The Future of the Muslim Empire, Turkey: An Indian Muslim’s defense of the preservation of the Ottoman Empire and the caliphate in 1919

Susan Gunasti, Ohio Wesleyan University

The Future of the Muslim Empire, Turkey was a short book published in 1919 by the Central Islamic Society of London that presented an Indian Muslim perspective on the Ottoman Empire and the caliphate to the British public just prior to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book is located in the collections of the Library of Congress. The extent to which the document was circulated is unclear, but a few copies exist and the book was also quickly translated into Ottoman Turkish (Türkiye İslam imparatorluğunun istikbali) in 1919 by the society and distributed gratis.

The document was written by Shaikh Mushir Hosain Kidwai of Gadia, the Honorable Secretary of the Central Islamic Society, London and contains a brief preface by Marmaduke Pickthall, a British Orientalist and Qur’an translator. The pamphlet serves a dual purpose: the main objective is to persuade the Allied powers against the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after the war and the other, more subtle, objective was to address the British Empire with regard to its treatment of its Indian Muslim subjects.

Apart from the preface, the document contains a forward by the author and seven chapters (“Why Turkey joined the Central Powers,” “How the Turks fought,” “The Faults of the Turks,” “The Turks deserve to be given a fair trial,” “Islam and the Turks,” “What are the demands of justice in respect of the Muslim Empire?,” and “England and Turkey”), and several appendices. The general tone of the document is to present the Ottoman Empire as having tried to enter into an alliance with the British Empire prior to the war but was rebuffed, thereby leaving the Ottomans (the Young Turks in particular) no other option but to ally with Germany at the outbreak of war. In battle, Ottoman soldiers proved magnanimous in their behavior and displayed a compassion on the battlefield that no other Allied power ever did. Despite their honorable behavior, the Ottomans were not treated fairly by the Allied powers. The remainder of the document focuses on the post-war plans of the Allied powers for the Ottoman Empire, calls for the preservation of the territorial integrity for the empire, and emphasizes the preservation of the caliphate and the unity of the worldwide Muslim community. The author also highlights what he perceives as the hypocrisy of the Allied Powers in not treating the Ottoman Empire fairly. In addition, the author is writing from a self-conscious perspective of pan-Islamism, and he strongly criticizes Pan-Arabism as being contrary to Islam and presents a qualified endorsement of pan-Turanianism (so long as it is not in conflict with pan-Islamism).

Apart from viewing this book as a source for how the Wilsonian principles were understood by everyday people, this pamphlet also serves as an interesting source on understandings of the caliphate in the early twentieth century. The pamphlet was written from the perspective of an Indian Muslim living in England, which places the author outside of the territories falling under the nominal jurisdiction of the caliphate with its seat in Istanbul. This book is an interesting and accessible primary source that would be useful for students to analyze early modern political trends in the Middle East in undergraduate courses, colonial relations, and how ordinary citizens understood the end of the war.

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