Allah had 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 who so is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious. (Surah Al-Nur, Verse 56)
The present verse embodies a promise that Muslims will be vouchsafed both spiritual and temporal leadership. The promise is made to the whole Muslim nation but the institution of Khilafat will take a palpable form in the person of certain individuals who will be the Prophet’s Successors and the representatives of the whole nation. They will be, as it were, Khilafat personified. The verse further says that the fulfillment of this promise will depend on the Muslims’ observing the Prayer and giving the Zakat and on their obeying the Messenger of God in all religious and temporal matters concerning the nation. When they will have fulfilled these conditions, the boon of Khilafat will be bestowed upon them and they will be made the leaders of nations; their state of fear will give place to a condition of safety and security, Islam will reign supreme in the world, and above all the Oneness and Unity of God – the real purpose and object of Islam – will become firmly established.
The promise of the establishment of Khilafat is clear and unmistakable. As the Holy Prophet is now humanity’s sole guide for all time, his Khilafat must continue to exist in one form or another in the world till the end of time, all other Khilafahs having ceased to exist. This is among many others the Holy Prophet’s distinct superiority over all other Prophets and Messengers of God. Our age has witnessed his greatest spiritual Khalifa in the person of Ahmad, the Promised Messiah.
The Qur’an has mentioned three kinds of Khalifas:
- Khalifas, who are Prophets such as Adam and David. About Adam, God says in the Qur’an: “I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth” (2:31); and about David He says: “O David, We have made thee a vicegerent in the earth” (38:27).
- Prophets who are the Khalifas of another and a greater Prophet such as the Isrealite Prophets who all were the Khalifas of Moses. About them the Qur’an says: “We have sent down the Torah wherein was guidance and light. By it did the Prophets who were obedient to Us judge for the Jews:” (5:45).
- Non-Prophet Khalifas of a Prophet, with or without temporal powers, such as godly people learned in the Law. Their mission is to protect and preserve the law from being tampered with (5:45).
Briefly, the verse under comment covers all these categories of Khalifas, viz., the Holy Prophet’s rightly-guided Khalifas, the Promised Messiah, his Successors and the spiritual Reformers or Mujaddids. Their mission, as the above verse says, is to protect the Law and to bring back “the erring flock into the Master’s fold.”
The special marks and characteristics of these Khalifas are:
- They are appointed Khalifas through God’s own decree in the sense that the hearts of believers become inclined towards them and they voluntarily accept them as their Khalifas;
- the religion which their mission is to serve becomes firmly established through their prayers and missionary efforts;
- they enjoy equanimity and peace of mind amidst hardships, privations or persecution which nothing can disturb; and
- they worship God alone, i.e. in the discharge of their great responsibilities they fear no one and they carry on their duties undaunted and without being discouraged or dismayed by the difficulties that stand in their way.
The verse may also be regarded as embodying a prophecy which was made at a time when Islam was very weak and idols were being worshipped throughout Arabia and the Muslims being small in number feared for their very lives, and yet in the course of only a generation the prophecy was literally fulfilled. Idolatry disappeared from Arabia and Islam became firmly established not only in Arabia but also reigned supreme in the whole world and the followers of the Holy Prophet, erstwhile regarded as the dregs and scum of humanity, became the leaders and teachers of nations.
The words, “Whosoever is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious,” signify that Khilafat is a great Divine blessing. Without it there can be no solidarity, cohesion and unity among Muslims and therefore they can make no real progress without it. If Muslims do not show proper appreciation of Khilafat by giving unstinted support and obedience to their Khalifas they will forfeit this great Divine boon and in addition will draw the displeasure of God upon themselves.
(The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, Vol. 4, pp. 1869-1870.)