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Last Updated: 2010/11/22
Summary of question
Can anyone other than the fourteen infallibles be khalifatullah?
question
Can anyone other than the fourteen infallibles be khalifatullah?
Concise answer

Before engaging in exactly who the examples of khalifatullah are, it is necessary to define the khalifatullah and what his/her characteristics are:

In addition to their literal definitions, the terms vicegerency and representation and khilafah carry and entail this meaning: that they are actually the manifestation of the one being represented or the mustakhlafun anh in the vicegerent and representative. The khalifah or vicegerent is one whose identity is totally dependant on the one he/she represents, apart from that identity, he/she has no other identity (it is like the two are one). Thus, if he/she is ever a reflection of someone else or even him/herself, he/she will no longer be a true khalifah of that person.

The vicegerency mentioned in the verse of انی جاعل...[i] isn't one peculiar to Prophet Adam (pbuh) and has to do with the rank of ‘humanity’; something that all humans share. Based on ‘knowledge of all the names’ being the criteria for being khalifatullah, and since this knowledge can vary from person to person, thus, it can be said that vicegerency also has various degrees. However much one is the manifestation of divine names, he/she will be the vicegerent of Allah (swt) to that extent and degree.

Examples of the khalifatullah

Based on what was said and also, add to that some hadiths, such as “اول ما خلق الله نوری[ii] which introduces the first manifestation of Allah to be his prophet (pbuh), and the hadith by Imam Ali (as) that goes: “ما لله آیة اکبر منّی[iii] which translates as: There is no sign of Allah (swt) higher than me, and profound excerpts from the famous ziyarat of Jame’ah Kabirah and other hadiths and the description of the Ahlul-Bayt in the Quran, it becomes clear that the best and most complete example of khalifatullah would be the fourteen infallibles, and that all prophets are lower than them in this rank and are khalifatullahs through them.

After the fourteen infallibles and the prophets, come the great and pious individuals and divine arefs who bore both knowledge and good actions, who, to the extent of their “knowledge of the names”, were also to an extent, khalifatullahs.



[i]وَ إِذْ قالَ رَبُّکَ لِلْمَلائِکَةِ إِنِّی جاعِلٌ فِی الْأَرْضِ خَلیفَةً قالُوا أَ تَجْعَلُ فیها مَنْ یفْسِدُ فیها وَ یسْفِکُ الدِّماءَ وَ نَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ قالَ إِنِّی أَعْلَمُ ما لا تَعْلَمُون” Baqarah:30.

[ii] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 15, pg. 24.

[iii] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 23, pg. 206.

Detailed Answer

This question will be broken down into two, and each will be addressed separately; who is khalifatullah or the vicegerent of Allah (swt) and what are the characteristics of such a person, and after that, who are examples of this title and rank?

1- Who is the khalifatullah?

In addition to their literal definitions, the terms vicegerency and representation and khilafah carry and entail this meaning: that they are actually the manifestation of the one being represented or the mustakhlafun anh in the vicegerent and representative. The khalifah or vicegerent is one whose identity is totally dependant on the one he/she represents, apart from that, he/she has no other identity (it is like the two are one). Thus, if he/she is ever a reflection of someone else or even him/herself, he/she will no longer be a true khalifah of that person.

First off, Allah (swt) entrusted man with the potential to be His vicegerent by blowing of His soul into him. Verses such as “و نفخت فیه من روحی[1] and “انی جاعل فی الارض خلیفة[2]  in which the entrustment of khilafah and vicegerency has been spoken of in the ismiyyah form (Arabic syntax term) implying the continuousness of this entrustment and that it is happening in all times, plus other commentaries on this verse[3] tell us that khilafah wasn’t and isn't something belonging exclusively to Prophet Adam (pbuh), but all people bear the potential to achieve such a rank. Secondly, Allah (swt) has shown the way to reach such a rank through sending divine books and prophets, those who have gone the way themselves and have reached this rank.

Based on ‘knowledge of all the names’ being the criteria for being khalifatullah, and since this knowledge can vary from person to person, thus, it can be said that vicegerency also has various degrees. However much one is the manifestation of divine names, he/she will be the vicegerent of Allah (swt) to that extent and degree. Of course, in the verses that speak of the entrustment of khilafah[4] and that ‘knowledge of the names’ is its criteria, what is meant by khilafah is its highest level, while there are different levels of khilafah. These various levels can be categorized into the following:

a) Some, stray from this path and follow the path of Shaytan. These are the khalifahs of Shaytan.

b) One who doesn’t actualize any of Allah's (swt) names in his self even in the slightest way, has the potential to become Allah's (swt) khalifah, although he isn't yet.

c) People who bear all the names at a low or medium level and the names and virtues exist in them intermittently and not always (this state is referred to as halحال”), or obtaining them is easy for them and losing them takes time, meaning that these names have become second nature for them (this state is called malakahملکه”), their khilafah will also be at the degree of hal or malakah.

d) For some, bearing these names goes beyond just being malakah; the names become their identity and one with them. They become of one essence, thus never separating from each other; because when something becomes another’s essence, separating it will mean separating something from itself, which is impossible. Nothing can ever separate from itself and still exist. The khilafah of such a person becomes one with his/her essence, making it inseparable.

The final degree, belongs only to the complete person, and the rest can be found in medium to weaker individuals. Also, each of these degrees has a its own spectrum of degrees within it.[5]

Based on the fact that khilafah is actually the manifestation of the one being represented, it can be concluded that the first existent to come into existence will be the khalifah of God. Also, according to the philosophical principle - that only one existent can be emanated from the one (wahed) who is simple (basit) and total perfection, and one who is simple will be indivisible, so it won't have parts in which some will be manifested while others aren't – the one who is total perfection and existence (God) will manifest entirely and its first manifestation will be the most complete and perfect one to be created. Such an existent is man, the direct khalifah of God and reflects the perfection and simplicity of God; all other khalifahs of God will be khalifahs through and after him. In reality, he is the khalifah of God and others are his khalifah and it will go on like this, in a longitudinal manner, one after another. Consequently, if at one time, two individuals bear khilafah, one will follow and be after the other; such as Ali (as) during the time of the prophet (pbuh), where Ali (as) followed him, or like Imams Hasan and Husein (as) during the time of Ali (as) and so on.

Khilafah has two dimensions to it; one relating to God which was explained, the other, relates to the universe. The khalifah of God is present in all worlds and is the medium by which God’s grace flows to the rest of creation. He is the manifestation of God’s knowledge, power, life, sustenance and guidance, and also the medium by which all of these reach creation, as hadiths such as “بکم فتح الله و بکم یختم و بکم یمحو ما یشاء و یثبت...و بکم ینزل الغیث...[6] affirm.

2- Who are examples of khalifatullah?

Based on what was said and also, add to that some hadiths, such as “اول ما خلق الله نوری[7] which introduces the first manifestation of Allah to be his prophet (pbuh), and the hadith by Imam Ali (as) that goes: “ما لله آیة اکبر منّی[8] which translates as: There is no sign of Allah (swt) higher than me, and profound excerpts from the famous ziyarat of Jame’ah Kabirah and other hadiths and the description of the Ahlul-Bayt in the Quran, it becomes clear that the best and most complete example of khalifatullah would be the fourteen infallibles.

Also, according to the explanations given above, all the prophets are complete individuals who bear this rank, but are lower than the fourteen infallibles, this is why in the aforementioned verse, and in other hadiths, Prophet Adam (pbuh) and other prophets have been introduced with the very same title of ‘khalifatullah’.[9] In addition, in some verses and hadiths, some divine actions have been attributed to them, such as splitting the sea by Prophet Musa (pbuh), the transformation of a great fire to a flower garden by Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh), the wind and other things coming under the control and command of Prophet Suleyman (pbuh), curing the blind and awaking the dead by Prophet Isa (pbuh) and other cases, all of which are clear examples of intervention in this world and signs of khilafatullah.

After the fourteen and the prophets, come religious and pious individuals who have combined both knowledge and action, whose ‘knowledge of the names’ is less and lower than that of the prophets, making them khalifatullahs as well. An example for that would be how in the Quran, Allah (swt) attributes the jihad of soldiers to himself “فلم تقتلوهم و لکن الله قتلهم[10] and “و قاتلوهم یعذبهم الله بایدیکم و...[11]. In these verses, many of the things taken place by the soldiers of Islam have been attributed to Allah (swt). In some hadiths, some of the companions like Salman[12], Abudhar, Fidhah etc. have been given the title “منا اهل البیت” (Of us the Ahlul-Bayt) which indicates that they were direct khalifahs of the Ahlul-Bayt, each to the extent that their existential capacities allowed them.

Also, some complete arefs who sometimes had special powers whose biographies have been written can be considered examples of khalifatullah.

For further information, see:

1- Tafsir al-Mizan, under verses 30-34 of surah Baqarah.

2- Tafsir Tasnim, Javadi Amoli, Abdullah, vol. 3, pp. 17-321.



[1] Hijr:29.

[2]وَ إِذْ قالَ رَبُّکَ لِلْمَلائِکَةِ إِنِّی جاعِلٌ فِی الْأَرْضِ خَلیفَةً قالُوا أَ تَجْعَلُ فیها مَنْ یفْسِدُ فیها وَ یسْفِکُ الدِّماءَ وَ نَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ قالَ إِنِّی أَعْلَمُ ما لا تَعْلَمُون” Baqarah:30.

[3] See: Tafsir Tasnim, vol. 3, pp. 41-293.

[4] Baqarah:30-33.

[5] See: Tasnim, vol. 3, pp.53-56 and 94-99.

[6] “It is by you that Allah opens the doors to His mercy and sustains all of creation and the end and sealing of all of creation is through your complete existence, and it is through you that Allah (swt) effaces and establishes…” Mafatih al-Jinan, the first of the seven absolute ziyarats of Imam Husein (as), and Ziyarah Jami’ah Kabirah.

[7] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 15, pg. 24.

[8] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 23, pg. 206.

[9] See: Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 36, pg. 417; Tafsir Nur al-Thaqalain, vol. 1, pg. 48; Tafsir al-Burhan, vol. 1, pg. 75

[10] “You did not kill them; rather it was Allah who killed them” Anfal:17.

[11] “Make war on them so that Allah may punish them by your hands and humiliate them….” Tawbah:14.

[12] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 17, pg. 170.

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