Islam since its dawn has been characterized by a strong desire among its adherents for the "
union of all Muhammadan races" – a feature persistent throughout the centuries despite the vicissitudes of the various nations, e.g. Arabs, Persians, Mongols, Turks, that have from time to time occupied the position of political leadership. This concept of Union like several others of wide usage e.g. democracy, is not capable of easy definition in precise terms.
In the first place, this Union may be of more than one kind; may be the union of hearts, or a federation of states, a government of territories, or a grouping of societies. Nor could there be, for this purpose of Union, a single form of organization or a simple method of achievement. Thus does Pan-Islam become inevitably coloured by the reflection of the age and is always impressed with the personality of the individual or strongly influenced the character of the country dominant during a particular period.
As a result, Pan-Islam has often been equated with the Western version of Jihad – a jihad in the style of Peter the Hermit, a kind of Crusade ruthlessly waged on behalf of the Crescent. Pan-Islam has sometimes been confused with the rival claims of ambitious individuals or aggressive groups using the garb of religion to mask their lust for power. Occasionally it has been wrongly identified with the realpolitik of a designing sovereign assuming the venerated title of Caliph. Pan-Islam has also been frequently exploited skilfully by vested interests making it perform the function of a sedative to keep away reforms that would undermine their privileged position. During crucial periods Pan-Islam has proved a strong stimulant inspiring a cultural renaissance or a catalytic agent promoting a religious reformation. Sometimes Pan-Islam finds its best expression in patterns political and at other times in forms cultural.
Just as Individual Liberty is the highest common factor of the various doctrines of Democracy – whether regarded as a Theory of State or a Way of Life or a Method of Government, Islamic Brotherhood is the innermost core of Pan-Islam whether as expounded by a Jamaluddin Afghani or practiced by a Sultan Abdul Hamid. This feeling of fraternity, acutely felt and assiduously cultivated, always experienced among the True Believers of the Holy Prophet distinguishes in a singular manner Umma Muhammadiyya, – Islamic Society – where there is no barrier of class, colour or country. This brotherhood connoting equality, superseding completely the feudal tribalism of the Past and disowning definitely the aggressive nationalism of the Present, is the pride of Islam. It reaches its highest level during the sacred season of Hajj.
Pan-Islam of Early Ceylon took the form of a very cordial relationship with the Abbasid Caliphate whose heyday, it is significant, was contemporaneous with the zenith of the Sinhalese civilization. With the sack of Baghadad by Hulagu in 1258, the Caliphate was transferred to Cairo and later in 1517 to Istanbul far remote from Ceylon. Meanwhile the Moghul Empire of India had appeared on the scene with its foundation well laid by Babur in 1526. In consequence there was a transference of Ceylon’s Pan-Islamic sentiments to the Padsha at Delhi. But with the ascendancy of the British in India and the exile of the last Moghul Emperor to Rangoon in 1858, where he died in 1862, a new leader became necessary. The proclamation in 1876 of Queen Victoria as the Empress of India, made it clear that he could not come from India, as the country no longer enjoyed the previously unquestionable status of Darul Islam.
  The vacancy thus created was filled by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey (1876-1909). During his period, the Muslim World, submerged in lethargy, faced an Europe energized by the Industrial Revolution. No longer could the West be ignored contemptuously as inferior in culture or deficient in possessions, when the Muslim World was being partitioned among the European Powers. Political aspect therefore began to dominate Pan-Islam, which for all intents and purposes became a militant protest against Western Imperialism. In this, Turkey, by virtue of her traditions and territories, had all the advantages in her favour to assume leadership. This situation was availed of fully, and Pan-Islam was made to serve the ends of the realpolitik of Sultan Abdul Hamid. The frustrations of the Muslim World contributed to the glamour of his capital at Istanbul. Sultan Abdul Hamid revived and reasserted the right of the Sultan as the Sovereign Caliph of Islam, to protect the interests of the Muslims and legislate for them in the religious sphere even of those geographically quite outside his Empire. With increasing supporters among Muslims all over and new methods of propaganda utilized adroitly, he succeeded in obtaining wide recognition as the Defender of the Faith entitled to the spiritual allegiance of the Muslim peoples of the World. His Empire was shown to them as the Bulwark of Islam. His despotism was cleverly obscured by his Pan-Islamism. All these changes had produced their ripples which had reached even so far as Ceylon, mostly via India. They however did not strike the eye on account of the political insignificance and educational backwardness of the local Muslim Community.
The Office of the Ottoman Consul at Colombo attained a status much above its diplomatic standing. The local holder, ipso facto, became one of the chief leaders of the Muslim Community of Ceylon. Every major event of Sultan Abdul Hamid’s reign was followed closely and discussed feelingly in all important gatherings, social and religious. His name was used weekly in mosques during the Friday sermons and thereby was he sentimentally associated with the Four Pious Caliphs. His picture, usually printed in Germany, adorned prominently the house of many a Muslim in nearly all the important towns. A disproportionate amount of space was devoted to the events of the Turkish Empire and incidents connected with her ruler in the pamphlets and periodicals that were in circulation among the Muslims. Wealthy merchants ignorant of the English language purchased books to acquire, through paid interpreters, knowledge of the Sultans and their doings. Infants and institutions were called after the name of the Sultan. Of this Hameedia School at Colombo which has since survived several of its contemporaries, is a good example. It commemorates the Silver Jubilee of the Sultan which was celebrated locally with great eclat in towns and mosques. The fortunes of the Hadjaz Railway were followed with fervour. The few who visited Istanbul were bestowed with the appellation of ‘Effendi’, a title near ‘Haji’ in prestige. Abdullah Quilliam the founder of the Liverpool Mosque Mission was affectionately known as ‘the Sheikul-Islam of Great Britain’ – a title invested by the Sultan who assumed thereby the powers of a Pope. Such was the love and affection of the Ceylon Muslims towards Turkey. Its depth could not however be plumbed as it entailed no suffering or sacrifice on their part. Yet there was no dimunition of loyalty to the Queen Empress; for the Muslims saw no conflict, between their spiritual allegiance to the Sultan and their political obedience to the Queen. This conflict unavoidable in the final analysis was however obscured by two factors. Firstly the Queen as the Sovereign with the largest number of Muslim subjects in her Empire would normally endeavour to follow a policy appreciative of Muslim susceptibilities. Secondly the Balance of Power in Europe inclined the Queen towards the Sultan in her foreign policy particularly in respect of the Czar of Russia. How far therefore this conflict was thus hidden from view is clear from a travel-account of Salar Jung appearing in the ‘Nineteenth Century’ of December 1887.
Salar Jung belonged to the aristocracy of Hyderabad. He shows an unusal measure of pride in his being a British subject. "To all those whose privilege it is to be citizens of the British Empire, the world that thus unfolds itself is very specially interesting. For wherever we go in addition to the attraction of mere sight-seeing, there is also the sense that we are looking upon our own possessions; everywhere our flag is flying on sea and land, thus it is that, while to men of every race and country travel is an easy and an interesting educational process, to the subjects of the Queen it is a greater privilege than to all others. " He hoped that Turkey will again assert its position and afford as of old an effective support to the balance of power in Europe. He was extremely proud to recall that in 1857 at the bidding of their Caliph the Mussalman races give their unstinted support to the British connexion at that supreme moment. He happily reminded his British readers that "in this way the debt which Turkey owed to Great Britain for British support in the Crimea was paid in full". Salar Jung in the circumstances fully hoped that with the help of "the Great White Empress" the Caliph would satisfactorily settle the Christian Question within his Empire and thereby avert any danger from his Western neighbours. Thus was a reconciliation attempted between the Pan-Islam popularized by Turkey and the Imperialism practiced by Great Britain – through an implied formula of Queen Victoria as "The Friend of the Caliph of Three Hundred Million Muslims. "
Instead, during the years preceding the Great World War I (1914-1918) this friendship between Turkey and Great Britain cooled as Istanbul was moving nearer and nearer Berlin. The War itself found the Sultan of Turkey fighting alongside of the German Kaiser against the allies, and encouraging, though not quite successfully, the Indian and other Muslims to rebel against their alien rulers. With the victory of the allied Powers the problems connected with the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire and the protection of the sacred places of Islam in Hedjaz, engaged the serious attention of the Mussalmans of India.
To their sentiments Moulana Mohamed Ali the Leader of the Khilafat Movement gave eloquent expression during the years 1918 to 1924. It was, he stated, the religious obligation of the Muslims to preserve the Khilafat in the person of the Turkish Sultan with adequate temporal power for the defence of their Faith and the maintenance of exclusive Muslim control over the Holy lands of Islam and he stressed that Islam being supernational and not confined inside the Mosque, their interest in a temporal ruler should not sound strange or be considered untimely.
The Muslim of Ceylon showed their sympathy with the Khilafat Movement by holding a mass meeting in Colombo on the 25th of January 1920 and by passing the following resolutions:
  1. "That this Meeting of the Members of the Muslims of Ceylon respectfully but emphatically protests against the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire in any settlement of the Turkish question by the present Peace Conference and further is of opinion that the contemplated dismemberment of the Turkish Empire would vitally affect the position of the Muslims of Ceylon in regard to the question of the Khalifate.
  2. "That His Excellency the Governor be respectfully requested to forward the above Resolution to His Majesty the King Emperor and to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies. "
The visit of Moulana Shaukat Ali to Ceylon to canvass further support and gather more funds was a great success, as evidenced by the "monster" meeting held in Colombo on the 8th of January, 1924.
But as a result of Kemal Ata Turk’s abolition of the Khilafat in 1924 and the failure of all the efforts that were thereafter made by the Muslim World to revive this institution of the Khilafat by transferring its centre or capital away from Istanbul, the Muslims were much frustrated and demoralized. They were therefore gradually reconciling themselves to the view that the Khilafat, as known and practiced by the Turkish Sultans, was not an essential ingredient of Islam and that Islam could undoubtedly survive the disasters that had overtaken the Turkish Empire.

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