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List of Caliphs

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Title: List of Caliphs  
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List of Caliphs

This is a list of people who have held the title of Caliph, the supreme religious and political leader of an Islamic state known as the Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, as the political successors to Muhammad. All years are according to the Common Era.

Due to the First Fitna which led to the sectarian division of Sunni vs. Shi'a Islam, the succession of Muhammad is disputed within Islam. The only two caliphs recognized in both Sunni and Shi'a Islam are Ali ibn Abu Talib Hasan ibn Ali considered the fourth and fifth or the first two, respectively. The Hadith of the Twelve Successors states that Muhammad that there will only be twelve caliphs, all of them from the Quraysh tribe, and that there would be impostor caliphs to guard against, and that after the last of the twelve caliphs, the earth will be swallowed.

Within Sunni Islam, there were universally recognized or "ecumenical" caliphs from the 7th century until the 13th-century Mongol invasions, a period comprising the so-called Golden Age of Islam. After the death of Al-Musta'sim, last Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad, in 1258, there were no universally recognized caliphs until 1517, when Ottoman sultan Selim I induced Al-Mutawakkil III to formally surrender the title of caliph after defeating the Mamluk Sultanate. After this, the Ottoman sultans also carried the title of caliph, until the declaration of Abdülmecid II as "ceremonial caliph" (1922–1924). Since 1924, there have again been no caliphs with universal recognition within Sunni Islam.


  • Rashidun Caliphs (632–661) 1
  • Umayyad Caliphs (661–750/1031) 2
    • Caliphs of Damascus (661–750) 2.1
    • Emirs of Córdoba (756–929) 2.2
    • Caliphs of Córdoba (929–1031) 2.3
  • Ibn al-Zubayr's Caliphate (684–692) 3
  • Abbasid Caliphs (750–1258/1517) 4
    • Caliphs of Baghdad (750–1258) 4.1
    • Caliphs of Cairo (1261–1517) 4.2
  • Non-ecumenical medieval caliphates 5
    • Fatimid Caliphs (909–1171) 5.1
    • Almohad Caliphs (1145–1269) 5.2
  • Ottoman Caliphs (1453–1924) 6
  • Various caliphates declared after 1900 7
    • Sharifian Caliphate (1924) 7.1
    • Islam Ahmadiyya Caliphate (1908–present) 7.2
    • Contemporary jihadism 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Bibliography 10

Rashidun Caliphs (632–661)

Rashidun Caliphate (dark green) at its peak in 654, including its vassal states (light green).

Umayyad Caliphs (661–750/1031)

Caliphs of Damascus (661–750)

Umayyad Caliphate (green) at its greatest extent, c. 750.


Emirs of Córdoba (756–929)

Caliphs of Córdoba (929–1031)

Caliphate of Córdoba (green), c. 1000.

(Not universally accepted; actual authority confined to Spain and parts of Maghreb)[3][4]

Ibn al-Zubayr's Caliphate (684–692)

Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate in 684 AD. He was proclaimed caliph in Mecca but was defeated and killed there in 692 AD after a six-month siege by general Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf.[5]

Abbasid Caliphs (750–1258/1517)

Caliphs of Baghdad (750–1258)

Abbasid Caliphate (green) at its greatest extent, c. 850.

(Not accepted by the Muslim dominions in the Iberian Peninsula and parts of North Africa).[6][7]

(During the latter period of Abbasid rule, Muslim rulers began using other titles, such as Sultan).

Caliphs of Cairo (1261–1517)

(The Cairo Abbasids were largely ceremonial Caliphs under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate that existed after the takeover of the Ayyubid dynasty)[8][9]

Non-ecumenical medieval caliphates

Fatimid Caliphs (909–1171)

The Fatimid Caliphate (green) at its peak, c. 969.

(The Fatimids belonged to the Isma'ili branch of Shia Islam and hence are not recognized by the majority of Sunnis, whether subjects in their dominions, or from neighboring states).[10][11]

Almohad Caliphs (1145–1269)

The Almohad dynasty (green) at its greatest extent, c. 1200.

(Not widely accepted, actual dominions were parts of North Africa and Iberia)[12][13]

Ottoman Caliphs (1453–1924)

Caliph of the Faithful
Abdülmecid II
Style His Imperial Majesty[14]
Residence Dolmabahçe Palace
Formation 1453 (1517)
First holder Mehmed II
Final holder Abdülmecid II
Abolished 3 March 1924
The Ottoman Empire at its greatest extent, 1683.

Originally secular, the head of the Ottoman dynasty was just entitled Sultan, soon it started accumulating titles assumed from subjected peoples.[15][16]

From 1908 onwards the Ottoman Sultan was considered the equivalent of a constitutional monarch without executive powers, with the General Assembly consisting of chosen representatives.

The Office of the Caliphate was transferred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey which dissolved the office on March 3, 1924, in keeping with the policies of secularism that were adopted in the early years of the Republic of Turkey by its President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The current pretender to the Imperial House of Osman is Bayezid Osman.

After the dissolution of the Office of the Caliphate, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey founded the Presidency of Religious Affairs as the new highest Islamic religious authority in the country.

Various caliphates declared after 1900

Since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, there has been no single recognized, "ecumenical" caliphate.

Sharifian Caliphate (1924)

Map with the kingdom in green and the current region in red.

A last attempt at restoring the caliphal office and style with ecumenical recognition was made by Hussein bin Ali, King of Hejaz and Sharif of Mecca, who assumed both on 11 March 1924 and held them until 3 October 1924, when he passed the kingship to his son `Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Hashimi, who did not adopt the caliphal office and style.[17] Hussein's claim for caliphate was not accepted however, and in 1925 he was driven from Hejaz by the forces of Ibn Saud due to his lack of support for Shari'ah. He continued to use the title of caliph during his remaining life in exile, until his death in 1931.

Islam Ahmadiyya Caliphate (1908–present)

Khalīfatul Masīh (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and is the successor of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.

The Caliph is believed to be divinely guided, continuing the same divine communion which the founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is said to have enjoyed. The Khalifatul Masih is also referred to by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the Faithful). The fifth and current Khalifatul Masih is Mirza Masroor Ahmad.

As the "succession" in question is not that of Muhammad but that of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and since the Ahmadiyya sect isn't recognized as part of the Islamic Ummah by Sunni and Shi'a adherents to begin with, the "Ahmadi caliphate" needless to say has no recognition outside of the Ahmadiyya sect.

Contemporary jihadism

On 29 June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was renamed the Islamic State and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named its caliph,[19] using his actual name, Ibrahim.[20] The validity of this caliphate has not been recognized by any Islamic authority outside of the jihadist group in question.[21]

In August 2014, the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Abubakar Shekau, likewise declared a caliphate. Apparently, it remained unclear whether Shekau declared his group to be part of the Islamic State caliphate or if he was declaring a separate caliphate in Nigeria.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, p. 9
  2. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 4
  3. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, p. 21
  4. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 11
  5. ^ Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O edited by Tony Jacques
  6. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, pp. 12–13
  7. ^ Bosworth 2004, pp. 6–7
  8. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 7
  9. ^ Houtsma & Wensinck 1993, p. 3
  10. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, p. 71
  11. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 63
  12. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, p. 47
  13. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 39
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Lane-Poole 2004, p. 195
  16. ^ Bosworth 2004, pp. 239–240
  17. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 118
  18. ^
  19. ^ Adam Withnall (2014-06-30). "Iraq crisis: Isis declares its territories a new Islamic state with 'restoration of caliphate' in Middle East - Middle East - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  20. ^ """ISIS Spokesman Declares Caliphate, Rebrands Group as "Islamic State. SITE Institute. 29 June 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  21. ^  
  22. ^ Boko Haram leader declares Islamic caliphate in Nigeria , Washington Times, 24 August 2014.


  • Houtsma, M. Th.; Wensinck, A. J. (1993).  
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