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Khilafat Movement

pan-Islamist protest movement in India

The Khilafat movement (1919–24) was a pan-Islamist political protest campaign launched by Muslims of British India led by Shaukat Ali, Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Abul Kalam Azad to restore the caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate, who was considered the leader of Sunni Muslims, as an effective political authority.


  • The movement was started by the Mahomedans. It was taken up by Mr. Gandhi with a tenacity and faith which must have surprised many Mahomedans themselves. There were many people who doubted the ethical basis of the Khilafat movement and tried to dissuade Mr. Gandhi from taking any part in a movement the ethical basis of which was so questionable. But Mr. Gandhi had so completely persuaded himself of the justice of the Khilafat agitation that he refused to yield to their advice. Time and again he argued that the cause was just and it was his duty to join it.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • Early in 1920 the Indian Muslims started a vigorous agitation to bring pressure upon Britain to change her policy towards Turkey. The success of this movement, known as Khilafat movement, was assured by the large measure of sympathy and support which the Muslims received from Gandhi.
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Vol. 3, by Majumdar, R. C.
  • The RSS was not founded as a vehicle of some deep "identitarian" strategy, but as a simple vigilante group protecting Nagpur Hindus against Muslim rioters in the post-Khilafat tension.
    • Koenraad Elst : The Ayodhya Demolition: an Evaluation, in India., & Dasgupta, S. (1995). The Ayodhya reference: The Supreme Court judgement and commentaries.
  • If the Hindus wish to cultivate eternal friendship with Mussalmans, they must perish with them in the attempt to vindicate the honour of Islam.
  • Gandhi felt that the Muslim demand about the Khilafat was just and he was bound to render all possible help to secure the due fulfilment of the pledge that the British Prime Minister had given to the Indian Muslims during the War. In the letter which Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy immediately after the War Conference at Delhi, he particularly stressed the Khilafat question. Henceforth Gandhi missed no opportunity of pressing upon the Government of India the need of a just settlement of the Khilafat question... He even went to the length of placing the Khilafat problem on the same level of political importance as the Home Rule for India.
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Vol. 3, by Majumdar, R. C.
  • In any case, Gandhi must bear the chief share of the blame for the Hindu support to the Khilafat movement, for it was he who led the way and it was his magnetic influence which drew other Hindu leaders towards it. Howsoever Gandhi might justify himself there can be no question that the Pan-Islamic movement, based on the extra- territorial allegiance of the Indian Muslims, cut at the very root of the nascent Indian nationalism.
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Vol. 3, by Majumdar, R. C.
  • To Gandhi, not only was independence of India a minor issue as compared with the principle of non-violence, but it is relate, he was even prepared to postpone Swaraj activity if thereby he could advance the interest of the Khilafat...
    • R.C. Majumdar. History of the Freedom Movement in India: Preface to Volume 3: R.C. Majumdar, Firma K.L Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta. also quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism.
  • There was another prominent fact to which I drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi. Both of us went together one night to the Khilafat Conference at Nagpur. The Ayats (verses) of the Quran recited by the Maulanas on that occasion, contained frequent references to Jihad and killing of the Kaffirs.But when I drew his attention to this phase of the Khilafat movement, Mahatmaji smiled and said, ' They are alluding to the British Bureaucracy '. In reply I said that it was all subversive of the idea of non-violence and when the reversion of feeling came the Mahomedan Maulanas would not refrain from using these verses against the Hindus.
    • Swami Shraddhanand, July 1926, The Liberator. Quoted from B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • Annie Besant characterized Gandhi’s 1920 mass agitation (Non-Cooperation, co-opted into the Khilafat Movement) as ‘a channel of hatred’.
    • Annie Besant. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • It has been one of the many injuries inflicted on India by the encouragement of the Khilafat crusade, that the inner Muslim feeling of hatred against “unbelievers” has sprung up, naked and unashamed (…) We have seen revived, as guide in practical politics, the old Muslim religion of the sword (…) In thinking of an independent India, the menace of Mohammedan rule has to be considered.
    • Annie Besant, Quoted in B.R. Ambedkar: Pakistan, pp. 274–275, from A. Besant: The Future of Indian Politics, pp. 301–305. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • The Khilafat Movement was a tragicomical mistake, aiming at the restoration of the Ottoman Caliphate against which the Arabs had risen in revolt and which the Turks were dissolving, a process completed with the final abolition of the institution of the Caliphate in 1924. It was a purely retrograde and reactionary movement, and more importantly for Indian nationalism, it was an intrinsically anti-nationalist movement pitting, specifically, Islamic interests against secular and non-Muslim interests. Gandhi made the mistake of hubris by thinking he could reconcile Khilafatism and Indian nationalism, and he also offended his Muslim allies (who didn’t share his commitment to non-violence) by calling off the agitation when it turned violent. The result was even more violence, with massive Hindu-Muslim riots replacing the limited instances of anti-British attacks, just as many level-headed freedom fighters had predicted. Gandhiji failed to take the Khilafat Movement seriously whether at the level of principle or of practical politics, and substituted his own imagined and idealized reading of the Khilafat doctrine for reality.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018. App. 4

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