Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877-1924)
by Azmi Özcan
Leiden: Brill, 1997. 226 pp. $90.50.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The Indian romance with the Ottoman Empire has been known from British and Indian sources, but Özcan fleshes out the story—and a fascinating one it is—with information from the Turkish archives. First, he shows that the Indian connection did not begin, as is usually thought, in the 1870s, but goes back to the 1530s, when the Ottomans sent a fleet of two thousand men to Diu, and Indian Muslims expressed a desire for Ottoman suzerainty. By the 1550s, a cultural nexus had also grown up, so that a renowned Turkish architect was building in Agra and Delhi. It then continued; in 1777, for example, the sultan of Malabar sought financial help from Istanbul.
Second, Özcan shows how the Ottoman Empire filled this same role for a variety of other Muslim countries—such as the khanates of Central Asia and distant Atjeh (in today's Indonesia). Interestingly, these states not only asked for Ottoman help (which they sometimes got—twenty battleships to Atjeh to fight the Portuguese in 1556) but also offered their own services (the khan of Bukhara offered the Ottomans help in 1719 against Russia).
With the collapse of Muslim power in India in 1857, a longing developed there for the symbols of Turkish sovereignty, which the British agilely exploited for their own purposes (for example, prevailing on the Ottoman sultan to encourage Indians to accept British rule). Sultan Abdülhamit II (r. 1876-1908) put great stress on his pan-Islamic role, going so far as to assert that "one word" from him "would be enough for starting a jihad against ... the Christians." Of course, when war came in 1914, that "one word" proved not to be enough, and although the Indian Muslims remained attached to their Turkish coreligionists, they did not revolt against British rule. Contrarily, the Indians could do nothing to stop Kemal Atatürk from abolishing the caliphate in 1924, an act that effectively cut the links between Turkey's and India's Muslims.
Related Topics: History, Islam, South Asia, Turkey and Turks | Daniel Pipes | June 1999 MEQ
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