Find a Security Clearance Job!



Pan-Islamism denotes a religious community, in strong opposition against unbelievers, animated by a proselytising zeal and declaring war on all those who are intent upon its political destruction. It is an old - nay, very old - association, sanctioned by the prophet himself, who has put it as a fundamental principle that all true believers are brethren, and in support of which he ordered the Haj - i.e. holy pilgrimage, an annual meeting of true believers in Mecca and Medina, as one of the four main commands of Islam. Now, as long as the religion of the Arabian prophet was victorious in three parts of the world, the idea of Pan-Islamism was very little or seldom spoken of; nay, the spirit of the brotherhood was so lax that the different parts of that once mighty community hardly noticed the stress and danger which threatened their co-religionist parties and never thought of lending assistance to them.

The Sultans of Turkey announced in bombastic letters their victories over Christianity to their coreligionists in Middle and Far Asia; but, excepting Sultan Soliman's desire to conquer India from the Portuguese, no plan for a common action against the rising power of the West is traceable. It is true the Sultans of Turkey, such as Soliman and Murad IV., tried to further their interests by fostering a common feeling of Pan-Islamism in the outlying districts of Asia, but their sundry experiments had no effect, owing partly to the deficient political understanding of the respective leaders, partly also to the unshaken feeling of security those minor components of Islam enjoyed at those times.

Pan-Islamism came forward in proportion as the political independence of the Mohammedan countries was threatened or annihilated by the growing superiority of the West and the accelerated communication of modern times. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that the existence of a common danger began to be seriously recognised, and that means and measures were devised to ward off the danger. An Arabic pamphlet entitled "General Advice to the Kings and Peoples of Islam", by a learned theologian of the High School of Mecca, named Ahmad, al Barzinjial-Husaini, dates from the 1850s, and in which attention is drawn to the steadily increasing power of the Christian world, to the crying wrongs and cruelties committed by the West against Islam, and in which the successful emulation with Western scientific and economical efforts is declared to be the only secure way of escape from total destruction. Somewhat later on similar signs of an awakening were noticeable in Turkey during the reign of Sultan Abdul Medjid, when the younger Turkish generation betook itself to study the bygone period of Arabic cultural splendor, emphasising at the same time the necessity of arousing a common Moslem feeling along the entire length and breadth of Islam.

Pan-Islamism almost necessarily connoted an attempt to regenerate Islam on Islamic lines -in other words, to revivify and stereotype in the twentieth century the principles laid down more than a thousand years ago for the guidance of a primitive society. Those principles involve a recognition of slavery, laws regulating the relations of the sexes which clash with modern ideas, and, which is perhaps more important than all, that crystallization of the civil, criminal and canonical law into one immutable whole, which had so largely contributed to arrest the progress of those countries whose populations had embraced the Moslem faith.

Lord Cromer's report for 1906 stated "I am sceptical of Pan-Islamism producing any more serious results than sporadic outbursts of fanaticism." Yet so well agreed were the statesmen of Europe in regard to the power of this movement for evil that Mr. Carl Peters, the well-known African traveler, writing on the political ascendancy of Germany, used these significant, though rash, words: "There is one factor which might fall on our side of the balance and in the case of a world-war might be made useful to us: that factor is, Islam. As Pan-Islamism it could be played against Great Britain as well as against the French Republic; and if German policy is bold enough, it can fashion the dynamite to blow into the air the rule of the Western Powers from Cape Nun (Morocco) to Calcutta." [The Nineteenth Century, October, 1906. 553].

Pan-Islamism and Sultan Abdul Hamid

It was under the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid, whose restless and active mind was always fond of machinations, that the Pan-Islamic movement found a most energetic support. Messengers under the guise of religious preachers and expounders of the Koran were sent to all quarters of the globe proclaiming the pious feelings of the Khalifa, and exhorting the true believers to persevere in their faith and to unite in a common bond in the defence of Islam. These seemingly unofficial missions were from time to time answered by delegations sent from Bokhara and Afghanistan, as well as by learned Mohammedans from India; but it would be idle to attribute to this exchange of mission some far-going political importance, for the predominant feature was of a religious character.

During the course of his reign Abdul Hamid made some attempts to create disaffection amongst the Moslem population in India. Lord Dufferin found that he had established a press at Yildiz, and that notices and pamphlets had been published intended for distribution amongst Indian and Afghan Moslems. He interviewed the Sultan and told him very emphatically that none of these must be sent, and that any attempt made in such direction would be regarded as an unfriendly act by the British Government; that Great Britain granted and would always grant the utmost freedom to the Mahometans of the Empire. Happily they recognised the justice of our conduct in regard thereto, but the British Government would not tolerate any outside interference with the religious faith of the Moslems in the Empire. Nevertheless Abdul Hamid sent messengers to Afghanistan and elsewhere to endeavour to stir up disaffection.

All attempts in the direction of Pan-Islamism made by Abdul Hamid completely failed. Many Indian Moslems during the last forty years visited Turkey. Some of them were barristers-atlaw, and the impression generally left was that, while they went to Constantinople as the pious Jew of old time might have gone to Jerusalem, they left it with far other feelings. They hoped to see Islam at its best; they went away greatly disappointed. They were often kindly treated and made much of by good Moslems, but the longer their stay in Islambol the more completely did they realise the maladministration of government, and especially the disgraceful condition of the courts of law.

Even in Turkey itself Pan-Islamism as a living force can hardly be said to have existed during Abdul Hamid's reign, for Pan-Islamism in the sense in which the term is usually employed means a fighting force in favor of the faith. However much the religion of Mahomet may have been aided by the sword in the early centuries of its progress, its spread was much more due to its ideas and its opposition to the corrupt practices of some of the degraded Eastern sects of Christianity than to violence. The time has long passed since Turks were ready to fight simply for the spread of their faith. The Senussi and some of the Mahadis and the followers here and there of individual Mahometans have caused considerable expansion of Mahometanism in Africa, Arabia, and elsewhere, but such expansion, according to the judgment of outsiders, had been due usually to their desire to bring back the simplicity of the early Islamic faith.

Pan-Islamism - Early 20th Century

Pan-Islamism is the term used by Moslems themselves to describe the political and social combination of all Moslems throughout the world to defy and to resist the Christian Powers. By the early years of the 20th Century the Malumat and the Servet, two good and cheap illustrated papers published in Constantinople, had carried on a crusade against all Christian nations that rule Mohammedans. In India, in Africa, in the Malay archipelago, the faithful were exhorted to hold themselves in readiness for the coming conflict. These papers and others like them, as El Moeyid, at Cairo, take pains to publish all real or alleged cases of oppression practiced upon the followers of Mohammed.

At the Salonika Congress of 1911 a definite scheme of Pan-Islamic propaganda was adopted, and it was resolved that a congress of delegates from all the Moslem countries of the world ought to meet annually in Constantinople to discuss questions of interest to all Moslems. Emissaries appear to have been actually sent out during these years to win or to confirm adherents to the Ottoman Caliph wherever Moslems were subject to Europeans, even to remote parts of Africa, including Morocco; others worked among the Moslems of China. These missions seem to have been fairly effective, as a Pan-Islamic writer asserts that the Friday sermon continued to be pronounced in the name of the Ottoman Caliph in Tunis in spite of French objection; and that when, in 1912, a republic was proclaimed in China the Chinese Moslems signified their adhesion on condition that the rights of the Ottoman Caliph were not infringed thereby.

Attempts were also made to deal with the old difficulty which had confronted Pan-Islamism, the schism between Sunnah and Shi'ah. Early in 1911 a letter was published by a number of Ottoman and Persian jurists assembled at Nejef, asserting that there was no difference of principle between the two sects and urging cooperation between the two empires, Persia being at that time, it was supposed, menaced by England and Russia. The Agha Khan, head of a sect so heretical that Abdul Hamid II had declined to admit him to an audience, made a tour in India to advocate the claims of a Moslem university. Articles advocating union appeared in various Sunni and Shi'i journals; indeed, the Moslem press as a whole was Pan-Islamic.

Nevertheless, as early as 1910 prominence had been given to a new antithesis, which may be said to have ultimately wrecked the schemes for reunion of the Moslem communities. In that year the Constantinople journal Iqdam, an organ of the Committee, adopted a tone unfriendly to the Arabs, whom it charged with readiness to sell their honor for gold - an accusation vehemently resented in the Arabic-speaking countries.

But in fact the seeds of dissension between the Turkish and Arab dements in the Ottoman Empire had been sown in the Constitution, in Art. 68, par. 10 of which it is enacted that after the expiration of a period of four years a condition of eligibility to the Chamber of Deputies shall be ability to read and write Turkish. This rule definitely aimed at making Turkish the language of the empire; and In the resolutions in favour of Pan-Islamic propaganda the encouragement of the study of Turkish was recommended. The true Pan-Islamic view, was that Arabic should be the common language of Islam; some, indeed, suggested that the empire should be bilingual, with Turkish for its secular and Arabic for its religious language; in any case, that every Moslem should learn Arabic in addition to any idiom which happened to be his mother tongue.

To some extent this split was retarded by European aggression, which may be said to have culminated in 1911. The interference of Great Britain and Russia in Persia and the French scheme for governing Morocco as a protectorate had made it clear that Turkey was the only Islamic state which could compete with the European Powers on anything like equal terms. The Italian attack on Tripoli in Sept. of that year evoked widespread sympathy with Turkey among the Islamic communities. The Javanese press, e.g., made no secret of iis desire to see Turkey triumph, and the Mahommedan press of Egypt warmly espoused the side of Turkey. At a meeting held in Kabul the Amir of Afghanistan took part in a demonstration in favour of the Turks, and in India money was collected for their assistance. Care, indeed, had been taken by Italy to avoid all appearance of an attack on Islam itself, and the Pope himself warned Christian soldiers against considering the campaign as a crusade; but to the Moslem, Christian and European are not very clearly distinguished, and it was plausibly argued that Europe was not now satisfied with protecting Christians within the Ottoman Empire, but had resolved on partitioning that empire among non-Moslcra Powers. In proclamations issued in Constantinople the Sultan whose dominions were thus attacked was described as the legitimate ruler of 300 million Moslems (swelled by some journalist to 400 million), and a demand was raised for the restoration of his arbitrary powers.

The language used by journalists caused some apprehension to the European governments responsible for great numbers of Moslems, and complaints were made that in the Islamic territories of Russia the charge of Pan-Islamism was easily leveled and resulted in frustrating the efforts that were being made for spreading education. The Islamic reactionaries, who dreaded the modern learning, obtained the imprisonment of modernist teachers by informing the authorities that the latter were engaged: in Pan-Islamic propaganda. Any Moslem who took in the journals of Cairo or Constantinople, or had studied in either of those cities, was suspected of pursuing these schemes. On the other hand, the plan pursued by the imperial government in its scheme for enforced education was the Russificadon of all its subjects.

Pan-Islamism during the Great War (1914-1918)

Shortly after the Turkish Empire entered the war on the side of the German alliance the Ottoman Grand Mufti declared a jihad, summoning all Moslems to arms in defence of their faith. General Liman von Sanders asserted that this call was absolutely without response; the reason, he held, being that the pretext was obviously false, inasmuch as Turkey was itself in alliance with non-Moslem Powers and, indeed, fighting for their benefit and under their command. He quotes an Italian minister for the statement that the call was absolutely neglected by the Moslems of Tripoli.

The French Government issued a counterblast in a collection of expressions of loyalty from Moslem authorities of the French African Empire (Collection df la Revue du Monde Musulman, 1915, 1916, called Le Salut au Deapeau, in the English edition Honour to the Flag), wherein all Moslems were called upon to fight for France. The call seemed to have been issued half-heartedly, even within the Ottoman dominions. When the official at the Mosque of Damascus had to proclaim the Sacred War from its pulpit, seeing a group of German officers among the congregation he said: "I am ordered to proclaim jihad. A jihad is, as you know, a Holy War to protect our Holy Places against infidels. This being so, what are those infidel pigs doing in our mosque?" This story is told by Mr. Wyman Bury (Pan-Islam, 1919,. p. 81), who adds: "Those who forged the blade of this counterfeit jihad could not temper it in the flame of religious fervor, and it shattered against the shield of religious tolerance and good faith."

Doubtless the most serious blow which the unity of Islam received during the war was the entry into it of the Sheriff of Mecca on the British side in 1916. The Sherif in his proclamations (published in his organ, the Qibla, and reprinted in the Manor, vol. xix.) made it clear that his quarrel was not with the Ottoman Empire, but only with the Party of Union and Progress, who had reproduced the worst atrocities of the Umayyads by firing at the House of God and slaughtering worshippers. As, however, this party represented the Ottoman Government, this act produced a definite division in Islam which was not soon repaired.

Uncertain as the sense to be attached to the title Caliph had ordinarily been, the idea had on the whole prevailed that he should have control of the sanctuaries and the access to them; there seemed no means of devising a formula which should combine a Turkish Caliphate with an independent Hejaz. On the other hand, the removal of Turkish rule from Arabia, to which the events which followed the secession of the Hejaz led, had done little or nothing to realize the dream of an empire embracing all the speakers of Arabic. The establishment of the Hejaz kingdom accentuated the sectarian differences which were already rife in the peninsula.

A mission was sent by the Emperor of Morocco to the Sherif of Mecca to congratulate him on his assertion of independence; but the legal authority who accompanied it gave it as his opinion that where Islamic countries were at a great distance from each other there was no objection to their being subject to different Imams; Morocco had at no time recognized the Eastern Caliphate, in whosesoever possession it happened to be; the independence of the Sherif therefore in no way affected the Moroccan Caliphate. Moreover, the history of Islam attested the frequent coexistence of numerous Caliphs. The rise of this new power in the sanctuaries was not therefore to furnish a new principle of unity for Islam; it only helped to get rid of that round which the old Pan Islamic ideas had been grouped.

Pan-Islamism After the Great War

One of the results of the Great War was to bring into new prominence, in connexion with Turkey and the Middle East, the movement known as Pan-Islamism, for uniting the peoples who profess the Mahommedan religion under one banner. The 'Khilafat' Movement of 1919-24 has been glorified by some Islamic ideologists, Indian nationalists and communists alike and along with them by Western scholars, as an anti-colonial movement of Muslims of India, premised on the hostility of the British to the Turkish Sultan, their venerated Caliph.

Some Moslems in India established an All-India Caliphate Committee, with a series of publications on the Question of the Caliphate. The first of this series contains the presidential address of" Maulana AbulKalam," purporting to have been delivered at the provincial Caliphate Conference held in Calcutta Feb. 28 and 29, 1920. This treatise presented the most bellicose aspect of Pan-lslamism, and differs littlcfrom ihcQaumJadid described above. The jihad, according to it, is the primary duty of the Moslem; if the Turks are apt to be lax in their ritual, it must be remembered that for centuries they alone maintained the jihad, at a time when the Indian Moslems were enjoying peace and security. An endeavor is made to show that ever since the time of Sultan Selim I. the Caliphate of the Ottoman Sultan has been generally recognized. It is argued that there can be only one Caliph, and that it was the duty of every Moslem to be his obedient subject; and in particular to aid him in repelling invasions by unbelievers of Islamic territory and expelling them where they are already in possession; Islamic territory would appear to include the whole inhabited world. At the least the author claims that Arabia, Palestine and Iraq are the property of the Ottoman Sultan, which must be restored to him if the sentiments of the Moslems are not to be wounded.

The occupation of Constantinople by foreign forces and the reduction of the Ottoman Empire to a comparatively small area produced a feeling of depression among the Islamic peoples, who could no longer look with confidence to a great Islamic Power as the natural leader in some scheme for the recovery of hegemony in Asia and Africa; on the other hand, the feud between Sunnah and Shi'ah showed no sign of healing, and though an Arabian Caliphate may not have been proclaimed, the severance of the Arabs from the Turks appeared to have been definitely concluded.

Even within the Ottoman system there was a schism, since the authority in power at Ankara acted independently of the Caliph of Constantinople, and appeared to rely on Turanian support, so far as it obtains any from Islamic peoples; while its endeavor to obtain support from Bolshevism was calculated to wound the sentiment of orthodox Islam, which is far removed from the principles of that system. Further, it would appear that the tendency had been to emphasize nationalism, and create a desire in the various Arabic-speaking countries for complete independence rather than for absorption in an Islamic empire, even on the condition of decentralization, which was the catchword of the old Pan-lslamism.

A Pan-Islamic tendency may perhaps be found in the Indian Caliphate agitation, but, even if it be taken at its face value, it is clear that it was making demands for the Ottoman Caliph which his former subjects did not back, and many who had made sacrifices for this idea have found no encouragement from Islamic rulers who at one time were supposed to recognize this title.

Conjectures were at times put forward concerning the existence of agencies organizing simultaneous outbreaks in different Islamic countries against their European protectors; such may certainly exist, but the results achieved indicated little in the way of cooperation or clearness of aim; and indeed Abdul Hamid II, who gave some encouragement to the Pan-Islamic idea, which was that Turkey should lead a jihad against the European possessors of Islamic countries, did not appear himself to have entertained such a project, though he thought the fear of it might help him In checking European interference with his internal government. The governments which followed probably hoped for greater results, but obtained very much less, being unable either to maintain the independence of Moslem states outside their empire or to preserve the integrity of that empire itself.

Join the mailing list