Rightly Guided Caliphs

Editorial Board

November 9, 2012

The title “Rightly Guided Caliphs” names exclusively the four successors of the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace): Abu Bakr, ‹Umar, ‹Uthman, and ‹Ali (God be pleased with them). The caliphs or successors were elected by the ummah by means of shūra, however various may have been its forms in their election. In contrast, the following rulers who usurped power called themselves “caliphs” to maintain the illusion that they had been elected by the ummah. Even as the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) called his four successors “rightly guided caliphs” in one of his ḥadiths, he stigmatized those false “caliphs’’ as strong-fisted (literally, rapacious) kings. In Islam the word “king”, be he a head of a kingdom or a republic, refers to one who has usurped power without respecting the principle of shūra that is based on the ummah’s free choice.