AllamaMashriqi& Kemal Ataturk
Inayatullah Khan (famously known as AllamaMashriqi) and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were contemporaries who are regarded as two of the great leaders of the 20th century. Throughout his lifetime, Mashriqi expressed a fondness for Turkey and Ataturk. On Ataturk’s 78 th death anniversary, it is worth remembering how these two leaders were connected.
Both Ataturk and Mashriqi were born in the 1880s, Mashriqi in Amritsar (British India) and Ataturk in Thessaloniki, Greece. Mashriqi’s fondness for Turkey and Ataturk stemmed from Mashriqi’s father, Khan Ata Mohammad Khan (who was also a recipient of the Turkish medal “Mejidie”). Khan Ata owned a well-known and highly regarded newspaper called Vakil (started in 1895 from Amritsar), which included reports on the Turkish Ottomans (among other subjects). According to the book entitled Indian Muslims and Partition of India, “...enthusiasm for Turkey had been created by…the Vakil...” Vakil also had a book depot, which issued publications related to developments in Ottoman Turkey. Mashriqi’s father’s affinity for Turkey also influenced his own views.
Mashriqi’s affection for Turkey and Ataturk was evident from the early years of his life. As a student at the University of Cambridge, Mashriqi used to wear a Turkish Fez (hat). Then, in July of 1924, Mashriqi gifted his famous book, Tazkirah, to Ataturk. Later, in 1930, when Mashriqi launched the KhaksarTehrik, his party’s flag was similar to the Turkish flag. Also, Mashriqi’s weekly journal Al-Islah (1934-1947) used to include information on Turkish political, military, and other activities.
Ataturk is also mentioned in Mashriqi and KhaksarTehrik material (e.g. Isharat and Tazkirah). In the 1930’s, Ataturk’s photos also appeared in the KhaksarTehrik’s historic photo album, along with photos of Turkish soldiers. And on December 30, 1935, the Khaksars, in the presence of Mashriqi and other leaders, honored Ataturk with a salute at a grand Khaksar Camp in Delhi (Source: Al-Islah, January 10, 1936).
As Mashriqi and Ataturk gained increasing prominence in their respective countries, the parallels between the two leaders became more apparent. Both made significant contributions in politics:Mashriqi created South Asia’s most disciplined (and largest) private army. Meanwhile, Ataturk is recognized to have saved his country from complete disintegration to emerge as the founder of modern Turkey. Both leaders were bestowed with prestigious titles; Inayatullah Khan was given the title “AllamaMashriqi” (Wise Man of the East) by the famous Al-Azhar University (Islamic seat of learning) in Egypt, whereas Mustafa Kemal was given the title of “Ataturk” by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
Besides their political activities, the two men also shared similarities in their general philosophies. Both fought for freedom and equality for all and believed in women’s active participation in nation building. Both advocated developments in science and industrialization. And both believed in freedom of religion, regardless of one’s faith. Additionally, both did not support the Khilafat Movement. Mashriqi, while sympathetic to Turkey, considered the said movement to be highly disorganized (he predicted its failure). Ataturk’s lack of support for the movement is also evident from the fact that he refused to meet with its leaders.
Despite their similarities, Mashriqi and Ataturk certainly did not agree on everything. Differences in their approaches and thought process can be better understood by reading Mashriqi’s speech to the International Caliphate Conference in Cairo in May of 1926 and his letter (with proposals) to Ataturk dated October 18, 1925.
When Ataturk died on November 10, 1938, the KhaksarTehrik flag at its headquarters (Idara-i-Aliya) was lowered to half-mast (from November 10 to November 20, 1938). And on November 20, 1938, the flag remained at half-mast for six hours at Khaksar offices all over India. The front page of Al-Islah (November 18, 1938) was also dedicated to Ataturk, with condolence messages on behalf of Mashriqi and the KhaksarTehrik for the fallen Turkish leader.
A Facebook page named “AllamaMashriqi and Kemal Atatürk” has been dedicated to the two leaders.
(NasimYousaf, grandson of AllamaMashriqi, is a researcher based in the USA)