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The Indian Muslims A Documentary Record v.III : The Tripoli and Balkan Wars

Shan Muhammad

Muhammad, Shan;

The Indian Muslims A Documentary Record v.III : The Tripoli and Balkan Wars (1900-1947)

Meenakshi Prakashan, 1970, 344 pgs.

topics: |  history | india | british-raj | islam

In this long out-of-print volume, Shan Mohammad, a noted historian of the
Aligarh movement, collects a number of important documents -
letters, speeches, newspaper reports - bearing on the early rise of
Muslim nationalism in India.  The period in focus is 1910-1920, when
Islamic feelings in India were on the boil after several massacres against
the Ottomans in the closing years of WW1: 

* 1911 Tripoli massacre in which several thouaand men women and
	children from the Mechiya oasis near Tripoli were massacred by Italian

* Russian Invasion of Tabriz, 1911: Russians soldiers, together with
	the Shah's generals, killed some 1200 ulama and other nationalists
	in North-west Persia; see George Douglas Turner: 
	The Reign of Terror at Tabriz : England's Responsibility
The events were widely reported in Western and Indian media, and generated
fierce anger against the British position of neutrality towards these
powers.  Students at Aligarh contributed money by forsaking better food,
and a medical mission was organized to help Turkish soldiers.  Subsequent
losses by the Ottoman empire in the Balkans, and British tacit
participation, further angered the Islamic movement.

The key result of this process was a move away from the position of loyalty
to the British Crown which had been the central theme of Sir Syed's policy.
The new wave sought a nationalist alignment with the Indian National

One of the key players in this move was Muhammad Ali Jinnah. (It
is not well-known that in his early political career, Jinnah was radical
among Muslims in seeking rapproachment with mainstream Hindu forces in
matters such as self-government; see detailed analysis by Ian Bryant Wells,
in his Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity: Jinnah's Early Politics, Orient
Blackswan, 2005,)

In 1913, the constitution of the Muslim League was changed to
include a statement seeking self-government under the British Crown.  This
Congress-Muslim League alignment would be further cemented in 1918-21
during the Khilafat movement.



In the second half of the nineteenth century the European powers had made
it their mission to wipe out Turkish domination from Europe and Africa.
They had succeeded in weakening the Turkish sovereignty over its vast
In 1911, Italy declared war on Tripoli, a Turkish territory, and captured
it by sheer force. The butchery inflicted on the Muslim population there
was blood-curdling. Seeing that the Turks were involved in defence of
Tripoli; the Balkan states in Europe waged a war of independence against
them. Turkey suffered a heavy loss tn men and money and the savage
atrocities perpetrated by the Christian states over the Muslim population
crossed all limits even of uncivilized behaviour. 

The British attitude towards the Balkan conflagration was one of
neutrality. But most of the statesmen incited the Balkan states against
their masters. Winston Churchill, then cabinet minister, justified the
revolt of the Balkan states and supported them in waging war against Turkey
with a view to drive Ute Turks from Christian Europe. The other British
ministers talked of the crusades and were intriguing to do away with
Turkish Rule in Europe. Harrowing accounts of happenings in the Balkan
published in the newspapers inflamed Muslim sentiments in India and hurt
their feelings.

Sympathy for the Ottoman Caliphate

Turkey occupied a special place in the hearts of Indian Muslims not only
because of its being a great Islamic power, but also because it was the seat
of their Caliph.  They were already upset because of the annulment of the
partition of Bengal, and when the Tripoli and the Balkan wars came to their
knowledge, they developed sentiments of hostility towards the British.  A
marked change came over them. 

It was difficult to find a single Muslim paper without the heart-rending
accounts of the Tripoli and Balkan atrocities. The Muslims emphasised the
necessity of united efforts to condemn the British and other European powers.
"An astonishing wave of sympathy for Turkey," says Jawaharlal Nehru, "roused
Indian Muslims... All Indians felt that sympathy and anxiety but in the case
of Muslims this was keener and something almost personal."

An anonymous contributor to the National Review, who claimed to have been
one of those who drafted the Muslim League Address of 1906, lamented on this
change in the attitude of the Muslims towards their rulers, which he said
•might well make Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mohsin-ul-Mulk turn in their grave.'

Role of Mahommedans in the Empire : Loyalty to Nationalism

Mirza Samiullah Beg (Lucknow lawyer and politician, later became CJ of
Hyderabad state) wrote to the editor of the Pioneer: 

	Up to the present time, our political institutions have been serving
	only as protective bodies. ... But this is not sufficient. We ought
	to aim at something where we should aspire to reach some
	goal. Without some goal before us we might stop at any moment in the
	way, and go to sleep very soon.... The goal that I humbly suggest is
	self-government within the British empire.  You may call it a dream
	at present, but I have got a firm faith in the inherent capacities of
	my countrymen and I believe that if you manage to educate the masses
	and prepare their mind for the realisation of this ideal, that which
	is a dream today will be a reality tomorrow. This policy will bring
	us in unison with our Hindu brethren in political aspirations.... I
	wish that our Muslim League would adopt the policy of the Indian
	National Congress and with due regard to the interests of Mahommedans
	serve as its feeder rather than its drainer.

The loyalty of Muslims changed into active opposition to the British.  Haji
Musa Khan of Aligarh asked the Muslims to follow the verse of the Holy Quran
which advocated Pan·Islamism. Maulana Mohammed Ali, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, through their papers, the Ccmrade, the
Al-Hilal and the Zamindar reminded the Muslims of the Islamic

Mohammed Ali spoke to a gathering of Muslims in Jama Masjid of Delhi in a
heart-rending tone and characterised the Balkan war as the last fight of
the Turks, He said that defeat of Turkey was the defeat of Islam and what
Islam expected from them was united action azainst the British. Those were
the days of great Urdu journalism which united Hindus and Muslims in their
struggle for freedom, which forced the Muslim League to change its
constitution, bringing it quite parallel to that of the Congress.

Alignment with the Indian National Congress on "Self-Government"

Now the political creed of the Congress and the Muslim League was the same,
i.e., the attainment of self-government for India, which marked a distinct
departure from the traditional policy of the League.

Mohammed Ali and Azad wrote vehemently against the British in their
papers which led to the revival of Pan·Islamism in India after about a decade.
Things had reached such a pass that the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, had to
express his profound concern on the agitated frame of mind of the frontier

Meetings were called and demonstrations organised to condemn the
British attitude in every nook and corner of the country. There was widespread
resentment. Hardinge also wrote to Sir W. Tyrell that he was really
'longing for the end of the Balkan war,' and Sir James Meston, the Governor
of U.P., expressed serious anxiety on the Muslim mode of thinking. 

Maulana Azad was so impressed after listening to Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah's
presidential address at the All-India Muslim League in 1913 at Agra, that he
is said to have remarked that since the rise of Muslim politics it was the
first speech in their political literature soaked in Indian nationalism.  The
Times uttered a caution to the Leaguers on their new goal and warned them "to
abstain from acts which will weaken the increasing confidence of Great
Britain in the loyalty and restraint of their community." But Muslims turned
a deaf ear to such warnings.

Medical mission to Turkey : Collections at Aligarh

Medical aid was an immediate necessity for the Turks.  Dr. M.A. Ansari came
out with a Red Crescent Medical Mission and appealed to the Muslims all over
India to donate funds for their injured brethren.  He came to Aligarh from
Delhi, spoke to the students of the M. A. O. College in a hurriedly convened
meeting in the Strachey Hall, and asked them to contribute money.

Anti-British feelings had alrendy grown among the students of the College
after the death of Sir Syed, and though the successors of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
tried their best to tide over the anti-British sentiments, they did not
succeed.  Aligarh became the nerve-centre of Muslim radicals. Meetings of
students were organised and British policy condemned. The students resolved
to take the simplest food and contribute the savings on delicious dishes to
the Turkish Relief Fund. A batch of students, Mansoor Ahmed, Shoaib Qureshi,
Abdur Rahman Peshawari, Choudhry Khaliquzzaman, Aziz Ansari and Abdur Rahman
Siddiqui being prominent among them, listed themselves to go to Turkey with
the Medical Mission.

A similar society was founded by Syed Ameer Ali at London to assist the
Turkish wounded soldiers in the Tripoli and the Balkan wars. 

James Meston speech to trustees of the Aligarh Muslim College

[Events at the College] so disturbed the Lieut-Governor, Sir James of U,
P. that he visited Aligarh and in a speech to the Trustees of the College
said :

	Their work is growth, mental and physical; and it is your duty to
	protect them from avoidable disease and their mind from avoidable
	excitement.  Every moment of their life at college is precious; and
	every hour that is lost in illness or in mental worry is a check to
	their development and a handicap in later life .... Keep sensation
	and excitement out of college so far away as you can. I do not say,
	keep the students away from politics, for thoughtful young minds
	cannot be prevented from turning to questions of burning moment in
	the outer world, but keep politics and controversy in their proper
	place as subjects for the debating society or table talk.... Let me
	hear, I pray you, no more about nights of mourning and days of
	fasting which your religion does not enforce.'

While Turkey was staggering under these blows, it was feared that the
Christian powers might destroy the sanctity of the Holy Places of Islam.
British occupation of Egypt, the Turko-Italian War and the British policy
of neutrality, the Anglo-French agreement with regard to Persia and the
Russian bombardment at Meshad had convinced the Muslims of the Christian
conspiracy against the Islamic states. 


These fears led the Ali Brothers to the formation of the
Anjuman·i-Khuddam-i· Ka'ba (Servants of the Ka'ba Society) in March 1913.
Maulana Abdul Dati of Firanghi Mahal, Lucknow, Mushir Hussain Kidwai and
Dr. M.A. Ansari were the other stalwarts of the Society.

The object of the Society as stated in their own words was 'the preservation
of the sanctity of the sacred places from violation and safe-guarding it from
non-Muslim usurpation.' The Society v,as to take up religions issues only,
and not to deal with politics. The Viceroy was assured of its non-political
character but official encouragement was denied as the government suspected
politics in it. Entering into politics was also in a way inevitable. The Society
although it did not have recourse to direct confrontation with the government,
its members toured the Middle Eastern countries, propagated against the
British and served in the Turkish army. 

The provisional government of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh in Kabul, in
association with Maulvi Obaidullah Sindhi of Deoband, who was having secret
communication with Shaikh-ul-Hind, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Azad, Hasrat Mohani and
many other revolutionaries further alarmed the government for keeping
vigilance on Muslims and their societies.

3 Letter from Harcourt Butler to Du Boulay 25 November 1910

		(following the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909, which
		provided for elections for the Indian seats in the governing
		councils, with about a quarter reserved seats for Muslims,
		which would be voted for by a separate Muslim electorate.
		"There was an element in government policy of building up the
		Muslim League as an ally." F. Robinson, nSeparatism Among
		Indian Muslims) 

But the Mahommedans are also up in arms over the language classifications
in the census.... Never in my experience has Hindu-Mahommedan antagonism
been so intense as it now is in Northern India. People there are beginning
to ask for separate courts of Justice, separate schools etc. for the two
communities;. Most municipal elections turn on tbis question.  The
Mohamedans have got too much, say the Hindus.  All Imam and people down
here, where the Mahommedans are not strong, want conciliation...

The Amir wept when he heard that the Mahommedans had suffered
over the Peshawar riots.  In dealing with this question, or rather with
manifestations of it, we must not forget the frontier.

Source : Hardinge Papers: Correspondence with persons in England and abroad,

from the 1910 census

	[the above letter refers to this census, which considers Urdu to be a
	dialect of Western Hindi] 

Next to Gujarati and its Bhili dialects, Urdu has the largest number of
speakers.  According to philologists, it is not a language, but a dialect of
Western Hindi along with Hindustani, Hindi and Brij, all of which have more
or less speakers in [Baroda/Gujarat]. Hindustani, the principal dialect of
Western Hindi, is not only a local vernacular, but is also spoken over the
whole of the north and west of the Continent of India as a lingua franca or
second language by every one with any claim to education. It was carried
evervwhere in India by the lieutenants of the Mughal Empire, and has received
considerable literary cultivation at the hands of both Musalmans and Hindus.
The former employed the Persian character for recording it and enriched its
vocabulary with a large stock of Persian and Arabic words. This Persianised
form of Hindustani is known as Urdu, a name derived from the Urdu-e-MauUa or
Royal Military bazar outside Delhi Palace where it took its rise.

When employed for poetry, Urdu is called Rekhta (scattered or crumbled) from
the manner in which Persian words are "scattered" through it. During the
first centuries of its existence, Urdu literature was entirely
poetical. Prose Urdu owes its origin to the English occupation of India and
to the need of text books for the college of Fort William. The Hindi form or
Hindustani was invented at the same time by the teachers of that college. It
was intended to be a Hindustani for the use of Hindus, and was derived from
Urdu by ejecting all words of Arabic and Persian birth and substituting in
their place words borrowed or derived from the indigenous Sanskrit. Owing to
the popularity of the first book written in it and to its supplying the need
for a lingua franca, which could be used by the strictest Hindus without
their religious prejudices being offended, it became widely adopted and is
now the recognised vehicle for writing prose by those inhabitants of Upper
India, who do not employ Urdu.  Urdu, as becomes its origin, is usually
written in a modified form of the Persian character, while Hindi is generally
written like Sanskrit in the Devnagari character.

The total Musalman population of the State is 160,887, while the speakers of
Urdu as returned in the Census number only 64,306 or 40 per cent, of the
Musalman population. This shows that 60 per cent, of the Musalmaus in the
State, who are mainly converts from Hinduism,still adhere to Gujarati
even after their conversion centuries ago.

48 1912 Resolution at mass meeting of Hindus and Moslems, Calcutta

	At the meeting held in the federation hall grounds calcutta
	27 October 1912
	report in The Comrade, October 1912

That this meeting, composed of loyal Indian citizens, considers it to be its
impcratlve duty to protest against the continued presence of Russian troops
in Persia and earnestly appeals to His Majesty's Government to save that
cradle of ancient culture and civ1luation (tom falling into the hands of a
semi-civilized and barbaric power like Russia, whose recent atrocities at
Tabriz have sent a thrill of horror throughout Asia, and to remove the
possibility of any eventua1 collision between itself and the Russian

[Based on similar resolutions, e.g. this one passed at a general meeting of
the Mussulmans of Serajgunj:]

	This meeting feels itself called upon to convey to the Government of
	India, through the Government of His Excellency Lord Carmichael, its
	respectful solicitation tbat a change of the attitude hitherto taken
	up by Sir Edward Grey in the matter of Russian intervention in Persia
	and Russmn observance of the spirit of the Anglo-Russian Convention
	be urged on the British Ministry at Home.  It is fervently hoped that
	the demands of the traditional military policy for the defence of
	India and the susceptibilities of the Indian Mussulmans who are
	united by common ties of religion and culture to the Persians, will
	be taken into consideration in inaugurating a firmer Br1tish policy
	in the Middle East,

65 Amended draft constitution of the All-India Moslem League

Section 1. This Association shall be called the "All India Moslem League". 


Section 2. The objects of the league shall be:
(1.1) to maintain and promote among the people of this country feeling
      of loyalty towards the British Crown; ·
(b) to protect and advance the political and other rights and interests of
	the Indian Mussulmans;
(t) to promote friendship and union between the Mussulmans· and otber
	communities or India:
(d) without dctriment to the foregoing objects attainment, under th¢
	aegis of the British Crown, of a system or self-government suitable to
	India, through constitutional means by bringing about, amongst
	others, a steady reform, of the existing system of administration, by
	promoting national unity. by inserting public spirit among the people
	of India and by co-operating with other communities for the said
	purposes.    p.224

Reactions from British officials: 

	The pronouncement by the league is to be regretted but I do not think it
	is too late to bring it back to the fold. · S.A.I.(MAM) 16-2-13. p.225

Point 2(a) - declaration of loyalty - was opposed by Mr. Mazhar-ul-Haque and
the Mr. Jinnah, pointing out why of all the people in India only the
Mussulmans especially should express their loyalty.
	'it was no good' said Mr. Haque, 'to profess their own chastity. They
	were true to their salt and were  born loyalists and there was no
	need of the declaration.' 
Mr. Jinnah also  spoke in support of Mr. Mazhar-ul-Haque.

Report in The Tribune

The most noticeable part of the Resolution adopted by the Council of the
Muslim League at its meeting held in Lucknow on the 31st December 1912 was
that which related to the attainment of Self-Government by the people of
India.  We congratulate the Muslim League on the wisdom it has shown
by inserting this part of the Resolution. This is a step in advance which
will, we are sure, ultimately lead both Hindus and.Musulmans to cooperate
for the attainment of their common ideal.  p.226

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Aug 22