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The Khilafat movement (1915–23) was a pan-Islamist, political protest campaign launched by Muslims of India to influence the British government not to abolish the Ottoman Caliphate. It was a protest against the humiliating sanctions placed on the Caliph and Ottoman Empire after the First World War by the Treaty of Sevres.
Ottoman emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876–1909) launched his pan-Islamist program in a bid to protect the Ottoman Empire from Western attack and dismemberment, and to crush the Westernizing democratic opposition at home. He sent an emissary, Jamaluddin Afghani, to India in the late 19th century. The cause of the Ottoman monarch evoked religious passion and sympathy amongst Indian Muslims. Being a Caliph, the Ottoman emperor was nominally the supreme religious and political leader of all Muslims across the world. However, this authority was never actually used.
A large number of Muslim religious leaders began working to spread awareness and develop Muslim participation on behalf of the Caliphate. Muslim religious leader Maulana Mehmud Hasan attempted to organize a national war of independence against the British with support from the Ottoman Empire.
Abdul Hamid II was forced to restore the constitutional monarchy marking the start of the Second Constitutional Era by the Young Turk Revolution. He was succeeded by his brother Mehmed VI (1844–1918) but following the revolution, the real power in the Ottoman Empire lay with the nationalists. The movement was a topic in Conference of London (February 1920); however, nationalist Arabs saw it as threat of continuation of Islamic dominance of Arab lands.
The Ottoman Empire, having sided with the Central Powers during World War I, suffered a major military defeat. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) reduced its territorial extent and diminished its political influence but the victorious European powers promised to protect the Ottoman emperor's status as the Caliph. However, under the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), territories such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt were severed from the empire.
Within Turkey, a pro-Western, secular nationalist movement arose, known as the Turkish national movement. During the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923), the Turkish revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, abolished the Treaty of Sèvres with the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Pursuant to Atatürk's Reforms, the Republic of Turkey abolished the position of Caliphate in 1924 and transferred its powers within Turkey to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
Khilafat Movement in South Asia
Although political activities and popular outcry on behalf of the caliphate emerged across the Muslim world, the most prominent activities took place in India. A prominent Oxford educated Muslim journalist, Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar had spent four years in prison for advocating resistance to the British and support for the caliphate. At the onset of the Turkish war of independence, Muslim religious leaders feared for the caliphate, which the European powers were reluctant to protect. To some of the Muslims of India, the prospect of being conscripted by the British to fight against fellow Muslims in Turkey was anathema. To its founders and followers, the Khilafat was not a religious movement but rather a show of solidarity with their fellow Muslims in Turkey.
Mohammad Ali and his brother Maulana Shaukat Ali joined with other Muslim leaders such as Pir Ghulam Mujaddid Sarhandi Sheikh Shaukat Ali Siddiqui, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Raees-Ul-Muhajireen Barrister Jan Muhammad Junejo, Hasrat Mohani, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr. Hakim Ajmal Khan to form the All India Khilafat Committee. The organisation was based in Lucknow, India at Hathe Shaukat Ali, the compound of Landlord Shaukat Ali Siddiqui. They aimed to build political unity amongst Muslims and use their influence to protect the caliphate. In 1920, they published the Khilafat Manifesto, which called upon the British to protect the caliphate and for Indian Muslims to unite and hold the British accountable for this purpose. The Khilafat Committee in Bengal included Mohmmad Akram Khan, Manruzzaman Islamabadi, Mujibur Rahman Khan and Chittaranjan Das.
In 1920 an alliance was made between Khilafat leaders and the Indian National Congress, the largest political party in India and of the nationalist movement. Congress leader Mohandas Gandhi and the Khilafat leaders promised to work and fight together for the causes of Khilafat and Swaraj. Seeking to increase pressure on the British, the Khilafatists became a major part of the Non-cooperation movement — a nationwide campaign of mass, peaceful civil disobedience. The support of the Khilafatists helped Gandhi and the Congress ensure Hindu-Muslim unity during the struggle. Khilafat leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan also grew personally close to Gandhi. These leaders founded the Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920 to promote independent education and social rejuvenation for Muslims.
The non-cooperation campaign was at first successful. Massive protests, strikes and acts of civil disobedience spread across India. Hindus and Muslims collectively offered resistance, which was largely peaceful. Gandhi, the Ali brothers and others were imprisoned by the British. Under the flag of Tehrik-e-Khilafat, a Punjab Khilafat deputation comprising Moulana Manzoor Ahmed and Moulana Lutfullah Khan Dankauri took a leading role throughout India, with a particular concentration in the Punjab (Sirsa, Lahore, Haryana etc.).
The Ali brothers criticised Gandhi's extreme commitment to non-violence and severed their ties with him after he suspended all non-cooperation movement after the killing of 22 policemen at Chauri Chaura in 1922. Due to this Gandhiji became disturbed and very sad and called off the movement as he always believed in non-violence. However, it is also true that the immediate reason for the disposal of the committee was the much criticised embezzlement of 1.6 million rupees. The Ali brothers were severely criticised by Muslim politicians and the public. Although holding talks with the British and continuing their activities, the Khilafat struggle weakened as Muslims were divided between working for the Congress, the Khilafat cause and the Muslim League. After Hindu-Muslim riots of 1926–1927 many Muslim leaders like Mohammad Akram Khan lost interest in the movement.
The final blow came with the victory of Mustafa Kemal's forces, who overthrew the Ottoman rule to establish a pro-Western, secular republic in independent Turkey. He abolished the role of Caliph and sought no help from Indians.
The Khilafat leadership fragmented on different political lines. Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari created Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam with the support of Chaudhry Afzal Haq. Leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan remained strong supporters of Gandhi and the Congress. The Ali brothers joined Muslim League. They would play a major role in the growth of the League's popular appeal and the subsequent Pakistan movement. There was, however, a Caliphate Conference in Jerusalem in 1931 following Turkey's abolition of the Khilafat, to determine what should be done about the caliphate. People from villages such as Aujla Khurd were the main contributors to the cause.
The Khilafat struggle evokes controversy and strong opinions. By critics, it is regarded as a political agitation based on a pan-Islamist, fundamentalist platform and being largely indifferent to the cause of Indian independence. Dayatics of the Khilafat see its alliance with the Congress as a marriage of convenience. Proponents of the Khilafat see it as the spark that led to the non-cooperation movement in India and a major milestone in improving Hindu-Muslim relations, while advocates of Pakistan and Muslim separatism see it as a major step towards establishing the separate Muslim state. The Ali brothers are regarded as founding-fathers of Pakistan, while Azad, Dr. Ansari and Hakim Ajmal Khan are widely celebrated as national heroes in India. Jats were the only group who were with the Ali brothers the whole time. Main tribes of Jats included Metlas and Aujla.
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- However, at the same time, note must also be made that in the North Punjab and part of the NWFP, a huge number of Muslims did actively volunteer to serve in the British Indian Army in World War I
- A. C. Niemeijer (1972). The Khilafat movement in India, 1919-1924. Nijhoff. p. 84.
- Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement p 92
- Razzaq, Rana. "Khan, Mohammad Akram". Banglapedia. Bangladesh Asiatic Society. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
- Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement p 69
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- Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement p 205
- Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival, Norton, (2006), p.106
- Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement pp 208-12
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- Rehmat Farrukhabadi (2005). Muhammad Ali Jauhar and the Mutiny Trial (محمد علی جوہر ۱ور مقدمہِ بغاوت) in Urdu. Oxford University Press.
- Minault, Gail (1982). The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India. Columbia University Press.
- Qureshi, M. Naeem (1999). Pan-Islam in British Indian politics: a study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924. BRILL.
- Gandhi, Khilafat & The National Movement by N.S. Rajan, Publisher :Sahitya Sindhu Prakashan