Islam: Political Impact 1908–1972
(British Documentary Sources)

ISBN: (13) 978-1-84097-070-8   Extent:  12 volumes, 8,000 pages, including 1 map
Editorr: J. Priestland    Published: 2004
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

This work presents a documentary survey of the impact of Islam in the early and mid twentieth century with particular reference to its political and international dimensions. The intention is to make available to scholars a broad research base of primary materials for the modern period reflecting Islamic affairs and expansion in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. While such a project cannot be comprehensive, it is hoped that the wide range of geographical references will provide many starting points for further enquiry. Other Archive Editions titles explore certain topics in greater depth, including the history of the Hajj, the Hashimite dynasty, the Arab League, pan-Arab and Islamic movements, and other matters.


The documents in the present collection recall the decisive events in the historical record and provide evidence of the shaping of Islamic relations and policies; thus the contents include diplomatic correspondence and reports describing the following (to take a few examples): the Young Turks movement and political events in Turkey before the First World War; affairs of the Caliphate and the Sherif of Mecca; the rise to power of Ibn Saud, subsequently King Abdul Aziz; affairs of Islamic groups, including: the Akhwan; the Senoussi; the Druses; etc; 1919 Peace Conference arrangements and implications for the Muslim world; the fall of Hejaz and Mecca to Ibn Saud, 1925; ‘first Moslem Congress,’ 1926; pan-Islamic movements in the 1920s, and others, including Wahhabism, Mahdism; the Palestine question and the Arab cause, 1930s; the Muslim Brotherhood after World War Two; India–Pakistan relations, 1940s et seq;events in Algeria, 1956 et seq. Notes on Shia relations are found for various places and periods. The later volumes include numerous reviews of Islamic affairs and Islamic conferences. In geographical terms the documents provide an extensive report on activities not only in the heartland of Islam and the Arabian peninsula, with material on the Holy Places, but across a large number of countries, including: Egypt, Libya and the Maghreb; Sudan and Nigeria; the Soviet Union; the Balkan region; Iran, Central Asia and India; Indonesia; China and Japan.


The documents in these volumes have been selected from a variety of record classes in the British National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), including Foreign Office correspondence, Colonial Office, Dominions Office, War Office and Cabinet Office papers as well as some Private Papers. A detailed list of the selected documents, including file references, is provided to assist scholars. The volumes are arranged chronologically except where certain items should be read together out of the general sequence. Variant spellings of words such as Muslim and Caliphate are of course found in the documents following different styles of transliteration.


Volume 1: 1908-1915
Volume 2: 1916-1917
Volume 3: 1918-1919
Volume 4: 1920-1922
Volume 5: 1923-1929
Volume 6: 1930-1939
Volume 7: 1940-1949
Volume 8: 1950-1952
Volume 9: 1953-1954
Volume 10: 1955-1957
Volume 11: 1958-1961
Volume 12: 1962-1972


Details from documents with direct parallels in current events:

From Volume 2, Memorandum by Captain N. Bray, March 1917, ‘A note on the Mohammedan question, its bearing on events in India and Arabia, the future of the Great Islamic revival now that Turkey ceases to be a power on which the hopes of the Moslem world were placed’:
“At the present moment agitation is intense in all Mohammedan countries…the reports of agents and others confirm…the extreme vitality of the movement [Pan-Islamism]. … It is … essential that the country to whom Mohammedans look should not be Afghanistan. We should therefore create a State more convenient for ourselves, to whom the attention of Islam should be turned. We have an opportunity in Arabia.
Strategically: Afghanistan is well placed for offensive action against India.
Strategically: Arabia is well placed, from our point of view, for defence.
Tactically: Afghanistan is difficult to attack.
Tactically: Arabia is open to our attack from every quarter save the north.
Politically: Afghanistan is difficult to control.
Politically: Arabia can be controlled and influenced fully, if we only see that no other Power shapes her policy. This we have every right to insist upon.
Geographically: Afghanistan is well placed to rally round her elements hostile to ourselves.
Geographically: Arabia is ideally placed to divide those elements, the more so if we are installed in Baghdad.”

From Volume 7, Air Commodore K. Buss, Foreign Office Research Centre, 12 December 1947, ‘Partition in Palestine and the Declaration of a Jihad’:
“1. On the 2nd December, 1947, the Council of al-Azhar University proclaimed a world-wide holy war in defence of Arab Palestine, and it is perhaps worth noting that the appeal was to “Arabs and Muslims”.
2. The origin of the institution of Jihad, or holy war, is to be found in several of the suras of the Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammad… Out of these ordinances and “traditions” associated with the Prophet and the early Muslim period, there gradually evolved a general religious duty of performing the jihad incumbent on all free adult Muslims who had means of reaching the army. This duty had two aspects: the advancement of Islam by arms and the repelling of evil from the Muslims. Thus, if a Muslim country is invaded by unbelievers a general summons may be issued calling all Muslims to arms. And as the danger grows, so may the width of the summons grow until the whole Muslim world is involved. However, it must be remembered that the Islamic world, except in the first stages of its history, has never responded in its entirety to such a summons…”

From Volume 12, W. Morris to A. Acland, 1 February, 1970, ‘The Death of the Grand Mufti’:
 “…King Faisal…was dependent on the Al al-Shaikh, particularly the Grand Mufti, for support at the time he replaced King Saud. From that dependence he has never been able to break away and the question … is whether the death of the Grand Mufti will provide Faisal with the opportunity he has needed – and perhaps wanted – for so long; in particular whether Islam’s monopoly of law in Saudi Arabia will be broken by the creation of a Ministry of Justice. … The consequences of a Ministry of Justice would be incalculable: civil judges, civil courts, civil penal and commercial codes, all could follow, as they have in other Arab countries, and the power of the ‘ulema would be broken….”

From Volume 10, telegram No. 30 from Tehran Embassy to Foreign Office, 20 December 1956, ‘After Effects of our Intervention at Suez’:
 “…it must be recognised that as a result of the mistrust and dislike of Britain aroused in Moslem countries by our intervention at Suez and of the doubts about our capacity to take effective action caused by the failure of that intervention, people here are re-examining the question whether the association with us in the Baghdad Pact is not more of a liability than an asset – especially as the scale of our assistance to the Baghdad Pact has not been great.”

Geographical coverage of the collection
In geographical terms the documents provide an extensive report on activities not only in the heartland of Islam and the Arabian peninsula, with material on the Holy Places, but across a large number of countries, including: Egypt, Libya and the Maghreb; Sudan and Nigeria; the Soviet Union; the Balkan region; Iran, Central Asia and India; Indonesia; China and Japan.

Japan: ‘Muslim Mosque Opened’, The Japan Chronicle, 12 October 1935: “Kobe’s Muslim Mosque, the first ever built in Japan, was opened yesterday by Mian Abdul Aziz, former President of the All India Muslim League …The Mosque, which is situated in Nakayamate-dori, is built in the traditional style. … the characteristic dome and traceries in daytime are a thing of beauty, while the minarets rise conspicuously ‘in the service of God and to the honour of his Prophet.”

India: ‘Resolution Passed on Monday 9 June 1947 by the All-India Muslim League Council’: “The Council of the All-India Muslim League after full deliberation and consideration of the Statement of His Majesty’s government dated 3 June 1947, laying down the plan of transfer of power to the peoples of India, notes with satisfaction that the Cabinet mission’s plan of May 16 1946, will not be proceeded with and has been abandoned. The only course left open is the partition of India as proposed in HMG’s statement of June 3.”

Bosnia: ‘ Law banning the use of cloak and veil by Moslem women in the republic of Bosnia’, 8 November 1950: “On 27 September the People’s Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina approved a law banning the use of the cloak or veil by Moslem women in the Republic. … The Bosnian Vice-Premier, M. Avdo Hunno, himself a member of a wealthy Moslem family, explained the purpose of the law to the Assembly. … Now for the first time [women] would enjoy the possibility of ‘living a full life under Socialism.’”

Details from extracts relating to Muslim groups
Young Turks: “The events which have lately occurred in connection with the “Young Turkish” movement in Macedonia have led the Sultan to change both the Grand Vizier and the Minister of War, in the evident hope of checking the movement especially in the army.”

El Nadi el Arabi: “The aim of the Nadi el Arabi is about the same as that of the Muntada, but the members of the Nadi are not so radical. That is, they are not so strong on Arab independence, but are just as much opposed to Zionism and Jewish immigration.”

El Fedaiyeh: “It is difficult to translate this word into English; the idea is that of a society of persons who are ready to sacrifice themselves. … This society, like the Akha ‘el Afaf, is subsidiary to the Muntada.”

El Muntada el Adabi: “This is the leading and most powerful Arab propaganda society in Jerusalem. … Its aims are Arab independence, prevention of any and every sort of Zionism and Jewish immigration, union of Palestine with Syria, and abolition of foreign capitulations.”

The Muslim Brotherhood: “It is an organization which is endeavouring to resuscitate the ideology brought forth by their Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, more than 13 centuries ago. Its primary aim is to make the Muslim brother a living symbol of Islam, as it has been propagated by the Prophet and cleansed of the aberrations alien to Islam’s liberal and forthright simplicity.”