TIME Archive: News of the last Caliphate

Photograph of the last Caliph – Abdul-Mejid II

As the anniversary of the destruction of the Caliphate approaches, Muslims must never forget this dark day in history that led to the removal of Islam and sharia from authority and ruling.

Monday 3rd March 1924 was the official date of the Caliphate’s abolishment according to the western Gregorian calendar.

The Caliphate and events surrounding it were international news at the time. Some of these news articles from 1924-1931 are reproduced below courtesy of the TIME Magazine news archive.

TIME cover 17March1924

Calif Out

TIME Magazine

Monday, Mar. 17, 1924

At Angora, capital of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly passed a bill providing for the deposal of the Calif, Abdul Medjid Effendi, and the abolition of the Califate.

At Constantinople, Vali (Governor) Dr. Adran Bey, went to the Dolma Baghche Palace, home of the Calif. He there demanded to see the Calif in the Throne Room. When the Calif arrived, the Vali ordered him to ascend the throne, read the decision of the Grand National Assembly to him, ordered him to descend the throne and pack his things.

One hour later the deposed Calif, his wife, daughter, two members of his harem and his private secretary left the country for Switzerland

After examination of his papers, the Swiss Government gave him permission to stay in the country, provided he would promise to abstain from doing anything that would embarass Switzerland. The ex-Calif was expected to go on to France.

Aside from Turkey, the Moslem world finds itself in Africa, Arabia, Persia, Russia, Afghanistan, India, China. In fact 95% of the 220,000,000 Mahammadans in the world live outside of Turkey.

The Califate, which came into existence in 632 A. D. on the death of Mahammad, is the highest office of the Moslem religion. To some extent, although it cannot be compared to it, the Califate occupied the same position as the Vatican: The Calif (meaning successor, with to the Prophet understood) was the pontiff of Mahammadanism.

Last week the question of setting up a new Califate rapidly absorbed all the Moslem world. The King of Egypt, the Sultan of Morocco,* the Aga Khan of Bombay, all had their hopes of being recognized.

The most serious claimant to the Califate was King Hussein of the Hedjaz. The Arabs of Mesopotamia, Transjordania and the Hedjaz proclaimed King Hussein Calif, a title which the King was pleased to accept. For some time, the Arabs have been agitating to make Hussein Calif, thereby displaying their dislike for the conditions with which the Nationalist Turks surrounded the Califate. It was by no means certain that any of the other Moslem countries would recognize King Hussein as the head of Islam. He is, however, more fitted to the Califate than most other candidates, because the blood of Koreish, tribe to which Mahammad belonged, runs through his veins; this, according to the Sunni Moslems is an indispensable condition to be fulfilled by a Calif. Then, again, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina (the former associated with Mahammad’s birth, the latter with his death) are both within the territory of Hedjaz.

Said The Times, London, apropos of the Calif’s ouster: “Of all vast changes wrought by the war, the downfall of Habsburgs, Romanoffs and Hohenzollerns, the resurrection of ancient States and the rise of States unknown before, the evolution of novel forms of government and the emergence of new ideas and new feeling among mankind, no single change is more striking to the imagination than is this; and few, perhaps, may prove so important in their ultimate results.”

After deposing Sultan Mahammad VI in 1922, the Angora Government elected Abdul Medjid Effendi to the Califate. Now it has deposed him. The meaning of this sudden change of countenance was said to be that the Calif proved himself not pliable enough to the Government; he, therefore, had to go.

One of the surest results of abolishing the Califate in Turkey—and it seems clear that 5% of the Mahammadans could not abolish it for Islam— is that it is certain to reduce Turkey’s hitherto predominant position in Islam. If the Islamic world splits, Turkey may not suffer much, owing to her military strength; if it be unified under King Hussein, then Turkey’s position in the eyes of other Moslems will indeed be low.

But Turkey just now is turning her head to the West and forgetting the East; in whick case, loss of prestige in Islam may not mean so much to her.

TIME cover 24March1924Califate

TIME Magazine

Monday, Mar. 24, 1924

When Turkey went to war against the Allies in 1914, the most dreaded weapon in her armory was the threat of the Jehad or Holy War—power to declare which was vested in the office of the Califate. Dutifully the Calif pushed the button. Nothing much happened. The Jehad did not prevent the British Moslems and the French North African troops from fighting against the Central Powers, nor did it hold back the Arabs from declaring their independence and fighting as Allies of the British in Palestine. The Jehad proved to be a “dud” shell; but when the Grand National Assembly at Angora abolished the Califate and sent the Calif, Abdul Medjid, to Switzerland in exile (TIME, March 10), the dud proved to be a bomb. The reverberations of the explosion still resound throughout all Christendom as well as the Moslem world.

In Turkey, Mustapha Kemal Pasha last week announced that the Califate henceforth will be personified by the Turkish Parliament. London opinion” promptly accused Kemal of “desiring to set himself up as Sultan of the world’s 220,000,000 Moslems.”

From his asylum in Territet, Switzerland, the deposed Calif, Abdul Medjid issued a call to the Moslem population of the world to determine through their respective leaders what should be done with the Califate considering his exile. Said he: “My deposition and the abolition of the Califate is fundamentally sacrilegious and void!”

In Italy it was reported that the Mussolini Government has invited Abdul Medjid to reside in Italy or in an Italian possession in Africa. Should Abdul Medjid be upheld as Calif and accept this offer, it would give the Italians much of the moral power of a second Vatican, consolidating her Mediterranean position between Europe’s Catholics and Africa’s Moslems, and being of immediate advantage in her relations with the turbulent Senussi sect in his Tripoli possessions.

In France the acidity of feeling was accentuated by the fact that the Sultan of Morocco, who is amenable to French influence and who has never recognized the Califate of Constantinople, would be a candidate for the position of Calif, and could be relied upon to strengthen French prestige in Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, as well as in the Near East.

In Great Britain the Government of Ramsay MacDonald is officially standing aloof from the question. British Moslem possessions are so diversified as to share all dissensions in Moslem theology. However, it is generally felt that the quick action of setting up King Hussein Ibn Ali . of the Hedjaz as the first claimant to the Califate will have only one beneficiary, the British Empire.

King Hussein of the Hedjaz, with-in whose realm lie the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, last week accepted the office of Calif tendered him by the Arabs of the Hedjaz, Transjordania and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In an interview he showed himself melancholy and foreboding over the consequences of his action. Said Hussein: “I have not sought or desired the Califate. It has been thrust upon me. From everywhere they come to me and say:

” ‘Islam must have a Calif to protect it, and the Califate must not die out. You are the only prince competent to fill it. You are the independent ruler of a great Mosjem and Arab state. In your charge are the holy cities. You are of the tribe of Koreish. Your orthodoxy and zeal for the faith are beyond all question. You are an Arab of Arabs!’

“If I had not accepted I would have failed in my duty and my people would have turned against me. The Arabs of Hedjaz, Trans jordania and Palestine have proclaimed me Calif. I do not know what the rest of the Moslem world will do. I hear rumors that the King of Egypt or the Emir of Afghanistan or the Sultan of Morocco may proclaim themselves Califs. My position is very critical.”

In Afghanistan. That the British Moslems will be satisfied with neither the Turkish Parliament nor a British protege as Calif is reported from London. The British Government has been privately informed that the 70,000,000 Indian Moslems refuse to accept King Hussein. This refusal is formidable because it carries the threat that if Hussein is backed by the British, the Indian Moslems will support the candidacy of the Emir of Afghanistan, who is increasingly anti-British.

TIME cover 31May1926Wanted: a Calif

TIME Magazine

Monday, May. 31, 1926

The potent representatives of Islam who assembled at Cairo (TIME, May 24) to select a new Calif, disbanded last week after irreconcilable rivalries had kept the Califate Congress in an uproar almost from its inception.

The Conference’s most notable act was to adopt a resolution stressing the fact that when a new Calif should be appointed he must be a free sovereign capable of defending Islam. Since the two other traditional qualifications for a Calif—descent from Mohammed and possession of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina—were not mentioned, it was inferred that these latter qualifications may be explicitly waived at a later date.

A further resolution significantly recorded the opinion that “a Calif can attain that office by conquest, providing always that he be a Moslem.” More succinctly, Islam will rally to any Moslem who arises, smites the faithful and their enemies into submission, and proclaims himself Calif—the temporal and spiritual overlord of Islam.

The so-called “last true Calif,” the deposed Sultan of Turkey, Mohammed VI, died recently in Italy.

Caliph’s Beauteous Daughter

TIME Magazine

Monday, Nov. 09, 1931

If there were an ex-Pope, if he had a beauteous daughter, if she became secretly engaged to the eldest son of “The Richest Man in the World,” then Catholics would be as excited as Moslems were last week.

In a sun-drenched Riviera villa, high above champagne-soused Nice, lives the ex-Caliph of Islam who has no successor. Deposed and physically ousted from Turkey in 1924 by agnostic President Mustafa Kemal, Caliph Abdul Medjid Effendi is still to millions of Moslems “Commander of the Faithful” and “Viceregent of Allah.”

Expenses of the Caliph’s huge villa (a palace in size and ornate furnishings) are paid voluntarily by Islam’s rich & pious, notably by His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, richest Indian potentate, reputedly “Richest Man in the World.” In Nice last week the “secret engagement” of the Exalted Nizam’s eldest son, Sahib Zada Nawah Azam Jah, to the Holy Caliph’s beauteous daughter, Durri Chehvar, was ostentatiously bruited. If the secret proves popular with 200,000,000 Moslems it will become no secret but a thumping fact.

Observers suspected the Exalted Nizam of guile. According to the Koran, the Caliph of Islam must be a temporal ruler. Palestine Moslems have been trying for years, were still trying last week, to establish the present deposed Caliph in Jerusalem as “ruler” of a plot of ground about the size of the Papal State. In London this scheme is being urged by Shankat Ali, Moslem Delegate to the Indian Round Table Conference. But Christian Britain, who rules Jerusalem, hesitates to make the “Holy City” of Jews and Christians the seat of Islam’s Caliphate. What to do?

Years ago Hyderabad’s ruling Nizam tried to get himself proclaimed Caliph. To pious Moslems his ambition was shocking. They squelched it. But the “secret engagement” of Caliph’s daughter and Nizam’s heir last week struck many Moslems as a happy thought. Should these young people wed and have a man child, temporal and spiritual strains would richly blend in him. He could be proclaimed “The True Caliph.”

In Nice ex-Caliph Abdul Medjid, though he sent up the engagement trial balloon, took care not to kill off his Jerusalem candidacy last week. His monocle-wearing Secretary Hussein Nakib Bey declared, “My august master. His Majesty the Caliph Abdul Medjid Effendi, constantly corresponds with the Grand Mufti of Palestine.”

In Jerusalem correspondents badgered the Grand Mufti into a cryptic statement.

“The question of restoration of the Caliphate will not be decided at our All-Moslem Congress in Jerusalem next December,” hedged the Mufti, “but, while no Caliph will be elected by the Congress, we will deal with the question abstractly.”

In London the Turkish Embassy revealed that the Turkish Government asked the British Government fortnight ago not to permit restoration of the Caliphate anywhere in the Empire, particularly not in Jerusalem. Turks, who are doing very well with their pragmatic Republic, fear a revival of Moslem piety, a reaction against President Kemal should the Caliphate be restored.

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