Pan Islamic Unity

Although there is no evidence to show that the Sri Lankan Muslims pledged their allegiance to the Turkish Sultans in the years preceding the 19th century, it is probable they did, given the religious value attached to the caliphate in those days. It is only in the 19th century that we come across references to the local Muslims attachment to the Sultans of Turkey, and whether this was a case of unrecorded history or a result of the 34th Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamids emphasis on pan-Islamic unity it is difficult to say. What we know however is that Sultan Abdul Hamid (reigned 1876-1909) did seek to promote pan-Islamic values by emphasizing on the need for the unity of the Muslim ummah under a single umbrella, that is to say, under the caliphate represented by his long-lived Ottoman dynasty. The long and eventful reign of this great Caliph who ruled for over 3 decades could perhaps be regarded as another factor that would have ensured his place in folk memory, for even decades later he would not go unsung by the Muslims of Sarandib.

Indeed, the local Muslim identification with the Turkish Caliphate was a deep and strong one. Thus Abdul Azeez, the then President of the Moors Union, in a lecture in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Abdul Hamid delivered on the 31st of august 1900 could confidently remind the audience of the recital of the Sultans name on every Friday in all the Jumma mosques of the island. This was despite the fact that Sri Lanka was then a British colony known as Ceylon. Indeed, the Jubilee of the Turkish Sultans accession to power in 1900 is said to have been celebrated with much rejoicing by local Muslims with a spirit of loyalty and enthusiasm as the Ceylon Muhammedan of 14th January 1901 put it.

As evident from contemporary local newspapers, this identification with Turkey also took more tangible forms, such as when funds were collected in 1907 for the completion of the Damascus-Medina Railway. We also learn that vigorous protests were made in public the following year against Sir Edward Grays policies in Macedonia which were claimed to have the effect of degrading the ruler of Turkey in the eyes of the world. Mass meetings were also held in 1911 to express support for the Turks against Italy while a Red Crescent Fund was launched in 1912 to assist Muslim combatants of the Balkan War.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.