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The Successor of the Prophet or Khalīfa, Caliph in its most common English spelling, was the title taken by Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of Muhammad, when he succeeded him as leader of the Ummah or community of Islam in 632. The title has the implication of ruler of all the Islamic world, although this was a rather dubious claim in the case of some later rulers who were sometimes styled "Caliph", such as the Ottoman Emperors who are more accurately called Sultans. Caliphs also used the title emir al mumenin, "Commander of the Faithful".

The word came through French , which got it from Latin (calīpha), and originates in the Arabic verb khalafa, meaning "to succeed" or "to be behind". Some Orientalist wrote it as Khalîf. Some movements in modern Islamic philosophy justify religious leadership via khalifa, meaning roughly "to steward" or "to protect the same things as God", and propose this to renew the Caliphate.

Famous caliphs

the four "wellguided" caliphs:

Dynasties

the first four caliphs were followed by the
  • Umayyad dynasty in Damascus (661-750), followed by the
  • Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad (750-1258)
  • After the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, the Mamluk rulers of Egypt set up an Abbasid as a puppet Caliph in Cairo. These Caliphs lasted until the Ottoman conquest in 1517
  • In the 19th Century, the Ottoman Sultans began to claim the title of Caliph, saying that it had been passed from the last Abbasid to Sultan Selim I, although there is no evidence of this. After the abolition of the Sultanate in 1922, the Caliphate continued for two more years under the Ottoman Prince Abdul Mejid II[?], before being finally abolished in 1924.

Other regional dynasties set themselves up as Caliphs:

  • The Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty in North Africa and Egypt
  • The Umayyad Emirs of Cordoba, in Spain, declared themselves as Caliphs again in the 10th Century
  • The Almohad dynasty in North Africa and Spain



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