13 Mar

The Khilafat Movement

The Khilafat movement was a religio-political movement launched by the Muslims of British India for the retention of the Ottoman Caliphate and for not handing over the control of Muslim holy places to non-Muslims.

Turkey sided with Germany in World War 1. As it began to lose the war, concerns were expressed in India about the future of Turkey. It was a peak period from 1919 to 1922 casting demonstrations, boycott, and other pressure by the two major communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. Being brothers, the Indian Muslims realized their religious duty to help the Muslim country. It was the extra territorial attachments based on Islam. Another factor same to the first was that the Indian Muslims considered Ottoman Caliphate a symbol of unity of the Muslim world as Ummah.


  1. Ottoman Khilafat should be kept intact.
  2. To preserved the Territorial solidarity.
  3. Control of holy the places should not be given to non-Muslims.

Dimensions :

The writings of the Muslim intellectuals provoked the sentiments for the preservation of Khilafat and retention of the Muslims control of the holy places. The Muslims journalism played a vital role to steer the direction of the struggle. Zamindar of Zafar Ali Khan, Comrade and Hamdard of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, and Al-Hilal of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad etc. were the prominent newspapers and magazines which performed their duties to express their resentment. The Allies imposed humiliating terms on vanquished Turkey.

Protests in India:

All India Khilafat Committee was formed at Bombay in July 1919. The first Khilafat Conference at Delhi in November 1919 was arranged in which the Congress leaders like Gandhi and Nehru participated. In this way, the major political parties joined hands to assault the injustice with the Muslim community. These steps were announced:

  • No participation in victory celebrations.
  • Boycott of British goods.
  • Non Cooperation with the Government.

The second Khilafat Conference (Amritsar) was held in Dec. 1919. Maulana Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali joined the session after being released from prison. In Jan. 1920, M. A. Ansari led a delegation to Viceroy while Maulana M. A. Jauhar to Europe. The Khilafat Committee decided to start non-cooperation in collaboration with the Congress in May 1920.

Rowlett Act, 1919 :

Rowlett Act was a black law introduced in India. To the law, the government got authority to persecute any Indian and the arrested had no facility of legal assistance and right to appeal just as the ‘Lettres de Cachet’ in France before the French Revolution. Jinnah resigned from the central legislature as a protest.

Jallianwala Bagh Incident, April 1919

The people gathered in Jallianwala Bagh at Amritsar but General Dyer opened fire to disperse the throng that cast huge human casualties (379). It is considered one of the great tragedies in India. In 1940, by killing Governor Punjab, Sir Michaal O’ Dayer, ‘Ram Muhammad Singh Azad’ got revenge of the Indian massacre.


The Nagpur Session of the Congress (Dec. 1920) approved non cooperation with Government but Jinnah opposed and left the Congress on 13th April 1923, because he was against the use of extra-constitutional means of protests.

The country was passing through a critical period and both the Congress and the Muslim League fully felt the necessity of mutual co-operation to the Khilafat Movement. The leaders of the two movements met at Amritsar and resolved to launch a country-wide agitation under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi. So the two movements, one led by Maulana Muhammad Ali and the other by Mr. Gandhi merged into one and it was directed against the British Government.

The policy of ‘progressive, non-violent, non-cooperation’ was to be given effect to in the following manner:

  • Renunciation of all Government titles.
  • Boycott of courts and educational institutions.
  • Resign from jobs.
  • Later resign from police and military jobs.
  • Refusal to pay taxes.
  • Boycott of foreign goods.

Khilafat Conference, Karachi, July 1921 :

In the session the participants expressed their loyalty to Turkish Sultan. They decided to continue the agitation and supported Attaturk to expel foreign forces from Turkey.

Hijrat Movement 1920-1921 :

The Indian ulama (religious leaders) declared India ‘Darul Harab.’ Darul Harab means the place (country) where Muslims are not allowed to perform their religious practices. In the said situation, the Muslims should migrate to the nearest safe place. The ulama issued verdicts to go to Darul Islam, Afghanistan. There was an impression that King of Afghanistan would welcome them. So the migration took place at large scale. Initially Afghans welcomed them. Later, they closed the border and pushed the migrants back to the Indian territories. It resulted in loss of lives and money. Many died during this mission. Some went to Soviet Union from Afghanistan because they had nothing in India now.

End of the Movement

Moplah Revolt Malabar Coast, near Kalicut:

Moplahs were the descendants of the Arab Muslims settled in the Sub Continent even before the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim. In August 1921, they revolted against Hindu landlords whose treatment was very brutal with them. Later this clash changed as Moplahs versus the Police and Hindu. This embittered the Hindu-Muslim relations. There was an increase in violence day by day and the Chorachori Incident (UP) in February 1922 worsened the situation. The Congress volunteers set a police station on fire and 21 policemen were killed. Gandhi suddenly called off the movement without consulting other leaders.

Developments in Turkey

In 1922 Attaturk emerged as a national leader and restricted powers of Sultan. Next he was appointed Chief of the state by Grand National Assembly. In March 1924, Khilafat was abolished. This caused a widespread resentment among the Indian Muslims. They sent delegations to Turkey but failed to achieve their objectives.

Results of the Khilafat Movement :

  • Despite its failure, the Khilafat Movement left a far-reaching impact on the Indian politics. Following are the most significant influences which the Khilafat Movement left on the Indian Politics:
  • The Khilafat Movement was a great Muslim struggle which provided dynamic leadership to the Muslims and established foundations to launch further Muslim Freedom movement on stable and firm basis.
  • It confirmed to the Muslims that the Hindu mind can never be sincere to the Muslims.
  • The Khilafat Movement effectively demonstrated the religious enthusiasm of the Muslims to the British. The British now seriously felt of giving independence to India.
  • The Khilafat Movement also cultivated a new outlook amongst the Muslims not to rely on others support and to wholly depend on self-determination for the achievement of national cause.
  • The Khilafat Movement developed a sense of concern amongst the Muslims about their national matters and inculcated among them the awareness about their future.
  • The Khilafat Movement immensely strengthened the Two-Nation Theory which became the basis of establishment of Pakistan.
  • The Khilafat Movement added much to the economic miseries of the Muslims who resigned their jobs.

Reasons for the Failure of the Khilafat Movement :

Following factors can be attributed towards the failure of the movement.

Gandhi’s action of calling off the Non-Cooperation movement at a moment when the Government was about to make major concessions, was a severe set-back to the movement.

The Government arrested all important leaders of the movement which left the Muslims leaderless who drifted aimlessly from one side to the other. The Government after arresting leaders, adopted repressive measures on the masses to quell their agitation.

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey elected Mustafa Kamal as their leader who abolished the institution of Caliphate and the last Caliph Sultan Abdul Majeed was banished from Turkey.

The Hindu-Muslim unity, achieved at Lucknow, disappeared in the beginning of the movement and could not be recaptured.

The extremist Hindu movements, Shuddi and Sanghtan, began converting the Muslims to Hinduism which provided a new cause of bitterness between Hindus and Muslims.

The communal clashes and riots erupted in the country which adversely affected the political conditions of India.


The Khilafat Movement was of considerable importance in the history of Muslim India. It served the important purpose of the mass-awakening of the Muslims. It also served to demonstrate the religious and political cohesion among the Muslims of the sub-continent. Its failure led them to believe that the Muslims, if they wanted to survive in the sub-continent, must rely upon their own strength and work out their political destiny. The movement later gave and impetus to the struggle for the independence and for a separate homeland for the Muslims.

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