The First Era of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida
From this prophecy of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, therefore, it is clear that the Khilafat which would come into being after him would consist of two eras – one would follow immediately after his death and between the other would intervene a period of suppressive, oppressive and cruel regimes. The Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, defined the span of the first era as well. Safina reports that she heard the Holy Prophet say:
“Khilafat shall reign for 30 years and then there shall be monarchy” (Mishkat, Kitabul Fitn).
This is exactly what happened, in that the first Khalifa was Abu Bakr, the second Omar, the third Osman and the fourth Ali, who were elected to their august offices by democratic means of one description or another and covered a span of thirty years as prophesied by the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
The Second Era of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida
From the citings of Huzaifa mentioned earlier, it is clear that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, had prophesied about the second era of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida and had said that after the first era a long period of unimaginative, oppressive and suppressive regimes would intervene before the draw of the second era. It is significant to note that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, specified no time limit for the second era, and this, coupled with the words that “the Holy Prophet said no more” occurring in Huzaifa’s report could well be construed to mean that the second era shall last for a long long time, or perhaps for ever. This is certainly the view of Hazrat Ismail Shaheed who was one of the great thinkers and scholars of Islam. After a lengthy discourse in his book “Mansab‑i‑Imamat” he writes:
“Khalifa Rashid is a person who holds the office of Imamat and effervesces divine prudence. Whosoever is bestowed with this office, therefore, is a Khalifa Rashid irrespective of whether he lived in earlier or present times or comes into being in later days . . . It is not correct to say that Khilafat-i‑Rashida was confined to the period of the first four Khalifas, or to its second era alone.” (Mansab‑i‑Imamat, pp. 77 and 78).
Khilafat‑i‑Rashida-‑an Everlasting Era
Apart from the Quranic verse of Khilafat and Huzaifa’s report of the Holy Prophet, the Promised Messiah, who is the exponent of Islam in this age, has confirmed the continuance of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida beyond the earlier era of thirty years. In Al-Wassiyat, p. 6‑7, he says:
“Therefore, do not be grieved by that which I have told you and let not your hearts suffer anxiety, for it is necessary for you to see the QUDRAT‑I‑THANIYYA (the second manifestation of Divine Power).
Its coming is the better for you for it is permanent and will not be cut off till the Day of Judgment. This second manifestation will not happen till after my departure.” (The Will pp. 6‑7).
Furthermore, he writes in Shahadatul Quran, p. 58:
“Since it is not possible for a man to live for ever, God has planned to keep alive, forever up to the last days, His messengers who bear a mark of distinction over the rest of His creatures. To this end he has established the institution of Khilafat so that the world shall never remain without the blessings of prophethood”.
The two eras of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida were described by the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as `KHILAFAT ON THE PRECEPTS OF PROPHETHOOD’ and he enjoined upon believers to:
“Follow in my footsteps and in the footsteps of Kholafa‑i‑Rashidin who were fully guided” (Masnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. IV‘).
The exaltation of Khilafat to Prophethood’s precepts and so much exhortation of believers to adhere to the institution was necessary because through Khilafat is not only righteousness secured, and the mission of establishing the unity of God, preserving Islam and consummating its beliefs accomplished, but it also leads to the spiritual and temporal growth and strength of the believers.