Shia Participation in the Khilafat Movement

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Shia Participation in the Khilafat Movement

Raja Mahmudabad, Sir Mohammad Ali Mohammad Khan
4 June 1878 – 23 March 1931

(Adapted from The Khilafat Movement, by Gail Minault, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982, p 97, Wikipedia, and other sources)

The Shias who form a large section of the population of Lucknow were exhorted by a group of mujtahids to dissociate themselves from the Khilafat movement. The argument of these Shia divines was theological: According to Shiism, there had been no caliph since Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet.

This argument was challenged, however, by a number of Shia politicians, the most prominent of whom was Syed Raza Ali, a UP barrister and Muslim Leaguer. He pointed out that the temporal power of Islamic countries and the independence of the Jazirat al-Arab are just as important for the Shias as they are for the Sunnis. He also noted that Shias such as Syed Ameer Ali and the Agha Khan had supported the movement since its inception.

It is important to note the support given to the Khilafat movement by the Shia leaders in UP and Bombay, for it has generally been assumed that they took no part in it.

For those Shia leaders interested in maintaining their prominence in the community as a whole, political arguments triumphed over theological ones, and they too jumped on the Khilafat bandwagon. Those that dd not—Jinnah, Raja of Mahmudabad, and Wazir Hasan abstained from the movement less because they were Shias than because they disagreed with the political methods of the Khilafat leaders.

Incidentally, the Raja of Mahmudabad was, initially, a major sponsor of Mohammed Ali Jauhar’s newspaper initiatives, along with Seth Chotani and other Memon businessmen.

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi in the notes in his personal diary on the life and times of Mohammed Ali Jauhar that he was witness to, mentions about Khilafat meetings being held in the palatial house of the Raja. Not once does Daryabadi mention anything about the Shia beliefs of the Raja.

Raja Amir Ahmed Khan, the son of the Raja of Mahmudabad, was the first Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre in London, and devoted the rest of his life in supervising the building of the Regent Park Mosque. He was the moving force behind the World of Islam Festival held in 1976 in the United Kingdom.

Similarly, Mohammed Ali Jauhar and Syed Ameer Ali strove jointly to try to convince the British policy makers to take a lenient approach to the vanquished Turks and to restore the temporal power of the Khalifa along with his religious privileges.

Syed Ameer Ali’s memoirs and the letters he penned to influential newspapers are a testimony to his concern for the welfare of the entire Ummah, transcending the narrow confines of his personal beliefs as a Shia.

Syed Ameer Ali set up the Red Crescent Society in the UK and sent a medical mission to Turkey and Libya during the Balkan and Tripolitian wars (1911-1912).

In a yet-to-be-published article on the Muslim Anglophiles of British India, I had mentioned the name of Aga Khan as being a die-hard Anglophile. I had sent the article to be reviewed by the author of the famous book Searching for Solace, an extensively researched biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali (the translator of the Quran). I received the following response from Mr. M.A. Sheriff: “He was an Anglophile, but my own assessment was that he was a wise statesman and sincere in support  of Muslim causes – so the term ‘die-hard’ maybe harsh.  He was a trustee of the London Mosque Fund in 1919, making an annual donation throughout his life.  He also contributed funds for the All-India Muslim Conferences in the 1930s. I was also very moved when I came across a reference that he paid for Mohammed Ali Jauhar’s medical treatment ( I can’t remember where I read this)”.

2020-01-12T12:11:55+05:30 January 12th, 2020|Khilafat Movement, Mohammed Ali, Ottoman, Red Crescent, Shia, WWI|

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