Syed Sulaiman Nadwi
Syed Sulaiman Nadwi

After the Allied forces defeated the Axis powers, to which Turkey was aligned, during the First World War, Indian Muslims were very saddened and pleaded with their British rulers to stick to their promise of not dismembering Turkey and not disgracing the Caliphate in the event of an Allied victory. They made their claim on the basis on the tens and thousands of Muslim soldiers in the British army who had sacrificed their lives for the Crown, on the assurance that their Caliph and the seat of caliphate would not be dishonoured.

But, when news started reaching the Indian Muslims that plans were afoot to dismember the Turkish nation and force the rulers to accept humiliating terms of a peace treaty, an All India Muslim Conference was held in Lucknow on 21 January 1919 to deliberate about the fate of Turkey and impress upon the British to honour their war-time promises.

‘Never in the history of Moslem public life’, wrote the Muslaman of Calcutta on 03 October 1919, ‘had an assembly of the character gathered’. The speeches and resolutions were particularly emotional. A newspaper reporter of the Musalman also recorded:

Many among the audience literally wept and loud sobs were heard when Sulaiman Nadwi said that they had gathered to mourn the demise of Islamic grandeur and power and to carry the dead body to the grave. Theirs was veritably a meeting of mourners gathered to read elegiac verses. Let them be prepared, he said, to be homeless like the Jews or else let them change their hopeless and degrading condition. He quoted from the Quran to the effect that no nation ever rose without effort on its own part. When concluding, he said, he was not parting with the audience but with the honour of Islam.

(Excerpted from Pan-Islam in British Indian Politics, A Study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924, M. Naeem Qureshi, pp118-119