Expressions of loyalty to British rule
1. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (died 1898)
- He wrote as follows about the British government:
"Muslims were living in peace under their government.
In no way could they undertake jihad against the
(Asbab Baghawat-i Hind, i.e. `Causes of the Indian Mutiny',
- Regarding the famous Aligarh Muslim college (founded by Sir Syed)
and those who were associated with it, it is noted in a history research
"The British found Aligarh men
easy to deal with. They granted the school substantial patronage
for secular instruction and served as visitors, chief guests, patrons,
and --- most importantly --- faculty members. Lord Lytton himself
laid the foundation stone of the college in 1877, and guests of
such stature were frequent at the school. They tended to see the
school as the mark of the end of Muslim opposition to their rule,
the end of obscurantism"
(Islamic Revival in British India, by Dr Barbara Daly
Metcalf, p. 328)
- It is also written in the same book about Sir Syed:
"Gradually he became convinced that British rule
was long to stay, and that those Muslims aligned
with it would be both true to their religion and prosperous.
He had to convince his fellow Muslims of the truth of this position
the British he had to show that the Muslims were both loyal and
important to the stability of their rule... His efforts --- if not
his religious thought --- were to be welcomed by many Muslims of
his day." (p. 319)
2. Maulavi Chiragh Ali
Commenting on Maulavi Chiragh Ali's famous English work entitled Jihad,
the Pakistani historian S. M. Ikram writes in his book about the history
of Islam in India as follows:
"In the book Jihad, Maulavi Chiragh Ali has proved
that all the wars of the Holy Prophet were defensive, and jihad is only
permitted in self-defence. Today many Muslims do not agree with this
view. However, when expressing opinion on this book, we must firstly
bear in mind the solid, scholarly and religious arguments upon which
he based his claim, and secondly we must survey the circumstances of
the times when this book was written. ... Thousands of Muslims were
losing their lives due to being under the influence of the commonly-prevalent
concept of jihad. As a result, on the one hand many sincere men were
following a path which was entirely to their loss, and on the other
hand the [British] government was becoming aliented with the Muslims.
By writing this book, the Maulavi sahib showed a way
which was in the Muslims' interests. Those who disagree with
his views should remember that according to Islamic teachings the mutual
differences of the Ulama, based on sincerely-held views, are
a source of mercy."
(Mauj-i Kausar, published 1962, p. 167)
3. Deputy Nazir Ahmad (died 1912)
He was a famous religious scholar, social reformer, and a pioneer of Urdu
literature whose novels are today a basic part of the educational curriculum.
- Regarding his views, it is recorded:
"In that age of great tribulations, among
the persons who interpreted jihad as abrogated and who declared
the British to be the `holders of authority' in terms of the Quranic
verse `Obey God and obey the Messenger and the holders of authority
from among you', is included the name of the famous writer Deputy
Nazir Ahmad. ... In his translation of the Quran he was the first
to proclaim the British to be `holders of authority', and obedience
to them to be implicit in the obedience of God and the Messenger.
... See Dastan-i Tarikh in Urdu by Hamid Hasan Qadiri, page
(Book Ata-ullah Shah Bukhari by the well-known journalist
Shorash Kashmiri, p. 135)
- It is said about him in a history research work:
"He mocked those who aped British dress and manners.
Still he enthusiastically embraced British rule,
writing at length during the 1870s to deny the legitimacy of jihad."
(Islamic Revival in British India, by Dr Barbara Daly
Metcalf, p. 332)
4. Maulavi Sayyid Nazir Husain of Delhi (died 1902)
He was the top-most theologian of the Ahl-i Hadith sect.
- In a fatwa, he wrote about India under British rule as follows:
"Since the criterion of jihad is absent from this
land, to conduct jihad here would be a means of destruction and
a sin." (Fatawa Naziriyya, vol. iv, p. 472)
- It is recorded in a journal of his Ahl-i Hadith sect, Isha`at
as-Sunna edited by Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, that when
Maulavi Nazir Husain went to Makka for the Pilgrimage, he took with
him a letter of introduction from the British commissioner of Delhi.
The journal reproduced this letter in order to refute allegations
against the Ahl-i Hadith of disloyalty to the British government.
It is given below, as printed in English in the original journal:
"Maulavi Nazir Husain is a leading
Maulavi in Delhi who in difficult times has proved his loyalty to
the British government and in his pilgrimage to Mecca I hope
any British Officer whose help or protection he may need will afford
it to him as he most fully deserves it.
(Signed) J.D. Tremlett, B.C.S.
Commissioner and Supdt. Delhi Division
August 10th 1883."
(Isha`at as-Sunna, vol. vi, no. 10, October 1883, p.
5. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan of Bhopal
He was an eminent Ahl-i Hadith religious scholar as well as political
leader, who died around the time that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad came to
public prominence. He wrote a famous book entitled Tarjuman-i Wahhabiyyat
on the subject of Muslim loyalty to British rule of India.
- Regarding his contribution to this subject, Dr. Barbara Daly Metcalf
writes in her research work:
"After the Mutiny [of 1857]
some among the
British still feared that Muslims would once again resort to open
warfare, as they had done in the 1830s. Those who did saw the Ahl-i
Hadith as the heirs of the jihad tradition and singled out Nawab
Siddiq Hasan Khan as its exponent
But far from fomenting jihad,
he had written Tarjuman-i Wahhabiyyat to prove that the Ahl-i
Hadith were loyal. He quoted Lord Northbrook's
testimonial to Muslim loyalty. He pointed out that Bhopal had aided
the British in the war in Egypt. He cited, as did all the
writers on this subject, the obligation of Muslims to accept a ruler
who had provided security and with whom one had made an agreement."
(Islamic Revival in British India, p 279)
- Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan himself wrote in this book Tarjuman-i
Wahhabiyyat as follows:
- "This book has been written to inform
the British government that no Muslim subject of India and the
Indian states bears malice towards this great power."
(Edition published in Lahore, 1895, page 4)
- "Be concerned about those people who are ignorant of their
religious teachings, in that they wish to efface the British government,
and to end the current peace and tranquility by disorder under
the name of jihad. This is sheer stupidity and foolishness."
- "During the mutiny [of 1857], some rajas and so-called
nawabs and men of means interfered in the peace and calm of India
under the name of jihad, and they fanned the flames of battle
till their disorder and hostility reached such a level that women
and children, who cannot be killed under any law, were thoughtlessly
If anyone lets loose such mischief today, he
would also be the same kind of trouble-maker, and from beginning
to end he would stain the name of Islam."
- Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan then mentions how another Ahl-i Hadith leader,
Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, obtained fatwas from a large
number of Muslim religious leaders all over India affirming loyalty
to British rule:
"In 1875, Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi
the reply that jihad and religious war against
the British government of India, against the authority which has
granted religious freedom, is forbidden by and contrary to the law
of Islam, and those people who take up weapons against the
British government of India, or against any sovereign who has granted
religious freedom, and wish to conduct religious jihad, are all
rebels and deservant of punishment. Then Maulavi Muhammad Husain,
in support of his claim and reply, sent his ruling to all the Ulama
of Punjab and other parts of India, and well-publicised it. He
obtained the seals and signatures of approval of all the Ulama of
Punjab and India in support of the ruling that the taking up of
arms by Indian Muslims, and jihad against the British government
of India, was opposed to the Sunna and the faith of the believers
in One God."
(Tarjuman-i Wahhabiyyat, page 61)
This same Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, some years later, opposed
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and had him denounced as a heretic due
to his claim of being the Promised Messiah. So we see that even
the most bitter opponents of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad among the
Muslim Ulama, such as Maulavi Muhammad Husain Batalvi, held
exactly the same position as he did on the question of the Muslim
attitude to British rule of India.
6. Deobandi leaders and theologians
The Deoband religious school, founded in 1867, represents a very different
sectarian tendency within Sunni Islam from the Ahl-i Hadith referred to
above (muqallid as opposed to ghair muqallid). The founders
and early leaders of this movement too renounced jihad against British
rule of India, and displayed loyalty to the government.
- Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, a very famous Deoband theologian, wrote:
"As I have in fact been obedient to the government,
the false accusation [of disloyalty] could not do me the slightest
harm. But even if I were to be executed, the government is the master
and can do what it likes."
(Tazkira Rashidiyya, by Muhammad Ashiq Ilahi, vol. i,
p. 80. See weekly Al-I`tisam, 2 October 1970, p. 7)
- In her book Islamic Revival in British India, 1860-1900 (Princeton
University Press, Princeton, 1982), Dr Barbara Daly Metcalf writes
as follows about Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and the Deobandis:
"The Deobandis made sure that they
conformed in every way to a posture of loyalty. Rashid Ahmad,
for this reason, refused to accept a grant of 5000 Rupees a year
from the Shah of Afghanistan for fear that a political link might
be suspected. And the school celebrated ceremonial occasions like
coronations with appropriate pomp, and observed times of crises,
like Queen Victoria's last illness, with fitting prayers and messages."
- Regarding Maulavi Sami-ullah Khan, a student and associate of Maulavi
Mamluk Ali, it is written:
"On 16 September 1884 Maulavi Sami-ullah Khan went
on a political mission to Egypt to strenghten British interests
in that country, and there he did harm to Jamal-ud-Din Afghani's
Pan-Islamic movement. In recognition of his services, he received
the title C.M.G."
(The book Maulana Muhammad Ahsan Nanotavi by Muhammad
Ayub Qadiri, p. 184. See weekly Al-I`tisam, 2 October 1970,
7. Anjuman Himayat-i Islam
This was a famous Muslim association of Lahore, founded in 1885, which
represented a cross-section of Muslim opinion. It announced in an official
"In return for the bounties of the government, it
is our duty to remain loyal subjects of the government forever. The
Muslims have a double advantage in this. They fulfil their obligations
as subjects, and they have Divine reward for it as well because
God has taught us in the Quran: `Obey God and the holders of authority
from among you'. May God long preserve such a government over us, in
whose shade we had so much rest, and may He always keep us obedient
(Published report of the Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, 1903)