A caliphate (Arabic: خِلَافَةkhilāfah) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph (-/; Arabic: خَلِيْفَةkhalīfah, About this soundpronunciation ), a person considered a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire ummah (Muslim community).[1] Historically, the caliphates were polities based in Islam which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires.[2] During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). In the fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire claimed caliphal authority from 1517. During the history of Islam, a few other Muslim states, almost all hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.[1]

Prior to the rise of Muhammad, Arab tribes followed a pre-Islamic Arab polytheism and lived as self-governing sedentary and nomadic tribal communities.[3][4] Following the early Muslim conquests by Muhammad, the region became politically unified under Islam.[4]

The first caliphate, the Rashidun Caliphate, immediately succeeded Muhammad after his death in 632.[5] The four Rashidun caliphs were chosen through shura, a process of community consultation that some consider to be an early form of Islamic democracy.[6] The fourth caliph, Ali, who, unlike the prior three, was from the same clan as Muhammad (Banu Hashim), is considered by Shia Muslims to be the first rightful caliph and Imam after Muhammad.[7] Ali reigned during the First Fitna (656–661), a civil war between supporters of Ali and supporters of the assassinated previous caliph, Uthman, from Banu Umayya, as well as rebels in Egypt; the war led to the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate under Muawiyah I in 661.

The second caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate, was ruled by Banu Umayya, a Meccan clan descended from Umayya ibn Abd Shams. The caliphate continued the Arab conquests, incorporating the Caucasus, Transoxiana, Sindh, the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world. The caliphate had considerable acceptance of the Christians within its territory, necessitated by their large numbers, especially in the region of Syria.[8][9][10] Following the Abbasid Revolution from 746–750, which primarily arose from non-Arab Muslim disenfranchisement, the Abbasid Caliphate was established in 750.

The third caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate was ruled by the Abbasids, a dynasty of Meccan origin descended from Hashim, a great-grandfather of Muhammad, via Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad. Caliph al-Mansur founded its second capital of Baghdad in 762, which became a major scientific, cultural and art centre, as did the territory as a whole, during the period known as the Islamic Golden Age. From the 10th century, Abbasid rule became confined to an area around Baghdad and saw several occupations from foreign powers. In 1258, the Mongol Empire sacked Baghdad, ending the Abbasid Caliphate, and in 1261 the Mamluks in Egypt re-established the Abbasid Caliphate in Cairo. Though lacking in political power, the Abbasid dynasty continued to claim authority in religious matters until the Ottoman conquest of Mamluk Egypt in 1517.[11]

The fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, was established after their conquest of Mamluk Egypt in 1517. The conquest gave the Ottomans control over the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, previously controlled by the Mamluks. The Ottomans gradually came to be viewed as the de facto leaders and representatives of the Muslim world.[12] Following their defeat in World War I, their empire was partitioned by the United Kingdom and French Third Republic. The Turkish Republic was proclaimed on 29 October 1923, and as part of the reforms of its first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey constitutionally abolished the institution of the caliphate on 3 March 1924.[13]

A few other states that existed through history have called themselves caliphates, including the Isma'ili Fatimid Caliphate in Northeast Africa (909–1171), the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba in Iberia (929–1031), the Berber Almohad Caliphate in Morocco (1121–1269) and the Fula Sokoto Caliphate in present-day northern Nigeria (1804–1903).

The Sunni branch of Islam stipulates that, as a head of state, a caliph was a selected or elected position.[14] Followers of Shia Islam, however, believe a caliph should be an Imam chosen by God from the Ahl al-Bayt (the "Family of the House", Muhammad's direct descendants). In simpler terms, the Sunni favour election while the Shia favour bloodline.[7]

In the early 21st century, following the failure of the Arab Spring and defeat of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State", there has been seen "a broad mainstream embrace of a collective Muslim identity" by young Muslims, and the appeal of a caliphate as an "idealized future Muslim state" has grown stronger.[15]


Before the advent of Islam, Arabian monarchs traditionally used the title malik (King, ruler), or another from the same root.[1]

The term caliph (f/),[16] derives from the Arabic word khalīfah (خَليفة, About this soundpronunciation ), which means "successor", "steward", or "deputy" and has traditionally been considered a shortening of Khalīfat Rasūl Allāh ("successor of the messenger of God"). However, studies of pre-Islamic texts suggest that the original meaning of the phrase was "successor selected by God".[1]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kalifaat
Alemannisch: Kalifat
asturianu: Califatu
تۆرکجه: خیلافت
বাংলা: খিলাফত
Bân-lâm-gú: Khalifah-kok
беларуская: Халіфат
български: Халифат
bosanski: Hilafet
brezhoneg: Kalifiezh
català: Califat
čeština: Chalífát
dansk: Kalifat
Deutsch: Kalifat
eesti: Kalifaat
Ελληνικά: Χαλιφάτο
español: Califato
Esperanto: Kaliflando
euskara: Kalifa-herri
فارسی: خلافت
français: Califat
Gàidhlig: Cèileafaid
galego: Califato
한국어: 아랍 제국
Hausa: Khalifofi
हिन्दी: ख़िलाफ़त
hrvatski: Kalifat
Bahasa Indonesia: Khilafah
italiano: Califfato
Jawa: Khalifah
қазақша: Халифат
Кыргызча: Халифат
latviešu: Kalifāts
lietuvių: Arabų Kalifatas
Malagasy: Kalifaty
മലയാളം: ഖിലാഫത്ത്
मराठी: खिलाफत
Bahasa Melayu: Khilafah
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ကလီဖား၊ ကလစ်ဖ်
Nederlands: Kalifaat
нохчийн: Халифат
norsk nynorsk: Kalifat
occitan: Califat
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Xalifalik
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਖ਼ਿਲਾਫ਼ਤ
پنجابی: خلافت
پښتو: خلافت
polski: Kalifat
português: Califado
română: Califat
русский: Халифат
Scots: Caliphate
shqip: Kalifati
sicilianu: Califfatu
Simple English: Caliphate
سنڌي: خلافت
slovenčina: Kalifát
کوردی: خەلافەت
српски / srpski: Калифат
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kalifat
suomi: Kalifaatti
svenska: Kalifat
тоҷикӣ: Хилофат
Türkçe: Hilâfet
українська: Халіфат
اردو: خلافت
Tiếng Việt: Khalifah
吴语: 哈里发国
ייִדיש: כאליפאט
粵語: 哈里發國
Zazaki: Xilafet
中文: 哈里發國