We are currently passing through a challenging time where humanity is stuck in precarious and tribulations-laden situations. Where, from Washington to Moscow, and from London to Beijing, the global world is rife with crisis of balance of power or power tussle among the domineering world leaderships and powers, pushing the world to the brink of a world war.
True, we are living in a disturbing time where inhumanity is trumping over humanity and materialism over spirituality. Where the forces of atheism, humanism and trans-humanism are seeking to ban the presence of God from the world He, Himself, created. And, ultimately, where the deepening global socio-economic and geo-political crises are deepening the experience of instabilities and deprivations and lack of peace and security across the world, from Palestine to Ukraine, to Mali, Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan, among others.
More particularly, it is such a difficult time where Al Ummah Al Muslimah (the Muslim world) – declared by the Quran as “the best community raised for the good of mankind” (3:13) – is, currently divided against itself, with each of its constituents at loggerhead with other. It is presently wallowing in the whirlpool of moral, spiritual, intellectual, social, economic and political crises. It is locked in devastating intra-religious ideological skirmishes, inter-state and inter-community feuds and wars and inter-sect rivalries and hostilities.
The curiosity over the cause of this abysmal scenario strikes the mind of this writer with the thought of the following Arabic proverb that illustrates thus:
قال الحائط للوتد: لم تشقني؟ فقال الوتد: سل من يدقني!
“The wall queried the peg, saying: “why are you piercing me?”
Retorting, the peg submitted: “Ask me not. Rather, ask the human being who is hitting me against you!”
Relating the above cause-finding proverb to the context of our discussion, one may curiously ask: why is our world, particularly the Muslim world, in disarray? And the answer, in the view of this writer, is not far-fetched: it’s, frankly, as a result of the absence of an Islamically established global leadership system.
No doubt, in a demanding time like ours, there is no gainsaying the fact of the relevance of having conversations on an important injunction of Islam: the need to hold fast by the rope of Allah. This is an absolutely apt and compelling desideratum whose imperativeness, in turn, serves to justify the rationale and relevance of this write-up.
Rope, in the language of the Holy Qur’an, translates to habl. And habl, according to authoritative Arabic lexicons, means a rope or cord or anything with which a thing is tied or made fast; a bond or cause of union or link of connection, such as a bond of love or friendship; mutual connection by such a bond; a covenant or compact; an obligation by which one becomes responsible for the safety of a person or thing; a promise or assurance of security or safety; an artery, vein or verve (Arabic-English Lexicon by E.W. Lane). It also means alliance and protection (Aqrab al-Mawarid by Sa’īd al-Khauri al-Shartūti).
In order to safeguard and protect the Muslim world against the type of the current abysmal state of its affairs, in the Holy Quran, Allāh enjoins the Muslims thus:
“And hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allāh and be not divided; and remember the favour of Allāh which He bestowed upon you when you were enemies and He united your hearts in love so that by His grace you became as brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus dies Allāh explain to you His commandments that you may be guided” (Quran, 3:104).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have said that, “The Book of Allah (i.e. the Quran) is the strong rope of Allah which has been extended from the heavens to the earth” (Tafseer Ibn Jarir, vol. 4, p.30).
“Broadly speaking,” says Hazrat Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmūd Ahmad (ra), the Second Khalifah and Supreme Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in his exegesis of the above Quranic verse, “there are three things which may be taken to have been here meant by the rope of God, by holding fast to which Muslims may remain united and be safe against disunion and disruption: (1) the Quran; (2) the Messenger of God; (3) the Successors to the Messenger of God” (The Holy Quran, English Translation and Commentary, 2002, Islam International Publications Ltd, UK, vol. 2, p. 433).
Of course, while the Holy Quran and the Sunnah (the practice) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) would continue to remain preserved till the end of life on earth, the continuity of the physical presence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was not guaranteed by the law of death. Alternatively, however, through the wisdom and grace of Allāh, the Muslim world was destined to continue to feel the presence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) through the chosen Successors (the Khulafa) that would be appointed through the divinely established institution of Khilafat to lead an ideal Muslim temporal and spiritual hegemony which will be rife with peace, security and development, as long as the Muslims collectively fulfill the conditions set for its establishment. In this context, Allāh declares:
“Allāh 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 established 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 the rebellious” (Quran, 24:56).
Furtherance to this promise of Allāh, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) predicted the following:
“Prophethood shall remain among you fir as long as Allāh will. He will then cause it to end. Then a Khilafat (Caliphate) will be established in the footsteps of prophethood which will last for as long as Allāh wills. He will then cause it to end. Kinghood will follow which will inflict great pain and misery on its subjects. Its rule will last for as long as Allāh wills. He will then cause it to end. After this, tyrannical monarchies will follow. Their rule will last for as long as Allāh wills. Then He will cause it to end. The Khilafat will be re-established in the footsteps of prophethood. Thereafter, the Holy Prophet (saw) became silent” (Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, No.17939).
It is thought-provoking to note that, based on the foregoing Quranic and Prophetic prophecies, in the wake of the event of the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the ensuing atmosphere of heart-rending fear and grief that gripped the Companions (ra), coupled with the heavy cloud of anarchy and uncertainties that had overshadowed the sudden headless state of the Muslim world of the time, the Companions (ra) did not let the day pass before electing a Khalifah Rasūl Allāh (Successor of the Messenger of Allāh).
The institution of Khilafat was, thus, established to succeed and sustain the blessings of the Prophethood of Muhammad (saw). Notably, beginning with the period of Abu Bakr (ra) and through those of Umar bn Khattab (ra), Uthman bn ‘Affan (ra) and Ali bn Abi Talib (ra), the affairs of the Muslim world were steered by a single world Khalifa who safeguarded their moral and spiritual tenacity, administered justice, settled internal disputes and conflicts, maintained law and order, interfaced in their international relations with other worlds and spread the Islamic religion across the then known world. The Muslim world lived in happiness, peace and security and gloried in prosperity, stability, development and progress.
It is indisputable that the above-noted historical fact, among other implications, clearly demonstrates a powerful point that underscores the necessity of Khilafat as a rope of Allāh to which the entire members of the Muslim world must always cling. This is because, not only does it serve to connect humanity with the divine, but it also facilitates the binding of the Muslim world in unity, solidarity and brotherhood under a divinely established leadership.
Sadly, the generations of Muslims that proceeded the golden epoch of the Rightly Guided Khilafat showed ungratefulness to and rebellion against the pristine Khilafat system earlier established. Consequently, the Khilafat on the footsteps of prophethood was replaced by the despotic kinghood, and decades later, by tyrannical monarchies which extended for centuries, in different nomenclatures (Khilafat, Imamate, Sultanate), forms, scopes and regions, until 1924 when the Turkish Uthmaniyya (Ottoman) Caliphate was abolished by Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk. Ninety-eight years since then, today, the mainstream Muslim world has continued to fail in their various efforts aimed at establishing Khilafat to bring back the ideal Islamic leadership system for the temporal and spiritual hegemony of Islam and for their unity, solidarity, brotherhood, prosperity, peace, security and development in the world.
At this juncture, it is instructive to note that, by the first decade of the 20th century – precisely on May 27, 1908 – when the sun of the ultimate collapse of the Turkish Caliphate was beginning to set on the horizon of its beleaguered empire, Allāh the Almighty caused the dawn of the re-establishment of the Khilafat on the footsteps of prophethood as earlier prophesized by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw). However, this time around, the fulfillment was divinely materialized within the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – an Islamic revival and Missionary movement established in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) in whose person the Quranic and prophetic prophecies of the advent of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi were fulfilled.
Ever since then, the world has continued to witness unbroken peaceful successions of five eras of the divinely chosen Khulafa (Caliphs), beginning with Hazrat Hafiz Hakim Nurudeen (ra) [1908-1914], followed by Hazrat Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmud Ahmad (ra) [1914-1965], then Hazrat Hafiz Mirza Nasir Ahmad (rh) [1965-1982], Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) [1982-2003], and presently we are in the blessed era of the Fifth Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba).
Importantly, within the past 114 years of the institution of this Khilafat, it has established Islam in all corners of the world with the establishment of Missions and Mosques across 220 countries and territories. It has translated the Holy Quran into, and published it in, over 75 world languages. In addition, thousands of Islamic literatures have been published in various languages.
In 1992, this Khilafat established the first Islamic satellite TV (MTA) in the world and, thereafter, an Islamic website (www.alislam.org) for the propagation of the pristine, peaceful teachings of Islam. It has built over 30 hospitals and clinics and over 500 schools across many countries. Its international humanitarian NGO – the Humanity First International – is recognized by the United Nations and has been rendering humanitarian services globally, irrespective of the religious, racial, ethnic, and political backgrounds of the recipients.
This Khilafat has continued to make its presence, influence and impacts felt across the world by constantly providing leadership direction to world governments, leaders and their citizens; proffering viable Islamic guidance aimed at solving contemporary issues; and establishing initiatives and schemes for world educational, religious, social, economic, political, communal, and environmental development, peace, security and progress. Above all, it has been striving vibrantly, and impactfully too, to re-instate the moral and spiritual values and reunite humanity with the divine, their Creator.
In light of this re-institution of Khilafat on the footsteps of prophethood for the contemporary Muslim world, and the positive impacts it is perpetually making within and outside the Muslim world, it is imperative that members of the mainstream Muslim world should earnestly hold fast by this rope of Allah in our time in response to the divine commandment that Muslims should cling to the rope of Allah and be not divided.
This imperativeness further becomes binding when considered in light of the following exposition and commandment of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw):
Hudhaifah bn Yaman [ra] narrated that: “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 leader [Imaam].” [talzim jama’ata al-muslimeena wa imaamahum] I asked: “If there is neither a group [of Muslims] nor a leader [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.” 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’..] Mustadrak Imam Hakim, Kitab al-fitan wa al-malahim, vol. 4, p. 432-433)
It is instructive to note that, while prescribing the course of action for the Muslims, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) did not say Muslims should cling to the Book of Allah during such a turbulent time. Rather, he recommended holding fast by the Khilafat. This is because all of the leaders of the Muslim groups and sects existing at such a time would all be claiming that their rather misguided and misleading teachings, corrupted interpretations and un-Islamic actions are based on the Holy Quran.
Hence, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) very initiatively directed the Muslim public to follow the existing single Khalifa of the time, who will stand out pristinely orthodox and authoritative in his interpretations and preaching of the message and teachings of Islam.
Conclusively, from the foregoing, the contemporary Muslim world is fortunate enough to have the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community being headed by a single global Imam or Khalifah and nothing should, therefore, be an impediment to their holding fast by this rope of Allah as enjoined by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo is a Missionary and Journalist of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of Nigeria and National Chairman of the Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria. He can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org