Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Andrew F. March
The term caliphate was used classically in the West to indicate the “successor” to the Prophet Muhammad, while the Arabic term khalifa signifies the office or institution of a single ruler and symbolic leader of the entire Muslim community (umma). Rival claims to this office were the source of three early civil wars (fitna s) in the first century of Islam, resulting in the creation of sects within Islam based first on loyalty to rival claimants and ultimately on diverging conceptions of the meaning and authority of the office itself. (There are multiple transliterations of Arabic words, but this entry uses some of the most common.) The word khalifa or its plural appears in the Qur'an either in relation to prophets (Adam, David, Noah; see Q. 2:30, 38:26, 7:69) or in relation to humanity as a whole, as in Q. 6:165: “For, He it is who has made you khalifas ...