Feb. 28 came and went, and thus ended Pope Benedict's short tenure. According to most, no claimant to Divine office remains on Earth, at least until the next pope is elected.
On the contrary, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the world's only Khalifa and head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, continues his lifelong Divinely appointed tenure to the office of Khilafat.
To put it directly, in Islam a Khalifa is God's man on earth. He accepts God's will and marches on despite illness, suffering, persecution or any other form of hardship. God's man on Earth does not resign. Instead, only God Himself removes them when the Khalifa eventually passes away. Muslims believe that the Khalifa is divinely appointed as the Holy Spirit guides the election. In essence, it is divine Will with human participation. Resigning is therefore not appropriate. In secular terms it is like an elected monarchy, but a monarch who is obliged to adhere to the tenets of absolute justice and universal equity.
Likewise, a man of God is different than God's man on earth. A man of God is a voluntary position or status -- such as the imam of a mosque. God's man on Earth, however, is an appointed position and therefore a required obligation for the one appointed. The essence of this divinely appointed spiritual leadership is unity of mankind under divine guidance and divine protection.
Despite extreme hardship, the first four Khalifas after Prophet Muhammad's demise maintained their offices until their deaths and therefore maintained unity among Muslims. Likewise, despite immense persecution, the first four Khalifas after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's demise, who Ahmadi Muslims believe is the Messiah, maintained their offices until their deaths. The current and Fifth Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, was elected to Khilafat in 2003. Despite being exiled from Pakistan for his faith, increasing persecution against Ahmadi Muslims worldwide and baseless propaganda warning of the "dangers of the Caliphate," the Khalifa has unwaveringly maintained his office.
The Prophet Muhammad declared, "Your leadership will be a reflection of you [the people]." Thus, in the rare cases where chaos, disorder and loss of life may be involved in a Khalifa's election or even removal, it in fact reflects the electing society's spiritual and moral decay. A corrupted people are incapable of electing a righteous Khalifa. In other words, corruption indicates an absence of Divine guidance and protection, and thus a loss of unity through the institution of Khilafat. In the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, during the election of the Second Khalifa, a party chose to reject Khilafat. Those Muslims have since denied themselves of this Divine blessing. Those Muslims who chose to maintain spiritual allegiance to Khilafat, however, have benefited from its continued growth and guidance. But perhaps the most classic example of a dispute in Khilafat in Islamic history occurred after the demise of Ali, the Fourth Khalifa. Infighting and corruption among Muslims not only eventually led to the Sunni-Shiite split, it also meant the end of a unified Khilafat altogether.
And Muslims have since been unable to re-establish Khilafat for a simple reason: Human hands cannot establish a Divine institution. Prophet Muhammad explained clearly that Khilafat is established on the precepts of Prophethood to carry on the Prophet's mission after the Prophet's demise (Masnad Ahmad, 14:163 #18319).
It is on this teaching of Prophet Muhammad that Ahmadi Muslims adhere to the institution of Khilafat, established in 1908 after the demise of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Messiah. Despite the mockery, persecution and declarations that Ahmadi Muslims are kafir, this era of Khilafat has already lasted beyond a century, is established in more than 200 nations worldwide and continues to thrive. It is no accident that while the Muslim ummah has been unable to re-establish Khilafat for some 1,400 years, the man who claimed to be the long-awaited Divinely appointed Messiah did in fact re-establish Divinely guided Khilafat -- and has been the only one to do so.
So as we await the next pope's election, worry not about whether a Divinely appointed individual exists. He does. His name is Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and he is God's man on Earth.