I Just Pledged Allegiance to the Caliphate | Opinion

I just pledged allegiance to the Caliphate.

This may sound like a radical statement, one to induce a reaction of anxiety, perhaps even fear, in people's hearts. But the Caliphate which I refer to is not the cruel, barbaric leadership of the so-called Islamic State, but a Caliph that promotes peace and pluralism.

We live in an age of extremism. Historical and religious concepts like "caliphate" have become associated in mainstream thought with terrorism, violence, and Muslim insurrectionism. The brutalities of so-called Islamic State, which have haunted the entire world over recent years, have led people to develop a negative perception of Islam itself.

But these extremist groups have merely hijacked and distorted many concepts within the religion, many of which, surprising though it may be, are in fact the antithesis of what they are currently perceived to be.

Caliphate is one such example. While the Islamic State use the term to mean the rule of a politico-religious leader tasked with waging war to forcibly convert others to Islam, and ultimately enforce brutal "Sharia law," the real meaning of the term is nothing of the sort. The word Caliphate, or "Khilafat" means "succession," and the Caliph is the spiritual successor to a Prophet of God. The true goal of a Caliph is not to be a political leader, but a moral guide and teacher, to continue the work of a Prophet after his demise.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, there came four Caliphs, each of them known for their high moral values and devotion to the Prophet. Their were religious luminaries as well as political leaders. The Caliph-Kings which followed the Four were not true Islamic spiritual leaders, but simply assumed the title of Caliph for the secondary political significance it had acquired.
South-East England might appear a strange place for an Islamic Caliph to reside today, but just last week, at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Annual Convention, close to 40,000 Muslims formed a huge human chain and pledged allegiance to their spiritual leader.

The community believe that the long-awaited Promised Messiah has already come as Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. After he passed away in 1908, a system of caliphate has followed. The purpose of the Messiah and his Caliphs has been to reconnect people to a living God and instill morality and justice into the hearts and minds of all people. This was to be achieved not through force of political might, but through love and compassion.

The present Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, is widely heralded as a man of peace, and regularly addresses politicians, dignitaries and other world leaders, imploring them to discharge their responsibilities justly. He is a man who, through his actions as well as his words, inspires his followers to love rather than hate, and to help others rather than to oppress. "We, Ahmadi Muslims," he says, "are not here to cause you any disturbance but rather we are here to serve, we are here to share with you the community, to join you in your activities, and live peacefully and happily with you." His community hears and obeys.

Britain faces testing times, and in the midst of political turmoil, economic uncertainty and austerity cuts, showing compassion towards those whom we view as strangers rather than relatives is an onerous task.

The Caliph of Ahmadi Muslims, however, knows that hatred in all its forms, whether it be from radical Islamic preachers, British nationalists or anti-Semites, must not be allowed to flourish. For the ripples that are created from such hatred ultimately build up to form waves, and those waves swell to tsunamis. Through his softly-spoken words, the Caliph conveys the beautiful message that the path to liberation, the path to true societal peace, lies not in serving one's own interests, but in discharging one's obligations to others. And his preaching is the very antithesis of division, whether on part of Islamphobes or on part of the murderous sectarians of the Islamic State.

"I believe in that One God who is the Lord of all nations, all races and all religions," he once said, "and so it becomes impossible that I could ever develop any hatred in my heart for any nation, any race or any religion."

More importantly, however, is that unlike most leaders of this world, the Caliph of Ahmadi Muslims lives by the high moral values he preaches, constantly making sacrifices for the sake of the society at large, viewing others with a compassion of unparalleled depth.

When asked what kind of leader the world needs right now, a Caliph might not have been your top answer. However, in the view of tens of millions of Muslims, pledging allegiance to a true Islamic Caliphate can help solve many of today's world problems.

Sabah Ahmed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. At 26, he is one of the youngest Imams in the UK.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​