Discussing the Issue of Chaliphate in the Absence of Chaliph: Some Remarks on a Letter of Political Emigre Riza Tevfik from Transjordan to London
Efforts of European powers to establish their political and economic domination over the rest of the world, were resulted in XIXth century with the successive colonization of various Muslim communities in Asia and Africa. When it came to the last quarter of the century, Ottoman State was the most powerful of a few Muslim political entities which were still independent states. As a consequence of this, the prestige of Ottoman Sultan as the Chaliph of Islam had increased drastically due to efforts of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. British officals in London as well as in Indain sub-continent were worrying about this growing influence of Ottoman Chaliph in their own colonies and started to publish speculative treatises discussing the legitimacy and functining of Ottoman Chaliphate. On the other hand, domestic opposites of Ottoman political regime, namely supporters of an constitutional system, were synchronically complaining of the explotation of the Chaliphate by the Sultan as an instrument to legitimate his autocracy. It was also their plan to restrict the sphere of influence of Ottoman Chaliphate through keeping it just as the moral leader of Muslim World. The Committee of Union and Progress which came to power following the dethronment of Abdulhamid II, inherited his foreign policy centred around Islamic Chaliphate and established a more radical autocracy in respect to the ancien regime. A minority group of liberal and secular minded Westernist intellectuals/politicans who were broken with CUP because of its authoritarian tendencies had now more critics about the political use of Chaliphate bty Ottoman sultan/government. Riza Tevfik was one of them. He did not hesitate to publicly announce his doubts and objections regarding Ottoman Chaliphate. He was forced in late 1922 by Kemalists to departure from Istanbul, then still under Brisitih occupation. Following the establishment of the new Republican regime in Turkey, he was also expelled from Turkish citizenship. He spent his first ten years as an political émigré in the Amirate of Transjordan founded under British tutelage and leaded by Amir Abdullah b. Al-Husayn. Focusing on an unpublished and recently unknown private letter written by Riza Tevfik to Colonel Henry Cox, the Britisih resident in Transjordan, this article aims to shed light on discussions concerning late Ottoman and post-Ottoman situation of Islamic Chaliphate.
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