Home > Khilafat Movement > Who gave a reason to abolish the caliphate?

Who gave a reason to abolish the caliphate?

The Ottoman Empire, an empire that was ruled by religious people called Sultans or Caliphs and had been pinnacle of creation for more then 300 years, was facing its worst days in 19th and 20th century. As world advanced in scientific and technological researches, ottomans were lagging in modern education. This resulted in bad days for empire.In 20th century, Sultan Abdulhamid was over thrown by reformist opposition with support of public due to suspention of constitution by Sultan. New Sultan, who was half brother of former Sultan Abdulhamid, was appointed.Years passed and world war 1 started and Ottomans decided to side with Germany. Ottomans lost this war and was occupied by enemy forces and Turkey was devided into pieces. Sultan was being a puppet for enemy forces so Mustafa Kemal who was a general in Ottoman army ended the khilafat.

History tells that Ataturk did not abolish Caliphate even when he had full influence in Turkish Politics and Turkish Grand National Assembly. So what was the reason that Ataturk did not touch Caliphate for many years but suddenly he abolished it? The answer is thousands miles from Turkey in Brittish India.

The Khilafat movement (1919–1924) was a pan-Islamic, political protest campaign launched by Muslims in British India to influence the British government and to protect the Ottoman Empire during the aftermath of World War I. The movement gained force after the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920) which imposed the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire and gave Greece a powerful position in Anatolia, to the distress of the Turks. They called for help and the movement was the result. 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 European powers promised to protect the Ottoman emperor’s status as the Caliph. However, under the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), territories such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt severed from the empire.

During the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1924) led by one of the Turkish revolutionaries, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, abolished the Treaty of Sèvres with the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Meanwhile in British India, Mohammad Ali and his brother Maulana Shaukat Ali joined with other Muslim leaders such as Sheikh Shaukat Ali Siddiqui, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Raees-Ul-Muhajireen Barrister Jan Muhammad Junejo, Hasrat Mohani, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr. Hakim Ajmal Khan to form the All India Khilafat Committee. The organization 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.

Initially, the National Assembly seemed willing to allow a place for the Caliphate in the new regime, agreeing to the appointment of Mehmed’s cousin Abdul Mejid II as Caliph upon Mehmed’s departure. Still, for all the power he had already wielded in Turkey, Kemal did not abolish the Caliphate outright.

Then an event happened which was to deal a fatal blow to the Caliphate. Leaders of the Khilafat Movement distributed pamphlets calling upon the Turkish people to preserve the Ottoman Caliphate for the sake of Islam. Under Turkey’s new nationalist government, however, this was construed as foreign intervention, and any form of foreign intervention was labeled an insult to Turkish sovereignty, and worse, a threat to State security. Kemal promptly seized his chance. On his initiative, the National Assembly abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924.

It seems that the Khilafat movement was responsible for the abolishment of Caliphate because the reformists were not ready to abolish the Caliphate before the distribution of pamphlets against new Turkish government and in favour of Caliphate on full scale by Indian Khilafat Movement. This movement which was against new Turkish government and in favour of Caliph was considered a foriegn interference in state’s politics and threat to the state security and as a result Caliphate was abolished.

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