Caliph was the title taken by Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of Muhammad, when he succeeded him as leader of the Ummah, or community of Islam, in 632. The title has the implication of ruler of all the Islamic world.
Following the conflict between the Fatimids and the Abbasids, other Muslim rulers began to claim the caliphal title. With defeat of these peripheral caliphates, the caliphate of the Ottomans began increasingly to be considered to be undisputed primary caliphate. Thus, by eve of the First World War the Ottoman caliphate represented the largest and most powerful independent Islamicate political entity.
The word "Caliph" came through French, which got it from Latin (calīpha), a Romanization of the Arabic word, Khalīfa (probably خليفة), literally "Successor of the Prophet." Khalīfa originates from the verb khalafa, meaning "to succeed" or "to be behind." Some Orientalists wrote it as Khalîf. Some movements in modern Islamic philosophy justify religious leadership via khalifa, meaning roughly "to steward" or "to protect the same things as God," and propose this to renew the Caliphate.
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The four "wellguided" caliphs:
The first four caliphs were followed by:
Other regional dynasties set themselves up as Caliphs:
Currently, there is a movement in many countries to rise a new caliphate in The Modern Moslem World. Among these movements is The Hizb'ut'Tahrir.