What was the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the Khilafat movement?

Mahatma Gandhi contributed significantly to both the Khilafat and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was instrumental in propagating the policies and actions of the Non-Cooperation Movement nationwide. Together with other loyalists, he traversed the country in an effort to generate public support and rally the masses in support of the campaign. In India, between 1919 and 1922, both the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation organisations were established to fight British rule. Despite their varied issues, the organisations adopted a unified nonviolent and noncooperative tactic. Congress and the Muslim League merged during this time period. Several political demonstrations were held due to the efforts of both these parties. In this essay, the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement will be addressed, which will be useful for PPSC test preparation.

Table of Contents

  1. Mahatma Gandhi and Khilafat Movement.
  2. What was the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the Khilafat movement?
  3. Khilafat Movement.
  4. The Khilafat and the end of World War I
  5. Significance and Leadership.
  6. The Khilafat and Indian Nationalism..
  7. Gandhi Withdrew the movement.
  8. Conclusion.
  9. Selected Bibliography.


Khilafat Movement

The Khilafat Movement, which took place from 1919 until 1924, was a Pan-Islamic movement with an Indian influence. Ottoman Emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) initiated a Pan-Islamic programme with the intention of utilising his position as the Sultan-Khalifa of the global Muslim community in order to save his crumbling empire from external attacks and crush the nationalistic democratic movement within Ottoman territory.

In the late nineteenth century, an agent sent by Jamaluddin Afghani travelled to India with the intention of spreading Pan-Islamic ideals. Some of the most prominent Muslim leaders in India welcomed him. At the same time, Gandhi was leading his nonviolent nationalist campaign known as satyagraha as a response to government repressions, such as the Rowlatt Act of 1919 and the Jallianwala Bagh Massacres in April 1919.

Gandhi was interested in gaining Muslim support for his movement, so he joined the Central Khilafat Committee and demonstrated his commitment to the Khilafat cause. At the Nagpur Session (1920) of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi linked the problem of Swaraj (Self-Government) with the demands of the Khilafat, and he embraced the non-cooperation strategy in order to attain the two goals simultaneously.

 Khilafat and the end of World War I

During World War I, Indian Muslims aligned with Indian nationalism and led an uprising known as the Khilafat movement, which lasted from 1919 to 1924. Its goal was to put pressure on the British government to uphold the authority of the Ottoman Sultan as the Caliph of Islam in the wake of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after the conclusion of the war. Even though the Turks, who were allies of the Central Powers, had been defeated in the war, it was essential for the Indian Muslims to exert influence over the treaty-making process that followed the war in order to restore the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire as they were in 1914. This was the case despite the fact that the Ottomans had been on the losing side of the conflict. In 1920, Indian individuals who supported the Khilafat movement dispatched a team to London to argue their side of the issue. Despite this, the British government responded to the delegates by dismissing them as “quixotic pan-Islamists,” and it did not alter its approach to dealing with Turkey. As a result, the attempt made by the Indian Muslims to exert their influence on the terms of the Treaty of Sevres was unsuccessful. The major European countries, most notably Great Britain and France, proceeded through with territorial modifications, one of which was the establishment of mandates over formerly Ottoman-controlled Arab regions.

Significance and Leadership

However, the significance of the Khilafat movement resides not so much in the alleged pan-Islamism of the movement, but rather in the influence that it had on the nationalist movement in India. Over the issue of the religious symbol of the Khilafat, the leaders of the Khilafat movement created the first political alliance between western-educated Indian Muslims and ‘ulema (caliphate). This leadership included the ‘Ali brothers, Muhammad Ali (1878-1931) and Shaukat Ali (1873-1938), newspaper editors from Delhi; their spiritual guide Maulana Abdul Bari (1878-1926) of Firangi Mahal, Lucknow; the Calcutta journalist and Islamic scholar Abu’l Kalam Azad (1888-1958); and Maulana Mahmud ul-Hasan (1851-1920), head of the madrasa at Deoband, located in northern India These publicist-politicians and ulema considered European attacks at the authority of the Caliph as an attack upon Islam, and as a result, they saw this as a threat to the religious freedom of Muslims living under British control.

The Khilafat and Indian Nationalism

Anti-British sentiments among Indian Muslims had been growing since before the British declared war against the Ottomans in 1914; nevertheless, the Khilafat issue helped to crystallise those feelings. The leaders of the Khilafat, the majority of whom had been imprisoned throughout the war due to their pro-Turkish inclinations, were already involved in the Indian nationalist movement before the war even began. After being released from prison in 1919, they immediately began advocating for the Khilafat as a method of achieving pan-Indian Muslim political solidarity in the fight against the British. The Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League was the beginning of the Hindu-Muslim cooperation in the nationalist cause that had grown during the war. It culminated in the protest against the Rowlatt anti-Sedition bills in 1919. The Khilafat movement also benefited from this cooperation. The National Congress, which Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) led, advocated nonviolent resistance to British rule by refusing to cooperate with colonial authorities. Gandhi championed the Khilafat struggle because he saw an opportunity to mobilise Muslim support for nationalism in the context of this cause. On the other hand, the ‘Ali brothers and their associates supplied the non-cooperation movement with some of its most fervent members.

Gandhi Withdrew the movement

Why did Gandhi Withdraw from the movement?

Gandhi was of the opinion that people had not learned or comprehended the nonviolent technique to its fullest potential. It’s possible that events like the Chauri-Chauri may inspire excitement and fervour, turning the movement into something more aggressive. A violent movement might be rapidly put down by the colonial authority, which could use violent episodes as a pretext to unleash the armed might of the state against the protestors. This could be accomplished by using violent incidents as an excuse.

In addition to this, the movement was displaying symptoms of wear and tear. This was to be expected given that it is physically impossible to maintain any movement at a high pitch for an extended period of time. It seemed as though the government had no interest in negotiations at all. The subject of the Khilafat, which had been the focal point of the unrest, was rapidly forgotten. In November of 1922, the people of Turkey, led by Mustafa Kamal Pasha, rose up and ousted the Sultan from his position as a political leader. Turkey is now officially recognised as a secular state.

As a direct consequence of this, the Khilafat question became moot. In Turkey, a judicial system in the pattern of Europe was developed, and at the same time, considerable rights were bestowed on women. Education became a public good, and there was a surge of innovation in both agriculture and business. In 1924, the caliphate was finally dismantled.


Given that Gandhiji placed a strong emphasis on employing appropriate means in order to make progress toward appropriate objectives, the Gandhian movement was, at its core, a struggle for ethics and morality. He was never one to take advantage of another person’s frailties. Although Gandhiji has passed away, Gandhian philosophy continues. Even in the modern-day, many still find motivation in the concepts and principles he advocated. Gandhi is most well-known for his doctrine of nonviolence, which has been influential among civil rights advocates all around the world. On the other hand, his legacy is currently being reconsidered in light of modern notions like racial inequality, feminism, and nationalism.
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Selected Bibliography

  1. Bamford, P. C.: Histories of the non-cooperation and Khilafat movements, Delhi 1974: Deep Publications.
  2. Hasan, Mushirul: Nationalism and communal politics in India, 1885-1930, New Delhi 1991: Manohar Publications.
  3. Hasan, Mushirul / Pernau, Margrit (eds.): Regionalizing pan-Islamism. Documents on the Khilafat Movement, New Delhi 2005: Manohar.
  4. Minault, Gail: The Khilafat movement. Religious symbolism and political mobilization in India, New York 1982: Columbia University Press.
  5. Qureshi, M. Naeem: Pan-Islam in British Indian politics. A study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924, Leiden; Boston 1999: Brill.