- By Abu Ismael al-Beirawi
After yet another anniversary of the abolishment of the Khilafah state it is important for us to reflect upon its history and the reaction of the Muslims towards its demise and eventual destruction. It is assumed by some that the Muslims and their scholars did not react to the call for the abolishment of Khilafah and that they did not realise its significance. This is untrue, history is a testament to the reaction of the Muslims, their struggle to maintain it and their pain at the eventual removal of the shade of Allah (swt) from the earth. The example of the Muslims of India and its renowned Khilafat Movement demonstrates this.
Before elaborating upon the reaction of the Muslims in India, it is important to understand the background of how the Islamic rule reached Indian subcontinent which is now home to approximately half the Islamic Ummah numbering more than half a billion Muslims, with approximately 250 million Muslims in India, 160 million in Pakistan and 120 million in Bangladesh. Indeed Urdu has now become probably the most widely spoken language of the Ummah, even more widespread than Arabic.
History of the Khilafah in India
In the year 711CE, Muslim traders were sailing in the Indian Ocean from Ceylon near the coast of Sind. However, the ship was looted and the Muslims were captured and imprisoned. The news reached the capital of the Islamic Khilafah state. Where the Khalifah al-Walid b. ‘Abdul Malik heard about this. Then he sent a message to Hujjaj b. Yusuf, the Wali (governor) of Baghdad to demand the apologies from the ruler of Sind and rescue the Muslims. An army was dispatched lead by one of the most brilliant sons of this Ummah. The name of this youthful figure occupies a very high position in the hearts of the Muslims especially of the Indian subcontinent. It was upon the shoulders of this man that fell the responsibilities of leading the Islamic Khilafah army into a foreign land. The name of this man was Muhammad b. Qasim al-Thaqafi, the opener of bilad al hind.
When the Islamic Khilafah state army reached Debal (near modern day Karachi), Muhammad b. Qasim and presented his demands to Raja Dahir. The Raja resisted the demand and thus, was inevitably defeated by the Muslims and his kingdom captured.
After this, Muhammad b. Qasim followed up his initial success with further encounters because it is the duty of Muslims to make the word of Allah ‘azza wa jall the highest. The Islamic Army, driven by the Islamic Aqeedah, penetrated as far as Multan. Within three years, by 714 CE, the whole of Sind and lower Punjab were brought under the rule of the Islamic Khilafah.
In the conquest of the north-western part of the subcontinent of India, the army took the idol worshippers from darkness into the light of Islam. His administration made no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. In the conquered territories he reinstated non-Muslim officials to their former positions.
Muhammad b. Qasim told the administrators of the Khilafah, “Deal honestly between people and the State. Fix taxes according to the ability of the people to pay.”
It was during the time of Khalifah Hisham b. ‘Abdul Malik from 724 to 743 CE that the Khilafah State conquered the regions of Kashmir and Kangra. And during 754-75 under the ‘Abbasid Khalifah Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur, Kandahar was opened and efforts were made to consolidate and spread the frontiers of the Khilafah state in the Indian subcontinent. It was between 786 and 809 CE, during the Khilafah of Harun ar-Rashid that the Islamic Army extended the frontiers of Sind westwards into Gujarat (now presently in India). It was during this time that Muslim soldiers settled down and new cities started to flourish. From this time onwards, large numbers of the Indians were lifted from their baseless social caste structures of disbelief and brought under the shade of global brotherhood. They were guided from the darkness of ignorance and Kufr to the Nur of Islam, worshipping Allah ‘azza wa jall and discarding their false idol gods. Islam ruled over most of what is known today as India, Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh for over a thousand years.
Contrary to how the Orientalists portray the history of India, we must realise that it was a Wilayah of the Khilafah. Due to negligence of some of the Khulafah it was unsupervised in some periods and left to run by itself. However the ahkam shariah were applied by the rulers and it was part of Dar al-Islam until the British colonised it.
The Muslim historians like Ibn Kathir al-Damishqi (died 774 AH) in his famous work al-Bidayah wan-Nihaya mentioned India as part of Dar al-Islam, he also quoted some ahadith about its conquest. Abu Huraira (ra) narrated: “My true friend, Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “The armies of this Ummah will be sent to Sindh and India.” If I get the opportunity to participate in it and am martyred then that is one (auspicious) thing, and if I return then I will be the free Abu Hurayrah. The Exalted Lord would have given me freedom from Hell.” [Ahmad]
India remained as a province of the Khilafah throughout the Delhi Sultanate (1205-1526 CE) and Mughal period (1526-1857 CE) except during Akbar’s rule (1556-1605 CE) as he apostatised from Islam and formed a new religion called Deen-e-Illahi.
During the last quarter of the twelfth century, Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic plain, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, and Delhi. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, one of his generals became Sultan of Delhi. In the 13th century, Shams ud din Iltumish (1211-1236), a former slave-warrior of a Turkic origin came to power in Delhi, which enabled future sultans to push in every direction; within the next 100 years, what became known as the Delhi Sultanate extended its way east to Bengal and south to the Deccan. The sultanate was ruled by five dynasties who rose and fell: the Slave dynasty (1206-90), Khalji dynasty (1290-1320), Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1413), Sayyid dynasty (1414-51), and Lodi dynasty (1451-1526).
Babur, who originated from Central Asia, took over Delhi in 1526 and became the first of the Mughal rulers. After his death in 1530, his son Humayun (1530-56) came to power. According to a document available in the State Library of Bhopal, Babur left the following will to Humayun, it demonstrates that regardless of his flaws he cared for the implementation of Islam in a just manner:
“My son take note of the following: Do not harbour religious prejudice in your heart. You should dispense justice while taking note of the people’s religious sensitivities, and rites. Avoid slaughtering cows in order that you could gain a place in the heart of natives. This will take you nearer to the people.
Do not demolish or damage places of worship of any faith and dispense full justice to all to ensure peace in the country. Islam can better be preached by the sword of love and affection, rather than the sword of tyranny and persecution. Avoid the differences between the Shias and Sunnis. Look at the various characteristics of your people just as characteristics of various seasons.”
We have to be careful where we take our history from as much of the history of India and the Islamic rule was written by the Orientalists. We do admit that some of the Muslim rulers of India misapplied some of the Islamic rules and committed some injustices. However under their rule the Indian sub-continent remained part of Dar al-Islam (land of Islam) as the Islamic system was implemented. The court records which still exist in some of the major cities show that there was no other source of law referred to other than the Islamic Shariah. Misapplication does not nullify a Khalifah’s rule as well as a Wali’s (governor) or an Amil’s (mayor). There are many ahadith that establish the obligation of obedience to the rulers even if they are oppressive as long as they do not commit Kufr Bu’ah (open disbelief) and implement the Shariah.
Anas b. Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Do hear and obey, even if you were ruled by an Abyssinian slave, whose hair is like the raisin”. In another narration He (saw) said: “As long as he leads you by the Book of Allah.”
Muslim reported from ‘Auf b. Malik who reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: “The best of your Imams are those whom you love and they love you and you pray for them and they pray for you; and the worst of your Imams are those whom you hate and they hate you and you curse them and they curse you.” We asked: “O Messenger of Allah, shall we not then declare war on them?” He (saw) said: “No! As long as they establish prayer among you. Behold if anyone was ruled by a Wali and saw him committing a sin, let him hate the sin committed against Allah, but let him not withdraw his hand from obedience.”
Ahmad and Abu Dawud reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “O Abu Dharr, what would you do if some Walis possessed the booty and deprived you of it?” He said: “By He Who sent you with the Truth, I would raise my sword and fight until I join you.” Upon this he (saw) said: “Let me tell you something that would be better for you than that. Remain patient and bear it until you join me.”
The fact that India remained as part of the global Khilafah has also been discussed by non-Muslim authors such as the Hindu author Shashi S. Sharma in his book ‘Caliphs and Sultans – Religious ideology and political praxis’ admits this. He says:
“Throughout its existence the Delhi Sultanate (1205-1526), remained a legal part of the worldwide Muslim empire functioning under the de jure suzerainty of the Abbasid caliphs. Sultans considered themselves the deputies of the caliph and derived their validity of their administrative and legal authority only on the basis of delegation. Since the supreme authority of the community legally remained with the caliph, every king and potentate claimed to exercise governmental power for, and on behalf of the Imam of Islam.” [Shashi S. Sharma, Caliphs and Sultans – Religious ideology and political praxis, pg. 247]
“Muhammad Shah Bahamani III (1463-82), paid tributes to the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II as the one deserving to be the Khalifah. The kingdom of Bijapur adopted the Turkish (Uthmani) symbol as its royal emblem. Malik Ayaz, one of he leading nobles of Gujarat addressed Sultan Salim I as ‘Khalifah on earth’. Subtle evidences of the great esteem in which Mughal rulers held the Sultan of Turkey can also be gleaned from the few correspondences that flew between Delhi and Istanbul…In a letter to Sultan Suleiman, Humayun (ruler of India) addressed him as the ‘Khalifah of the highest qualities’ and prayed for eternal perpetuation of his caliphate. He quotes a Quranic verse to indicate to the Sultan that ‘He (God) has sent thee as the Khalifah on the earth’…Sultan Ibrahim sent a letter to Shahjahan in which he proclaimed himself as the ‘Refuge and asylum of the monarchs of the world’ who has been bestowed the good fortune to occupy the throne of Khilafat. Ahmad Aqa, the Turkish envoy brought a missive from his Sultan to the court of Aurangzeb in 1690 which was thick with Quranic quotations and references to the Sultan as the Khalifah of Islam. In 1723, Muhammad Shah (1719-1748) resumed Mughal correspondence with the Porte in Istanbul. In his letter, Muhammad Shah styles the Sultan ‘the asylum of the greatest Sultans’, ‘the protector of the most honoured kings’, the ‘adorner of the exalted throne of Khilafat’, and the ‘spreader of the precepts of shariat’”. [Shashi S. Sharma, Caliphs and Sultans – Religious ideology and political praxis, pg. 248-249]
Certain antiquities also show the link between the Khilafah and India. For example silver coins at Sultan Shamsuddin Altamash’s (1211-36) time who was the Wali of India bore the name of the Khalifah Al-Mustansir on one side and on the other side his own as helper of the Khilafah.
Even after the sack of Baghdad in 1258 CE which resulted in the death of the Khalifah Al-Mustasim, coins in India bore his name.
India also gave birth to great scholars under the Islamic rule like Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi
(died in Delhi, 1624 CE), also known as Mujaddid Alf Thani. He was well known as a scholar of Fiqh, he wrote 536 letters collectively entitled ‘Collected Letters’ or ‘Maktubat’, to the Ottoman rulers conveying his ideas.
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703-1762 CE) is one of the most respected Ulema of India and is accepted and revered by all the various groups and schools of thought in South Asia and beyond. He was a prolific writer who wrote extensively on several Islamic topics. His works include an instrumental and one of the earliest translations of the Qur’an from Arabic into Urdu, as well as one into Sanskrit, contrary to the will of many of his Muslim contemporaries who believed that the Quran should be left in its original language. Later Indian Islamic scholars, however, accepted such efforts and rather than criticise this, they welcomed it. Other famous works of his include Hujjat al-Balagha amd Al-Tafheemat al-Ilahia. Shah Waliullah wrote about the Khilafah in his work, ‘Izalat al Khafa’ he said that, “Khilafah is the leadership of people united in a commonwealth which comes into existence for the establishment of the Deen including revival of religious branches of learning, institution of Islamic ritual observances, organization of jihad… marshalling an army, remunerating the combatants, creating a judicial system and enforcing the laws, curbing of crimes… All these functions have to be performed by it as if it were deputising and representing the Prophet (saw).”
The permission of Wilaya Amma (General governorship) in Islam
The Indian sub-continent was given Wilaya Amma (General governorship) by the Khulafah which is an acceptable form of Governership according to the Shariah rules. It is true that the Khulafah became negligent in their responsibilities of inquiring about the Wilayat (provinces) and directly appointing and removing the governors, it became a norm for them to accept whoever came to power in different provinces rather than directly select them. Nevertheless the fact that they accepted them means that their authority was validated by the Khalifah.
The following is an explanation of the two types of Wilayah along with the Islamic evidences for this from the english translation of the book ‘The Ruling System in Islam’ by Sheikh Taqi ud-deen an-Nabhani and Sheikh Abdul Qadeem Zalloom:
“The Wali (Governor) is the deputy of the Khaleefah; he performs what the Khaleefah authorises him to do on his behalf. According to Shar’a, the Wilayah has no specific limit, thus any body appointed by the Khaleefah to act on his behalf over any matter of ruling would be a Waali in that matter in accordance with the terms the Khaleefah used in his appointment. However, the Wilayah over countries is geographically specified, because the Messenger of Allah (saw) used to specify the area over which he appointed the Wali, i.e. where he invests the Ameer with the Imarah.
There are two types of Wilayah: general and specific. The general one includes all the ruling matters within the Wilayah. Appointing someone to that Wilayah would mean that the Khaleefah delegates to the Wali the Imara of a country or a province, as a Wilayah over all its people for supervising all the normal functions. Thus he would have a general responsibility of supervision. As for the specific Imara, this means that the Ameer would be restricted to running the armed forces, governing the citizens, protecting the territories, or defending the women and children in that country or province. He does not have a say in the judiciary or the collecting of Kharaj and Sadaqah. The Messenger of Allah (saw) appointed Walis with general responsibilities (Wilayah ‘Amma) , such as when he appoimted ‘Amru b.Hazm over Yemen. He also appointed Walis with specific functions (Wilayah Khassa), such as when he appointed Ali b. Abi Talib over the judiciary in Yemen. The Khulafa’a followed in the Messenger of Allah’s (saw) footsteps. ‘Umar Ibnul-Khattab appointed Mu’aiwya b. Abi Sufyan as general Wali over Ash-Sham, while Ali b.Abi Talib appointed Abdullah b. Abbas over Basra with restrictive powers (Wilayah Khassa) to run all the affairs except for the funds, which was assigned to Ziad
There used to be two types of Wilayah in the early times: The Wilayah of Salah and the Wilayah of Kharaj. Therefore we find that history books use two terms in their reference to the Wilayah of Ameers: The first is the Imara over the Salah and the other the Imara over the Salah and the Kharaj. In other words the Ameer could either be appointed over both the Salah and the Kharaj, or over the Salah only. The word Salah, in the context of the Wilayah or the Imara, does not mean only leading the people in their prayer, but it means governing all their affairs except the funds. This is because the word Salah is used to mean ruling except for the levy of funds. Therefore, if the Wali had combined both the Salah and the Kharaj, his Wilayah would then be general (Wilayah ‘Amma). If his Wilayah had been restricted to the Salah or the Kharaj, his Wilayah would then be specific (Wilayah Khassa). Either way, this would be left to the Khaleefah’s own arrangements, as he reserves the right to restrict the Wilayah to the Kharaj, or to the judiciary, or he could confine the Wilayah to other than the Kharaj, the judiciary and the army. He could do what he deems best for the running of the province or the Wilayah. This is because Shar’a has not determined for the Wali certain duties, and it is not obliged that he should perform all the duties of ruling. It has, however, determined that the Wali’s or the Ameer’s duties be ruling and authority, and that he is the deputy of the Khaleefah, and he should be an Ameer over a specific area. All this is derived from the actions of the Messenger of Allah (saw). However Shar’a entitles the Khaleefah to appoint a Wali as either a general Wilayah (‘Amma) or a specific one (Khassa) according to his own discretion, and all this is reflected in the actions of the Messenger of Allah (saw).
It was mentioned in the Seerah of ibn Hisham that the Messenger of Allah (saw) appointed Farwa b. Musayk over the tribes of Murad, Zubair and Mizhaj. He sent Khalid b. Sa’eed b. Al-’Ass with him as Wali over the Sadaqah.
It also mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (saw) sent Ziad b. Labeed Al-Ansari as a Wali over Hadhramawt and its Sadaqah. He also sent ‘Ali b. Abi Talib to Najran to collect their Sadaqah and their Jizya. He also sent him, as a judge over Yemen ,as reported by Al-Haakim.
In the book of Isti’aab it is mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (saw) sent Mu’az b. Jabal to Al-Janad to teach the people about the Quran, the laws of Islam and to judge between them. He authorised him as well to collect the Sadaqah from the ‘Amils in Yemen. The Seerah of ibn Hisham also reports that the Messenger of Allah (saw) appointed ibn Umm Maktum over the salah in Al-Madinah when he went out for Uhud.” [The Ruling System in Islam, Sheikh Taqi ud-deen an-Nabhani & Sheikh Abdul Qadeem Zalloom, Al-Khilafah Publications]
British invasion of India & the reaction of Muslims
As a result of the constant devilish conspiracies by the Colonialists and an intellectual decline in the Muslim Ummah at large, the Kafireen began to see their desired opportunity to dominate over the Indian sub-Continent. In 1600 CE the East India Company was established by the British. It was the beginning of a painful era where the British and other European colonialists looted the lands and pillaged the resources of the Ummah, they also ignited flames of hatred between the Muslim and non-Muslim citizens.
The British invaded the Indian subcontinent in 1819, where it was faced with strong resistance from the Muslims. The war continued with alternate success between the Islamic authority in the subcontinent and invading Britain with the help of some kufr forces of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others. Britain could not achieve stability and control over it except after 27 years of vigorous wars with the Muslims, i.e. in 1846.
During this period as the authority of the Mughal Wilayah was weakening over different parts of India, some of the rulers of other parts started to seek support and legitimacy from the Khalifah in Istanbul. For example, the Queen of Cannore sent a diplomatic message to Sultan Abdul Hamid I in 1779, in which she “petitioned the Khalifah to protect her against the aggression of the English East India Company”. Tipu Sultan of Mysore sought and received a letter of recognition from the Khalifah that recognised him as the ruler of Mysore.
After the British colonialists removed the Islamic rule from India the Muslims remained loyal to the Khalifah in Istanbul. Some continued the Jihad against them like the famous Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed. Other Ulema continued to agitate and organise the Jihad against the colonialists especially those in Yaghestan (usually referred to the Pushtoon tribal belt of the eastern half of Afghanistan, comprising of Herat, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni and Kabul during the British rule in India).
When the Greco-Turkish war ended in favour of the Uthmani Khilafah, the Muslims of India rejoiced and held a formal meeting in Lucknow under the leadership of Maulana Abdul Bari to felicitate the Sultan. However when the Khilafah received setbacks in the Balkan and Tripolitan wars, the Muslims were in uproar against the Western powers attempt to weaken the Khilafah.
Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, one of the undisputed activists who supported the Khilafah and was also known for his anti-British stance had just returned from Britain after completing his graduation from Lincoln College. In 1914, he wrote the thirty-six hour sitting editorial ‘The choice of Turks’ as a reply to the article that appeared in London Times. When the Balkan Wars began in 1912, he appealed for funds in aid of Turkish victims and also sent a medical mission.
Sheikh ul-Hind, Maulana Mahmood Hasan, the head of Daral Uloom Deoband, the most well known Islamic University in India worked tirelessly to collect money to send to the Khilafah to help in the Balkan and Tripoli wars. Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani wrote about him: “The bloody war in the Balkans and Tripoli had created a sad effect on the mind and heart of Maulana Mahmood Hasan. This led him to tread the path set by his predecessor, Maulana Qasim Nanautvi (who was the co-founder of Dar al Uloom Deoband and had cooperated with the Khalifah during the Soviet-Turkish war). Maulana Mahmood Hasan devoted himself to the cause of Islam and extended all possible help to the Ottoman Empire. He issued a Fatwa to close down Daral Uloom Deoband, collected donations for the Ottoman Empire, send student delegations to Turkey, himself leading one delegation. He, however was not satisfied with the help he had provided to the Ottoman Empire. The main reason was the outcome of the Balkan war that completely unnerved Muslim visionaries like him. They knew that the Whites of Europe were conspiring to extinguish the light emanating from the candle of Islam. Moreover, the treachery of British rulers such as Mr. Squibb, atrocities committed upon Muslims by Russia and the division of Turkey had strengthened the belief that the time had come for the Whites to accomplish the long cherished dreams of Gladstone.” [Naqsh-e-Hayat, Vol. 2, pg. 140]
During the First World War, mosques in India rang with fervent prayers whose Khutba would invoke the benediction of Allah for the well-being of the Sultan and the success of his armies in their effort to destroy the forces of Kufr. When Maulana Shaukat Ali, another great personality was asked why he read the Khutba in the name of the Sultan of Turkey, he replied: “you can’t blame me if he Caliph of Islam also happens to be the Sultan of Turkey”. [The Khilafat Movement, Gail Minault, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 55]
The Khilafah acknowledged the efforts of the Muslims of India and asked them to aid it and rebel against the British.
The Arabic newspaper of the Khilafah called ‘Aljawait’ was published in Istanbul, its capital. The manager of ‘Aljawait’ issued a complimentary copy for the students of Daral Uloom Deoband in India, which was eight thousand miles away from Istanbul. [Sawaneh Qasmi, Vol 2, p. 329]
Sheikh ul Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan mentioned earlier directly supported the Khilafah and worked hard for its maintenance. He travelled to Hijaz where he met the Wali (governor) of the Khilafah in Makkah and the assistants of the Khalifah. The Wali gave documents to the Sheikh to help in the struggle of the Muslims of India against the tyranny of the British. The foremost of these documents was an appeal from the Wali to the Muslims of India. In his appeal, the Wali of Makkah praised Sheikh ul Hind for launching the struggle against the colonial British rule and also exhorted Muslims of India to extend their full support. He also assured the Muslims of India of material support from this movement from the Khilafah. The document written by the Governor of Makkah is known in history as Ghalib Namah. After performing Hajj in 1334 AH, the Sheikh also met with Anwar Pasha and Jamal Pasha, who were officials of the Khilafah. Anwar Pasha also wrote a letter of appeal for the Muslims of India, appreciating their constant struggle against the British tyranny. The wording of the letter was similar to the Ghalib Namah, assuring the material support of the Uthmani Khilafah to the Muslims of India in their struggle against the British. The letter also exhorted all citizens and employees of the Uthmani Khilafah to have full confidence in Sheikh ul Hind and provide material support to his movement. Copies of these letters were made, smuggled into India in the face of all the challenges posed by the British intelligence services and later distributed in the whole of Yaghestan. [The Prisoners of Malta (Asira'n-e-Malta), Maulana Syed Muhammad Mian, Jamiat Ulama -I-Hind]
The Muslims of India were aware of the treachery of Sharif Hussain and his rebellion backed by the British, they protested strongly against cutting of food supplies to Hijaz by the British.
“In spite of all propaganda of Colonel T.E. Lawrence, including his enchanting and emotional speeches in Arabic and secret agreement between Sharif Hussain and Sir Henry MacMahon, ordinary residents of Hijaz were not interested in revolting against the Turks. To achieve this goal, the British government resorted to a very inhuman and barbaric tactic. Sheikh ul Islam Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani has described it in the following words: ‘Food supplies to Hijaz were cut off. The last consignment of food shipment to Hijaz reached in the month of Safar 1334 AH. Since the food supplies were completely cut off, prices soared and people began to starve. Due to the protest of Indian Muslims, Fairozi Aganboat sailed from Calcutta with a few thousand sacks of rice in the month of Jamadi Al-Saani 1334 Hijri. That too was forcefully offloaded at the port of Aden. It was allowed to reach Jeddah only after the political influence of the Ottoman Empire had completely diminished from Hijaz.’” [The Prisoners of Malta (Asira'n-e-Malta), Maulana Syed Muhammad Mian, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, English edition, p. 45]
Sheikh ul Hind, Maulana Mahmood Hasan, the head of Daral Uloom Deoband who was mentioned earlier was imprisoned by the British in Malta for 3 years due to him sticking to the truth and not disowning the Uthmani Khilafah. The British wanted him to issue a Fatwa disowning the Uthmani Khilafah and supporting Sharif Hussain. Shaikhul Hind was arrested by the traitor Sharif Hussain in Hijaz (Makkah) on 23 Safar, 1335 A.H. He and other Ulema were sent to Malta via Cairo by a ship on 29 Rabius Thani 1335 A.H. corresponding to 21 February 1917. The other Indian Ulema included Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, Maulana Aziz Gul, Maulana Hakeem Nusrat Hussain and Maulana Waheed Ahmad who were all clamped in the prison by the British. Maulana Mahmood Hasan remained in prison for 3 years and 4 months. He was released and reached Bombay on June 8, 1920. This time of returning from Malta synchronized with the period of the beginning of the Khilafat Movement in India. [The Prisoners of Malta (Asira'n-e-Malta), Maulana Syed Muhammad Mian, Jamiat Ulama -I-Hind]
Nizaratul Maarif (The Academy of Quran Learning) was established in the year 1321 AH, headed by the Mujahid, Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, its aim was to develop Muslim intellectuals to counter anti-Islamic propaganda and promote the Islamic thought. The British realised the threat it posed, this can be seen by the report entitled ‘The petition of the British Queen vs Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi’ by Central Intelligence Department (C.I.D) of the British government, it states:
“Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi could not use Darul Ulomom Deoband as a training camp for his missionaries (Mujahideen). He therefore decided to establish a Madrasa (Nizaratul Maarif) in Delhi to achieve this purpose…As is evident from its name, the Madrasa was established to interpret the Qur’an and its teachings in a correct perspective. It also taught the Arabic language. ” [The petition of the British Queen vs Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Section 17]
“Besides these teachings which Nizaratul Maarif used to impart, what was unlawful, it also used to be a secret meeting place for the conspirators.” [The petition of the British Queen vs Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Section 20]
The British were referring to the fact that Nizaratul Maarif became a meeting point and centre for Muslim revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow the British governments rule in India. These included Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
The Muslim Ulema, thinkers and activists called for the boycott of foreign goods and non-cooperation with the British government. Meetings were organised in order to rally the masses to support these issues. The meetings were organised under the banner of Mo’tamar al-Ansar (The Workers Conference) and various newspapers such as Al-Hilal of Maualana Abul Kalam Azad and The Comrade of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar. Both Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Maulana Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar were put behind bars for publishing anti-British articles in their newspapers. The latter spent four years in prison between 1911 and 1915CE.
The allegiance of the Muslim intelligentsia of India at that to the Khilafah is unquestionable. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad summed up their view when he wrote in his newspaper al-Hilal on 6th November 1912 that the Ottoman Sultans possessed the only sword which Muslims had for their protection. Insofar as the “caliphate was essentially a religious integration of the shari’a”, it became “necessary by revelation, is of God’s institution and that obedience to its authority is farz, or positively commanded”.
The Khilafat Movement
In September 1919, Maulana Muhammad Ali and his brother Shaukat Ali, together with Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, and Hasrat Mohani, started a new organization, the Khilafat Movement (1919-1924). Their avowed aim was to use whatever leverage they had to protect the Khilafah. They organized Khilafat Conferences in several northern Indian cities. It is noticeable that the scholars and activists that were part of the Khilafat movement came from different schools of thought and backgrounds, for example Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was known to be a ‘ghayr taqleedi’ (non-taqleedi – who believed Taqleed to Mazahib is prohibited) and Maulana Mahmood Hasan was Deobandi who are followers of the Hanafi Mazhab yet they were united in the objective of working for the maintenance of the Khilafah.
In 1919, the Bombay Khilafat Committee agreed on two important organisational goals: “first, to urge the retention of the temporal powers of the Sultan of Turkey as Caliph, and second to ensure his continued suzerainty over the Islamic holy places.”
Delivering the presidential address at the Calcutta meeting of the Bengal Provincial Khilafat Conference in 1920, Maulana Azad discussed the importance of Khilafah he declared, “the purpose of this institution was to organise and lead the Muslim community in the right path, to establish justice, to bring about peace, and to spread God’s word in the world. For all this it was absolutely necessary for the caliph to possess temporal power”. Maulana Azad had no doubt that “without an Imam, their lives were un-Islamic and that they would be damned after death”.
Maulana Azad published a book in 1920 called Masla-e-Khilafat (The Issue of Khilafah), he stated: “Without the Khilafah the existence of Islam is not possible, the Muslims of India with all their effort and power need to work for this”.
In the same book page 176 Maulana Azad said, “There are two types of ahkam shariah, the first is related to the individual like the commands and prohibitions, the fara’id (obligations) and wajibat in order to perfect oneself. The second is not related to the individual but is related to the Ummah, nation, collective obligations and state politics like the conquering of lands, political and economic laws”.
According to Peter Hardy, Maulana Azad believed that, “The Muslim who would separate religion and politics for Muslims is an apostate who works silently”.
The loss of political power in India and the threat posed by a combination of forces to the temporal authority of the caliph, was so worrisome for the leaders of the Muslim community that some of them felt compelled to issue fatwas ‘in favour of migration (hijra)’ from India.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad issued a fatwa which was published in the daily Ahl-e-Hadith of Amritsar on 30 July 1920. In his fatwa he urged Hijrat from India as an alternative to non-cooperation with the British.
Maulana Abdul Bari’s fatwa said, “every Muslim residing here should adopt non-cooperation but if (that is) impossible, should proceed for hijrat”. Maulana Shaukat Ali issued a statement on behalf of the Central Khilafat Committee, “expressing the hope that all dedicated Muslims would stay in India and work for the non-cooperation. Only if it did not succeed would they consider resorting to hijrat”. The impact of the fatwa was electrifying and thousands of Muslims preferred to leave the Dar al harb of India where their religious rights symbolized in the position of the Turkish Caliph was being infringed.
The question of Khilafah was not only a political question but a matter of ‘redemption or damnation’. If Turkey lost her territory, Islam as an ideology, would be in danger. Maulana Shaukat Ali gave voice to this sentiment in his presidential speech in the tenth session of All India Khilafat Conference on 27 December 1923, “So long as one inch of the Jazirat-ul Arab is under non-Muslim influence, a Muslim cannot have peace of Mind”. [The Indian Muslims, Shan Muhammad, Meenakshi Prakashan, 1981, Vol. VII; p.209]
The Islamic obligation of having a Khalifah was underlined by Mohammed Asaf Ali in a letter written to the editor of Comrade on 2 November 1921, “the prestige of Turkey is Synonymous with the prestige of Islam, and the existence of the Ottomon Empire is essential for the secular (i.e. temporal) progress of the Moslem races…Islam as a civilizing force will disappear with the dissolution of the Ottomon empire…If Turkey falls, Islam cannot stand. Turkey is, therefore, the back bone of Islam”. This view point was supported by Maulana Muhammad Ali who averred that such a position also reflected the general opinion of the common Muslim.
The meeting of the Anjuman Moid-ul-Islam held under the aegis of the Firangi Mahal at Lucknow on January 26, 1919 resolved: “That this meeting of the Ulemas of Firangi Mahel, while expressing its firm and sincere devotion to Sultan Mohammed VI, emphatically declares that according to the true doctrines of Islam, none but the present Sultan of Turkey is the rightful Caliph and that Islam never allows the interference of non-Muslims in deciding the question of Caliphate”.
In fact, many scholars at that time like Syed Sulaiman Nadvi emphasised the obligation of the having a Khalifah. Maulana Nadvi states that “..Allama Nasfi, Imam Razi, Qazi Uzud, among other eminent authorities, deal with the subjects exhaustively in their books and should be considered final authorities on the point. An authentic tradition of the Prophet in Sahi Muslim explicitly declares that if a Mussulman dies without acknowledging the Imam of his times he dies the death of a Kafiri”. [The Muslim Outlook, March 1920]
Maulana Muhammed Ali in a speech delivered by him in Paris in 1920: “The Khilafat is the most essential institution of the Muslim community throughout the world. A vast majority of the Muslims in the world recognize the Sultan of Turkey to be the Commander of the Faithful, and the successor of the Khalifa of their prophet. It is an essential part of this doctrine that the Khalifa, the Commander of the Faithfull, should have adequate territories, adequate military and naval resources, adequate financial resources”.
Syed Hussain, who was sharing the podium with Muhammed Ali in the Paris meeting said: “If Islam is to exist in the world, then it is absolutely necessary that Islam should have a Caliphate. That has been the history and tradition of Islam ever since its foundation fourteen hundred years ago”.
Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar also stated: “The ruler of Turkey was the Khalifah or successor of the Prophet and Amir -ul- Mu’mineen or chief of the believers and the Khilafah is as essentially our religious concern as the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet.” [My Life a Fragment, Mohammed Ali Johar, pg.41]
In fact the Ulema took a leading role in the Khilafat movement. The following are some key points from a declaration made at a conference held for the UIema in India on 5th & 6th April 1920, in which many Ulema attended:
- Point 1 of the declaration: The Ulema must work to establish a public opinion for the issue of Khilafah.
- Point 2: The hypocrite (munafiq) scholars and those scholars against this issue must be boycotted.
- Point 7: The Ulema must obtain an oath from their followers that they will exert their lives and hearts by speaking and writing in support of the issue of Khilafah.
- Point 9: Muslims must keep away from the constitutional elections.
The following are some points from the declaration made at the 2nd All India Conference of Jamiat al Ulema Hind, held on 19 & 20th November 1920 in Delhi also demonstrate their support for the issue of Khilafah:
- The English are the biggest enemy of Islam and the Muslims and to oppose them is Fard.
- Protecting the Ummah and protecting the Khilafah is a pure Islamic need. If brothers in this country help and cooperate for this issue, many thanks to them for this.
Sheikh ul-Hind, Maulana Mahmood Hasan, the head of Dar al-Ulum Deoband who was mentioned earlier was released from prison and returned to Bombay on 20th of Ramadhan 1338 AH, corresponding to June 8th 1920. Upon his return he actively participated in the Khilafat movement. His successor, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani wrote, “After bearing hardships of the prison and exile when Hazrat Shaeikul Hind Rahmatullah Alaih returned to India, we found no change in his spirit to fight the colonial regime and his hatred towards the British. The imposition of martial law in the country, the implementation of the Rawlatt Act and the Jalianawala Bagh massacre within the country, and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, and the inhuman behaviour with the Turks outside India upset him. The moment he set foot in Bombay, he met Maulana Shaukat Ali and other members of the Khilafat Committee. Maulana Abdul Bari from Firangi Mahal, Lucknow, and Mahatma Ghandi from Ahmedabad came to receive Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan in Bombay. Having talked to them and other leaders of the Khilafat Committee in open and seclusion, Shaikhul Hind too approved the launching of the ‘Non-violence’ movement to liberate India.”[Naqsh-e-Hayat, Vol 2, p.247]
The text of one of the fatwa’s of the Sheikh demonstrates his view of the Khilafah towards co-operating with the colonialists. Even though it was issues in 1920, many of the points he mentioned are still applicable today. He said:
“The enemies of Islam have left no stone unturned to strike against and harm the honour and prestige of Islam. Iraq, Palestine and Syria that were won over by the Prophet’s companions and his followers, after innumerous sacrifices, have once again become the targets of greed of the enemy of Islam. The honour of Khilafat is in tatters. Khalifat-ul-Muslimin (Muslim Caliph), who used to unite the entire community on this planet; who as vice-regent of Allah on this earth used to implement the universal law of Islam; who used to protect the rights and interests of Muslims and who used to preserve and ensure that the glory of the words of the Creator of this universe be preserved and implemented, has been surrounded by the enemies and made redundant…The flag of Islam is flying low today. The soul of Hazrat Abu Ubaidah (RA), Sa’d Bin Abi Waqas (RA), Khalid Bin Walid (RA) and Abu Ayub Ansari (RA) is restless today. Why is it so? It is because Muslims have lost their dignity, their honour and their self-respect. The bravery and religious fervour that was their forte and heritage, they have lost these due to their ignorance and over-indulgence in frivolities.
It is not only that in times of difficulty a Muslim does not help a fellow Muslim, but tragically that the eagerness to earn the goodwill and friendship of a kafir has led a brother to chop the head of his own brother. Muslims have drunk the blood of Muslims. Muslims have dipped their hands in the blood of their own brothers.
O’ the Children of Islam! And O’ the lovers of this great Nation! You know it better than me that the thunder and fire that burnt the tents in Islamic world and put on fire the castle of Islamic Khilafat were derived from the hot blood of Arabs and Indians. And the power of wealth with which the Christians have succeeded in subjugating Muslim nations, a great chunk of it was from your hard labour.
Thus, is there any stupid and thick-headed Muslim who won’t understand the results of cooperation with the Christians? And this too in a situation when a drowning man seeks the help of a haystack and looks for a way out for cooperation that would save him from drowning?” [From the Fatwa of Maulana Mahmood Hassan on 16th Safar 1339 Hijri, corresponding to October 29, 1920, Gregorian year, The Prisoners Of Malta (Asira'n-e-Malta), Maulana Syed Muhammad Mian, Jamiat Ulama -I-Hind, English edition, p. 78-79]
Unlike some amongst the Ulema today who say that politics and Islam are separate, the Ulema at that time realized that they are inextricably linked. Just before the destruction of the Khilafah, the fourth session of Jamiat ul-Ulama Hind was held in Gaya on 24 December 1923. In this session learned scholars and teachers of Islam, assembled from all parts of India, discussed in great detail the question related to the political future of the Muslim community. After exhaustive deliberations, the session came to the unanimous view that politics and religion are inseparable components of Islam.
Seeing the wide influence that the Khilafat movement held even the Hindu, father of the current Indian state, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi joined it and became a member of the Central Khilafat Committee.
However after the destruction of the Khilafah at the hands of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk on 3rd March 1924, the movement died. Many then saw the restoration of the Khilafah as impossibility and started to focus on how to liberate India from British colonialism.
A day after the abolition of Khilafah, Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar said, as reported by the Times newspaper on 4th March 1924, “It is difficult to anticipate the exact effects the ‘abolition’ of Khilafah will have on the minds of Muslims in India. I can safely affirm that it will prove a disaster both to Islam and to civilization. The suppression of the time honoured institution which was, through out the Muslim world, regarded as a symbol of Islamic unity will cause the disintegration of Islam…”
How true his words were, after its abolition the Muslim world has witnessed exactly what he said. Today more than eighty years after its destruction, the Caliphate has again become a buzzword in the media as politicians, thinkers and the leaders of the West fear its return and Muslims yearn for its re-establishment. The president of the United States, George W. Bush said in a news conference in front of the White House on Wednesday, 11th October 2006, “extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend the caliphate. The stakes couldn’t be any higher, as I said earlier, in the world in which we live. There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives. And they want us to leave. And they want to topple government. They want to extend an ideological caliphate that has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs.”
The West needs to realise that the Khilafah is an intrinsic part of Islam which instead of condemning they need to understand and will have to engage with in future when it is re-established.
The Muslims of the Indian subcontinent have not forgotten the necessity of the Khilafah. Many groups, scholars and thinkers today are calling for its return even within the sub-continent. This is evident from the call of Hizb ut-Tahrir to Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Tanzeem e-Islami in Pakistan, from Khilafat Andolan and Khilafat Majlis in Bangladesh to the now banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and many others.
The Khilafah will return and its rule will again liberate the Indian sub-continent as is established from the following ahadith about the future as well as others.
Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: “A group of you will conquer India, Allah will open for them [India] until they come with its kings chained – Allah having forgiven their sins – when they return back [from India], they will find Ibn Maryam in Syria.” [Na'im b. Hammad in al-Fitan reports that Abu Huraira]
Thawban reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Two groups of my Ummah Allah has protected from the Hellfire: a group that will conquer India and a group that will be with ‘Isa ibnu Maryam” [Ahmad and An-Nisa'i].
May Allah (swt) allow us to participate in the Khilafat Movement of today as our predecessors did in the past.
Abu Ismael al-Beirawi
AH = After Hijra (The migration of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) to Madina, the Islamic Calendar is lunar and begins from this date).
CE = Common Era i.e. the normal solar calendar.