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Khilafat Movement

Khilafat Movement: The Khilafat Movement emerged during the post-World War I period in India, fueled by the deep-seated discontent among Indians. Grievances were fueled by events such as the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the oppressive Rowlatt Act, and the perceived mistreatment of the Turkish Khalifa by the British Empire. These circumstances set the stage for a widespread, grassroots movement against British rule.

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    Amid this atmosphere of discontent, Mahatma Gandhi recognised the potential of the Khilafat issue to unite Hindus and Muslims in their collective resistance against the formidable colonial power. The movement gained momentum alongside the Non-cooperation Movement, both becoming pivotal elements in a new chapter of the Indian national movement. Gandhi’s leadership played a crucial role in shaping and steering these movements, as they sought to address both the Khilafat concerns and the broader struggle for Indian independence. This period marked a significant turning point in the trajectory of India’s fight against colonial rule.

    Historical Background of the Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement unfolded against the complex backdrop of post-World War I socio-economic challenges, including the repercussions of the war itself, the oppressive Rowlatt Act, the tragic Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms.

    Impacts of the First World War

    The aftermath of World War I brought about economic hardships in India, with rising commodity prices, factory closures, and increased taxes, leading to widespread discontent. Nationalists, disenchanted by British economic failures, strengthened their anti-British stance.

    Rowlatt Act

    The British, fearing revolutionary activities, enacted the Rowlatt Act in 1919, empowering the government to imprison individuals without trial. Gandhi’s opposition to this act through the Rowlatt Satyagraha intensified political awakening, triggering protests and demonstrations.

    Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

    The ruthless Jallianwala Bagh Massacre occurred in 1919 when General Dyer ordered troops to open fire on an unarmed crowd protesting the arrest of Satyapal Singh and Saifuddin Kitchlew. The Hunter Commission’s leniency towards Dyer further fueled nationalist anger.

    Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

    The Government of India Act of 1919, aimed at appeasing nationalists, ended up disillusioning them further, laying the groundwork for potential uprisings against British rule.

    Khilafat Movement

    Reasons of the Khilafat Movement

    In the post-war years, Indian Muslims, aligned with nationalist sentiments, initiated the Khilafat Movement to pressure the British government to maintain the Ottoman Sultan’s position as the Caliph of Islam.

    Treaty of Sevres (1920)

    Muslims globally perceived the harsh terms of the Treaty of Sevres (1920) as an insult. The British dismissal of the Turkish Khalifa prompted the Khilafat movement in India, demanding the Khalifa’s continued rule over Muslim holy sites and retaining sufficient territories after the war.


    The Khilafat Movement embraced a broader anti-imperialist sentiment, as Muslims and Hindus in India, disillusioned with British rule, rallied behind the cause of the Ottoman Empire. The movement served as a unique convergence of religious and political concerns against colonial oppression.

    Course of the Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement was initiated in 1919. It aimed to exert pressure on the British government, address Punjab’s wrongs, and defend the temporal powers of the Khalifa. Led by Mohammad Ali, Shaukat Ali (the Ali brothers), Abul Kalam Azad, and Hasrat Mohani, the movement took the following course:

    1. Establishment of Khilafat Committee:

    Formed in Bombay in 1919, the Khilafat Committee, led by Muslim businessmen, initially focused on Khalifa-supporting activities like meetings, petitions, and delegations.

    1. Emergence of Militant Trend:

    A militant trend within the movement emerged, advocating for a more radical national movement in response to perceived injustices.

    1. Delhi Khilafat Conference:

    The All India Khilafat Conference in Delhi (November 1919) witnessed a shift as Gandhi, presiding over the conference, called for non cooperation with the British Government for the first time.

    Hasrat Mohani urged a boycott of British goods during the conference.

    1. Non-Cooperation with the Government:

    Khilafat leaders declared a cessation of all cooperation with the government if post-war peace terms were unfavourable to Muslims.

    Shaukat Ali warned of a joint Hindu-Muslim movement of non-cooperation if Indian Muslims were not appeased.

    1. Gandhi’s Role in Hindu-Muslim Unity:

    Although the Khilafat issue wasn’t directly linked with Indian politics, Khilafat leaders sought Hindu support. Gandhi envisioned this as an opportunity to unite Hindus and Muslims against the British. Gandhi initially maintained a moderate stance until May 1920.

    1. Gandhi’s Open Support for Khilafat:

    The publication of the terms of the “Treaty of Sevres” and the “Hunter Committee Report” on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in May 1920 prompted Gandhi to support the Khilafat issue openly.

    1. Programme of Non-Cooperation:

    The Central Khilafat Committee, meeting in Allahabad (June 1–3, 1920), announced a program of non-cooperation with the government, including the boycott of titles, government jobs, and non-payment of taxes.

    1. Congress Support and Unity:

    Initially divided, Congress later saw the Khilafat issue as an opportunity to unite Muslims and Hindus, enhancing Muslim participation in national movements.

    The Muslim League extended full support to Congress, strengthening political agitation.

    1. Merger with Non-Cooperation Movement:

    The Khilafat Movement eventually merged with Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement, marking the convergence of their objectives in the larger struggle against British rule.

    Significance of the Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement, despite being absorbed into the broader Non-Cooperation Movement and undergoing dilution due to political changes in Turkey, holds significance on various fronts:

    1. Attraction of Urban Muslims:

    The movement attracted urban Muslims to actively participate in the Indian national movement actively, fostering a sense of political awareness and involvement.

    1. Strengthening Hindu-Muslim Unity:

    Hindu-Muslim unity was reinforced through the Khilafat Movement, reflecting in increased participation in the Non-Cooperation Movement. The shared cause contributed to a sense of solidarity.

    1. Politicization of Nationalist Sentiments:

    Nationalist sentiments were politicised across diverse segments of the population. Women, traders, urban poor, students, peasants, artisans, and others became active participants, contributing to the mass mobilisation against British rule.

    1. Influence on Liberal Muslim Leaders:

    Congress, particularly under Gandhi’s leadership, succeeded in attracting liberal Muslim leaders drawn to the secular and inclusive nature of the Indian freedom movement. This inclusivity played a crucial role in shaping the character of the nationalist struggle.

    While the original Khilafat cause may have seen alterations, its influence on Indian politics, communal relations, and the broadening of the anti-colonial movement remains noteworthy. The amalgamation of Khilafat with the larger struggle against British rule showcased the interconnectedness of various issues in the quest for Indian independence.

    Important Leaders of Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement, initiated in 1919 in response to the Turkish Sultan’s defeat in World War I, witnessed the active involvement of several influential leaders who played pivotal roles in shaping the movement:

    Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali (The Ali Brothers)

    Inspirational leaders who delivered powerful speeches and organised rallies across India, fostering unity and defiance among Muslims in support of the Khilafat cause.

    Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

    He was a notable scholar and orator who utilised his knowledge and oratory skills to encourage educated Muslims to join the movement. Azad emphasised the religious significance of Khilafat, appealing to the religious sentiments of Muslims.

    Maulana Hasrat Mohani

    A voice of moderation in the movement, emphasising non-violence and unity among India’s diverse communities.

    Begum Shaista Ikramullah

    The wife of Maulana Shaukat Ali actively participated in the movement, advocating for Muslim women’s rights. She delivered speeches to encourage women’s involvement in protests, highlighting the religious aspects.

    Noor Jehan

    A renowned singer and actress from Lahore contributed to the movement through cultural influence. She created patriotic songs to generate pro-Khilafat and anti-British sentiments.

    Ashraf Jahan

    Known as the “Mirrawa of Khilafat,” she travelled extensively, delivering speeches and encouraging women to participate in protests, marches, and rallies actively.

    Abdul Bari

    Scholar and educationist from Bihar utilised his influence to mobilise Muslim students and teachers, playing a crucial role in organising meetings and protest marches.

    Zahoor Ahmad

    From Punjab, he led the Khilafat delegation to London in 1921, advocating for the Khilafat cause and the demands of Indian Muslims to British officials.

    Through their diverse skills and contributions, these leaders significantly impacted the Khilafat Movement, fostering a sense of unity and resistance against perceived injustices.

    Consequences of Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement was a significant movement in India in 1919. It aimed to support the Ottoman caliph as a symbol of unity for Muslims. At first, it got a boost from Gandhi’s noncooperation movement, but later it fell apart due to fears of Muslim disunity when the Ottoman Empire declined.

    This movement had several impacts on India:

    • United Hindus and Muslims: The Khilafat Movement brought Hindus and Muslims together because they both opposed British rule and wanted to protect the Caliphate.
    • Strengthened Indian National Congress: This movement made the Indian National Congress stronger because it gave Indian Muslims a platform to express their concerns and work toward a common goal.
    • Moplah Rebellion: The Khilafat Movement led to the Moplah rebellion in south India in 1921, which deeply affected Hindu India.
    • Failure: Despite starting strong, the Khilafat Movement faced challenges, such as the suspension of Gandhi’s noncooperation movement and his arrest in March 1922, which weakened the movement. Ultimately, it collapsed when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the caliphate altogether in 1924.

    Challenges for Khilafat Movement

    The Khilafat Movement was started by Indian Muslims during British rule to try and influence the British government and protect the Caliphate. Unfortunately, it faced several problems that led to its failure:

    • Splitting of Muslim Community: The Khilafat Movement caused divisions among Muslims because some were supporting the Congress, some were supporting the Khilafat cause, and others were focused on their personal interests.
    • Changing Relevance of Khilafat Issue: Initially, the Khilafat issue brought people together, but later on, it became less important. In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led a rebellion, removed the Sultan from power, and modernized the country. Turkey became a secular state, challenging British authority and showing a desire for a new type of government.
    • Government’s Lack of Interest: The British government didn’t show much interest in negotiating or addressing the Khilafat Movement’s demands, making it hard to keep the movement going.
    • Conflict Between Lower and Upper Castes: While the Khilafat Movement allowed people from different social backgrounds to participate, it also caused conflicts between lower and upper caste groups.

    FAQs on Khilafat Movement

    What was the Khilafat Movement, and when did it occur?

    The Khilafat Movement was a mass movement initiated in 1919 in response to the defeat of the Turkish Sultan in World War I. It aimed to safeguard the Islamic Caliphate and protect the religious rights of Indian Muslims.

    Who were the key leaders of the Khilafat Movement?

    Prominent leaders included Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali (The Ali Brothers), Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Begum Shaista Ikramullah, Noor Jehan, Ashraf Jahan, Abdul Bari, and Zahoor Ahmad.

    What were the main objectives of the Khilafat Movement?

    The movement sought to exert pressure on the British government to maintain the Ottoman Sultan's position as the Caliph of Islam after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire post-World War I.

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