The Khilafat movement (1919–24) was a political campaign launched in British India over British policy against Turkey and planned dismemberment of Turkey after World War I by allied forces.[1][2][3]

Leaders participating in the movement included Shaukat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar,[4] Hakim Ajmal Khan,[5][6] and Abul Kalam Azad[7] some of whom were seeking to restore the caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate, while others promoted Muslim interests and to bring the Muslim in national struggle.

Mahatma Gandhi had supported the movement as part of his opposition to British Empire and he also advocated wider non-cooperation movement at the same time.[8] Vallabhbhai Patel, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and other Congress figures also supported the movement.[9][10]

The movement is generally termed described as protest against the sanctions placed on the Ottoman Empire after the First World War by the Treaty of Sèvres. It collapsed in 1924 following the abolition of the Caliphate by Turkish nationalists after the overthrow of the Ottoman sultanate.[11][12][13]


Main article: Ottoman Caliphate

Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842–1918) launched his pan-Islamist program in a bid to protect the Ottoman Empire from Western attack and dismemberment and to crush the democratic opposition at home. He sent an emissary, Jamaluddin Afghani, to India in the late 19th century.[14] The cause of the Ottoman monarch evoked religious passion and sympathy amongst Indian Muslims. Being the caliph, the Ottoman sultan was nominally the supreme religious and political leader of all Sunni Muslims across the world. However, this authority was never actually used.

A large number of Muslim religious leaders began working to spread awareness and develop Muslim participation on behalf of the caliphate. Muslim religious leader Maulana Mehmud Hasan attempted to organize a national war of independence with support from the Ottoman Empire.

Abdul Hamid II was forced to restore the constitutional monarchy marking the start of the Second Constitutional Era by the Young Turk Revolution. He was succeeded by his brother Mehmed V (1844–1918) but following the revolution, the real power in the Ottoman Empire lay with the nationalists. The movement was a topic in Conference of London (February 1920); however, nationalist Arabs saw it as threat of continuation of Turkish dominance of Arab lands.[15]


Further information: Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire

See also: Occupation of Constantinople and Turkish War of Independence

The Ottoman Empire, having sided with the Central Powers during World War I, suffered a major military defeat. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) reduced its territorial extent and diminished its political influence but the victorious Europe powers promised to protect the Ottoman sultan's status as the caliph. However, under the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), territories such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq were severed from the empire.

Within Turkey, a progressive, secular nationalist movement arose, known as the Turkish national movement. During the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923), the Turkish revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, abolished the Treaty of Sèvres with the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Pursuant to Atatürk's Reforms, the Republic of Turkey abolished the position of the caliphate in 1924. Atatürk offered the caliphate to Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi, on the condition that he reside outside Turkey; Senussi declined the offer and confirmed his support for Abdulmejid.[16] The title was then claimed by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and Hejaz, leader of the Arab Revolt, but his kingdom was defeated and annexed by Ibn Saud in 1925.

Khilafat Movement in Indian Subcontinent

Khilafat activists leading a procession
Khilafat activists leading a procession

Although political activities and popular outcry on behalf of the caliphate emerged across the Muslim world, the most prominent activities took place in India. A prominent Oxford educated Muslim journalist, Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar had spent four years in prison for advocating resistance to the colonial government and support for the caliphate. At the onset of the Turkish War of Independence, Muslim religious leaders feared for the caliphate, which the European powers were reluctant to protect. To some of the Muslims of India, the prospect of being conscripted to fight against fellow Muslims in Turkey was anathema.[17] To its founders and followers, the Khilafat was not a religious movement but rather a show of solidarity with their fellow Muslims in Turkey.[18]

Mohammad Ali and his brother Maulana Shaukat Ali joined with other Muslim leaders such as Pir Ghulam Mujaddid Sarhandi, Sheikh Shaukat Ali Siddiqui, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Raees-Ul-Muhajireen Barrister Jan Muhammad Junejo, Hasrat Mohani, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Mohammad Farooq Chishti, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr. Hakim Ajmal Khan to form the All India Khilafat Committee. The organisation was based in Lucknow, India at Hathe Shaukat Ali, the compound of Landlord Shaukat Ali Siddiqui. They aimed to build political unity amongst Muslims and use their influence to protect the caliphate. In 1920, they published the Khilafat Manifesto, which called upon the British to protect the caliphate and for Indian Muslims to unite and hold the British accountable for this purpose.[19] The Khilafat Committee in Bengal included Mohmmad Akram Khan, Manruzzaman Islamabadi, Mujibur Rahman Khan and Chittaranjan Das.[20]

In 1920 an alliance was made between Khilafat leaders and the Indian National Congress, the largest political party in India and of the nationalist movement.[21] Congress leader Mahatma Gandhi and the Khilafat leaders promised to work and fight together for the causes of Khilafat and Swaraj. Seeking to increase pressure on the colonial government, the Khilafatists became a major part of the non-cooperation movement — a nationwide campaign of mass, peaceful civil disobedience. Some also engaged in a protest emigration from North-West Frontier Province to Afghanistan under Amanullah Khan.[22] Khilafat leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan also grew personally close to Gandhi. These leaders founded the Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920 to promote independent education and social rejuvenation for Muslims.[23]

The non-cooperation campaign was at first successful. The programme started with boycott of legislative councils, government schools, colleges and foreign goods. Government functions and surrender of titles and distinctions.[citation needed] Massive protests, strikes and acts of civil disobedience spread across India. Hindus and Muslims joined forces in the campaign, which was initially peaceful. Gandhi, the Ali brothers and others were swiftly arrested by the colonial government. Under the flag of Tehrik-e-Khilafat, a Punjab Khilafat deputation comprising Moulana Manzoor Ahmed and Moulana Lutfullah Khan Dankauri took a leading role throughout India, with a particular concentration in the Punjab (Sirsa, Lahore, Haryana etc.). People from villages such as Aujla Khurd were the main contributors to the cause.[citation needed]


Although holding talks with the colonial government and continuing their activities, the Khilafat movement weakened as Muslims were divided between working for the Congress, the Khilafat cause and the Muslim League.[24]

The final blow came with the victory of Mustafa Kemal Pasha's forces, who overthrew the Ottoman rule to establish a progressive, secular republic in independent Turkey. He abolished the role of caliph and sought no help from Indians.[25]

The Khilafat leadership fragmented on different political lines. Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari created Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam with the support of Chaudhry Afzal Haq. Leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan remained strong supporters of Gandhi and the Congress. The Ali brothers joined Muslim League. They would play a major role in the growth of the League's popular appeal and the subsequent Pakistan movement. There was, however, a caliphate conference in Jerusalem in 1931 following Turkey's abolition of the Khilafat, to determine what should be done about the caliphate.[26]


By critics, the movement is regarded as one of the political agitation based on a pan-Islamist, fundamentalist platform and being largely indifferent to the cause of Indian independence. Critics of the Khilafat see its alliance with the Congress as a marriage of convenience. Proponents of the Khilafat see it as the spark that led to the non-cooperation movement in India and a major milestone in improving Hindu-Muslim relations, while advocates of Pakistan and Muslim separatism see it as a major step towards establishing the separate Muslim state. The Ali brothers are regarded as one of the founding-fathers of Pakistan, while Azad, Dr. Ansari and Hakim Ajmal Khan are widely celebrated as national heroes in India.

See also


  1. ^ Hutchinson, J.; Smith, A.D. (2000). Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science. Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science. Routledge. p. 926. ISBN 978-0-415-20112-4. Retrieved 9 February 2023. Khilafat movement which was primarily designed to prevent the allied dismemberment of Turkey after World War One.
  2. ^ Ali, A.; Sahni, J.; Sharma, M.; Sharma, P.; Goel, P. (2019). IAS Mains Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture History & Geography of the world & Society 2020. Arihant Publications India limited. p. 273. ISBN 978-93-241-9210-3.
  3. ^ Vipul, S. (2009). Longman History & Civics Icse 10. Pearson Education. p. 88. ISBN 978-81-317-2042-4.
  4. ^ "Muhammad Ali Jauhar and the Mutiny Trial". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  5. ^ Hussain, Intezaar. Ajmal e Azam.
  6. ^ Andrews, C.F. Hakim Ajmal Khan.
  7. ^ "Khilafat movement | Indian Muslim movement |". Archived from the original on 8 December 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  8. ^ Carl Olson (2007). The Many Colors of Hinduism: A Thematic-historical Introduction. Rutgers University Press. p. 29.
  9. ^ Inamdar, N.R. (1983). Political Thought and Leadership of Lokmanya Tilak. Concept. p. 259. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  10. ^ Jaffrelot, Christophe (7 December 2013). "Sardar and the Swayamsevaks". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  11. ^ Gail Minault, The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (1982).
  12. ^ Burton Stein (2010). A History of India. John Wiley & Sons. p. 300.
  13. ^ Vogt, K.; Larsen, L.; Moe, C. (2011). New Directions in Islamic Thought: Exploring Reform and Muslim Tradition. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-85772-233-1.
  14. ^ Ahmed, Sufia. "Khilafat Movement". Banglapedia. Bangladesh Asiatic Society. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  15. ^ Sankar Ghose (1991). Mahatma Gandhi. Allied Publishers. pp. 124–26. ISBN 9788170232056. Archived from the original on 18 November 2022. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  16. ^ Özoğlu 2011, p. 5; Özoğlu quotes 867.00/1801: Mark Lambert Bristol on 19 August 1924.
  17. ^ However, at the same time, note must also be made that in the North Punjab and part of the NWFP, a huge number of Muslims did actively volunteer to serve in the British Indian Army in World War I
  18. ^ A. C. Niemeijer (1972). The Khilafat movement in India, 1919–1924. Nijhoff. p. 84. ISBN 9789024713349.
  19. ^ Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement, p. 92
  20. ^ Razzaq, Rana. "Khan, Mohammad Akram". Banglapedia. Bangladesh Asiatic Society. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  21. ^ Mylonas, Harris; Tudor, Maya (11 May 2021). "Nationalism: What We Know and What We Still Need to Know". Annual Review of Political Science. 24 (1): 109–132. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-041719-101841.
  22. ^ Clements, Frank; Adamec, Ludwig W. (2003). Conflict in Afghanistan: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-402-8.
  23. ^ Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement, p. 69
  24. ^ Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement, p. 184
  25. ^ Gail Minault, The Khilafat movement, p. 205
  26. ^ Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival, Norton, (2006), p. 106


Further reading