The Khilafat and England

by Maulana Sadr-ud-Din

The Light (Pakistan), 15th January 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 1–3)

The Khilafat and England is a short treatise by Syed Mahmud, Ph.D., with a foreword by an English publicist and Khilafatist, who came under the banner of Islam at Woking, and who is known as Marmaduke Pickthall, the late editor of the Bombay Chronicle.

The book is on sale at railway bookstalls, being priced at Re. 1-8-0 [1 rupee, 8 annas and 0 pies].

The treatment presents an interesting and learned historical aspect of the question, and thus recommends itself not only to Muslim readers, but also to Englishmen. Its perusal will disillusion the latter with regard to the false notion recently being given currency that

“recognition by the Indian Muslims of the Sultan of Turkey as their Khalifa is a new thing,”

resulting from

“the growth of a Political Pan-Islamic movement,”

and that

“there is no historical basis for the claim that the Khilafat implies any temporal allegiance on the part of the Indian Muslims to the Sultan of Turkey.”

The Indian Muslims are thoroughly alive to the motives, which have led to the manufacture of such childish and wild statements, and Dr. Mahmud has succeeded in representing Indian sentiments and in exposing the new creation of the bureaucratic minds.

The treatise maintains that it was not only the Moghul [Mughal] monarchs who acknowledged the Sultan of Turkey as their Supreme Head and Khalifa, but it was also the British Government in India itself that recognised it and advantageously availed itself of its influence on the Indians. There is a correspondence between Tipu Sultan and the Governor-General, Lord Mornington, which is published under the title of

“A Review of the Origin, Progress and result of the decisive war with the late Tipu Sultan.”

From a perusal of this most interesting document it is obvious that the British Government, at a critical moment in the history of the expansion of the British Empire in the East, did not hesitate to appeal to the Sultan of Turkey as the

acknowledged Head of the Muhammadan Church,”

and his territories

as the repository of the most sacred monument of the Mohammedan faith.”

The Governor-General, Lord Mornington, wrote to Tipu, forwarding him the letter of the Khalifa:

“I now forward it to Your Highness. You will read and consider it with respectful attention which it demands.”

The English Government wanted that Tipu should have nothing to do with the French, and to gain this object they had obtained a letter from the Sultan of Turkey. And

“the friendly admonition”

of the Sultan had its effect on Tipu, who wrote back to the Khalifa in these terms:

“As the French nation are estranged from, and are [have] become the opponent of the Sublime Porte, they may be said to have rendered themselves the enemy of all the followers of the Faith; all Mussalmans [Muslims] should renounce friendship with them.”

Now, with what face can an English Government deny today the authority of [the] Turkish Khilafat after having accepted, acknowledged, and taken advantage of that authority? How can an English Government say with self-respect

“that they cannot acquiesce that the Khilafat implies any temporal allegiance on the part of the Indian Muslims to the Sultan of Turkey”?

The reader will agree with us that the line of argument adopted by Dr. Mahmud is convincing, and absolutely unassailable.

Below is reproduced a very useful portion of its treatment:

“The Title of the house of Ottoman to the Khilafat is based on the following claims:

1. Nomination:

Mutawakkel [Mutawakkil], a descendant of the House of Abbas, nominated Salim as Khalif. This is an undisputed historical fact.

The Sunni School accepted it as legal and found a precedent in the nomination of Omar [Umar] by Abu Bakr on his deathbed as his successor to the Khilafat. Mutawakkel, being the last surviving descendant of the Abbaside Khalif and also as one who was undisputedly acknowledged in Egypt, India, and some other Muslim countries, had full legal right to abdicate in favour of the Muslim sovereign.

2. Election:

The claim of the House of Salim is not only based on the nomination of Mutawakkel, but his nomination was approved by the Muslim world. He obtained the sanction of a legal Body of Elders.

It was argued that as the Ahl-el-Aqde (Body of Elders) had been removed from Medina to Damascus, and from Damascus to Baghdad, and from Baghdad to Cairo, so it had been once more legally removed from Cairo to Constantinople.

Salim held a meeting of the Ulema [religious clerics] from Alazhar [Al-Azhar] in Cairo and of the Turkish Ulema in the mosque of Ayyub, who elected him as Khalif.

A form of election is to the present day observed in Constantinople. Each Sultan on his accession has to receive the sanction of the Ulema and the sacred sword of Ali from the hands of the Sheikh-ul-Islam in the mosque of Ayyub to complete his title to the Khilafat.

3. The guardianship of the Holy Shrines:

Mecca [Makkah], Medina [Madinah], Kerbela [Karbala], Jerusalem, and other places. In early times, many a war was fought to protect the Bait-Allah (Ka’ba [Kabah]). The Sultan of Turkey was the only Mussalman sovereign in recent times who was a power strong enough to protect [the] Bait-Allah [House of God]. He is called Khadim Harmain Sharifain (Servant of the Holy Shrines).

4. Independent Muslim State:

This is an essential feature of the Khilafat. The Muslim law is insistent on it, and no one who is not an independent sovereign can have a good and valid title to the dignity of Khilafat.

5. Possession of the sacred relics:

his plea exercises such a powerful influence at the present day over the general body of the Mussalmans that it cannot be ignored.

These relies consist of the cloak of the Prophet, the sword and the flag of Ali, and several other things.

It is universally accepted by Muslims that after the sack of Baghdad, in 1258 A.D., these relics were saved and brought to Cairo and thence to Constantinople.

6. The Consent [Consensus] of the Muslim population (Ijmaul Ummat):

This is the most important condition. If even a Mussalman seizes the Holy Shrines, he cannot be regarded as Khalif unless and until he is accepted as such by the Mussalmans at large, as happened in the case of Karamathians [Qarmatians] in the tenth century, and the Wahabites in the eighteenth century.

So it is quite a misconception to suppose that the Sultan of Turkey is the Khalif only because he is the servant of, and till recently was the protector of, the Holy Shrines.

It is for this reason that the Sharif of Mecca himself recognises the Sultan as the legal and rightful Khalif up to this day.

7. The right of the sword:

That is to say, the de facto possession of the sovereign title.

It was argued that the Khilafat, being a necessity, it was also necessary that the de facto holder of the title should be recognised as the legal Khalif, until a claimant with a better title should appear.

No one, since the time Salim seized the sceptre of the Khilafat, had seriously disputed his title. No rival had been found and the last descendant of Abbaside had waived his rights.

In support of this proposition they cited the examples of Moawiyah [Muawiyah], and of Abu-el-Abbas [Abu Al-Abbas]. [A] Fact is hundredfold stronger than all theories and the fact is that for centuries the Turks have fought the battles of Islam and had been the pride of Mussalmans; without the Turkish arms Islam could never have existed.

Whilst the rest of the Islamic world were either indifferent or too weak to resist the Western encroachment, it was Turkey, and Turkey alone, which erected the barrier with its bones against such encroachment. Through the dynasty of the Ottoman Turks, Islam once more became the breakwater against Christendom, both for its own self and for the other civilisations of Asia. The old dream of the conquest of Constantinople, and the complete destruction of the Roman Empire, had been realised through them.

The fighting for Allah’s cause is the most enviable occupation for a Muslim. [The] Quran says,

‘They who are killed in God’s service will have a great reward’ [The Holy Quran, 4:74],

and the Turks understood how to die in God’s service. They have been therefore looked upon as the servants of God, and their king as the chief of the Faithful all the world over.

Faith has this view and reason cannot doubt it, for who can, even from the modern non- religious point of view, deny that the Turk has been the saviour of Islam and something larger — the Asiatic spiritual civilisations in general — from the ever-aggressive materialistic ambition of Europe.

We have thus seen that the institution of the Khilafat is as old as Islam itself, and it always carried with it a religious sanctity. It has been interwoven with the very history of Islam and as such cannot be separated from it. It must therefore remain in the nostrils of Islamic life as long as it persists.”