When the Nizam was projected as Caliph’s successor, and Hyderabad a magnet for global Muslims | Research News,The Indian Express

Over seven generations, the Nizams of Hyderabad had created a state that would rival Constantinople as the repository of Islamic culture and learning. It attracted Muslim migrants from across the world who worked there in varying capacities from traders, money lenders to military personnel. After the integration of Hyderabad to India in 1948, these connections between local and global Muslims was lost.

In India, the Khilafat movement, a pan-Islamist movement under the leadership of Shaukat Ali had been ongoing since 1919 to protect the Ottoman Empire and the office of the Caliph in the aftermath of its defeat in the First World War . The abolition of the Caliphate raised fears among Indian Muslims that the new Caliph would be under British influence and thereafter be used to further imperial interests. Consequently, Ali along with other members of the movement rallied behind the tallest of Muslim leaders in India to be recognised as the next Caliph. The Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, considered himself to be the head of the largest and the most influential Muslim state in the world, despite his subjects being overwhelmingly Hindu. Although he rejected the calls to assume the office of the Caliph, he did not abandon the idea.

“Over seven generations from 1724, the Nizams created a state that would rival Mecca in importance as a centre for Islamic learning, and eclipse Constantinople as a repository of the Islamic world’s cultural and spiritual legacy,” writes author John Zubrzycki in his book, The last Nizam: The rise and fall of India’s greatest princely state (2012). By the time of the reign of the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, the stature of Hyderabad as a hub for Muslims from across the world had only strengthened further. “He came to occupy a particular position in the imagination of Muslim elites, not only within India but also within the broader Muslim world,” explains historian Sunil Puroshottam.

The Hyderabad state founded in the 1720s and covering most of central Deccan was under the reign of the Nizams of the Asaf Jah dynasty. The state had evolved a culture in some ways distinct from others in India, with a lot of emphasis on cosmopolitanism and cultural synthesis. This was particularly the case after the administrative and fiscal reforms carried out by Salar Jung I in the 19th century.

The seventh and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan had ascended to the throne in August 1911 at the age of 25. Apart from the fact that Khan was widely recognised as one of the wealthiest men in the world — his portrait making it to the cover of the Time Magazine in 1937 — he was also held in special regard by the British with whom his state had been in treaty relations since 1798.

“The Nizam had sent a large number of soldiers from the Hyderabad to the First World War and contributed a lot of money to the Allies,” says Zubrzycki. “For that, he was recognised by the British as the only princely state ruler to be given the title, ‘His exalted highness’.” The Nizams had shown similar support for the British during the 1857 Mutiny as well.


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