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Allama Iqbal and Modern Turkish Independence

Turkey was the first country to engage his attention on account of its shifting fortunes. In the eyes of the Muslims of the subcontinent the Ottoman Caliphate was the guardian of Muslim faith and tradition and the symbol of Muslim pride and unity. The western nations, however, frantically conspired to oust the Turk, whom they scornfully called the sickman of Europe, from that continent. Turkey was involved in the Tripoli and Balkan wars in 1911. The end of World War I successively saw the dismemberment of the Turkish empire, a heroic and victorious war of liberation by the Turks, the establishment of the republic of Turkey and the abolition of the Caliphate. Iqbal wrote many poems throughout this period highlighting the desperate courage and heroism of the Turkish nation. Of these Khizr-i-Rah and Tulu-i-lslam are the monumental examples. These are imbued with robust optimism and rising’ hopes.

When Turkey overcame its political crisis, Allama continued to pursue new developments in that country with his characteristic concern. He supported the new constitutional developments in that country in his lecture on “The Principle of Movement in the structure of Islam” and justified the Turkish concept of Ijtihad in regard to the institution of Khilafat. Again, fully agreeing with the Turkish national poet Zia on an international ideal of Islam he says :

“For the present every Muslim nation must sink into her own deeper self, temporarily focus her vision on herself alone until all are strong and powerful to form a living family of republics.”

While concluding his discussion on the subject of re-evaluation of intellectual inheritance and reconstruction of religious thought, Allama again pays homage to modern Turkey in the following words:

“The truth is that amongst the Muslim nations of today, Turkey alone has shaken off its dogmatic slumber, and attained to self-consciousness. She alone has claimed her right of intellectual freedom. She alone has passed from the ideal to the real, a transition which entails a keen intellectual and moral struggle. They (Muslims countries) are mechanically repeating old values, whereas the Turk is on the way to creating new values. He has passed through great experiences which have revealed his deeper self to him. In him life has begun to move, change and ‘amplify, giving birth to new desires, bringing new difficulties and suggesting new interpretations.”

So Ataturk Was Jewish! right?

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Isn’t This “Secularism” (la-diniyet)?

European and Ottoman officials engaged in a contest to win the loyalty of the local inhabitants — the French by claiming to protect the Maronites; the British, the Druze; and the Ottomans by proclaiming the sultan’s benevolence toward all his religiously equal subjects.

The important part of above mentioned is the Ottomans by proclaiming the sultan’s benevolence toward all his “religiously equal subjects”. And “secularism” means the equality of religions in politics and no preference is given to one religion or religious group and all the religious groups are equal in government’s view. How more secular could Ottoman Khilafat get?

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.

List of Secular Laws that Ottoman Caliph Adopted

By getting rid of the millet system, the Ottoman Empire hoped to be able to control all of its citizens. They thought that the Great Powers would accept this as long as reforms were ongoing, leaving them to act as enforcers of these goals. The ambitious project was launched to combat the slow decline of the empire that had seen its borders shrink, and was growing weaker in comparison to the European powers.

Tanzimât reforms began under Sultan Mahmud II. On November 3, 1839, Sultan Abdülmecid issued an organic statute for the general government of the empire named Hatt-ı Şerif (the Imperial Edict) of Gülhane (the imperial garden where it was first proclaimed). It is also called as Tanzimât (تنظيمات) Fermânı and was followed by a series of edicts enacting the imperial statute of 1839.

In this very important document, the Sultan stated that he wished “to bring the benefits of a good administration to the provinces of the Ottoman Empire through new institutions”, and that these institutions would principally refer to:

  • Guarantees to ensure the Ottoman subjects perfect security for their lives, honour, and property (1839, see Rescript of the Rose Chamber below for details);
  • The reorganization of the finance system according to the French model (1840)
  • The reorganization of the Civil and Criminal Code according to the French model (1840)
  • The so-called “Hatt-ı Hümayun of 1856 (called Islahat meaning improvement) promising “full legal equality for citizens of all religions” (1856)
  • The abolition of the capitulation (Jizya) tax on non-Muslims, with a regular method of establishing and collecting taxes (1856)
  • The Land Code (Arazi Kanunnamesi (1857) [whih led to the creation of Israel in future]
  • The decriminalization of homosexuality (1858)
  • The so-called “Nationality Law of 1869” creating a common Ottoman citizenship irrespective of religious or ethnic divisions (1869)