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Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s letter to All-India Muslim League meeting, 1913

Warns of severe misconceptions about Islam in the West

Western powers desire to efface Muslims from the earth

“Our sole remedy lies in dispelling the cloud of ignorance which enshrouds Europe and prevents her from appreciating Islam at its true value”

From The Review of Religions, May 1913

In the May 1913 issue of The Review of Religions (pages 210–219), under the title The Message of the Khwaja, there appears a letter addressed by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din from London to the meeting of the All-India Muslim League in Lucknow, and it is preceded by an introduction by him about the reasons for writing the letter.

The Introduction and the letter are as follows. Brief explanatory footnotes have been added at various points by the Website Editor, linked within the article in following form: {note 1}.


I give below my letter which I addressed to the members of the All-India Muslim League.{note 1} It will give you an inkling into the circumstances which have induced me to venture on my present attempt. I need not again emphasise the necessity and justification of my starting the Muslim India. {note 2} We need an organ here to safeguard our interests and enlighten the ruling nation on our needs and aspirations. Islam never taught us to be discontented with a rule over us because it was non-Islamic. It would be against the injunction of the Quran and the Holy Prophet even to think of shaking the stability of the Government. But there are certain mutual rights and obligations existing between the rulers and the ruled, and we are taught to observe and have them observed. We are bound by our religion to pay taxes and to fight against the enemies of the Crown. We should give support to its strength. Sedition and anarchical movements are Harám, and strictly prohibited in Islam; and our past conduct in the days of “the unrest” in India has proved to the hilt that we are true Muslims in this respect.{note 3} But we are also entitled, under the sacred traditions of our Prophet, to submit our needs and complaints to our rulers, to ask them to correct their wrong steps, and to have our rights, aspirations and susceptibilities respected by the Government. I believe in the high sense of justice of the English nation and their willingness to meet our just demands.

As to the dissemination of Islam in the Western lands, we have hardly made any attempt worthy the name in this direction as yet. The trend of the modern philosophy, ethics and socialism is towards Islam, and we are only missing a favourable opportunity if we sit inactive.

That I am up to the arduous task before me will be nothing short of presumption, if I say so; but encouragement, co-operation and sympathetic help can facilitate one’s way to achieve the object aimed at.

I am highly indebted to such friends of mine, whose circle at present is very narrow, but who have kindly encouraged me on my writing to them to run the paper at least for one year. They have enabled me to give to it, within certain limits, a free circulation among the clergy and the laity here. But it is a drop in the ocean. Besides the members of Parliament and the Church, whose number exceeds one thousand, there are numberless clubs and libraries here. And there are very many other quarters where the circulation of Muslim India is desirable.

I also intend to circulate, especially the religious portion of the journal — which will be published also in a separate edition in future — in the rest of the continent, as well as in America and Africa.

As to the present space of the journal, I think it hardly sufficient to meet the need. Besides, a month is of long duration, and forty pages are practically nothing to plead an important cause like ours. For the present I should like to see a bi-monthly edition of forty pages each, if I could.

This is a big work, and requires gigantic calibre and great resources to meet it. But perseverance, honest labour, good health, and, above all, the grace and blessings of God, are the chief treasures which I pray Him to confer on His humble servant. In conclusion, I call upon my dear brethren in Islam to co-operate with me, and to join with me in praying the Almighty and invoking Him to help us in our cause, and grant us means to establish His glory and the glory of Islam in the world. Mountains of obstacles can be removed, and seeming impossibilities become actualities, when He is pleased to bless His servants with His grace.

Your brother in Islam,
KHWAJA KAMAL-UD-DIN,
Editor the Muslim India & Islamic Review.
112a Kew Road, Richmond, London.


From —

The Editor the “Muslim India and Islamic Review” (London),

To the Members of the All-India Muslim League (Lucknow.)

DEAR BRETHREN IN ISLAM,—

Assalamu-alekum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu.

I left India some months ago, and my departure from home excited unnecessary surmises as to the object of my visit to English shores. It was not to better my worldly condition that I made this journey: the spread of Islam and its preaching have been an ideal of my life. It made me restless while in India, and was chiefly responsible for my journey to this side of the world. I came here with the object of finding the best methods of preaching Islam and disseminating Muslim literature in the West. But my sojourn here has brought me a revelation of things before unknown, as I presume they will be to most of you in India. You are assembled to devise means to ameliorate your condition and to improve your future prospects, and I think I would miss a great opportunity if I failed to invite your thoughtful deliberation upon what I have learnt since my arrival in London.

It is not merely a gradual dismemberment of the Moslem Kingdoms leading up to their total extinction that has been engineered, but the very existence of the Muslim community is threatened. The fate of the Moors in Spain awaits us everywhere, and our annihilation is only a question of time.

Unfortunately we have been an obstacle and hindrance in the way of European self-assertiveness, and have also constantly rebuffed Christianity, and it need therefore be no matter for surprise if our existence is considered undesirable in certain diplomatic and ecclesiastical quarters; but now it is ostensibly on humanitarian grounds that the peoples of the West desire to see us “finished” as soon as possible.

Brethren! you need not be startled at this occidental attitude towards you. It is not difficult to find its causes. If the conception of Islamism and the Muslim, prevalent in Europe, were correct and based upon valid data, I should see no reason why every fair-minded person having the least interest in humanity should not come forward to help Europe in her task of effacing Islam from the face of the earth. But if the situation has arisen through deliberate misrepresentation, and is a creation of gross calumny, the people here are not to be blamed for it, nor would it serve any purpose to bring our malicious detractors to task. Our sole remedy lies in dispelling the cloud of ignorance which enshrouds Europe and prevents her from appreciating Islam at its true value.

It is not only our institutions of polygamy, slavery, Jiziah and Jehad which under misinterpretation arouse ignorant disgust and unmerited resentment, but everything of Islam is now under the ban, and judged as past reclamation. Our theology and our ethics, our polity and our economics, our social and domestic conditions, all savour of barbarity. Our conception of God is an insult to the Deity, and our view of man an outrage to humanity. We have no faith in female virtue, and do not believe in chivalry on the part of man; jealousy has gripped us, and we have deprived mankind of that harmless pleasure which accrues only from free inter-mixture of men and women in balls and masquerades. We are dead to sublimity and blind to beauty, and will not allow others to appreciate the personal charms possessed by our female folks, which were meant by nature to contribute to universal happiness. We have secluded our better-halves, and stunted everything good and noble in them. Our ethics are a confused mass of conflicting principles, and an unharmonious hotch-potch of puritanism and sensuality. Islam, it is said, appeals to the animal nature and leaves no opportunity for the play of the tender passions. It excites fanaticism, and kills reason and common-sense. The Muslim, therefore, can make a conquest and retain its fruits by the sword, but he is absolutely incapable of giving good rule to the conquered races. In a word, ignorance and narrow-mindedness, ferociousness and brutality, sensuality and inadaptability, and many other abominable ‘tys’ have been heaped on our heads, and in ecclesiastical coverings of grace and diplomatic insinuations are declared to be our chief qualifications. It is asserted that Islam has had its day. It did service to humanity in reclaiming races bordering on barbarity; it may still pave the way for Western civilisation and religion in certain parts as, for instance, in Central Africa, but in the advanced parts of the world it should give place to its betters.

This is a brief resume of what I have learnt here about myself and my religion through books, periodicals, newspapers, theatres and cinematographs in the short period of six months, which I could not possibly have learnt through my incessant study of religion for the last twenty years. But in the same breath, I say it is a lie and a brazen calumny of the blackest dye. In the beginning, no doubt, it was the work of some evil schemers against Islam, but now it is the honest belief of millions in Europe; and England is no exception. It is under such erroneous beliefs that European nations think themselves justified if they nurse intentions detrimental to you. The Cause of Humanity, in their wrong judgment, demands your immolation to its altar. You are charged with having contaminated half the world, and it is therefore imperative that the remaining hemisphere should be safeguarded from your unwholesome influence. Therefore there is no occasion for surprise if, as I learn from reliable sources, the United States of America contemplates legislation under which no Muslim shall be allowed to set foot on her shores. No wonder if Europe, as the self-appointed guardian of human welfare, schemed to bring your kingdoms to the dust: the partition of Muslim lands may have been decided in European cabinets long ago, although put into operation only in the last decade. As Islam is believed to be a scourge to mankind, the sooner it disappears the better; this is the only possible explanation of the cold indifference which Europe preserves in the face of those inhuman atrocities and barbaric outrages, which caused the death of thousands of Muslims admittedly non-belligerents. All the laws of humanity have been trampled in Thrace, Macedonia and Albania, under the savage feet of the Bulgars and Montenegrins. {note 4} All the rules and regulations of the Hague Conferences have been set at nought in the Tripolitan and Balkan Wars, but the equanimity of the European mind has remained undisturbed. It not only fails to feel the slightest pang of remorse, but endeavours to minimise or explain away the terrible truth of these unprecedented occurrences. To show the light in which millions of honest minds here are deliberately misled to regard these diresome events, I here insert a letter which probably comes from the pen of a clergyman, and appeared in the Daily News & Leader of the day on which I am writing.

“ THE ‘MASSACRES IN MACEDONIA.’ ”
“ Sir,— How greedy some people are to believe charges against their fellow-Christians! But even were these charges true, terrible as they would be, the last person who would have the right to complain would be the Turk. He would be reaping where and what he has sowed. The horrible picture of the great massacre of Armenians in or about 1896, as seen and described to me by one of many English sailor witnesses, has never left my brain. If Christian regular troops have done these unchristian things it is the result of centuries of education by Mohammedans. It is one more reason to end the Mohammedan rule. A persecuted, down-trodden race either becomes cowardly like the poor Armenians or fierce like the Cretans. Mohammedans have very much improved under Christian rule, as in India and Egypt. Christians have never improved under Mohammedan rule. If the charges be true, which I doubt, this is a most painful instance of it.

LIONEL LEWIS.
St. Mark’s Vicarage, Whitechapel, Feb. 14.

England has no doubt remained aloof till now out of her regard for us, but I am afraid our alleged Muslim backwardness and our retrograde tendencies are too incorrigible to keep her on the side of the losing cause, for already her traditional friendship has been converted into neutrality.

Brethren! In body I am far from you, but my heart is with you. I can imagine the intensity and magnitude of pain which the facts revealed in my letter will cause you. But be patient, and with a cool mind think of an efficacious remedy for such misfortunes. If Europe is correct in her estimate of us, we have no just cause of complaint, if our days are numbered it is because we deserve it. But if Europe labours under gross ignorance and has been misled by deliberate calumny and misrepresentation, as the case is, do your best to correct her errors, and I assure you millions of people at least on this soil of freedom and liberty will advocate your noble cause.

In order to make myself clear to you, allow me to remind you of the European attitude towards you some fifty years back —
England was then the great ally of Turkey; we could count on her support.

If the Christian bigotry of Gladstone could not bear Islam and wanted to see “the Turks leave Europe bag and baggage,” he had to face a strong public opinion which then existed in favour of the Ottoman. He died without seeing his wishes realised. To convert Turko-philes into Turko-phobes in England was a task of gigantic calibre. A generation of backbiters and evil-speakers of Islam came forward to perform the ignoble work. The Ottomans as a race could not be found fault with. Everything abominable was therefore imputed to the Muslim — his religion — the only Faith of God which has brought civilisation, light and peace to the world, which has furnished basic principles of modern civilisation, but which was painted in the blackest colours to create the present situation.

God has been pleased to put us under British rule, and the regime has been useful to us in various ways. The English nation can be credited with a strong sense of justice and willingness to redress the grievances of her dependants. I know for certain that well-guided effort made here to enlighten the public on our concerns is sure to change the policy hitherto adopted. Besides, John Bull is too business-like to see his own interests jeopardised.

The creators of the present situation are too astute to allow the honest British nation to see the actualities in their real colouring. They are fully cognizant that the combined voice of the Indian Muslims, if heard here, will surely change the trend of public opinion. They therefore spare no labour to misrepresent and minimise the importance of your present doings. For illustration I may again refer to that deep interest which you are now taking in Turkey. You hold monster mass-meetings in the big towns of the Empire, which are important enough to create sympathy even in official circles of the highest rank, but the Pall Mall Gazette here tries to hoodwink its readers when it says in its issue of January 31 that “too much importance should not be attached to the resolutions passed by Indian Muslims at Calcutta, Lahore and elsewhere regarding the attitude of Great Britain towards the Balkan war, because they are the doings of the young Muslims like those of the young Turks in Turkey.” The whole Muslim community in India is in stir and commotion on account of Turkey, but the Tory organ here tries to persuade the public that we are not ‘intensely’ concerned about Turkey and the anxiety professed by Indian Mohammadans regarding the future of Turkey is not real and deep seated, but excited by the young Muslim members of the Indian Muslim League. What can we expect when the nation which rules us has the misfortune to possess such untrustworthy and dogmatic papers as recorders of facts and indicators of public events. But if the ruling nation unfortunately has such incompetent educators of public opinion, she should not be blamed for her mistakes. The first business of the ruled should be to think of some better means of furnishing correct information. Our sister community {note 5} was shrewd enough to realise this long ago and made satisfactory arrangements here. They secured some pacific, but efficacious, agencies to create Hindu-phile sentiments here, and are reaping good fruits from their foresight.

Brethren! you have assembled at Lucknow to deliberate primarily on your immediate concerns, but do not like your Hindu compeers localise your interest in your motherland. A Moslem is a citizen of the whole world, and not bound within the limits of his environments. You shall have one day to face God and His blessed Prophet, who have enjoined upon you to carry ‘the holy message’ to the four corners of the world. But half the world is going to be closed against you, and in the other half your enemies have numbered your days. This situation may, to some extent, be ascribed to the European hankering after self-aggrandisement, but it is chiefly owing to a wrong estimate and a false conception of Islam. The calumny against us is a legacy of the missionary propaganda, and the creation of a deep-rooted policy of the vile diplomacy; our cause has been seriously damaged by the untiring pens of the detractors and an incessant use of the pen is needed to counteract the poison thus created. It is not the European weapons of war which are reducing you to dust, but the misguided public opinion in the West which creates the deplorable predicament. Turkey may be relieved of her present throes, but your life as a race in the world depends entirely on a change in the opinion so ignobly created here against you. Brethren! this is a great problem for your consideration, and demands your immediate and thorough deliberation. I came here in pursuit of my humble aims, and not as a fortune hunter: leaving a lucrative and increasing practice behind me, as your President-elect will assure you. {note 6} I had to change my plan. I know that the task is too arduous for me alone, and to do full justice to it requires the sympathetic co-operation of many. I should like someone better qualified to take my place. I should like to see a “Comrade,” a “Muhammadan”, an “Observer,” a “Review of Religions” and a “Zamindar” {note 7} published daily and weekly in London, with free circulation in thousands. God be with you, and inspire you to do what shall be necessary to strengthen our cause throughout the world!

Your brother in faith,

KHWAJA KAMAL-UD-DIN,
February 18, 1913


Footnotes by Website Editor

{Note 1.} The All-India Muslim League was founded in December 1906. Later, under the leadership of Mr. M.A. Jinnah, it was successful in its campaign to bring about the creation of the state of Pakistan. The conference of the Muslim League to which Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din communicated his letter was held at Lucknow, 22–23 March 1913.

{Note 2.} “starting the Muslim India”: The original name of The Islamic Review when its publication started in 1913 was Muslim India and the Islamic Review but by 1914 it was changed to The Islamic Review and Muslim India. In 1921 it was shortened to The Islamic Review.

{Note 3.} The views about British rule expressed here by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din were in those days held and expressed by the vast majority of Indian Muslim political and religious leaders. See, for example, an article by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan in the very first issue of Muslim India and the Islamic Review, at this link.

{Note 4.} The reference is to the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, immediately prior to the First World War. For further details of these wars, see this external link.

{Note 5.} The reference in “our sister community” is to the Hindu community.

{Note 6.} The President-elect referred to here was Mian (later Sir) Mohammad Shafi. The proceedings of the conference are reported in the voluminous book Foundations of Pakistan, All-India Muslim League Documents: 1906–1947, edited by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (published by National Publishing House Limited Karachi, 1970).

{Note 7.} These were well-known, leading Muslim journals of the time.

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