Khilafat Movement

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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)
  • the non-cooperation had its origin in the Khilafat agitation and not in the Congress movement for Swaraj: that it was started by the Khilafatists to help Turkey and adopted by the Congress only to help the Khilafatists: that Swaraj (Self-Rule) was not its primary object, but its primary object was Khilafat and that Swaraj was added as a secondary object to induce the Hindus to join it’.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • Gandhi .... even advocated that he ‘would gladly ask for postponement of Swaraj activity if thereby we could advance the interest of the Khilafat’.
    • quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • As to regarding the Khilafat as a matter of life and death to the Muslims, events were soon to prove that it was a rhetoric or hyperbole and can hardly be regarded as a serious fact; for in less than five years the Muslims of Turkey usurped the rights of the Caliph to a far greater degree than the British ever did, and not a leaf stirred in the whole Muslim world outside India. Unless, therefore, we are prepared to believe that the Muslims of India were the only true followers of the Prophet or the most genuine champions of the cause of Islam, it is difficult to understand or explain the weight they attached to the Khilafat question, save on the theory that it was a phase of that Pan-Islamic movement to which the Indian Muslims looked forward as the only guarantee against the influence of a Hindu majority with whom faith had linked them in India. ... ‘by his own admission that the Khilafat question was a vital one for Indian Muslims, Gandhi himself admitted in a way that they formed a separate nation; they were in India, but not of India’.
    • R.C. Majumdar quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • 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’.
    • 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.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018. App. 4
  • Bipin Chandra Pal opined that this emergent pan-Islamism that was catching up in India too was ‘the common enemy of Indian nationalism in its truest and broadest sense’.
    • quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • I have no intention of offending anybody’s susceptibilities, but if the existing conditions are properly analyzed, it will be seen that sectarianism and narrow-minded bigotry have been very much strengthened within the last three years. The Khilafat movement has particularly strengthened it among the Mohammedans, and it has not been without its influence and reaction on the Hindus and Sikhs . . . it was unfortunate that the Khilafat movement in India should have taken its stand on a religious, rather than political basis . . . it was still more unfortunate that Mahatma Gandhi and leaders of the Khilafat movement should have brought religion into such a prominence in connection with a movement which was really, and fundamentally, more political than religious. .... ‘Indian Muslims are more pan-Islamic and exclusive than the Muslims of any other country of the globe, and that fact alone makes the creation of a united India more difficult than would otherwise be.’
    • Lala Lajpat Rai quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • Others who opposed the Khilafat movement argued that the mobilized Muslims might invite the Afghans to invade India, in which case the country might be subjugated to Muslim Raj from British Raj. Chittaranjan Das wrote to Lala Lajpat Rai that he did not fear the seven crore Muslims of India, but ‘the seven crores of Hindustan, plus the armed hordes of Afghanistan, Central Asia, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Turkey will be irresistible’ and posed a grave national threat to India.
    • quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)

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