The Khilafat Movement and Turkish Gratefulness

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- Friday, November 30, 2018

The Khilafat Movement in India Muslims and Turkish Gratefulness :

The Ottoman sultans were considered symbolic head of the global Sunni community. Tipu Sultan had sought an investiture decree as ruler of Mysore from the Ottoman. However, the Ottomans Empire was beset with decline and defeat from the beginning of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was a spent force while Great Britain was at the zenith of its powerful. Indian Muslims were greatly worried when new arrived that war may break out in Europe and Turkey might enter the war against the UK as an ally of Germany. That is exactly what happene. Turkey joined World War I on the wrong side largely because of Ottoman Minister of War Anoyara Pasha.

Muslims were employed in the British Indian army in large numbers and Punjab in particular was a favourites British recruiting base. Since 1858, Muslim as well as Hindu, Sikh and Gurkha soldiers had been fighting overseas for the UK and serving loyally the colonial state to maintained its control over India. In the past, foreign armies easily found such men for employment against native rules (Hindus or Muslims), so it was an established practice. The 1857 uprising was the exception and not the rule. In any event, a fatwa by Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi to the effect that since the Ottomans were not from Prophet Muhammad’s Qureish tribe they could not claim to be caliphs of Islam cleared the way for any volatility that might have existed among Muslims about fighting the Turks. However, anti-imperialist Muslims took the opposite view, the Qureish qualification was not essential and, therefore, the Ottomans sultan was the legitimate caliph of Muslims. In February 1915, some Muslims sepoys opened fire on their British officers in Singapore and killed them. It happened somewhere else but only a few, as isolated incidents.

An All India Khilafat Committee head quartered in Lucknow was formed in 1919 to campaign for the Muslim Middle East remaining under Ottoman dominion. Muhammad Ali Johar and his brother Shaukat Ali, Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal, Mahmud Hasan of Deoband, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Shaukat Ali Siddiqui, Barrister Jan Muhammad, Hasrat Mohani, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and others joined khilafat movement. Some prominent pirs from Sindh also supported the Khilafat Movement while in Punjab the pirs remained loyal to the British Empire. The conservative Muslim elite kept away from the Khilafatists because confrontation with the British was deemed harmful since separate electorates had been granted to them in 1909 and thus their communal interests were being safeguarded against the Hindu majority, although the abolition of the Partition of Bengal in 1911 had been a setback. In any event, the victorious allies, with British Prime Minister Lloyd George in the lead, were hell-bent in reducing Turkey to a trail state in the Anatolian hinterland.

The Khilafat entered into an alliance with the Indian National Congress (INC). The Congress leader Mahatma Gandhi was made president of the Khilafat Committee. A non-cooperation movements gained momentum across India. Hindu and Muslim collectively offered resistance that was largely peaceful and many were arrested. Mahatma Gandhi, the Ali brothers and several other leaders were imprisoned by the British. However, the alliance ended when Gandhi opposed the recourse to violence in some placed while in south-India Hindu & Muslim riots broke out. The All-India Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha remained adverse to the Khilafat movement.

Meanwhile, legendary Ottomans General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who fought and won many battles during the war and was the hero of the battle at Gallipoli, refused to accept the Treaty of Sevres. He organised a resistance movement that fought the allied forces for year. The only power that helped Ataturk was the Russia. The United Kingdom obtained letters from the Agha Khan and Syed Ameer Ali advising the Turks to remain loyal to the sultan, the spiritual head of Islam. The letters were airdropped over Ataturk national liberation forces. Ataturk successfully countered such propaganda, denouncing the Agha Khan and Ameer Ali as British agent. Ultimately, peace was agreed through the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 that fixed the current international border of Turkey. The Middle Eastern had been excluded from Turkey and placed under British and French mandates. The Sultan and the Caliphate, as symbols of Islamic power, became a charade, an imperialists facade. Ataturk sensed that metamorphosis and decided to establish a modern national state without medieval trappings and fiction. The revolt by Arab leaders had generated deep resentment among the Turkeys. Therefore, he abolished the caliphate in 1924 A.d. Conservative Khilafatists such as Mohammad Ali Johar kept hankering for the caliphate to be maintained but radicals Khilafatists came out strongly in favour of Ataturk. Thus, for example, Abul Kalam Azad issued a ruling supporting Ataturk's, which the Kemalist government distributed in the form of leaflets.

Since I have family ties with Turkey and visit it every now and then, I know that Turkish affinity and gratefulness towards Pakistanis has always existed and its roots can be traced to the support Turkey received from Indian Muslims during and after First World War. This was true when the Kemalist elite ruled Turkey and it is true now when conservative Muslim are in power. The Khilafat Movement need to be seen as one among other anti-imperialist movements in the early 20th century such as the Ghaddar movement and the agitation that broke out in severally districts of Punjab in the wake of the Jallianwala massacre.