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The Indian Khilafat Delegation at the Woking Mosque, 1920
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The Indian Khilafat Delegation
at the Woking Mosque, 1920

Following the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman empire in the First World War, the Khilafat Movement was launched in India in 1919 to campaign for the continuity of the Turkish Khilafat and of its rule over the Arabian peninsula containing the sacred places of Islam. Its most famous leader and spokesman was Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar (1878–1931).

In 1920 a Khilafat delegation led by Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar came to England to present their case to the British government and people. During the delegation’s stay, their visits to the Woking Mosque were reported in The Islamic Review.

Meeting at Mosque

The report of the delegation’s visit to the Mosque in March 1920 appears under the heading Indian Delegation at the Mosque as follows:

The three members of the Indian Khilafat Delegation paid a visit to the Woking Mosque on Sunday, 21st March, 1920. They drew a large gathering of British and Indian Muslims and non-Muslim English men and women. The Mosque being unable to hold the congregation, the meeting was held on the lawn on the premises of the Mosque. It was presided over by an English Muslim, Prof. H. M. Leon, Ph.D., LL.D.

Mr. Muhammad Ali made a strong and convincing speech to the effect that it was not fair to ignore the rights of his Majesty’s Muslim subjects, whose number is greater than those of the Christians in the Empire. They are all devoted to the Caliph of Constantinople, and they all urge that the temporal power of the Caliph should not be reduced, nor should the Turkish Empire be broken into bits. Mr. Muhammad Ali was followed by Mr. Sayyid Husain, who made an eloquent and polished speech. He said that liberty of conscience should be granted to the people, and it should be maintained. The conscience of Indian Muslims should be respected, and a line should not be drawn across it by the English government. 

The Islamic Review, April 1920, p. 139

Film clip

There is a brief newsreel film clip of this meeting made by the British Pathe newsreel company available at this link on YouTube. The title of the clip is The Problem of Turkey. The opening scene shows Mohammad Ali Jauhar making a speech, and behind him seated is Prof. H. M. Leon (considered to be the same person as Abdullah Quilliam of Liverpool). Later on, when people are filing out of the Mosque, Maulana Sadr-ud-Din, the Lahore Ahmadiyya missionary and later the second Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, can be seen. See also this link on our Quilliam page.

Lloyd George and the Indian Khilafat Delegation

Over the page in the same issue of The Islamic Review, there is an item about a meeting of the Delegation with the British Prime Minister Lloyd George. It is reported:

The Indian Khilafat Delegation waited on the Premier on the 19th March, 1920, to present the demands for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Khilafat made by the 72 millions of His Majesty’s Indian Muslim subjects with the entire sympathy and support of their more than 200 million Hindu compatriots. The delegation consisted of Mr. Muhammad Ali, the editor of the late Comrade, Maulvi Sulaiman Nadvi, Mr. Sayyid Husain.

The case of the delegation was very simple and clear. They approached the question of the future of the Turkish Empire not as a Turkish or an Arab question, but as a Muslim question, a question that vitally affected the clearest and some of the most essential injunctions of their faith. They took their stand on their religion and referred to texts in the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet in support of their threefold demand for the preservation of the temporal power of the Khalifa, adequate for the defence of the Faith, which involved the restoration of the status quo ante bellum, the Khalifa’s wardenship of the Holy Places of Islam, and the Exclusive Muslim Control of the ‘Island of Arabia’ as delimited by Muslim scholars. But the reply of the Premier was simply disappointing. He made a passing reference to ‘Mahomedans, sincere, earnest, zealous Mussulmans, who take a very different view of the temporal power (of the Khalifa) from the one which is taken by Mr. Muhammad Ali. …’

The Premier took a tangential view of the question, and based his entire case on the application of the principle of self-determination which involves the dismemberment of Turkey. He repudiated the idea of treating Turkey severely because she was Mahomedan. He does ‘not want any Mahomedan in India to imagine that we entered into this war against Turkey as a crusade against Islam.’ 

The Islamic Review, April 1920, p. 140–141

Indian Khilafat Delegation attends Id-ul-Fitr at Woking

The Delegation attended Id-ul-Fitr at the Woking Mosque on Thursday, 17th June 1920. A report of the function in The Islamic Review states:

There were, roughly speaking, about three hundred people of various nationalities, including the press representatives and photographers, who came to take down the proceedings and photos of the festival for the various periodicals. There were Indian Muslims in turbans of different colours, there were Muslims from Egypt and Arabia in red turbouches, there were Muslims from the heart of Africa in long-flowing robes, and above all, there were British Muslims in their English dresses. … The most important guests were: the Hon. Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, member of India Council; Mr. Mohammad Ali, Head of the Indian Khilafat Delegation, with his colleagues; the Paramount Chief of Lagos (Africa), with his devoted son who held the gorgeous umbrella over his father’s head; Nawab Sarwar Ali Khan, Chief of Kurwai, with his nephew Faiz Mohammad Khan, Chief of Maler Kotla; Dr. H. M. Leon, M.A., Ph.D.; Mr. Marmaduke Pickthall; Mr. Habib-Ullah Lovegrove; Mr. Abdul Karim Lofts, Magnetic Healer; Dr. Charles Garnett, M.A., D.D.; and other British Muslim brothers and sisters. 

The Islamic Review, June–July 1920, p. 224–225

After the prayers and the khutba, delivered by the Imam Maulvi Mustapha Khan, and the conclusion of the religious ceremony, there was a short speech by Mohammad Ali Jauhar:

Mr. Mohammad Ali of the Khilafat Delegation then delivered a short informal address in keeping with the subject of the sermon. The feelings of Muslim brotherhood, he said, were deeply ingrained in our nature. A Muslim cannot but feel for and sympathize with his Muslim brother whether they be coming from the ends of the earth. A message of prayer and devotion was then decided upon to be sent to the Sultan of Turkey as Khalifa of Islam, and a telegram to be sent to the King-Emperor praying His Majesty that in the revised treaty of Turkey no dismemberment of Turkish Empire and Jazirat-ul-Arab may be allowed. 

Ibid., p. 226

Indian Khilafat Delegation attends Id-ul-Adha at Woking

The report of the following Id-ul-Adha, celebrated on Tuesday 24th August 1920, also mentions that:

“The members of the Khilafat delegation from India, the Chief of Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa, with his staff, Prince Sarwar Ali Khan of Kurwai, with his cousin, were also among the visitors.”

The Islamic Review, August–September 1920, p. 286

The report quotes coverage from the general British press on this festival. At the close of one such item, quoted from the Liverpool Courier, it is stated:

“Mohammad Ali, the head of the Khilafat Commission, was also present, just back from his tour through France, Switzerland, and Italy. He is now returning direct to India, as he was unable to obtain a boat to enable him to accept the American invitation in the time at his disposal.
Liverpool Courier, 25th Aug. ”

Ibid., p. 288

Historical footnote: The Ottoman Khilafat was abolished in March 1924 by Kemal Ataturk through a declaration of the Grand National Assembly, meeting at Ankara (known then as Angora). Thus the Indian Khilafat Movement came to an unsuccessful end.

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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.