Turkey’s independence was officially recognised with the implementation of the Lausanne Treaty signed the year before on 24 July 1923. Britain and its allies withdrew all their troops that had occupied Turkey since the end of the First World War. In response to this, protests were made in the House of Commons to the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, for recognising Turkey’s independence. Lord Curzon replied, “The situation now is that Turkey is dead and will never rise again, because we have destroyed its moral strength, the Caliphate and Islam.”
As admitted by Lord Curzon, Britain along with France played a pivotal role in destroying the Khilafah and carving up the Muslim lands between them. Their plans against the Khilafah were not just a reaction to the Khilafah siding with Germany in World War I. These plans were set in motion hundreds of years ago finally coming to fruition when the Uthmani Khilafah began to rapidly decline in the mid eighteenth century.
The first attempt at destroying the unity of Islam came in the 11th century when Pope Urban II launched the first crusade to occupy Al-Quds. After 200 years of occupation the crusaders were finally defeated at the hands of Salahudeen Ayyubi. In the 15th century Constantinople was conquered and the last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire defeated. Then in the 16th century the Islamic State swept across southern and eastern Europe carrying Islam to its peoples. Consequently millions of people in Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and other countries embraced Islam. After the siege of Vienna in 1529 Europe formed alliances to stop the Khilafah’s expansion in to Europe. It was at this point the crusaders animosity towards Islam and the Khilafah was revived and plans were hatched to deal with this “Oriental Problem” as it became known.
Count Henri Decastri, a French author wrote in his book entitled ‘Islam’ in 1896:
“I cannot imagine what the Muslims would say if they heard the tales of the mediaeval ages and understood what the Christian orators used to say in their hymns; all our hymns even those which emerged before the 12th century emanated from one concept which was the cause of the crusades, these hymns were filled with hatred towards the Muslims due to the total ignorance of their religion. As a result of those hymns and songs, hatred against that religion became fixed in people’s minds, and the erroneous ideas deeply rooted, some of which are still carried nowadays. Everyone used to regard the Muslims as polytheists, disbelievers, idol worshippers and apostates.”
After their defeat the crusaders realised that the cause of Muslims strength and resolve was the Islamic Aqeeda. As long as Muslims were strongly attached to Islam and the Qur’an the Khilafah could never be destroyed. This is why at the end of the 16th century they established the first missionary centre in Malta and made it their headquarters for launching a missionary onslaught against the Muslim world. This was the beginning of western culture entering the Muslim world by British, French and American missionaries.
These missionaries worked under the guise of educational and scientific institutions. Initially their effect on the Muslims was minimal. But during the 18th and 19th centuries when decline had set in to the Khilafah the missionaries managed to exploit weaknesses in the state and spread corrupted concepts to the people. In the 19th century Beirut became the centre for missionary activity. During this time the missionaries exploited civil strife between Christians and Druze and later Christians and Muslims, with Britain siding with the Druze and France siding with the Christian Maronites.
The missionaries had two main objectives during this time.
1. To separate the Arabs from the Uthmani state
2. To alienate the Muslims from the bond of Islam
In 1875 the “Secret Association” was formed in Beirut in an attempt to encourage Arab nationalism among the people. Through declarations and leaflets it called for the political independence of the Arabs, especially those in Syria and Lebanon. Those in charge repeatedly accused Turkey in their literature of snatching the Islamic Khilafah from the Arabs, violating the Islamic Shari’ah, and abusing the Deen.
These seeds of Arab nationalism came to fruition in 1916 when Britain ordered its agent Sharif Hussein of Mecca to launch the Arab Revolt against the Uthmani Khilafah. This revolt was successful in dividing the Arab lands from the Khilafah and placing them under British and French mandates.
At the same time nationalism was being incited among the Turks. The Young Turks movement was established in 1889 on the basis of Turkish nationalism and achieved power in 1908 after ousting Khaleefah Abdul-Hamid II. The traitor Mustafa Kemal who went on to abolish the Khilafah was a member of the Young Turks. This is why Mustafa Kemal later said: “Was it not because of the Khilafah, Islam and the clergy that the Turkish peasants fought and died for five centuries? It is high time Turkey looked after her own interests and ignored the Indians and the Arabs. Turkey should rid itself of leading the Muslims.”
Alongside the missionary activities Britain and France along with Russia began to directly colonise many parts of the Muslim world. This started during the mid eighteenth century when in 1768 Catherine II of Russia fought the Khilafah and successfully occupied the lands of Southern Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, and Crimea which became incorporated in to the Russian Empire. France attacked Egypt and Britain began its occupation of India. In the 19th century France occupied North Africa and Britain occupied Egypt, Sudan and India. Gradually, the lands of the Khilafah were receding until the end of the 1st world war when all that was left was Turkey, which was occupied by allied troops under the command of a British general named Charles Harrington.
The division of the lands of the Khilafah was a deliberate agreement hatched by Britain and France in 1916 in the secret agreement known as Sykes-Picot. This plan was negotiated between French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British diplomatic advisor Mark Sykes. Under the agreement Britain was allocated control of Jordan, Iraq and a small area around Haifa. France was allocated control of South-eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The controlling powers were left free to decide on state boundaries within these areas. The Middle Eastern map today is the legacy of Sykes-Picot with the borders matching Mr Sykes and Mr Picot’s lines drawn using a ruler over the former lands of the Khilafah.
In the years preceeding the destruction of the Khilafah, Britain played the most important role through nurturing its agent Mustafa Kemal. Through a number of political maneuvers aided by Britain, Mustafa Kemal was able to establish himself as an authority within Turkey. In 1922, the Lausanne conference was organised by the British foreign Secretary Lord Curzon to discuss Turkey’s independence. Turkey at that time was under the occupation of the allied forces with the institution of the Khilafah existing in all but name. During this conference Lord Curzon stipulated four conditions prior to recognising the independence of Turkey. These conditions were:
1. The total abolishment of the Khilafah
2. The expulsion of the Khalifah beyond the borders
3. The confiscation of its assets
4. Declaration that Turkey become a secular state
The success of the conference rested on the fulfilment of these four conditions. However, even with such foreign pressure many Muslims within Turkey still cherished the idea of Khilafah, which had served Islam so well for so many centuries and found it inconceivable that it could ever be abolished. Hence, Lord Curzon failed to secure these conditions and the conference wound up in failure. Yet, the cunning Lord Curzon on behalf of Britain did not give up. On the 3rd March 1924 Mustafa Kemal using force and terrorising his political opponents managed to push through the Abolition bill that would see the institution of Khilafah officially abolished.
For the colonialists powers destroying the Khilafah was not enough. They wanted to ensure that the Khilafah could never arise again among the Muslims.
Lord Curzon said, “We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. As we have already succeeded in finishing off the Caliphate, so we must ensure that there will never arise again unity for the Muslims, whether it be intellectual or cultural unity.”
Therefore, they placed a number of obstacles in the path of re-establishing the Khilafah such as:
1. The introduction of the non-Islamic concepts in the Islamic world such as patriotism, nationalism, socialism and secularism and the colonialists encouragement of political movements based on these ideas
2. The presence of educational curriculum set up by the colonial powers, which have remained in tact for 80 years, that made the majority of the graduated young people and those in the educational institutions proceed in a direction contradictory to Islam
3. The economic strangulation of the Muslim world by western governments and companies such that the people live in abject poverty and are forced to focus solely upon feeding themselves and their families whilst turning away from the true role of the colonialists
4. The deliberate legacy of dividing the Muslim world around contentious borders and territories such that Muslims would permanently be engaged in petty issues
5. The creation of organisations such as the Arab League and later the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC) that diluted the bonds of Islam, continued the disunity of the Muslim world whilst failing miserably to solve any problem or issue
6. The imposition of a foreign state, Israel, into the heart of the Muslim world that would spearhead the western powers assault upon defenceless Muslims while perpetuating the myth of Muslim inferiority
7. The presence in the Muslim countries of tyrant rulers whose allegiance is to their western masters; whom oppress and torture the Ummah; they are not from the Ummah and hate the Ummah just as much as the Ummah hates them
Despite these obstacles and the plots and plans of the colonialists the re-establishment of the Khilafah is once again a reality for the Muslim world. We must take this opportunity on the anniversary of the destruction of the Khilafah to reflect on the current situation of the Muslims and ensure that only by working to bring back the Khilafah can we truly achieve success in this life and the next.