Muslims of India & Their Love for the ‘Uthmani Khilafah: the Khilafat Movement

By a brother who is currently in India and wrote the following piece in light of research and first-hand discussions on the ground.

Allahuakbar walhamdulillah – I’m learning some incredible history that I feel I need to share, especially as one will not find it in any books, least of all in the English language. It also gives many lessons into how “public opinion” can be built, and how it was historically, for the concept of Khilafah among the Muslim masses.

I am sitting at the moment in one of the cities that can be considered the homes/birthplaces of the Khilafat Movement – the movement of imminent scholars and politicians in Hind (India-Pak) during the late 1910s and early 1920s as a reaction to the collapsing Ottoman Caliphate and as a way of generating support for it.

I am specifically in the city of Rampur, which has history well beyond its small size. It was also the home and birthplace of one of the greatest men of Islam in the last century, the great Sheikh/Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, one of the founders of the Khilafat Movement and a luminary personality in the history of Muslim India.


I’ve been speaking with people who are old enough to know of his legacy almost first hand – from what they were told during their own childhood – and how that legacy is today being revived after it had been forgotten.

One thing I have always questioned, as have other Muslims in the west, is: “how widespread was the influence of the Khilafat Movement? Was it merely a movement of academics and scholars? Or was it more than that?”

My learned Uncles (Dad’s brothers) have been telling me a range of things and here are some incredible and telling points from the history of the Movement and its lasting impact:

– The impact of the Movement in the areas it existed in was massive – “there was not one household except that it had been moved by their call and message of unity with the Ottomans”. Ie: the message of the Khilafat and unity with the Ottomans was a widespread desire of the Muslims – not JUST scholars and Muslim academics.

– There was a deep felt love and veneration of the ‘Uthmani Khilafah in India well before the 1900s. As corrupt as at times the Mughal rulers were, nonetheless they all saw themselves as subservient to the Ottomans, of whom they considered themselves as constituents, at least in a broad sense.

– Upon the appointment of a new Mughal ruler, he sought “sanad” (verification would be the best translation of this word in this sense) from Istanbul. While it was largely ceremonial, it highlights the incredible weight placed upon the consent of the Caliph in Istanbul in accepting the appointment of the next Mughal ruler to rule over Muslims of India as part of the broader Islamic Ummah.

– The Muslims of India sacrificed in their hundreds of thousands under the oppression of the British, including in the struggle to keep a polity that gave allegiance to the ‘Uthmanis.

– This one is beautiful: after the Khilafah was destroyed, some Muslims of India did weird things to signify their love for and attachment to the Khilafah. For example, in weddings, they would order 50 fezs be made (Fez = the Turkish/Ottoman “cap”) and worn by attendees in order to signal their allegiance and attachment to the destroyed Khilafah and their love for their brothers and sisters who were governed by the Ottoman State.

– The legacy of the Khilafat Movement was almost destroyed and has not been encouraged, until recent times with the building of a University in his name just outside Rampur, with which curiosity has grown about Muhammad Ali Jawhar and his legacy and work.

The discussions so far have been beautiful and moving, and very emotional. I am sitting 2 kilometres from the home of Muhammad Ali Jawhar, and I might pay it a visit. Arguably Rampur’s greatest son, and what a son he was. The Khilafat Movement is known throughout the world as having been the most organised movement to champion the cause of the Khilafah at around its fall. It is amazing to think that this otherwise small town could have produced a man who had such a massive impact, and because of whom so many tens of millions of Muslims of the subcontinent and especially India and Pakistan identified with the ‘Uthmanis and kept the love for the Khilafah in their hearts and minds. Alhamdulillah!



Published by TheMuslimIndependent

The Muslim Independent was created with the aim of providing unique insights in Islamic discourse, trends & philosophies relevant to the Islamicate & Muslim intellectual space in the 21st century context & arena. It is managed by Tarek 'Abdur-Rahman, who is currently a teacher of Qur'an at a school in Sydney. He studied recitation & memorisation with the esteemed Qari Fedaur-Rahman for 2.5 years. He studied Arts/Education at UNSW. Completing his undergraduate Arts degree with a Major in History & Minor in English. He has an avid interest & enjoys reading 7 studying a wide variety of topics including the Islamic sciences, Arabic, Philosophy, History, Ethics, Politics, Orientalism, Psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory & other topics.

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