Generally the word 'Khalifa' in Sura 2.30 is taken to mean that Man is the 'representative' .
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." (Quran;2:30)
Let us explain the significance and importance :
It is vicious to spread the false concept that God's sovereignty can be delegated. This concept took its origin among the Christians and gave birth to theocracy. The Christian kings modified the concept to give it the form of "Divine rights of the kings."
The same idea came into vogue among the Muslims after caliphate changed into kingship and Muslim kings began to call themselves 'shadow of God on the earth'. From then onwards, Muslim kings became sovereign in the worldly affairs and Muslim priests in the religious affairs; and the 'Islam' became split up into 'church and state'.
The concept of delegation of sovereignty of God to man is absolutely false from the Quranic point of view.
Delegation of power from one person to another means that the latter gains absolute control of power for a certain period and that the exercise of this power by the former becomes suspended in the meantime.
Secondly, the occasion for the delegation of power by a certain authority arises when that authority itself is not present at the place where the power is to be exercised. But God is Omnipresent.
The question of His being not in control, at any time or anywhere, does not arise. God does not delegate his sovereignty to anyone, not even to His messengers, who themselves are subservient to His laws.
Now let us see the argument produced in support of this false concept of delegation of Allah's sovereignty. They consider man as 'khalifatullah' and erroneously translate it as 'vicegerent of God' which means that he exercises delegated powers of God.
As a matter of fact, there is not a single instance in the holy Quran where man is described as 'khalifatullah' successor of God. He is rather described a 'khalifat al-ard' When God addressed the angels and said:
"l will create a Khalifa' on the earth" (2:30)
It pointed towards the creation of a successor to the preceding prehuman generations that lived on the earth before mankind.
Moreover, in order to clarify the point that man is not a representative, successor of God, we shall have to clarify the meaning of the word 'Khalifa'. There are three basic concepts in the meaning of the words with the root ' K', ' L', ' F'.
(a) To succeed,
(b) To follow
(c) To undergo change.
The holy Quran is self-explanatory. It says: "And it is He Who made the night and day to follow each
other. " (25.62)
Again it is said:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْكِ
"Day and night coming one after the other. " (2:164)
'B' can become the Khalifa of 'A' only in his absence. 'A' may be dead or alive but 'B' cannot take his place as Khalifa in his presence. The following verses of the Quran support it:
Before Moses went up on the mount for communion with His Lord, he said to his brother Haroon:
وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰ ثَلَاثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً ۚ وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
"You shall succeed me amongst my people (in my absence) " (7:142)
At yet another place it is said:
ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ لِنَنظُرَ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ
"Then We made you successors in the land after them, to see how you would behave. " (10:14)
Hud said to his people:
فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقَدْ أَبْلَغْتُكُم مَّا أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَيَسْتَخْلِفُ رَبِّي قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ وَلَا تَضُرُّونَهُ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَفِيظٌ
"(lf you turn away from the divine guidance), my Lord will make another people to succeed you. " (11:57)
About the people of Aad it is said:
أَوَعَجِبْتُمْ أَن جَاءَكُمْ ذِكْرٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنكُمْ لِيُنذِرَكُمْ ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِن بَعْدِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَزَادَكُمْ فِي الْخَلْقِ بَسْطَةً ۖ فَاذْكُرُوا آلَاءَ اللَّـهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
"ln that He made you successors after the people of Noah. " (7.69)
The holy Quran has, thus amply clarified that a Khalifa is a successor in the absence or on the death of his predecessor. Hence the question of somebody being a 'representative' does not arise.
The concept of 'representative' is the invention of self-interested individuals who wanted to exploit people in the garb of 'God's vicegerency.'
God is the lawmaker. The word 'khalifat fil-ard' simply means to hold reins of power with the purpose of putting into application the divine laws in human affairs. God's laws are immutable and cannot be changed.
لَيْسَ لَكَ مِنَ الْأَمْرِ شَيْءٌ أَوْ يَتُوبَ عَلَيْهِمْ أَوْ يُعَذِّبَهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ
"No body can change the laws of Allah. " (6:34)
Not even messenger of God:
وَلَقَدْ كُذِّبَتْ رُسُلٌ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَصَبَرُوا عَلَىٰ مَا كُذِّبُوا وَأُوذُوا حَتَّىٰ أَتَاهُمْ نَصْرُنَا ۚ وَلَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَكَ مِن نَّبَإِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
"(O Messenger of God!) You are not given the authority to change the laws of God. " (3.128)
God is the only Sovereign. There is no sovereign except God. He is the only authority to whose laws subservience of man is due.
The believers are an instrument to enforce the divine laws and its jurisdiction in law making and are confined within specific limits; it does not hold absolute rights of law making.
The law making in Quranic society is a blend of Permanence and Change. The fundamental principles given by the Quran are Permanent and Immutable.