Definition of caliph in English:



  • The chief Muslim civil and religious ruler, regarded as the successor of Muhammad. The caliph ruled in Baghdad until 1258 and then in Egypt until the Ottoman conquest of 1517; the title was then held by the Ottoman sultans until it was abolished in 1924 by Atatürk.

    • ‘All the Muslim rulers were named as caliphs and had no Prime Minister at all.’
    • ‘The split originated with a caliph named Hakim, a religious reformer who ruled from Cairo at the turn of the 11 th century.’
    • ‘In orthodox writings the title caliph generally means deputy or successor to the Prophet Muhammad (as in khalifat rasul Allah - deputy to the Messenger of God).’
    • ‘Abu Bakr, a close companion of Muhammad, is unanimously selected as the first caliph of Islam.’
    • ‘The sultan was also the caliph, the symbol of Islamic unity and piety.’
    • ‘In the 7th century the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and his successors, the Umayyad caliphs, spread Islam from India to Spain.’
    • ‘The difference between a caliph and an imam is that a caliph can be anyone accepted by Muslims, but an imam must hail from the Prophet Mohammed's family and be a recognized religious authority (clergy).’
    • ‘Ali's supporters in Iraq did not accept the authority of the Umayyad caliphs and chose their own spiritual leaders called Imams.’
    • ‘He was one of the thousands of Arab scholars employed to translate, analyse and develop Greek learning by the Abbasid caliphs, rulers of the great Muslim empire of the 8th to the 13 th centuries.’
    • ‘The primary difference between the two groups is that Sunni Muslims recognize a caliph, who maintains military and political authority in Muslim societies.’
    • ‘Every non-Muslim people living under the rule of the caliph enjoyed not only peace and security, but complete autonomy as well which lived on in the form of capitulations in the Turkish Empire up to quite recent times.’
    • ‘The first of these Caliphs was al-Aziz, who was the first of the Fatimid caliphs to begin his reign in Egypt.’
    • ‘In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction that supported Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed, who was the fourth caliph, the temporal and spiritual ruler of the Muslim world.’
    • ‘There had been a cult of gastronomy at the court of the Sasanian Empire and the caliphs of Baghdad gratefully adopted it.’
    • ‘The caliphs (successors of The Prophet Muhammad) ruled that couples should not be separate for more than 4 months without permission, and if they were it was grounds for divorce.’
    • ‘One of the earliest and most distinguished of the Arabic mathematicians was the ninth century scholar Abu Ja'far Mohammed ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, who was an astronomer to the caliph at Baghdad.’
    • ‘Historically, for the Muslim community to act, the leader of that community - the caliph for the Sunnis, the imam for the Shi'ites - had to authorize the action.’
    • ‘Al-Hakim was the second of the Fatimid caliphs to begin his reign in Egypt; al-Aziz was the first of the Fatimid caliphs to do so.’
    • ‘The Fatimid caliphs belonged to the Shia tradition, which claimed descent from the fourth Caliph, Ali, and his wife Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet.’
    • ‘Ali, who was the fourth caliph of Sunni Islam and the first Shia imam, disagreed with Umar's decision at the time, as did other leading Sahaba, or companions of the Prophet.’
    • ‘In the same century, the Buyids, a Persian clan that was also Shi'ite in loyalty, managed to take over the ailing Abassid caliphs in Baghdad.’
    • ‘Their only source of identity was Islam, for the sultan was the caliph, the successor to Mohammad, and the only legitimate leader of all Muslims.’
    • ‘The Omayyad dynasty of caliphs ruled from Damascus until 750, when Shiite Muslims, who descended from the caliph Ali, massacred the Omayyad family.’
    • ‘After the First Crusade in 1096 AD set up Christian kingdoms all along the coast of Israel and Lebanon, of course the Fatimid caliphs who had ruled that area before were very upset.’
    • ‘It argues that this early Muslim republicanism was swept away by the subsequent caliphs, beginning with the Umayyads and extending to the Ottomans, who preferred to rule by force and to make claims to absolutism in politics.’
    • ‘Imam Ali is the fourth caliph to the Muslim, to the Sunni Muslims, and he is the first successor of the Prophet according to the Shia Muslims.’
    • ‘The celebrated scholar and calligrapher Ibn Muqla, who served three caliphs of Baghdad as prime minister and died on July 20,941 AD, copied the Quran in the early Naskh style.’
    • ‘By 1055, the Seljuks had spread across Iran to Iraq, where in Baghdad Seljuk's grandson Tughrul liberated the caliph, the supreme religious leader of the Islamic faith, from the control of another dynasty.’
    • ‘In the early 7th century, Muhammad and successive caliphs, took up the Arabic custom of making raids against their enemies.’
    • ‘For the next 1,300 years, a succession of Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman caliphs, beys, and sultans ruled the country.’


Late Middle English: from Old French caliphe, from Arabic ḵalīfa meaning deputy (of God) (from the title ḵalīfat Allāh), or meaning successor (of Muhammad) (from the title ḵalīfat rasūl Allāh of the Messenger of God), from ḵalafa succeed.