Who is the khalifa mentioned in 2:30


As per a number of translations, we read the word khalifa in 2:30 translated as successor, and by others as representative, and by others as temporary god. What is the correct meaning of the khalifa in 2:30 and who is the khalifa whom God speaks about?


With Quranic evidence it can be shown that:

The word khalifa in 2:30 does not mean successor, nor representative, nor temporary gods. The word khalifa as used in the Quran means 'supreme ruler'.

The khalifa in 2:30 is not the human being (as some interpreters claim), but it is Satan (Iblis).

First: The meaning of khalifa in 2:30

To define any Quranic word, the best dictionary is the Quran itself. Let us first consider the interpretations of khalifa that has been used by various interpreters:

Why the word khalifa, as used in the Quran, cannot mean successor

The word successor means a person who succeeds one who came before him and assumes all the authority that belonged to the first. For example, if we say that King B was the successor to King A, this means that the reign of Kind A has ended and that the reign of King B has come in its place.
Needless to say, God's reign and authority can never end, thus there can be no successor to follow God or come in place of God.

Why the word khalifa, as used in the Quran, cannot mean representative

- No human being can be a representative of God, we are all servants and worshippers of God, but never His representative. God's greatness is beyond our imagination (39:67), thus it is inconceivable for any human being to represent God!

- If the word Khalifa in
2:30 speaks of the human race as a whole, how can the human race be representatives of God when the majority of the human race are either disbelievers or idol worshippers (see 6:116, 12:103 and 12:106)!

Why the word khalifa, as used in the Quran, cannot mean temporary god

The use of the words 'temporary god' in place of khalifa is indeed an inaccurate translation. Since God is the only god, there cannot be any other gods, not even temporary ones. There may be other gods created in the minds of many, but in
2:30 it is God who is speaking. God would never appoint anyone as a god, not even for a temporary period.


With this in mind, it is necessary to investigate the meaning of the word khalifa as per the Quranic use. The word khalifa has been used twice in the Quran, in
2:30 and 38:26.
The khalifa in 38:26 is the prophet David whom God made a great king of the Children of Israel. God tells David in 38:26 that He made him a khalifa:

O David, We have made you a
khalifa (supreme ruler) in earth. Therefore, you shall judge between people with truth, and do not follow personal desire lest it diverts you from the path of God. Those who stray off the path of God shall have a severe punishment for forgetting the Day of Reckoning. 38:26

To determine the meaning of khalifa, we look at what God made David and what he was given from God:

So they defeated them with God's permission, and David killed Goliath, and
God granted him the sovereignty and the wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. If it were not for God repelling some people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, instead, God is Possessor of great favour to all the worlds. 2:251

Be patient in the face of what they say and mention
Our servant David, the possessor of strength, he was always turning to his Lord. 38:17

We gave Solomon the understanding of it. We granted both of them sound judgement and knowledge, and
We subjected the mountains to glorify with David as well as the birds. Indeed We did. 21:79

We bestowed upon David favour from Us: "O mountains and birds, echo with him." We rendered iron malleable for him. 34:10

From the above verses it is clear that God made David a king of great strength, so much so that the mountains and birds were commanded to echo (glorification) with David.
The position of being a king of great strength and sound judgement tells us that God made David a supreme ruler on earth. This is the correct meaning of the word khalifa. King David was neither a successor, nor representative of God, nor a temporary god.

Second: Who is the khalifa in 2:30

The traditional interpreters claim that the khalifa in
2:30 is Adam or the human race in general. This can be shown to be an incorrect interpretation in the light of the Quranic words.
First, the khalifa could not have been Adam since the angels stated that the khalifa would corrupt on earth and shed blood therein. As far as we know, Adam did not do either of those acts. Could the khalifa be the human race as a whole? Once again, this can be shown to be incorrect, and that the khalifa cannot be other than Satan (Iblis). How do we arrive at this conclusion from the Quran?
The answer is derived from 2 pieces of information:

In 2:30, when God informed the angels that He is placing a khalifa on earth, the angels complained to God saying:

Will You place in it one who will
corrupt therein and shed blood?

In 27:65 we read that no one in the Heavens and the earth knows the 'ghayb' (unseen/future) except God:

Say, "
No one in the heavens and the earth knows the ghayb except God, and they are unaware as to when they will be resurrected." 27:65

The angels do not know the ghayb (future). This once again confirmed in the following words:

He said, "Adam, inform them of their names." So when he informed them (angels) of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the ghayb of the heavens and the earth and that I know what you reveal, and what you were concealing." 2:33

They (angels) said, "Glory to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the Knowledgeable, the Wise." 2:32

Following from the above information, the following question arises:
Assuming that the khalifa in 2:30 is the human being, how did the angels know that the human being will "spread corruption therein and shed blood"? After all, the human being was not created yet at that stage! If the angels knew that the khalifa would spread corruption and shed blood on earth, this means that the khalifa could not have been the human being.

So what did the angels know that made them utter these words, and who was the khalifa the angels were speaking about?
The angels knew of the rebellion of Satan against God, and were aware of the arrogant and egoistic nature of Satan when they complained to God.
They knew of Satan's intentions since Satan himself declared it openly:

He (Satan) said, "My Lord, since You have led me astray, I will adorn things for them in the earth and I will lead them all astray. 15:39

He (Satan) said, "By Your majesty,
I will lead them all astray. 38:82

O you who believe, do not follow the footsteps of the devil. Whoever follows the footsteps of the devil then, indeed,
he advocates immorality and evil. 24:21

What the angels said in 2:30 was not a prediction of the future, which they had no knowledge of, but they were echoing what Satan himself vowed to do. As a result, they complained to God as to why God would place Satan as a ruler on earth when he will spread corruption and shed blood.

The one whom God made a ruler on earth is indeed Satan. Satan is able to whisper to us while we cannot see him. He is granted powers above the powers of the human being, and he controls the minds of a great section of the human race and he is able to misguide so many.

As to the question of why did God appoint Satan as a ruler on earth?
The full details of this can be found at: Why we are here?