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Pan-Islamism

The Khilafat Movement

The first popular pan-Islamist political movement, the Khilafat movement (1919–1924), emerged in India after World War I, though support for the caliphate locally among Indian Muslims had been gaining momentum throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Chafing under British occupation and mindful of the glory days of Mogul rule, Indian Muslims directed their spiritual and later political longings toward the remaining seat of independent Muslim rule: the Ottoman caliphate. With the Ottoman Empire in ruins after World War I and the office of the caliph, the caliphate, under threat of extinction, Indian Muslims organized to preserve what many viewed as the last vestige of Islamic unity and power. In 1919 activist groups like the Association of Servants of the Ka'ba and the Council of the All-India Muslim League convened a Khilafat Conference, during which the movement took official form as the All-India Central Khilafat Committee.

The politics of the Khilafat movement were clearly anti-imperialist and pro-independence, which accounts for the popular support it received across Muslim sectarian lines in India and across the Muslim world. Activists within the movement spread their message through publications at home and abroad. Delegations were sent to England, France, and Switzerland to shape public attitudes and government policy regarding the caliphate and the future of Muslim societies. In the end, however, it was not European leaders but the new leaders of Turkey who decided the fate of the movement by adopting a secular path for the nation based on a narrowly conceived ethnic identity—a path that mirrored European strains of nationalism—and then abolishing the office of the sultan in 1922 and that of the caliph in 1924. The Khilafat movement protested Turkey's actions, but with no power to impose its will and with its reason for existence eliminated, the movement had gradually faded from public view by the late 1920s. Pan-Islamism in India, however, continued to play a part in Muslim cultural and political life, especially the communal debates that resulted in the formation of Pakistan in 1947.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPan-Islamism - Jamal Al-din Al-afghani, Late Ottoman Politics, The Khilafat Movement, A World Of Nation-states