Rethinking Pan-Islam under Colonial Rule in British India: Urdu Press 1911-14

Fatima Aizaz


The study of pan-Islam in the context of British India is largely restricted to the Khilāfat Movement. It overlooks, or peripherally mentions, the process of the creation of a pan-Islamic discourse prior to the Khilāfat Movement, aided by technological advancements across the Muslim world from the late eighteenth century onwards. The onset of the printing press had a significant impact on the creation of this discourse since it informed the spread of Islam across a vast geographical area about the happenings in other Muslim-dominated lands. This paper explores the pan-Islamic discourse in the Urdu press between the years 1911 and 1914 and pays specific attention to three newspapers – Al-Hilāl, Hamdard, and Zamīndār. This discourse redefined the classical definition of pan-Islam, by incorporating into its fold the lived realities of colonial rule. Hence, its aim was twofold – fighting for the cause of the Ottoman Empire, and empowering Indian Muslims. In this sense, it was strongly grounded in the Indian context, while also constantly conversing with the broader political context of the Muslim world in the early twentieth century. I thus argue that this discourse relied upon a rather abstract idea of a Muslim millat, rather than on the existing, and much more concrete idea of ittihād.

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