The Khilafat Movement

The Khilafat Movement (History)

Article Upload Date: 2017,Dec 31


The Khilafat movement  was an agitation by Indian Muslims allied with Indian nationalism in the years following World War I. Its purpose was to pressure the British government to preserve the authority of the Ottoman Sultan as Caliph of Islam following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the war. Integral to this was the Indian Muslims’ desire to influence the treaty-making process following the war in such a way as to restore the 1914 boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, even though the Turks, allies of the Central Powers, had been defeated in the war. Indian supporters of the Khilafat cause sent a delegation to London in 1920 to plead their case, but the British government treated the delegates as quixotic pan-Islamists, and did not change its policy toward Turkey. The Indian Muslims’ attempt to influence the provisions of the Treaty of Sevres thus failed, and the European powers, most notably Great Britain and France, went ahead with territorial adjustments, including the institution of mandates over formerly Ottoman Arab territories.

Title Description
Type: Protesting Movement
In English: Khilafat Movement
In Urdu: تحر یک خلافت
Location: Subcontinent
Duration : 1919-1924
Cause of This Movement: In World War 1 Turkey was defeated by Britain and their allies.
Proposed By: Ali Brothers
Leaders: Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar
Another leading figure: Abul Kalam Azad
Drafted By: Members of Tehreek-e-Khilafat
Sultan of Turkey: Caliph Ottoman
First Khilafat Conference: 23 November 1919
Second Conference : December 1919
Place: Amritsar
Appreciated By: All Political Parties in Subcontinent
Khilafat deputation: January 1920
Members: 35 people
Disregarded By: Great Britain and France
Goal of Movement: purpose was to pressure the British government to preserve the authority of the Ottoman Sultan as Caliph of Islam following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.


What is Khilafat Movement.

What is Khilafat Movement.

The First World War brought another new crisis for the Muslim community in the British Raj . The Turkish Ottoman empire had decided to fight alongside the German and Austrian empires against Britain, France and Russia. Eith the Turkish side defeated at the end of the war, Muslims all over the world were concerened with how Turkey would be treated . The main reason for this concern was the fact that Istanbul  had been the home of the caliphate for centuries and the Turkish Sultan was recognized as the Khalifa, or Caliph. Since the beginning of Islam , the Khalifa had been the head of the Islamic world and although the position had declined in power and influence , it still had great symbolic value for all Muslims. Untill the First World War , The Ottoman empire still controlled a vast empire which included the cities of Makkah , Madinah and Jerusalem.  

First World War

During the First World War , the British had wrested large areas in the Middle East from the Ottomans , including the region now known as Saudi Arabia , Iraq , Plalestine and Lebanon. The main fear of Indian Muslims at the end of the war was the fate of the caliphate held by the Ottoman sultan. The Allies hoped to destroy the Ottoman empire by encouraging Turkey to become a nation rather than an empire. During the war , the Muslims in India could not openly declare their allegiance to another monarch but could , and did, claim a religious obligation to follow the orders of the caliph. This had created a problem for the British as they needed Muslim troops to fight in the war against the Ottomans but could not be sure of the dedication of these troops. To ensure the loyalty of Muslim troops, the British had promised during the war that the status of the caliph would be respected . After the war ended, however reports from Europe indicated that the British and French wanted to punish the Turks for their support of the Germans and wished to end the position of the caliph.

Significance and Leadership

Group photo, Supporters of Khilafat Movement

Group photo, Supporters of Khilafat Movement

Ali Brothers

Ali Brothers

The British were soon in little doubt as to the strength of Muslim feelings . On 17 October 1919, the All-India Khilafat Conference was held by two brothers, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar . Another leading figure in the Khilafat Movement was Abul Kalam Azad, a senior member of Congress and later a minister of independent India. This movement was launched with the intention of pressurizing the British into keeping their promises. On 23 November 1919, the first Khilafat Conference passed a resolution asking the Muslims as a religious duty to boycott British goods , to abstain from any victory celebration and to adopt a policy of non-cooperation with the British government .It was also resolved to send a delegation to Britain to leave thee government there in no doubt as to the depth of Muslim feelings.  

Khilafat Conferences and Congress

Khilafat Movement 1919

Khilafat Movement 1919

At the Khilafat Conference , it was announced that non-Muslims had also extended their support for this movement. Soon after the end of the war , the unofficial leader and most influential figure in the Congress Party was M.K. Gandhi , a British -trained barrister . It is obvious that to Hindu could be seriously concerned with weather the Khilafat was to survive or not, but the Congress cleverly decided to use Muslim agitation to press the British for further concessions on self-rule and to show the Muslims that Hindu -Muslim unity was beneficial . Gandhi publicaly declared his support for the Khilafat Movement and also requested that Muslims should join the Congress in seeking the goal of swaraj, or self-rule. The objective of self-rule was accepted by most local political figures, with the notable exception of M.A. Jinnah , who felt that such a demand was premature. 

The Second Khalifa Conference

Conclusion of Khilafat Movement

Conclusion of Khilafat Movement

The Second Khalifa Conference was held in Amritsar in December 1919, where the Congress and Muslim League also planned to meet. This was a time of almost unprecedented Hindu-Muslim unity and the Khilafat Movement recieved further Congress support . It was agreed to merge the political activities of all three groups as far as possible. It was further agreed that Gandhi was to be the leader of these three parties in their common objectives. This was easily the most serious political threat faced by the British since the War of Independence in 1857. The Hindus and Muslims had buried their own political differences in the face of a common objective. British titles were rejected , British goods were boycotted , schools and colleges were emptied , lawyers refused to appear in British courts and there were reports of problems in army units . Spinning khaddar (unprocessed cotton) became a political gesture and the spinning wheel came to symbolize the Indian desire for political and economic independence. [1] Khilafat  Movement  

Khilafat Deputation

In January 1920, a Khilafat deputation of 35 people called on the viceroy. It included the Ali brothers, Jinnah, Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad. The viceroy was unable to give the delegation any reassurances as to the eventual fate of the khilafat.

Delegation to Turkey

In February 1920, a delegation was sent to Europe to try to convince the western powers that Turkey should not be treated harshly as it had great symbolic importance for all muslims. The delegation was headed by Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar and included and included Maulana Azad, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi and Syed Hussain. In spite of various meetings and speeches during their stay in Europe, the mission ended in failure. While the delegation was still in Europe, the terms of peace for Turkey were announced. These included the independence of all Arab territory, with various parts in the Mediterranean divided between Britain and France. 

APC in June 1920

The British prime minister, Lloyd George, felt that if Germany and Austria had been severly punished after the war, Turkey had ni right to escape. The Khilafat delegation sent a message to the Ottoman Sultan in May 1920 urging the Turks to refuse the terms of the treaty and fight on. On 2 June 1920, the All Parties Conference met at Allahabad to discuss the response to the terms imposed, and they decided that a non-cooperation movement should be launched.

Tehrik-i Hijrat or Migration movement

Migration 1920

Migration 1920

Alongside the non-cooperation movement to eradicate British influence, there was also a call for Hijrat or Migration. This was a call for all indian muslims to leave the British Raj and go to muslim lands, especially towards Afghanistan. this call was issued by Abul kalam Azad and Molana  ABdul Bari in 1920. The exact figures are not known but it is estimated that anywhere from around 15-20,000 muslims left for Afghanistan. This Tehriki-i Hijrat was with hindsight poorly planned but it demonstrated the depth of feeling among the Muslims and showed that they were willing to leave their homes and possessions to escape British rule.  

Failure of Tehrik-i Hijrat

The movement ended in the failure as the journey was difficult and dangerous. Once the refugees had reached Afghanistan, further problems awaited the migrants as the Afghan government was hostile to them. Those who eventually returned found their homes and jobes occupied. The senior figures og Muslim League did not approve of the proposed hijrat and had encouraged Muslims to stay and fight for their cause.

Final Khilafat Conference in July 1921

There was a third anf final Khilafat Conference in July 1921. Muslims were instructed not to attend schools and colleges, work in the police and army or to cooperate in any way with the British. Soon after this conference, the main leaders of the movement were arrested .

Imprisonment of M.A Jauhar

Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar appeared as the main defendant and was sentenced to two years imprisonment on sedition charges. His statement in his defence made him even more popular with the muslims, although it infuriated the British. He simply stated that " He considered his action in accordance with Islamic principles and that Islamic injunction were superior to British law as far as the muslims were concerned."  Abrupt end of Khilafat Movement The Khilafat movement was eventually brought to an abrupt end in the most unexpected and distressing way for the muslims in Inida. In Marc 1924, anew Turkish Government, under Kemal Attaturk, took control of Turkey and abolished the institutions of the caliphate. There was obviously no point in continuing a movement which had been destroyed by the Turks themselves but it was still a devastating blow for million of muslims. This new development was also the final blow to the Hindu Muslim unity.

Final blow to Hindu-Muslim unity

Swaraj Movement

Swaraj Movement

In the struggle for Swaraj, or self rule, which had been called off by Gandhi in 1922 because of an incident at Chaura Chauri, when an enraged mob burnt a police station in which 22 policemen died. Gandhi decided that the Swaraj Movement was becoming too violent and called off the attempt to remove the British. This action dismayed some leaders in the congress but the Muslim League, particularly the Muslims, were infuriated by this decision as it took the pressure off the British administration. 

Lessons learnt by Muslims from Khilafat Movement

The lessons which the Muslims learnt from this episode, however, were not wasted as the Khilafat Movement taught them
  •  How to effectively organize themselves politically. For many Muslims it was their first experience of politics and it showed them how it was possible to mobilize the community for a cause. 
  • The Muslim League took charge of the Khilafat Movement as the major muslim political body and it was now fully aware that the neither the Hindus nor the British could be relied upon for the protection of muslim rights. 
  • The Muslims now neede time for consolidation and an agenda to protect their interests, as they were under attack from all sides.

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