The second manifestation of His Power is in the establishment of Khilafat to carry on the work of a Prophet; to prove wrong the naysayers who proclaim that a Prophet’s work will deteriorate with the Prophet’s death.

“This is what happened at the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra) when the demise of the Holy Prophetsa was considered untimely and many an ignorant Bedouin turned apostate. The companions of the Holy Prophetsa, too, stricken with grief, became like those who lose their senses. Then Allah raised Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra) and showed for the second time the manifestation of His Power and saved Islam, just when it was about to fall, and fulfilled the promise which was spelled out in the verse [24:56] that is, after the fear We shall firmly re-establish them. That is also what happened at the time of Moses (as), when he died on his way from Egypt to Kin‘an before taking the Israelites to the intended destination in accordance with the promise. At his death Israelites were plunged into deep mourning. It is written in Torah that with the grief at this untimely death and sudden departure of Moses (as), the Israelites wept for forty days. The same happened with Christ (as). At the time of the incident of Crucifixion all his disciples scattered and even one of them apostatised. So dear friends! since it is the Sunnatullah [practice of Allah], from time immemorial, that God Almighty shows two Manifestations so that the two false joys of the opponents be put to an end, it is not possible now that God should relinquish His Sunnah [practice] of old. So do not grieve over what I have said to you; nor should your hearts be distressed. For it is essential for you to witness the Second Manifestation also, and its coming is better for you because it is everlasting, the continuity of which will not end till the Day of Judgement. And that second Manifestation cannot come unless I depart.” (The Will, Pages 6-7)

How completely were the Promised Messiah’sas words fulfilled. After his death, which certainly shook the community, his followers rallied around his most trusted and devoted disciple, Hazrat Maulana Nooruddin. After this Khalifa’s death, the Promised Messiah’s own son, the revolutionary Hazrat Mirza Bashirruddin Mahmud Ahmad was chosen as Khalifa. After his death, the cycle continued. Since the time of the Promised Messiah, there has existed an unbroken chain of Khilafat to lead this unique community, now in the fifth iteration of its Spiritual Leadership.

Photo: The Khulafa (pl. of Khalifa) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, right to left.

How is a Khalifa Chosen?

How is a Khalifa chosen? Ahmadi Muslims believe that a Khalifa is chosen by God Himself, who enacts his will through a committee of righteous believers. These believers constitute the Electoral College, a board of members selected from the life devotees of the community. At the death of a Khalifa, they meet as an emergency within three days. At this meeting, prior to which and during which absolutely no canvassing is allowed, names for the next Khalifa are proposed and seconded as deemed appropriate. There is then a vote on the names. Whoever is chosen is elected Khalifa for life, a great shock to the individual, and a great comfort to the community.

Is then the selection of a Khalifa just like any other democratic election? Ahmadis believe not, instead deeming the election an instantiation of God’s will. There are countless testimonials of how God guided the members of the electoral college to choose His desired candidate. These are collected most recently in the book, Dreams Foretelling the Fifth Khilafat, which focusses on the Khilafat of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (atba). We present two testimonials of the dozens collected below:


Mr Muhammad Sharif Odeh, Ameer of Kababir, Palestine, in his letter dated May 28, 2005 writes (the original letter is in Arabic, this translation is from its Urdu rendering):

Photo: Muhammad Sharif Odeh, Amir of the Holy Lands

“In May 2002 I recommended to a Palestinian friend (Amjad Kameel) that he should participate in the Jalsa Salana of UK of that year. He said that he would let me know after istikharah on this matter. A few days later he told me that in a dream he sees himself in London and is meeting the Khalifa but instead of Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Sahib, some other person is the Khalifa. He proceeded to describe him as having a short beard, and described his eyes etc. I told him that I did not want to know, but understood it to be an indication of the demise of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh. Soon I forgot all about it. In April 2003 when Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh passed away I was informed over the telephone by Mr Ataul Mujeeb Rashid about my membership in the Khilafat Committee. I was very nervous given the gravity of this task and involved myself in much prayer. When we reached London, and before the election were lined up for entering the mosque for the Maghrib and Isha Prayers I happened to look behind me and saw the individual whom I had the intention to vote for. I felt it inappropriate to be standing ahead of him so I left my spot and went to the rear. At that moment two individuals arrived, one was Chaudhary Hameedullah Sahib, and the other person I did not know. But his sight much impressed me and affected my heart like a current. I started wondering as to who was this person? I was so deeply moved with this thought that I doubted my very ability to survive. During the election proceedings I saw Mirza Masroor Ahmad and recognized him as the same person whose sight had touched my heart so profoundly. I raised my hand to vote for him and noticed that the majority had voted for him as well. At this my sentiments of deep anguish was suddenly lifted and I felt such happiness as I have never felt in all my life. Upon my return to Palestine I met Mr Amjad Kameel at the home of Mr Hani Tahir. He did not have MTA in his home and had not yet seen the picture of Hazoor. During that meeting I showed him the photograph of Hazoor, upon seeing it he blurted out that this was the same person he had seen in his dream. Even the coat and the chair were the same! I say to the doubters that if Allah does not appoint the Khalifa, then who showed Mr Amjad Kameel his image, and who is the one that made me leave my spot in the lines and led me to the rear where I saw the face which moved me so deeply, a person that was totally unknown to me?”

Mr Muhammad Ameen Johar, Ameer Mauritius wrote a letter to Huzur dated April 24, 2003. The original letter is in English (this is re-translated from its Urdu rendering):

“On the night of Saturday I was on my way to London on an Air Mauritius flight. I was praying for help and guidance. Between 1 and 4 am, while still in flight I made eight units of the pre-dawn prayer. Thereafter, I was resting, when the word ‘Masroor’ came to my lips. At that time I was convinced that this was a guidance from Allah. I was not much familiar with Hazoor at that time. I had read some reports on his activities as the Nazir-e-Ala and Ameer Muqami. When departing from Mauritius, I had someone else in mind though I had not shared it with anyone else. When I reached London I noted ‘Masroor’ on a scrap of paper and the time and circumstance when it had occurred to me. I sealed it inside an envelope and handed it to Sadr Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya for safe keeping until after the election. This letter was in his possession at the time of election at the London Mosque and had not been opened. In fact he had no idea to its contents. After the election and the Bai’at, when we were given permission to disperse I went to him and asked him to open the envelope and see its contents. He was much delighted and surprised to see the name ‘Masroor’ on the paper inside. It is still in his possession and he can bear witness to this matter.”

Thus we see that the election of a Khalifa at the hands of men is really just the selection of a Khalifa at the Hand of God. The divinely appointed Khalifa guides the community by divine instruction and spiritual insight through the turbulent waters of world events.


Khalifa – an anglicised transliteration of an Arabic word meaning the Successor to a Prophet who acts as spiritual leader of a divine community

Khulafa – an anglicised transliteration, indicating the plural ofKhalifa

Khalifatul Masih – the formal title of the Khulafa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, literally meaning ‘Khalifa of the Promised Messiah’

Maulana – a title indicating a learned scholar

Jama’at – used to signify the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in this context

Hazrat – an Urdu version of an Arabic word, signifying the honorific His Holiness

Huzur – an affectionate term indicating His Holiness

Masjid – mosque

This article is a reproduction of the following article from

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