Modern Asian Studies

Articles

Pan-Islam and the Making of the Early Indian Muslim Socialists

K. H. Ansaria1

a1 Royal Holloway College, University of London

One of the paradoxes of the history of Islam in the twentieth century is that many of the first Muslim socialists were men who at earlier stages in their lives had been devout Muslims, often passionately involved in the fate of Islam throughout the world. In Russia, socialists emerged from various silsila of the Naqshbandi sufi order, most notably the Vaisites of Kazan who fought alongside workers and soldiers in 1917 and 1918. In Indonesia, many sufi shaikhs became Communist party activitsts in the midst of the Sarekat Islam's great pan-Islamic protest of the early 1920S.In India, Muslim socialists came from those who, concerned to defend Islam wherever it was threatened and in particular the institution of the Khilafat, had come to oppose their British masters. These champions of Islam sought help against the British from Muslims outside India; they supported Britain's enemies. A few actually left India in order to join other Muslims in their fight against the British. Their experiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia brought disillusionment. They discovered that others did not share their faith in the brotherhood of Islam; they began to consider other ideologies. Some were convinced by the Bolsheviks, who supported Muslim peoples and opposed the imperialism of the West, that socialism might offer the key to success in their struggle against the British. In the process they discovered similarities between Islamic and Bolshevik ideology, which eased their transition to socialism.