The Passion of Max von Oppenheim
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4. The Spectre of Pan-Islamism and Jihad

The contradictory views among contemporaries, German as well as British, of the significance and value of Oppenheim’s activity probably reflect not only a gap between the relatively cautious policies preferred by most of the professional diplomats at the Auswärtiges Amt and the more ambitious and adventurous aims of the Kaiser and his immediate entourage, but divergent assessments of the significance of Pan-Islamism among Western scholars, Western diplomats and politicians, and Muslims themselves. Was Pan-Islamism truly, as Oppenheim argued in his earlier reports and in the influential memorandum “betreffend die Revolutionierung der islamischen Gebiete unserer Feinde” [“concerning the fomenting of revolutions in the Muslim territories of our enemies”] that he submitted to the Auswärtiges Amt soon after the outbreak of war in 1914, a force that could be of critical importance in the event of a European war? Or did he (along with a good many others) vastly exaggerate the potential of Pan-Islamism? In an article entitled “Pan-Islamism” which he published in 1904 Carl Becker, a highly regarded German Orientalist, observed that “in the writing on modern Islam in recent years there has been much discussion of Pan-Islamism and the most divergent opinions have been expressed about the extent and the importance of this movement.” According to one scholar, quoted by Becker in English, “Pan-Islamism is a mare’s nest discovered by the Times’ correspondent in Vienna”; according to another, however, “it is one of the leading tendencies of modern Islam.”1

In addition, Oppenheim is often credited with or denounced in recent scholarship for having revived the age-old idea of jihad and adapted it for use as a strategy designed to provide political and military support for Germany in its pursuit of its proper “place in the sun” and, in particular, in its rivalry with Great Britain, and for thus cynically stirring up and attempting to exploit the religious commitments and passions of Muslims—Muslim “fanaticism,” as many put it—for the purely secular ends of German nationalism. Once again, however, it is by no means obvious that this was an original idea of Oppenheim’s. One scholar has even argued plausibly that there was a great deal of loose talk in Germany, both at the Auswärtiges Amt and in the political section of the General Staff, about exploiting Muslim resentment and fomenting Holy War as a ready means of promoting Germany’s national interests, and that Oppenheim’s aim in the 1914 memorandum was to conduct a sober review of what was really possible and in what conditions.2 As we shall see, the memorandum does contain many cautionary notes. It will be useful to examine the two issues—the importance of Pan-Islamism and of the idea of jihad, and Oppenheim’s specific role in exploiting them—in turn.

Pan-Islamism was already a hot topic in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth when Oppenheim became interested in its potential value to Germany. As an Indian writer, a former honorary secretary of the Pan-Islamic Society of London (founded in 1903 by Sir Abdullah al-Ma’mūn al-Suhrawardy [1882–1935], a Muslim legal scholar from Bengal3), noted with some irritation in 1908, a “recent epidemic of articles on Pan-Islamism, Khilafat, and so-called ‘Fanaticism’ has been wilder and more virulent than that which raged three years ago when Abdullah al-Ma’mūn Suhrawardy attached the modern word ‘Pan,’ which denotes expansion and union, to the old word ‘Islam.’ A heated controversy has been going on in all the leading European papers and especially those of England and France as to the meaning and the future of the movement.”4 “The British public,” the same writer had earlier complained in The Morning Post (20 August 1906), “which is already prejudiced against Islam, is led to understand that the whole of the Islamic world is like a ferment which will burst any moment if Great Britain does not use her mighty strength to suppress the spirit of Pan-Islam or so-called fanaticism […]; and so-called authorities and experts have warned other nations to be ready for a Muslim fanatical movement all over the world if they do not back and support the measures which Great Britain has adopted to suppress it.”5

An article in the monthly magazine The Nineteenth Century for September 1907, entitled “The Moslem Menace: One Aspect of Pan-Islam,” warned in particular of the threat from the Senussi Brotherhood. Even in Germany, despite Wilhelm II’s flamboyant gestures of friendship toward the Muslim world, there was fear and suspicion. A German naval attaché in Rome at the time of the Italian occupation of Tripolitania (present-day Libya) clearly sympathized with the Italians’ efforts to quell the uprisings against them by a native population “unwilling to adjust to the new order.” In Italy’s combat with a “totally uncultured people, to whom the murder of whites is a religious commandment and war against those of other faiths a holy duty, with no holds barred,” he noted in a memo entitled “Italy Justified,” it will be necessary to proceed “in the English manner,” that is to say “without sentimentality or mawkish emotion.”6 As early as 1898, the Vossische Zeitung, the long established Berlin newspaper of record, had published an article on “Der Panislamismus” in which the defeat and killing of General Gordon in the Sudan and the unpunished massacres of Christian Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (1894–1896) were said to have alarmingly reinforced the “Mohammedans’ sense of their superiority.”7

The term “Pan-Islamism” itself is relatively modern, having come into use among Westerners around the mid-1870s. Nevertheless, as the modern Turkish scholar Azmi Özcan has pointed out, “much before the term came into use in the West, its closest Ottoman equivalent, Ittihad-i Islam or the terms Ittihad-i Din and Uhuvvet-i Din which carry similar connotations, had long been used in the correspondence between the Ottomans and the Muslim rulers of India, Central Asia, and Indonesia. […] Thus from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, Muslim rulers approached the Ottoman Caliphs asking them to fulfil their Caliphal responsibilities; that is, to give aid and protection.”8 As more and more Muslim lands fell under the sway of Western, Christian powers in the age of European imperial expansion, such appeals became more frequent and more urgent. Muslim leaders in British India and Dutch Indonesia “not only informed the Ottoman public of the plight of their peoples, but also highlighted the hopes and aspirations which the Muslim world entertained from the Ottomans. […] As a result there was growing discontent and resentment directed against Europeans. Anti-Christian feelings were on the increase along with a new wave of strong religious feelings. Muslims were urged to return to traditional Islam under the leadership of the Sultan as the Caliph of all Muslims. It was against this background,” Özcan concludes, “that Ottoman intellectuals began formulating ideas and programmes of a Pan-Islamic nature. […] But it must be stated that this ideology was not a new discovery, but the practical formulation of already existent political tendencies and feelings in the Muslim world developed through centuries.”9

In seeking a solution to the calamities befalling the Muslim world from South-Eastern Europe to North Africa, Central Asia, and Indonesia, the Young Ottomans of the 1860s—the predecessors of the Young Turks of a few decades later—were, in their own eyes, simply retrieving and developing the longstanding political and ideological potential of Islam, which, they claimed, had inspired the Sultans, during the great days of the Empire, to try to bring about a union of all the Muslim peoples, of the entire ummah. In their programs the Young Ottomans attempted to combine modernity and tradition, the institutions of political liberalism and the Sharia, in which they continued to see the soul of the Empire as an Islamic state, and they were strongly critical of the passivity with which the Porte had responded to appeals for help from brother Muslims in Asia. In one of their newspapers, the Basiret, an article appeared on 12 April 1872, which explicitly proposed, for the first time, that a policy of Itihad-i Islam [union of Islam] should be adopted to counter the expansionist European ideologies of Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism. A year later, the Dutch invasion of the sultanate of Atjeh (sometimes written Aceh) on Sumatra in the East Indies—still a restless region of modern Indonesia today—provoked great anger and indignation in the Ottoman public. Wishful thinking on the part of the editors of Basiret led the paper to announce that Ottoman warships would be sent to Atjeh to defend the native Muslims against the Dutch. Though the Porte officially denied the report, Reuters had already spread it around the world, giving encouragement to the Atjehnese Muslims and causing the Dutch government to take the matter seriously, present it as part of a world-wide Pan-Islamic war against Christians, and seek help from the British to check it. Interestingly, although the British were inclined to discount such a Pan-Islamic movement as too beset by internal contradictions (between modernizers and religious conservatives, for instance) to be effective, the Foreign office was sufficiently impressed by the views of the Dutch to instruct all British consuls in Asia to conduct an investigation of religious and political developments among Muslims in their area.10 The British had reason to be concerned. While many leading Muslims in British India accepted British rule on the grounds that it did not interfere with the practice of their religion and urged their coreligionaries to do likewise, constant undercurrents of opposition led the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, to sound a note of warning in a dispatch to Disraeli dated 18 September 1876:

The simple truth is this: if 30,000 Russians crossed the frontier tomorrow, and attacked us […] we could rely on all our Muhammedans to rally round us and oppose them. But if three Turks were to land at Bombay with a message from the Sultan commanding the faithful in India to proclaim a jehad against the British Government, our whole Muhammedan population would, (however reluctant), obey the mandate.

In a letter to Queen Victoria a year later (4 October 1877), Lytton reiterated his concern:

If either by pressure of public opinion at home, or political difficulty abroad, Your Majesty’s Government should be forced into a policy of prominent aggression upon Turkey, I am inclined to think that a Mohammmedan rising in India is among the contingencies we may have to face.11

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 did indeed create a great outpouring of support for Turkey among Indian Muslims. Prayers for the success of the Ottoman army were offered in every mosque, articles supporting the Ottoman cause filled the developing Muslim press, a great amount of money and jewelry was donated to relief organizations, and some fatwas were issued reminding Muslims that the war between Russia and the Ottomans was a jihad, and that all Muslims were therefore obligated to help the Ottomans in every way they could.12

In 1880, a year before the French annexation of Tunis and two years before the British occupation of Egypt provoked further outrage among many Indian Muslims,13 the British Ambassador to Constantinople sent a note to the Foreign Secretary at the time, Lord Granville, in which he anticipated Oppenheim’s later plan to engage the Sultan on the side of Germany in the event of a European war and get him to incite Britain’s Muslim subjects in India to rise in rebellion:

The danger […] is that if in the course of events, England is compelled to enter upon a policy hostile to Turkey or which in the Sultan’s opinion may threaten his independence or his sovereign rights, […] he may have recourse to every means in his power to cause trouble and embarrassment. With this object in view, he may endeavour to excite the Muhammedans of India against British rule and so bring about another rebellion in that country. To this effect he will make use of all the power and influence he possesses as head of the Muhammedan faith.14

The Ottoman victory over Greece in 1897 was the occasion of great rejoicing among Indian Muslims. It thus reinforced the sense of Muslim solidarity that had been created earlier by the less happy outcome of the war between the Ottomans and Russia. One congratulatory message sent to the Sultan by the Muslims of Karachi went quite far in proclaiming the unity of all Muslims:

We, thy faithful servants, […] although we seem to be in the enjoyment of the fullest tranquillity [under British rule], consider it our duty to declare that we regard ourselves morally and actually under the benevolent protection of the sovereign of all Muhammedans. Consequently all that we possess, our whole fortunes, our houses and our estates, our bodies and our souls, are exclusively at the disposal of the great Muhammedan Government. We are proud to be members of this sacred community, and we experience an immutable joy in the wisdom, greatness and goodness of Your Majesty.15

By the end of the century, and most probably well before that, Abdul Hamid II himself was able to envisage how he could exploit the feelings of Muslims around the world and, if it should suit him, use his authority as Caliph to unleash a jihad against the European colonial powers.

The bonds of religion that unite us all must be tightened every year: therein lies our hope for the future! Are not England, France, Russia and Holland all in my power? One word from the Caliph would be all it takes to unleash Jihad. And then, woe betide the Christian powers! The hour has not yet struck, but it will come, when all the Muslim faithful will rise up as one man to break the yoke of the Giaour [infidel]—the 85 million in the English possessions, the 30 million in the Dutch colonies, the 10 million in Russia, etc.16

And in another place, the Turkish Sultan zeroes in on enemy number one—“les Anglais, plus à craindre que toute autre nation” [“the English, more to be feared than any other nation”], as he put it as early as 1882:17

All England’s enemies—and in fact all the world’s powers ought to count themselves among these, but especially Russia, France, and Germany—all England’s enemies ought to place a very high value on our friendship. One does not have to be very intelligent to understand that I, the Caliph, the Commander of all the Faithful, could with a single word seriously endanger English dominance in India. England’s enemies let the propitious moment slip by [i.e. the time of the Boer War]. With my help Russia and Germany could easily have overturned England’s house of cards in India. The German Emperor was too chivalrous and no doubt in the depths of his heart he has a soft spot for his fair-haired cousins; and then, in addition, he felt obliged to act with moderation because of family ties. It is a great pity that no advantage was taken of the favourable circumstances, for that was the moment when it would have been possible to settle accounts with England for all its brutal actions against other nations, for all the violence perpetrated against the poor Hindus. The time for vengeance will come all the same! The Hindus will rise up and break the yoke of England.18

Not surprisingly, Abdul Hamid did what he could—and apparently spent considerable sums of money—to encourage Pan-Islamist sentiments among his subjects, since he saw in Pan-Islamism a means of shoring up his loosely bound and disintegrating Empire and in particular of holding together the Turks and the Arabs, who were not always on the best of terms. The emphasis in Abdul Hamid’s propaganda was not only on the Ottoman Empire as the last vestige of the temporal power of the ummah or worldwide community of Islam, but on the caliphate as a necessity of faith transmitted legitimately from Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of the Prophet and after the latter’s death the first Caliph, down to the Ottomans. “The caliph,” in this framework, as Albert Hourani put it in his classic Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798–1939, “is the shadow of God on earth, the executant of his decrees; all Muslims should obey him, being thankful if he does right, patient if he does wrong.”19 Abdul Hamid, in short, laid claim to both secular authority as Sultan of the Empire and religious authority over all Muslims world-wide as Caliph.

There was, in addition, another, politically less conservative line of Pan-Islamist sentiment. Those who followed this line, according to Hourani, did not consider the personal rule of a Muslim autocrat a necessary focus of Muslim unity. In fact, the spread of the notion that all Muslims must join together to defend themselves against the increasingly dominant West and ultimately revive the glory days of the early Umayyad (7th–8th centuries) and Abassid (8th–13th centuries) Caliphates is usually attributed to the oratory, writing, and personal charisma of Jamāl al-Din al- Afghānī (1837–1897), who travelled through all the countries of the Middle East, as well as India and Egypt, propagating a Pan-Islamic idea that was not dependent on the leadership of a Muslim Emperor. Al-Afghānī’s aim appears to have been to arouse Muslims to resist both European aggression from without and corrupt, tyrannical regimes within. He was willing to work with Abdul Hamid, however, or any other ruler who could be brought to serve his purposes. On his side, Abdul Hamid was similarly ready to engage in a tactical alliance with al-Afghānī and to subsidize his activities financially. Al-Afghānī was thus invited to the Sultan’s court in 1892 for the purpose of working on a resolution of the conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims and bringing the two groups together. Al-Afghānī devised a plan whereby the Ottoman Sultan, the Shah of Persia, and the Sultan of Morocco were to set up an organization in Constantinople, with Abdul Hamid at its head, consisting of two representatives from every Muslim country, one representing the state and one (chosen from among the country’s ulama or experts in Islamic law) representing the people. If any European power interfered in the affairs of any Muslim country, the organization would declare jihad and prohibit trade relations with that power. Al-Afghānī sent out letters to the Shi’a ulama of Iran, Iraq, India, the Arab countries, and Turkestan and supposedly received 200 positive responses within six months. The project fell through, however, due to the mutual distrust of Abdul Hamid and his advisers and al-Afghānī—a distrust which reflected a fundamental difference between the Pan-Islamic conceptions of the two. “Afghani aimed at the wider and deeper religious and intellectual renaissance of the Muslims through the removal of the main obstacle to political unity,” according to the Indian Muslim scholar Anwar Moazzam. “On the other hand, the Sultan had supported the Islamic unity project for no other reason than to strengthen his political authority in Asia as the spiritual head of the Muslims.” Al-Afghānī’s advocacy of constitutional reform in politics and his defence of a more open intellectual engagement with religious dogma and tradition in matters spiritual were further inevitable sources of disagreement and conflict.20

It may well have been the case that “the concept of a united Muslim community with a spiritual and political leader at its head was essential to late nineteenth-century Pan-Islam,” as Jacob Landau has put it.21 Achieving that unity, however, was not easy, due to tensions both within the Pan-Islamic movement—between religious conservatives and modernizers, Ottomans and Arabs, Shi’a and Sunni—and without, between Pan-Islamism and the Pan-Turkism espoused by many of the Ottoman modernizers. It is true that even the largely secular Committee of Union and Progress, the so-called “Young Turks” who deposed Abdul Hamid in 1909, finally also came around to throwing their weight behind Pan-Islamism as a means of promoting their own vision of a modern empire firmly under the control of Constantinople.22 This shift in policy took place after significant territorial losses in Europe in the Balkan Wars drastically reduced the non-Muslim population of the Empire, making the Young Turks’ earlier idea of a multi-ethnic secular state less opportune, and after the Italian invasion of Tripoli demonstrated that the threat from Western imperialism had by no means abated. Still, doubt remained about the unity and effectiveness of the Pan-Islamist movement, resulting in a correspondingly divided European response to it: fear on the one hand, scepticism on the other.

As early as the 1880s, the British government had been receiving reports of suspected Ottoman intrigues not only through their own channels, but also from other European sources, notably France and the Netherlands. Like the British, the French and the Dutch were becoming increasingly concerned about a perceived growing Muslim revival in the world and at times they sought to collaborate in countering what they identified as the “Pan-Islamic movement.” In December 1880, for instance, the Dutch Foreign Minister communicated with the British about a rumoured plan to incite the Muslim populations of India and Indonesia to revolt and suggested that the two countries collaborate in setting up some sort of surveillance of the pilgrims going from their respective colonial possessions to Mecca, since these pilgrims, it was alleged, were to be the principal agents of the plan. As it happens, the Indian government believed the fears were exaggerated, even though, as we have seen, certain Viceroys of India and ambassadors to Constantinople did not.23 With the passage of time, however, the fears gathered strength. In 1906 the German ambassador in Paris reported a conversation with his counterpart, Salih Munir Pasha, the ambassador of the Porte. Munir Pasha, the German ambassador wrote, observed a more serious Pan-Islamic movement developing in Algeria and Morocco, which he believed was closely connected with “rising fanaticism” in Egypt. “By raising the level of wellbeing in Egypt and spreading education among the fellahin [peasants], the English had at the same time, awakened their religious and national spirit,” Munir Pasha had said. “The reward of the English for the benefits they had demonstrably brought about was a deep-rooted hatred of them, which sooner or later was bound to lead to the outbreak of a general uprising. […] Concerning the fanaticism fermenting in Morocco and the Algerian border districts, it was highly characteristic that the Muslims in these parts, who hitherto had refused to recognize the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople as Caliph and were ill-disposed to the Turks because they considered their own Sultan of Morocco to be the rightful Caliph, were now recognizing the Sultan of the Holy Places and thereby the Ottoman Sultan in the hope of making common cause with all other Muslims against the hated foreigner—i.e. the French and the English. […] Munir Pasha believes,” the German ambassador’s report concluded, “that at some point, and perhaps in the not too distant future, a gigantic struggle of Muslims in Africa and Asia against the tyranny of the Europeans is inevitable.”24

In a similar vein, a few years later the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office Sir Arthur Nicolson, who had seen service in Berlin and Morocco and who was always distrustful of Germany, warned both his chief, the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, and Britain’s ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Gerard Lowther, of the threat posed by Pan-Islamism: “I think that this Pan-Islamic movement is one of our greatest dangers in the future, and is indeed far more of a menace than the ‘Yellow Peril.’ […] Germany is fortunate in being able to view with comparative indifference the growth of the great Mussulman military power, she having no Mussulman subjects herself, and a union between her and Turkey would be one of the gravest dangers to the equilibrium of Europe and Asia.”25 Sir Arthur could have found support for his apprehension in the ideas of Dr. Karl Peters, an energetic German explorer, official of the Imperial Colonial Office, and Reichskommissar for the Kilimanjaro region of German East Africa, known for his ruthless treatment of native Africans. According to Dr. Peters, writing presciently in 1906, “There is one factor that might fall on our [i.e. the German] side of the balance and in the case of a world-war might be made useful to us: that factor is Islam. As Pan-Islamism it could be played against Great Britain as well as against the French Republic; and if German policy is bold enough, it can fashion the dynamite to blow into the air the rule of the Western powers from Cape Nun in Morocco to Calcutta.”26

The Italian invasion of nominally Ottoman controlled Tripolitania at the end of 1911 and “the response of Muslims far and near to the invasion of Muslim territory” raised the level of anxiety about Pan-Islamism. “Right from the inception of this war,” Jacob Landau writes, “Pan-Islam served as a bond for disparate tribes in Libya, as well as between them and the Ottomans, and between both of these and other Muslims within and without the empire. Pan-Islam was a dominant factor in uniting these diverse elements. […] Numerous cables of identification with the [Ottoman] Government arrived from Muslim dignitaries and communities both within and without the empire. The war was widely considered a jihad. Enver Pasha [one of the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress—the so-called “Young Turks”—then in control in Constantinople] issued a proclamation to the warriors, urging them to fight the enemies of Islam and assuring them of the support of the world’s Muslims.” Enver himself went off to take part in the defence of Tripoli.27 “The entire Muslim press in the Ottoman Empire and many Muslim newspapers abroad (including Shiite ones in Iran),” Landau continues, “supported the Ottoman Government and its military forces on Pan-Islamic grounds, emphasizing the need for unity and union. […] There are indications that the Benevolent Islamic Society—the main channel for the Pan-Islamic activities of the Committee of Union and Progress—organized a sizeable share of the non-state Muslim assistance to Libya. In this manner, the war contributed to the institutionalization of Pan-Islam as a force to be employed […] in order to assist Muslims militarily, politically, and economically. […] On the whole, manifestations of Islamic solidarity were so impressive that they created a backlash of accusations of Pan-Islamic fanaticism, not merely in the Italian Press but in that of other European states as well.”28

While holding that it would be unwise for Britain and France to “side against Italy now,” the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey admitted that the Italian seizure of Tripolitania (described by a former Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and—significantly—current Viceroy and Governor General of India, Sir Charles Hardinge, as the worst “case of brigandage” he had ever heard of) might cause “great embarrassment” to Britain as an imperial power with numerous Muslim subjects. A few days later Hardinge referred in fact to “considerable effervescence” among the Indian Muslims and warned that “it is most important for us to be able to show to the Muhammadans of India that we have been doing what we can to put an end to the war with Italy which they resent very much and regard as the beginning of the end of Islam in Europe.”29 An article entitled “Indian Muslims and Pan-Islamism” that was published three months later in English translation in the New Delhi newspaper Comrade, gives credence to Hardinge’s concern:

To the man in the street Pan-Islamism was synonymous with a gigantic union of the Moslems of the world, having for its cherished object the extermination of Christianity as a living political force. […] The bombardment of Meshed [in Persia] by the Russians, the descent of Italy on Tripoli, the onslaught of the Balkan Allies on Turkey, with all their attendant horrors, have made the Moslems of India a changed people. They are not what they were two years ago… The brotherhood of Islam, or Pan-Islamism if you will, transcends all considerations of race and colour and is of an extra-territorial type in which all the Moslem populations of the world merge their geographical identity and become one nation.30

Equally characteristic, however, despite the alarmist tone of some of his own reports, was Ambassador Lowther’s suggestion—in response to Nicolson’s warning of January 1911—that the Pan-Islamic movement was in all probability less dangerous than Nicolson believed: the Shi’a Persian abhorred the Sunni and was unlikely to collaborate with the Ottomans; the Arab had no respect for the Turk as a Muslim and felt, moreover, that the Caliphate should be in Arab hands; in India, Sunni Muslims regarded the Young Turks, now in control in Constantinople, as “sacrilegious revolutionaries,” who had deposed God’s elect from the Caliphate and replaced him with a puppet.31 Likewise, on 27 November 1911, in his maiden speech in Parliament as Conservative M.P. for Hull Central, Sir Mark Sykes—the future co-signer of the Sykes-Picot agreement by which Britain and France defined their respective spheres of influence in the Middle East after the expected collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I—gave expression to an ambivalent judgment. Muslim anger and resentment were real and to be feared, but they were unlikely to be controlled and directed by Pan-Islamism. On the one hand, in Egypt and North Africa “there is the fuel of fanaticism;” if the spark should fall, “it may blaze up,” and “that spark may come from Tripoli.” On the other, “I do not believe Pan-Islamism is a force.”32

Scepticism about the strength of Pan-Islamism was in fact as common as fear of it. From the start, as has several times been suggested, there were divergent and competing strains in Pan-Islamism: an arch-traditionalist, orthodox religious strain; a secularizing and modernizing strain; a Turkish-dominated Imperial strain that claimed the title of Caliph for the Ottoman emperor; and a nationalist, predominantly Arab strain that rejected that claim and sought freedom for the various subject peoples from the yoke of Ottoman imperialism. Modern scholars have explored these tensions within the movement in great depth, but they were already becoming familiar to readers both of scholarly writings and of the popular press by the first decade of the twentieth century. While some—like Oppenheim and Lord Cromer, the British Consul-General in Egypt—took Pan-Islamism seriously, the former in order to exploit it to Germany’s advantage, the latter because he saw it as a threat to British dominion in India and to the imperial lifeline connecting London with Bombay and Calcutta, many others held that, because of the radically divergent aims and ideologies of the parties supporting it, it did not constitute a real threat to Western interests.

A leading figure among the sceptics was the internationally respected Dutch scholar of Islamic culture, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. In 1901, in an article published in French in the Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, he poured scorn on what two French scholars had called “la concentration de l’action panislamique à Constantinople, sous la direction du Sultan” [“the concentration of Pan-Islamic activity in Constantinople under the aegis of the Sultan”]. The religious Islamists around the Sultan, he claimed, were too busy conducting “every possible intrigue, employing every slander or other poisonous weapon in order to discredit each other in the mind of the Sultan and strike a mortal blow against their rivals” to constitute a real power. “There is certainly a strong Pan-Islamist tendency in Turkey,” he conceded, “and in a sense the Sultan can be seen as the supreme head of this movement.” Moreover, “religion, especially in the Islamic world, is the most powerful of political motivations.” In the decadence of the Ottoman Empire, “it provides the Turkish state with a grand principle to inscribe on its banner as it confronts the European world, a principle by which it can call for support on the millions of Muslims living outside its jurisdiction. But this movement of Pan-Islamism is anything but well organized. In fact it is eloquent demonstration of the weakness of Turkey’s present institutions that they are incapable of making better use of such a redoubtable force.”33

Snouck Hurgronje maintained this position into the early years of the First World War, when he lashed out at cynical German exploitation of Pan-Islamism and jihad as instruments in a purely European struggle and at the willingness of German scholars of Islam to rally behind a policy that they knew was ill-advised, dangerous to European civilization, and, not least, damaging to progressive, modernizing elements in the Islamic world itself. Most Europeans, he noted, are easily misled into imagining that the Caliphate is “a sort of Mohammedan papacy” with absolute spiritual authority over the Faithful. In fact, he objected, “such a thing there never was, and Islâm, which knows neither priests nor sacraments, could not have had occasion for it.” He acknowledges that “the multitude preferred legend to fact; they imagined the successor of the Prophet as still watching over the whole of the Muslim community.” Nevertheless, the Ottoman attempt to resuscitate the Caliphate did not and could not produce the powerful instrument the German war strategists thought they could use for their own ends. “The re-born Caliphate lacked important traditional characteristics; and in other respects also it could not be considered as the regular continuation of its predecessor. Several of the oldest Mohammedan countries remained entirely outside the Turkish sphere of influence; and those were not only such where, as in Persia, a dynasty opposed to the Turks raised the banner of heresy, but also perfectly orthodox countries in Central Asia, in India, in North-Western Africa, where the Turkish sword found no occasion to assert itself. In Morocco, the Turkish Caliphate was even directly ignored, as the local princes, descendants of the Prophet, themselves assumed the highest title.”

Elsewhere, new Mohammedan dominions arose which “never came into contact with any real or supposed political centre of Islâm, such as those in the Far East of Asia and in Central Africa.” It is only “in this last century that the Turks, through a concourse of circumstances, have sometimes succeeded in coining some small advantage out of this doubtfully legal, now meaningless title.” Despite all those caveats, however, the Dutch scholar, writing a century ago, noted in words that have lost none of their force today (2012) that “means of communication, increased a thousandfold, have now brought into contact Mohammedan nations which formerly knew nothing, or hardly anything, about each other’s existence.” In particular, writing from the perspective of a former adviser (1889–1906) to the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies during the final phase of the Atjeh War, Snouck Hurgronje deplored what he described as the lack of “sufficient historical remembrance” in the “approximately 230,000,000 of Mohammedans living under non-Moslim rule” and their consequent failure “to understand that the change in administration [i.e. to colonial rule] has been an improvement for them. They see the political past of Islâm only through the veil of legend and when the present gives occasion for grievances and objections—and where are these lacking?—they are rather prone to believe that all their complaints would be cured, if only the Commander of the Faithful could take their interests in hand.” Of “the maladministration under which the real subjects of the Sultan of Turkey are laboring” they, of course, know nothing.

After reviewing all the elements of the situation, Snouck Hurgronje concluded that talk of “an organization of Panislâm under the direction of Abdulhamîd” was “without foundation,” as he claimed he himself had already sought to demonstrate as early as 1898 in an article describing the atmosphere of intrigue and rivalry “around the despot.” At the time of the revolution in Constantinople in 1908, part of which he witnessed, he had found that earlier view completely justified. “That gang of shallow intriguers was little qualified to lead a serious international movement.” The arrival of the Young Turks in 1908 should have led to complete elimination of “the medieval mixture of religion and politics” and establishment of a secular modern state. “The upholding of Islâm as a state-religion was on their part a concession to the old tradition without prejudice to the complete equality of the adherents of all religions as citizens of the Turkish Empire.” Unfortunately, “the greed of the European powers did not grant Young Turkey the rest necessary for internal reform […] The Committee of Unity and Progress […] found itself constrained on one side to resort again to the hateful governing method of despotism, on the other side to grant many concessions to the detriment of its own program, even to Moslim orthodoxy and to the beliefs and superstitions of the multitude. The fetish of the Caliphate had to be exhumed again from the museum of antiquities where it had temporarily been stored. As to the idea of jihâd, which was so closely connected with it, the European powers took care that it was not forgotten. Turkey was continually forced to a jihâd.”

Snouck Hurgonje thus made clear that, in his view, it was European interference, the persistent European exploitation of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, that had made Pan-Islamism and the revival of the idea of jihad possible and thus allowed Germany to exploit both in its own interests. The bottom line remains, however, that Pan-Islamism is a blunt and ineffectual instrument. “It is a fact that Panislâm cannot work with any program except with the worn-out, flagrantly unpracticable, program of world-conquest by Islâm; and this has lost its hold on all sensible adherents of Islâm; whereas, among the stupid multitude, which may still be tempted by the idea of war against all kâfirs, it can stir up only confusion and unrest. At most it may cause local disturbances; but it can never, in any sense, have a constructive influence.”34

Among German Oriental scholars themselves, prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, many expressed no less scepticism than Snouck Hurgronje about the power and effectiveness of Pan-Islamism. One of the most outspoken was the controversial, maverick Berlin Orientalist, Martin Hartmann, in whom sympathy with the aspirations of the contemporary Arab peoples was combined with advocacy of modernization, criticism of “outdated” religious and ethnic “fanaticism,” and fierce opposition to Ottoman imperialism.35 In an article entitled “Das Ultimatum des Panislamismus,” written in 1912—hence at the time of the Italian invasion of Ottoman-ruled Tripolitania and calls by many Muslims, notably the Senussi, for a jihad to resist the infidels—Hartmann wrote that, while the outrage of the Muslim world at the “Banditenstreich” of the Italians was understandable, the Muslim reaction was neither reasonable nor unified:

The storm provoked by the actions of the Italians in the Muslim world has brought forth strange blooms. It is understandable that outrage at this “act of brigandage” has overwhelmed even the children of those who have themselves been land robbers throughout all the centuries since the emergence of Islam, as well, indeed, as the descendants of those tribesmen whose race trampled the soil of Hungary and laid siege to Vienna. Memories easily prove short, alas, in such circumstances. But let us consider the forms taken by this indignation. The mildest is the threat of a general Muslim boycott of all Italians. Rather more shrill is the threat of Holy War, that is, of a war against all Infidels, except for those expressly designated by the leaders of the Muslim community as friends of Islam. This idea is pure madness. It was recently formulated, however, with great care by some respected Muslims and widely broadcast. Unless a timely warning is issued, it could well cause considerable damage.

Hartmann cites a report in the Vossische Zeitung about a meeting, in a house in a fashionable section of Berlin, of “massgebenden Vertretern des Panislamismus” [“influential representatives of Pan-Islamism”], the outcome of which was a resolution sent out to all parts of the Muslim world, calling on Turkey to fight to the last to keep Tripolitania out of the hands of the Italians, on pain of the Ottoman Emperor’s losing his title to be the modern Caliph and finding himself replaced by an Arab Caliph. According to the newspaper report, Hartmann writes, what this Pan-Islamist organization demands of Turkey, and what it proposes to bring about, if necessary over the heads of the Ottomans, is a boycott of Italians not only in Turkey, but in all the lands that are home to Muslims—hence, in Egypt, India, Algeria, Tunisia, the Crimea, the Caucasus, etc. The Caliphate must, in short, make use of its right to call upon all Muslims, wherever they may be, for help in the form of fighting men and money. Indeed, should the European powers, which have repeatedly guaranteed Turkey’s integrity, fail to rein in the Italians, all international commitments should be considered void, including the commitment not to invoke “Holy War.” In the event that Turkey fails to assume its responsibilities, the world should take note, anything might happen when, in a couple of months’ time, the pilgrimages to Mecca begin.

The manifesto, Hartmann writes, refers to a powerful “Pan-Islamist organization, led by persons educated in Europe” and capable of carrying out measures “even over the heads of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire.” But no such organization, Hartmann asserts mockingly, exists. What does exist is a number of small groups, consisting of a few individuals who imagine that they have an influence on the entire Islamic community and that they can move it to act as a unity. In fact, according to Hartmann, the notion of a union of all the Muslims in the world is a completely Utopian one that has been pursued in vain ever since the collapse of the Abasside Caliphate in the year 750 and that even Abdul Hamid II, despite spending enormous sums of money on it and being restrained by no scruples whatsoever, did not come close to realizing. As soon as the representatives of the various Islamic groups try to reach agreement on a common line of action, the vast differences—ethnic, economic, even religious—among the world’s millions of Muslims immediately become evident. The gathering of countless Muslims from all parts of the world in Mecca on Holy Days will not erase these differences, Hartmann insisted. Any momentary enthusiasm aroused there and encouraged by skilful agitators will subside as soon as the pilgrims return home and have to deal with their own individual concerns and personal situations. According to Hartmann,

Europe can only laugh at the bloodthirsty speeches the Pan-Islamists believe will bring the poor devils gathered together [in Mecca] from all parts of the Muslim world, ninety percent of whom are utterly ignorant, to the boiling point. Europe can only laugh at the threat of Holy War. While that threat has been heard often in recent times, nothing has ever come of it. “Holy War”! Do these people still not understand that making war costs money, a tremendous amount of money? Who is going to provision the huge war chest? Who is going to administer it? Who will lead the Pan-Islamist armies? Are the intellectuals sitting in Berlin really so simple-minded that they believe it is still possible in our time to get the entire Islamic world to rise up and wage war against the Infidels? It is curious that it is they who are calling for Holy War. This pose does not suit them. In fact, it could prove to be fatal to them. The Islamic champions with Holy War in their backpacks are those strict dogmatists who hold to the most far-out prescriptions of Sharia or sacred law: stoning of those who have engaged in forbidden sex, eighty strokes of the lash for drinking wine, cutting off the hands of those who have engaged in theft. That is the spirit of Pan-Islamism. The flirting of a thin layer of Islamic intellectuals in various European capitals with this spirit, their seizing every opportunity to point to the supposedly great power of Pan-Islamism, is nothing but a comedy performed for political ends. It is also a double game, inasmuch as those very people otherwise constantly wave the flag of nationalism, and, as Young Turks, Young Egyptians, Young Persians, preach modernization to their countrymen and disdain the religious element. They had better beware; if they do inflame the fanaticism of the Islamic masses, the latter will take a closer look at them and play them a nasty trick by denouncing them as Unbelievers, pork-eaters, and wine-drinkers.36

Moreover, they would be treated with particular severity once the consequences of their agitation became evident. For any attempt to stir up a Pan-Islamist movement in Mecca, Hartmann warns, would have significant consequences. For example, if an organization to combat the Western nations [“die Kulturvölker”], or even only the Italians, were to be set up on a religious basis, the area in which the two holy cities are situated would immediately be occupied by an Infidel power; an orderly Infidel administration would result in the improvement of the entire country; corrupt and incompetent Ottoman bureaucrats would be eliminated, and an end would be put to the unremitting violence of the Bedouin riff-raff; construction of the important railway line linking Damascus to Medina and Mecca, presently at risk of being abandoned, would be resumed and completed, etc. “Turkey,” Hartmann concludes, can only say “‘Heaven preserve me from friends such as these [Pan-Islamists].’”

In general, Hartmann argues, it is dangerous for a country to try to save itself by appealing to religious prejudice: “As long as a part of humanity clings to the idea of the superiority of a particular religious community, there will always be attempts to embody that superiority in a lasting organization under a strong leader, who will almost always be the creature of a small group of people with particular interests of their own.” The attempt to fuse the Roman Church and the State in Europe and its ultimate failure is cited as a warning example, and Hartmann concludes on the need in the Islamic world also, for the sake of its own survival, of greater realism and a separation of religion and politics.

Another article about Muslim unrest had already appeared, slightly earlier, in the same liberal journal in which Hartmann’s article was published—in itself a sign of increased anxiety in Europe, in the wake of the Italian invasion of Tripolitania. Entitled simply “Über den Panislamismus,” it offered a judgment of the movement not unlike that of Hartmann. Promoted by Abdul Hamid, the author argued, Pan-Islamism had been taken over by the seemingly modern and secular “Young Turks,” by whom the Sultan was deposed, as a “political idea” that “constituted, and had to constitute a pivotal point also of the new course on which the country has embarked.” For it offered the only means of creating “a common bond among the non-coherent Iranian-Aryan, Semitic, and Turkish races which had been squeezed together to form a purely external union, […] a living bond that could take the place of the seemingly arbitrary historical unification of such heterogeneous elements. It retained an essentially religious character, for in the absence of the “driving force of a shared national spirit and culture” [“gemeinsame nationale und kulturelle treibende Kraft”] that sustained the European states—a defect seemingly aggravated or perhaps caused by diversity of race—the only bond that could provide the Ottoman Empire with a truly “felt and living unity” [“gefühlte Lebenseinheit”] was one that, since the beginning of modern times had more and more receded into the background in Europe, namely religion. As the Middle East was placed more and more on the defensive against the ever increasing strength of the West, it was understandable psychologically that, since its peoples (Arabs, Turks, Indians) lacked any strong sense of nationality, the last and strongest line of defence would be felt to be their shared religion. It was not at all certain, however, in the author’s view, that religious affiliation would outweigh feelings of ethnic community, that Muslims of Slavic origin would not be more drawn to their ethnic fellow-Slavs or that the Arabs, despite the emphatic Pan-Islamist tendencies of the press in Cairo, might not be less well disposed to Pan-Islamism than their northern co-religionists, the Turks. If England were to encourage the Arabs, or at least the Eastern Arabs in their desire for independence from Ottoman rule, Arab aspirations would inevitably come into conflict with the Caliphate of the Padishah. Finally, though the Muslim populations of China and India are considerable, they still constitute a minority in their respective countries, so that a really dangerous movement there would more likely take the form of Pan-Asianism than Pan-Islamism. The author concludes on a prudent note:

Nonetheless, the power of Islam should not be underestimated. However primitive its ideas may seem, as though emerging out of a bygone world into our present, however alien its theocratic politics, its view of woman as a piece of property and its denial of both the internal and the external freedom of the individual, these ideas have struck such deep roots in a millennium and a half that uprooting them by force would seem ill-advised and dangerous, if not impossible.

Equally, however, it would be foolish, in the author’s view, for the Turks to play the Pan-Islamist card:

As a sense of national and cultural identity enters the popular consciousness and sensibility of the East, and as the influence of modern economics and ways of life makes itself felt, the dominant role of religious doctrine is bound to diminish. […] Pan-Islamism, in sum, is only even conceivable to the extent that it is strongly supported by the Ottomans; it is not impossible as a counterweight to Pan-Slavism; but it can never be based purely on religion as long as the Turkish Empire remains a European power in terms of its military technology, finances, and diplomacy, and does not, overlooking its true interests for the sake of chimerical ideas, withdraw from the “concert of nations” into a position of isolation. However much it may be the spoken or unspoken wish of Turkish politicians and patriots, therefore, Pan-Islamism cannot for the foreseeable future offer a firm enough basis to justify risking, for its sake, the loss of what has already been gained.37

More surprisingly, an article in the form of a letter to the editor appeared in the venerable London magazine The Spectator several years before the Italian invasion of Tripolitania, expressing—in somewhat halting English—doubts about Pan-Islamism on the part of the letter-writer, whom the magazine identifies as “a member of the sect of the Senoussi”—i.e. of the fundamentalist brotherhood that was particularly strong in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania and that subsequently led the campaign against the Italians and called for the support of all Muslims in a Holy War to defend Islam against the Infidel. “The term ‘Pan-Islamism’,” the letter-writer declared in his opening paragraph, “is a broad designation expressing a number of ideas more or less identified with its actual significance, which is that of a tentative desire to regenerate Islam on an ‘Islamistic’ plan. Now this, it must be understood, means of necessity a hatred of the alien races, and, above all, of the alien religion.” Recent disturbances in Asia and Africa have drawn attention to the world of Islam. Even a power that had hitherto remained in the background “has of a sudden stepped forward into the light and proclaimed herself the protector of Islam,—I allude to Germany.” Nevertheless,

although myself a Moslem, travelling for the past eight years in all the Mohammedan countries, and having held familiar intercourse with other Moslems, both of the religious and political order, having, in short, followed the course of Pan-Islamism according to the ideas of the Khaliph of Islam—or at least of him who proclaims himself such, and who is also thus regarded in Europe—I humbly own that I have never yet been able to get to the bottom of what may be the precise état d’âme of my co-religionists, or understand what may be their true aspirations. So inconsequent are they as to all their points of view in general, that the most penetrating mind, it would seem, would never be able to arrive at any positive fact. I must indeed hasten to say that my dear co-religionists themselves do not know what they want. […] It is painful and humiliating for a Mohammedan to have to own to such a state of things. It is, however, the painful truth.

“Under these conditions,” the writer, who names himself Saleb el Khalidi, concludes, “‘Pan-Islamism,’ as understood by the politicians of Europe, is a mere chimera.” The “unity and solidarity” that make for the strength of the European states, “are unknown to the Moslem people.” Consequently, “the sole results which could accrue from Pan-Islamism in the present day would be isolated explosions of fanaticism in divers Mohammedan countries, but never—I repeat and affirm it—never a general explosion of the followers of the Prophet the world over.” This situation is further aggravated from the Muslim point of view by the fact that the “Pan-Islamistic movements, which have arisen in certain Mohammedan countries, and to which Europe—still so ignorant in Oriental matters—has attributed so great an importance” are in general primarily instruments in the hands of ambitious and self-seeking leaders, even if a few are inspired by “patriotic motives.” These individuals “speculate on the simplicity of their co-religionists. […] The people are ignorant, […] easily caught by florid speeches and […] incapable of seeing that they are being duped and betrayed.” The “two greatest champions of Pan-Islamism,” in the writer’s view, “are his Majesty the Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid and the Sheikh Senoussi, chief of that flourishing confraternity of Muslims to which the latter gave his name.” Shortly after his accession to the throne, Abdul Hamid, the author of the letter goes on, “upon the advice of his councilor [sic], the Sheikh Said Abd-ul-Houda, thought of reviving the ancient Khaliphat, and thus grouping about his throne the entire Muslim population of the world. It was formidable, this weapon he wished to forge in order to serve him against Europe. I am not exaggerating when I say that half his revenues are annually spent on matters closely touching Pan-Islamism.”

Unfortunately for the Sultan, however, “up to the present, the Pan-Islamic policy of Abd-ul-Hamid has succeeded nowhere but in Egypt, and there only in part.” On the contrary, “today, the whole Ottoman Empire is stirring. By reason of his pernicious mode of government, by his cruelty, and by the dishonesty of his officials, the Sultan has alienated all, and the temporal, as well as the spiritual power of Abd-ul-Hamid wanes day by day. The Arabs of Yemen, of Hidjaz, and of Hauran are in open revolt against Turkey,” while “the Bedouin chiefs are determined to make the Ottoman troops evacuate the whole of the Yemen territory, as well as that of Hidjaz, and to proclaim as Khaliph of Islam the Imam Mahmoud Yabia, having his residence at Mecca.” In short, “the rising of all Arabia has almost annihilated the Pan-Islamic projects of Abd-ul-Hamid” and “as a consequence the sole qualified representative of Pan-Islamism is the Sheikh Senoussi.”

The writer goes on to describe “this chief, whose fame rests on a solid basis.” Shekh Sidi Mohammed Ben Ali Senoussi, born at Tlemcen (Algeria) presented himself “not as a reformer, nor as an innovator, but simply as a regenerator.” His aim was “to revive and stereotype the religious principles in such fashion as obtained in the days of the Prophet, whose descendent [sic] he was.” Persecuted by other imams jealous of his growing popularity, he had to seek refuge in Mecca and among the Bedouins “who received him with great respect” as a holy man. He then moved to Tripoli, “which he traversed from end to end […] preach[ing] to the people who flocked to him from all sides,” and “bidding them unite as well as observe rigorously the principles enjoined by the Koran.” All over Tripoli, Egypt and Hidjaz, he founded monasteries, whose Superiors were in effect “at the same time Judges and Governors of the surrounding districts.” His son and successor Sidi El Mahdi continued his father’s policies and came to be regarded as the “‘Moslem Messiah’ who was one day to rid Islam of the Christian yoke, rendering the Moslem faith master over the entire world.” For this reason, news of his death was received with disbelief by his many followers, and indeed was soon declared erroneous. He had been seen “garbed as a dervish and living amid a flock of gazelles.” In fact, a widely read public letter signed by the present chief of the sect, El Mahdi’s nephew, proclaimed that he had not died but had gone on a secret journey.

This “strange missive ended with the announcement of the approaching joyful time—that the hour for ridding themselves of the Christian yoke was at hand.” “Moslems,” the author of the Spectator letter declares, “are actually convinced that Sidi El Mahdi will shortly appear at the head of a great army to wage the Holy War.” In a final summing up, the readers of the Spectator are warned that, “bizarre” as it may appear, this situation

merits the attention of all the Powers who have interests in the East and in Africa. A general coalition of Moslems comprising the inhabitants of Tripoli, of Egypt, and of Hidjaz, Utopian as it may appear, is yet possible. It must not be forgotten that the Senoussi possess an actual political organization, that they are well posted as to all movements, that they have a very considerable supply of magazine rifles, and that they are aided in their crusade by the heads of the Moslem States, and even by a great European Power [i.e. Germany], of whose assistance the Senoussi avail themselves, but with whom, like all their co-religionists, they nevertheless have no sympathy whatever.

In a word, “every hope of the Pan-Islamist lies with the Senoussi, who, I repeat, are far from being a foe to be despised.” In sum, only a fully and authentically religious Pan-Islamism has any chance of succeeding.

It turns out, however, that the author of the letter is not too happy about this situation: “In my humble opinion, the Pan-Islamists do more harm than good to their co-religionists. What Islam should do is to range itself frankly on the side of modern ideas, putting aside religious ones. One may be a true believer without nourishing hatred for all others and refusing to be associated with their works. The emancipation of the people can only be won by science and progress.” In the end, the author of the Spectator letter (about whose alleged identity as a “member of the sect of the Senoussi” it is permissible to entertain some doubt) comes down on the side of those European scholars, like Hartmann and Hurgronje, who soon afterwards expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of the Panislamist movement and the chances of reconciling the divergent interests of Turks and Arabs, fundamentalist religious leaders and nationalist or Ottoman politicians. Instead, he advocates Islam’s full embrace of modernity: “Barbarism and a clinging to ancient ideas will but hasten the end and bring complete disaster. Islam has but to make her choice between her emancipation and her ruin.”38

The appearance of Saleb el Khalidi’s lengthy letter in a general interest magazine such as The Spectator—with echoes of it reaching the New York magazine Current Literature for July-December 1907 and as far away as New Zealand, where it was summarized in the Nelson Evening Mail for 8 November 1907 in an article entitled “The Menace in North Africa: The Spread of Islamism”—is a sign that concern with the issues of Pan-Islamism and “Holy War” was not confined to scholarly or diplomatic circles but extended outward to a broad general public. Western writers reporting on the movement in such magazines and newspapers shared the uncertainty of the scholars about the importance to be attached to Pan-Islamism. A quite detailed and well-informed article, which appeared in the Boston-based North American Review soon after the Italian invasion of Tripolitania had unleashed calls for a jihad, reflects both the considerable anxiety provoked in the West by Pan-Islamism and the disagreement about its significance: “Hardly a day passes that the newspapers of Europe do not contain much information on the subject [of Pan-Islamism],” the author of the North American Review article observes. “In one issue of a London daily I found half a column on the Mohammedan unrest in India, the report of a Pan-Islamic conference in Egypt, a despatch from Russian Turkestan about a fanatic who had been arrested for preaching the Holy War, and an official French telegram from Lake Tchad about a new ‘general order’ intended by the military authorities to discourage some agitators of the Order of Derkawa who were stirring up trouble among the blacks of that district. […] The Italian raid in the Tripolitaine and the recent overwhelming defeat of the Turks have revived the subject. […] Broadly speaking,” the author explains, “Pan-Islamism is the idea of uniting all the followers of Mohammed. But for what purpose? By what means? Before these questions the dream of unity at once breaks down.”

The author then proceeds to identify and describe “three distinct and mutually hostile elements in the Pan-Islamic movement”—essentially extreme traditionalists, modernizers, and a hard to define group of religious zealots willing to use modern methods to achieve their ends:

First there is the Mohammedan ‘Old Guard.’ They are intellectual reactionaries who have learned nothing and have forgotten all that knowledge which once made them powerful, all the science and art which was the glory of the Great Caliphs. The ‘black’ ecclesiastical coterie at Rome is wildly progressive compared to them. They are true to the old traditions which destroyed the library at Alexandria twelve centuries ago. All the truth of the world is in the Koran; everything not in that sacred book is false. Like all fanatics, they are visionary. They take no thought of practical ways and means. They attribute the decline of Islam to the sins of the people. If they would only return to the primitive purity of their religion, Allah would draw his sword and the career of conquest which marked the early days of Mohammedanism would return.

The “apostles of this revival,” begging their way to China, Siberia, India, the Sudan, Central Africa, and Morocco, are received everywhere as holy men and “the people listen to their preaching with awe.” The extent of their influence is hard to judge, according to the author of the article. “It is easy to dismiss them as ignorant fanatics,” he concludes prudently. “But the world has seen many momentous things done in the name of Ignorance and Fanaticism.”

The second faction of the Pan-Islamists is as far removed as possible from the first: “Its inspiration comes from the ‘Europeanized’ Mohammedans” who “have studied in the Sorbonne, at Oxford, or at least in one of the many European schools which have been established in the Levant. Most of them are—although they might not admit it—Free Thinkers […] but they consider that some religion is necessary for the masses.” Encouraged by the victory of an Eastern people over a great Western power in the Russo-Japanese war, “they dream of rejuvenating the lands of Islam after the manner of the Japanese. […] The best of the Egyptian and Indian ‘Nationalist’ movements, the cream of the Young Turks and of the Persian ‘Constitutionalists’ belong to this faction.” They hope to achieve their aims “by reason” and “have no hostility toward Christian nations.” This strand of Pan-Islamism enjoys the sympathy of “disinterested observers—that is practically every one but colonial administrators,” the author of the article claims. Unfortunately, however, the inability of the followers of the Young Turks to “govern wisely has discredited them everywhere” and “given a new argument to European colonialists in their contention that the Mohammedans are unfit to manage their own affairs.”

The third group identified by the author is “less clear-cut in outline. It is marked by a bewildering mixture of crude fanaticism, mysticism, and European culture.” Its partisans differ from the second group “in the sincerity of their religious life and in their belief in the arbitrament of war.” The “order of the Snoussia” is the standard-bearer of this rapidly expanding group. But “while the book of its founder resembles nothing in the literature of Christendom except some of the writings of the medieval Anabaptists and the more frenzied of the Russian Mystics,” the “Snoussia” differs from the first group in its “keen interest in such practical things as rifles and military training.” Unlike other brotherhoods that embrace poverty, its leaders are excellent fund-raisers and organizers, and the order “encourages its members to enlist in the native regiments [of the colonial powers] and get training in the ways of European warfare.” There is, in addition, “a constant pilfering of arms and ammunition […] in almost every native regiment.” Few police officers in Egypt or Tunisia would question the claim “that the Snoussia could put into the field ‘several’ thousand troops, drilled by European officers, abundantly supplied with arms and ammunition, and supported by some artillery.” They are believed to have a major depot of arms at an oasis along the Egyptian-Tripolitanian border, where no European has yet penetrated. Some people believe they even have the capacity to manufacture arms. Stories circulate about “high-power, modern, repeating rifles which do not bear the trade-mark of any European manufacturer” and “native rumor says that there is a great arsenal in this mysterious oasis where Mohammedan graduates of Western technical schools are manufacturing arms and ammunitions against the great day”—i.e. the day of the jihad. Indeed the rapidly growing popularity of the “Snoussia” is due “unquestionably to the widespread belief that it is making practical preparation for the Holy War.”

“So far at least,” the writer concludes, “the differences in ideals of these factions have prevented any united action. And there can be no real Pan-Islamism until these differences are dissolved or until one faction swallows up the other two.” Colonial administrators are most concerned about the third faction, since it is “not only talking about a militant rebirth of Mohammedanism” but “actively preparing for it.” Nonetheless, it is hard to obtain any solid information. Hence the French in North Africa, for instance, “are divided into two camps: those who believe that a Holy War is a serious and imminent menace and those who scoff at the idea.” The author’s personal experience leads him “to believe that the majority of the French who have lived long enough in the country to know the language do not scoff.” Among the English officers and administrators in Egypt there is a similar difference of opinion, though in general they appear to worry less since they finally succeeded in putting down the Mahdi uprising in the Sudan. Still, there is uncertainty about the trustworthiness of the native troops. “Would the Egyptian troops march against the new Mahdi?” for instance. All in all, however, “the overwhelming majority of European residents of North Africa do not fear the Holy War.” There is too much rivalry among the various Muslim orders for them to unite their efforts. “The Dominicans and the Jesuits never hated one another the way these rival Mohammedan sects do,” one man told the author of the article. Moreover most of their leaders, he claimed, can in the end be bought. “If a new Mahdi sprang up, he would attract attention at once. If he could not be bribed, he would be suppressed and it would be one of the big Sheiks whose prestige was threatened by the upstart who would hand him over to the Europeans. But there will never be a new Mahdi. It is cheaper and simpler to buy them before they gather enough followers to fight.” Then there is the absence of a single language: not only do Turks, Arabs, and Persians not speak the same language, Arabic speakers themselves are separated by their countless dialects. “Here in North Africa,” the author’s informant explains, “a Moor cannot understand an Algerian.” Anyway, “the only really warlike people,” in his view, “are the Berbers of the mountains” and “their language is not even remotely related to Arabic. Besides, the Mohammedans as a people are unarmed. The rifles they buy from gun-runners are low grade and inside of a year are too rusty to work. They are split up into little tribes, with all the jealousy of tribal organization, different dialects and customs, rival Caïds. There is no more political or racial unity than there is of religious unity. Pan-Islamism is a story to frighten children. The Mussulmans are corrupt to the core. […] Every leader—Cadis, Ulema, Caïds, and Marabouts—all are for sale.”

In sum, the optimism of many Europeans about the inefficacy of Pan-Islamism is based, according to the author of the North American Review article, on “contempt for the native and great faith in the military power of Europe.” He himself, however, is not one hundred percent convinced: “There is always the other side to be remembered; the earnest, serious men who are not optimistic about it.” Consequently, “a serious and vehement difference of opinion exists about the danger of a Pan-Islamic revolt. The crux of the matter is whether or not the varied tribes of the Mohammedan world, speaking different dialects and languages, and the varied religious sects, with their rival leaders, can unite.” While “it certainly does not seem probable,” not so long ago “an authority on the Near East told me that national jealousy between Servia and Bulgaria was so great that there was not the remotest chance of a Balkan federation!”

In the closing page of this 1913 article the author speculates on the effect on European politics and the balance of power in Europe in the event of a “Pan-Islamic revolt.” His reflections suggest that the view of Pan-Islamism and its potential that was being fervently promoted at the Auswärtiges Amt and in the Kaiser’s circle by Max Freiherr von Oppenheim was by no means unusual or unique to Oppenheim and was probably not invented by him. The American journalist considers first the effect of a Panislamist revolt on the countries of the Triple Entente: England would no longer be able to withdraw troops from India for deployment in Europe and could count only on her “minute home army”; Russia would be kept busy with her own very large Mohammedan population; “France, with her great North African empire, would be denuded of troops” and her efforts to put down the revolt “would bankrupt her.” In contrast, Germany and Austria—that is, the Central Powers—“alone of the great nations would be unaffected by a Mohammedan revolt. With the military power of her chief rivals strained to the utmost, would Germany be expected not to attempt to gain her coveted ‘place in the sun’?”39

If Oppenheim’s idea that Pan-Islamism was a force to be reckoned with (and eventually exploited as an instrument in European power politics) was not especially original in the first decade of the twentieth century, neither was his related interest in jihad and its potential. The notion of jihad or “Holy War” is closely connected with Pan-Islamism, inasmuch as the Pan-Islamists stress the duty of all Muslims to come to the defence of the world community of Muslims, wherever and whenever any part of it is attacked or wronged by an Infidel power. The term jihad, however, has many meanings, which modern scholars have explored at length. “The word djihād in modern Arabic stands for rather a vague concept,” according to the Dutch scholar Rudolf Peters:

In accordance with its original meaning, it can denote any effort toward a subjectively praiseworthy aim, which need not necessarily have anything to do with religion. Hence it has been used to mean class struggle, the struggle between the old and the new and even the efforts of Christian missionaries. But even when it is used in an Islamic context, it does not always denote armed struggle. It may also mean a spiritual struggle for the good of Islamic society or an inner struggle against one’s evil inclinations. This wide semantic spectrum of the word djihād has confused many a foreign visitor with a defective knowledge of the Arabic language. Hearing the word djihād being used in sermons, in mosques or on the radio, they were led to think that a massacre of non-Moslems was at hand.40

In the West, indeed, Peters argues, the term has had a more specific meaning than in Arabic:

The Islamic doctrine of jihād has always appealed to the Western imagination. The image of the dreadful Turk, clad in a long robe and brandishing his scimitar, ready to slaughter any infidel that might come his way and would refuse to be converted to the religion of Mahomet, has been a stereotype in Western literature for a long time. Nowadays this image has been replaced by that of the Arab “terrorist” in battledress, armed with a Kalashnikov gun and prepared to murder in cold blood innocent Jewish and Christian women and children. The assumption underlying these stereotypes is that Moslems, often loosely called Arabs, are innately bloodthirsty and inimical toward persons of a different persuasion, and that […] their religion […] preaches intolerance, fanaticism and continuous warfare against unbelievers. This view of Islam and Moslems, which developed in the Middle Ages, acquired new life and vigour in the era of European imperialism. Moslems were depicted as backward, fanatic and bellicose, in order to justify colonial expansion with the argument that it served the spread of civilization, what the French called mission civilisatrice. At the same time, this offered a convenient pretext for the use of force against the indigenous population, for behind the outward appearance of submissiveness of the colonized Moslems, the colonizers saw the continuous danger of rebelliousness lurking, nourished by the idea of jihād and waiting for an opportunity to manifest itself. The French orientalist Louis Mercier expressed these fears in the following words: “Cependant, tous ceux d’entre nous, qui ont vécu de longues années au contact étroit d’une population musulmane, d’orient ou d’occident, ont eu de multiples occasions de sentir, j’en suis persuadé, que l’idée du jihâd persiste à travers le temps au point de dominer, fût-ce d’une façon latente, toute la vie de cette population, d’imprégner ses aspirations profondes et d’influer sur son attitude, dans ses relations avec les infidèles.41

Peters emphasizes that in the Muslim world jihad has always had multiple meanings, ranging, in one classification, from “the ‘Jihad of the Heart’, i.e. struggling against one’s sinful inclinations, the ‘Jihad of the Tongue’, i.e. ordering what is good and forbidding what is evil (al-amr bi-l-mdruf wa-l-nah an al-munkar) and the ‘Jihad of the Hand’, i.e. the administering of disciplinary measures such as beating, by rulers and men of authority in order to prevent people from committing abominable acts,” to “the ‘Jihad of the Sword’, i.e. fighting the unbelievers for religion’s sake.” At the same time, however, he also holds that “this last meaning […] is always meant when the word jihad is used without qualification.” In all its forms, “the direct purpose of jihad is the strengthening of Islam, the protection of believers and voiding the earth of unbelief. The ultimate aim is the complete supremacy of Islam, as one can learn from K 2:193 and 8:39 (‘Fight them until there is no dissension [or persecution] and the religion is entirely Allah’s’).”42 Understandably, Muslim scholars and holy men have pored over the meanings of this crucial term, argued about them, and sought to lay down rules and conditions that would take account of the changing historical situations in which Muslims have found themselves: in what circumstances and for what ends, for instance, is raising jihad legitimate? In order to conquer the world for Islam? In order to resist any infidel invader of a Muslim territory? Or to resist only those infidel rulers who interfere with the Muslim’s practice of his religion? Who may be killed in a jihad and who may not? What special arrangements can be made with particular infidels to avoid war?

The invasion and occupation of Muslim lands by European powers in the age of imperialism—the British in India and then also in Egypt; the French, followed later by the Italians, in North Africa; the Dutch in the East Indies; the Russians in the Caucasus—led both to the development of Pan-Islamism as a political program, as we have seen, and, concomitantly, to an upsurge in calls for jihad. Jihad was invoked in the revolt of Dipanegara against Dutch rule in Java (1825–1830) and again, half a century later, in the Atjeh War between the Sultanate of Atjeh and the Dutch in Sumatra (1873–1904); it was invoked in India in the first half of the nineteenth century by Muslims in Northern India and Bengal who urged rebellion against the British, albeit such violence was later declared illegitimate, chiefly by Muslim scholars from the upper classes, many of whose members had been recruited for employment in the British administration and therefore advocated an accommodation with it. Since the British guaranteed freedom of religion, according to those authorities, India was neither Dar al-Islam (the territory of Islam) nor Dar al-harb (the territory of war against the enemies of Islam) but a neutral area in which Muslims enjoyed security, Dar al-aman.43

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 was widely viewed by Muslims as a jihad in defence of Islam. In pamphlets distributed in India, those who did not participate in it, at least by contributing financially, were threatened with punishment and disgrace both now and in the hereafter.44 The British bombardment of Alexandria on 11 July 1882, the prelude to what amounted to a take-over of Egypt, provoked an immediate call for jihad. A jihad proclamation was published in al-Waqa’ial-Misriyyah, the Official Gazette of Egypt and all over the country, ulama preached jihad and exhorted the Egyptians to support the army in its struggle against the unbelievers.45 The invasion of Tripolitania by an Italian army of 60,000 men three decades later provoked, as we have seen, a similar response. A call to jihad, spelling out in detail the duties of “all Moslems, especially in such countries as have been occupied by the enemies of the Religion” and the rewards that may be expected by the warrior and martyr, was published by Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif, the leader of the Senussi brotherhood, in the Cairo newspaper al-Mu’aijad on 29 January 1912. Characteristically, this was interpreted by the correspondent of The Times of London as a call for war against Christians, whereas the newspaper insisted that jihad was being urged on all Muslims only against the Italians as invaders of a Muslim land.46 Soon afterwards, in 1913–1914, a treatise on jihad, by Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif, was published in Cairo. It addressed the Libyan Muslims in particular: “How can you live with vipers and scorpions and with those who openly profess polytheism and the Trinity and who destroy the mihrabs? [prayer niches oriented toward Mecca in the wall of mosques]. How can the light of the sun of Islam shine over you when the Banner of the Cross and Darkness flutters amongst you?”47

This extensive review of perceptions of Pan-Islamism and jihad in the decades leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914 suggests that there was nothing truly surprising or particularly original about Oppenheim’s recommendation, in his memorandum of that year, that as soon as Turkey had been persuaded to enter the War on the side of the Central Powers the Sultan-Caliph should proclaim jihad against the enemies of Islam. Fomenting revolution as a war strategy was in itself by no means new in 1914: at war with Austria in 1859, Napoleon III had threatened to stir up the various national groups in the Habsburg Empire; Bismarck and Moltke adopted the same strategy on the eve of the Austro-Prussian War; in 1870–1871 Molkte dispatched agents—among them Gerhard Rohlfs, a mentor of the young Oppenheim—to Tunisia to stir up the Arabs against France; and years later, anticipating a possible two-front war (in the East against Russia and in the West against France), his nephew, usually known as Moltke the Younger, considered how Germany could benefit from Russian weakness on its “vulnerable borders” (Russian-occupied Poland, Finland, and the Caucasus).48 There was also nothing novel or unfamiliar in 1914 about a call for jihad. What was different from previous such calls was the exploiting of jihad and the exciting of Muslims to rebellion by a European power as part of its war strategy in a struggle with other European powers.49 To the German leadership, encouraging jihad among Muslims and promoting Communist revolution in Russia were equivalent strategies designed to benefit Imperial Germany. As is well known, it was German officials who facilitated Lenin’s return to Russia through Germany from neutral Switzerland in 1917.


1   C.H. Becker, “Panislamismus,” Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, 7 (1904): 168–92 (p. 168). Becker attributes the divergence of views, to some extent, to the distinction within Islam of Shi’a and Sunni and to the greater or lesser familiarity of Western commentators with one or the other.

2   Herbert Landolin Müller, Islam, ğihād (“Heiliger Krieg”) und Deutsches Reich (Frankfurt a. M., Bern, NewYork and Paris: Peter Lang, 1991) p. 203.

3   Suhrawardy, M.A. Ph.D. LLD, and D.Litt., was the author of several works on Muslim jurisprudence. His first book, The Sayings of Muhammad, published by Constable in London in 1905, enjoyed considerable success and led the author into a correspondence with Tolstoy. See

4   Mushir Hosain Kidwai. Pan-Islamism (London: Lusac & Co., 1908; printed in India), p. 4.

5   Cit. Herbert Landolin Müller, Islam, ğihād (“Heiliger Krieg”) und Deutsches Reich. p. 181.

6   Memo of naval attaché Fuchs from Rome, dated 1 December 1911, cit. ibid., p. 184.

7   Cit. ibid., p. 180.

8   Azmi Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877–1924) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. 24. Nearly a century earlier, Carl H. Becker had already argued in his article on “Panislamismus” (Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, 7 [1904]: 169–92) that “In theory, the Pan-Islamist idea is already fully present in the primitive community” (p. 172). “The aim of Pan-Islamism is the realization of Islamic ideals and the unity of the entire world in Islam, under the guidance of a single leader” (p. 181). But “there has always been a rift between the political and the religious element. Political unity was an ideal, religious unity a fact. In consequence, political propaganda was carried out using religion as an instrument,” (p. 184). “What is happening at present is that the old Panislamic idea is stirring and, as efforts are made to put it into practice, it is being transformed into the Panislamic movement” (p. 192).

9   Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877–1924), pp. 33–34.

10  Ibid., p. 40, note 63.

11  Both letters from Lord Lytton cited ibid., p. 90.

12  Ibid., pp. 64–69.

13  Ibid., p. 98.

14  Note from Austen Henry Layard to Lord Granville 25 May 1880, cit. ibid., p. 92.

15  Cit. ibid., p. 102.

16  L’Empire Ottoman et l’Europe, d’après les “Pensées et souvenirs” du Sultan Abdul-Hamid II (see ch. 2, note 29 above), p. 170.

17  Ibid., p. 96.

18  Ibid., pp. 136–37, passage dated 1902.

19  Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 107.

20  Anwar Moazzam, Jamal al Dīn al-Afghāni: A Muslim Intellectual (New Delhi: Nauran Rai Concept Publishing Co., 1983), pp. 28–29. See also Bassam Tibi, Arab Nationalism. Between Islam and the Nation-State, 3rd edn (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), pp. 91–92.

21  Jacob M. Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 18.

22  On the exploitation of Pan-Islamism by Abdul Hamid and then by the Young Turks, see Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, Chs. 1, 2. The tension between the modernizing and Pan-Turkish ambitions of the Young Turks, on the one hand, and Pan-Islamism, on the other, was noted by the German Oriental scholar Carl Becker in his 1904 article, “Panislamismus” (see note 1 above). According to Becker, the Panislamist idea was contrary to the real interests of Turkey as conceived by the Young Turks. (See also C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War “Made in Germany” [New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915], pp. 66–68).

23  Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877–1924), pp. 94–95.

24  Cit. Herbert Landolin Müller, Islam, ğihād (“Heiliger Krieg“) und Deutsches Reich, pp. 182–83. Munir Pasha’s view was also that of Edward Dicey, a British journalist specializing in foreign affairs, who had worked for The Daily Telegraph and served as editor of The Daily News and the weekly Observer. In The Egypt of the Future (London: William Heinemann, 1907), he warned that the defeat of Russia by a non-European nation (i.e. Japan) had had enormous resonance in the colonial territories of the Europeans (pp. 140–42) and that the British were deluding themselves in thinking that the Egyptians would be loyal out of gratitude for the “justice of our sway and the success of our administrative policy,” which had resulted in the raising of living standards (p. 146). Muslims were far more closely bound together by their religion than by any national sentiment, he maintained: “A Moor or a Malay, a Soudanese, a Tunisian, or an Algerian, are to all intents and purposes more fully brethren than a couple of fellaheen who live and work side by side in the same village, supposing one to be a Moslem and the other a Copt” (p. 144). He had long argued that “the mere rumour of Turkish intervention would unite the whole Egyptian nation into partisans of the Sultan” (p. 146). Recent events—such as “the riot of Alexandria, the attempt to blow up the arsenal of Khartoum, the raid by Soudanese who had served under the Khalifa upon a village occupied by Anglo-Egyptian soldiers, a raid which was only possible on the hypothesis that the sympathies of the Soudanese were with the insurgents, not with the Anglo-Egyptian soldiery, the sudden occupation of Akaba by Turkish troops, the revival of the Sultan’s shadowy Suzerainty over Egypt”—bore out his contention that “in the event of a collision between Turkish and Egyptian troops the latter would refuse to fight against the former and their refusal would enlist the sympathies of the whole Moslem community” (pp. 147–48).

25  Dated 23 January 1911, cit. Joseph Heller, British Policy toward the Ottoman Empire 1908–1914 (London: Frank Cass, 1983), p. 39.

26  Cit. Samuel M. Zemer, The Disintegration of Islam (New York, Chicago, Toronto, London and Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1916), p. 127 (Students’ Lectures on Missions, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1915).

27  Having led Turkey into the First World War, having fled the country on the collapse of the Empire in 1918, having been convicted in his absence by the new Turkish Republic of needlessly plunging the country into a disastrous war, Enver allied himself in the years immediately following the war with Communists in Germany and Soviet Russia. This enabled him to claim in 1922: “I am pursuing today the same purpose that I pursued before and during the Revolution of 1908, during the Tripolitanian War, the Balkan Wars, and the World War. And this purpose is very simple: to organize and bring to action the Islamic world of four hundred million people […] and to save it from the European and American oppression which enslaves it.” (Cit. Mustafa Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War in 1914 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008], pp. 15–16).

28  Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, pp. 134–37.

29  Heller, British Policy toward the Ottoman Empire 1908–1914, pp. 53, 55–56.

30  Cit. Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam p. 191. On Panislamic ideas and Ottoman sympathies among Indian Muslims in the period leading up to the Great War, see also Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877–1924), Chs. 4, 5.

31  Cit. Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 191.

32  Hansard, vol. 32, 27 November 1911 See also a letter dated 9 November 1911 to Professor E.G. Browne, an Oriental scholar at Cambridge with whom Sykes had studied: “I am terrified at Grey’s policy. It is getting us into the very devil of a mess. Italy’s action unless repudiated must set the whole of the Moslem world against us, and if the Moslem world is against us we are done. We only rule by favour of Moslems because we play the game nine times out of ten.” (Shane Leslie, Mark Sykes: His Life and Letters [London: Cassell and Company, 1923], p. 201). After spending time in Egypt, Sykes took the threat of Pan-Islamism very seriously; see Donald M. McKale, “The Kaiser’s Spy’: Max von Oppenheim and the Anglo-German Rivalry Before and During the First World War,” European History Quarterly, 27 (1997): 199–219 (pp. 208–09).

33  C. Snouck Hurgronje, “Les Confréries religieuses, La Mecque, et le Panislamisme,” Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, 44 (1901): 262–81 (pp. 268–71).

34  C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War “Made in Germany”, pp. 17–18, 25–27, 29–32. The bulk of this work is a denunciation of the endorsement by German scholars, notably Carl Becker, a friend and colleague, of German efforts to exploit Pan-Islamism (in which Oppenheim played a major role). It first appeared in Dutch in the journal De Gids early in 1915 and was immediately translated into English. (On the Snouck Hurgronje-Becker debate, see Peter Heine, “C. Snouck Hurgronje versus C.H. Becker. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der angewandten Orientalistik,” Die Welt des Islams, new series 23/34 [1984]: 378–87).

35  On this original and unusual figure, see the excellent article by Martin Kramer, “Arabistik and Arabism: The Passions of Martin Hartmann,” Middle Eastern Studies, 25 (1989): 283–300.

36  M. Hartmann, “Das Ultimatum des Panislamismus,” Das freie Wort. Frankfurter Monatschrift für Fortschritt auf allen Gebieten des geistigen Lebens, 11 (April 1911-April 1912): 605–10.

37  A. Tavilet, “Über den Panislamismus,” Das freie Wort. Frankfurter Monatschrift für Fortschritt auf allen Gebieten des geistigen Lebens, 11 (April 1911–April 1912): 218–21. This author’s home base is identified as Constantinople.

38  The Spectator, 24 August 1907, Correspondence columns. It is, of course, possible that the author of this letter was either a European agent interested in dissuading influential Muslims from buying into Pan-Islamism or a Muslim interested in reassuring Europeans that Pan-Islamism did not constitute a serious threat. The Senussi Sidi al-Mahdi referred to in the article should not be confused with the self-proclaimed “Mahdi” (Muhammed Ahmad of Dongola), who led the revolt in the Sudan (1881–1885) and whom the Senussial-Mahdi denounced as an impostor. The Senussi al-Mahdi focussed on religious and spiritual issues and avoided political engagement. The brotherhood became “a political and military force capable of organizing around resistance against the French colonial drive from the south and, after 1911, the Italian occupation of Libya” only after his death and under the leadership of his successor, Ahmed al-Sharif al-Senussi (Claudia Anna Gazzini, Jihad in Exile: Ahmed al-Sharif al-Sanussi 1918–1933 [Unpublished M.A. thesis, Princeton University, 2004]).

39  Albert Edwards, “The Menace of Pan-Islamism,” North American Review, 197 (May 1913): 645–57.

40  Rudolf Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (The Hague and New York: Mouton, 1979), p. 3. An even more far-reaching caveat had been issued by the German travel writer, Otto C. Artbauer, almost seven decades earlier, at the turn of the century, in his popular Die Rifpiraten und ihre Heimat [The Bandits of the Rif and their Homeland]. “The meaning of the word jihad as understood by Mohammed and as it appears in the Koran is not properly struggle against infidels in general, but rather struggle against the evil inclinations in one’s own self. The word and its meaning are constantly misused by both Europeans and Orientals. Whenever foreigners are beaten up somewhere in the Orient, they immediately imagine that they have been the victims of jihad. If one tribe steals some camels from another in the East, there will be a call for jihad. Spanish and French newspapers especially are constantly discovering some hermit wandering around in the Atlas mountains and preaching jihad against all foreigners. All that is utter nonsense” (O.C. Artbauer, Die Rifpiraten und ihre Heimat. Erste Kunde aus verschlossener Welt [Stuttgart: Stecker & Schröder, 1911], pp. 214–15, under “Dschihad” in the list of terms following the index).

41  Peters, Islam and Colonialism, pp. 4–5.

42  Ibid., p. 10. See also the entry on “Jihad” in Avraham Sela, ed., Political Encyclopaedia of the Middle East (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Publishing House, 1999), pp. 425–26. This excellent short article outlines clearly both the complex meanings of jihad (and the absence of any single, set doctrine) and its invocation in modern history since the Mahdi in the Sudan in the 1880s.

43  Peters, Islam and Colonialism, pp. 46–49.

44  Özcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain (1877–1924), p. 75.

45  Peters, Islam and Colonialism, p. 79.

46  See Erich Graefe, “Der Aufruf des Scheichs der Senusija zum Heiligen Kriege,” Islam 3 (1912): 141–50 (p. 142). It is also worth noting that, for whatever reason, the Times correspondent downplayed the likely effect of the Senussi call: “Until the actual text is known, it is difficult to gauge the probable effect of the exhortation, but in view of the general terms in which it appears to be couched, and emanating as it does only from the brother of El Senousi, it is not thought that very great importance need be attached to the proclamation” (The Times, 19 January 1912, report from Cairo dated 18 January).

47  Cit. Peters, Islam and Colonialism, p. 87; also p. 186, note 125.

48  See, inter alia, Hans-Ulrich Seidt, Berlin Kabul Moskau. Oskar Ritter von Niedermayer und Deutschlands Geopolitik (Munich: Universitas, 2000), p. 44.

49  See Gabriele Teichmann “Fremder wider Willen—Max von Oppenheim in der wilhelminischen Epoche” in Geschichte zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik. Festschrift für Michael Stürmer zum 65. Geburtstag (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2003), pp. 231–48 (p. 239): “Zwar gehörte das Kampfmittel der nationalrevolutionären Aufhebung seit Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts zum Arsenal europäischer Machtpolitik. Oppenheim war jedoch der erste, der eine Weltreligion politisch zu instrumentalisieren versuchte.”