Archive for Khilafat

Ironies of History: Contradictions of The Khilafat Movement

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by Umer

by Hamza Alavi

The ‘Khilafat’ Movement of 1919-24, is probably quite unique inasmuch as it has been glorified with one voice by Islamic ideologists, Indian nationalists and communists alike and along with them by Western scholars, as an anti-colonial movement of Muslims of India, premised on the hostility of the British to the Turkish Sultan, their venerated Caliph.1 Little attempt has been made to examine the premises on which the movement was founded, the rhetoric of its leaders being taken at face value. On closer examination we find extra-ordinary paradoxes and contradictions behind that rhetoric.

As for the ‘achievements’ of that Movement, its lasting legacy is the legitimised place that it gave the Muslim clergy at the centre of the modern political arena, armed with a political organisation in the form of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind (and its successors after the Partition) which the clergy have used to intervene actively in both the political as well as the ideological sphere. Never before in Indian Muslim history was the clergy ever accorded such a place in political life.

The Khilafat Movement also introduced the religious idiom in the politics of Indian Muslims. Contrary to some misconceptions (and misrepresentations) it was not the Muslim League, the bearer of Muslim Nationalism in India, that introduced religious ideology in the politics of Indian Muslims. Muslim Nationalism was a movement of Muslims and not a movement of Islam. It was an ethnic movement of disaffected Muslim professionals and the government-job-seeking educated Indian Muslim middle class, mainly those of UP and Bihar and urban Punjab. Their objectives were modest, for they demanded not much more than fair quotas in jobs for Muslims and certain safeguards for their interests. Muslim Nationalism in India was a secular rather than a religious movement. Nor was it, in its origins, a Hindu hating movement as is sometimes made out. To the contrary, by virtue of the Lucknow Pact of 1916 it had already moved decisively towards a common platform with the broader Indian National Movement and unity with the Congress Party. The Khilafat Movement intervened in that context in a way that decisively killed the politics of the Lucknow Pact. The intervention of the Khilafat Movement in Indian Muslim politics has had a considerable retrogressive ideological influence on the modern Indian Muslim mind that reverberates still in Muslim thinking and their politics in present day India and Pakistan. For that alone, it deserves to be reviewed and re-evaluated.

Continue reading