In terms of Arab nationalism, this set of volumes records the waxing and waning of a religious and political concept that transcended geographic borders, and at times was considered by British officials to be the main threat to world order. While pan-Islamism is a separate historical theme from Arab nationalism, the goals of both movements were at times intertwined.
Beginning with the Young Turk revolution in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, the 20th century brought about a succession of movements, initially from the heady mixture of Islamic revisionism combined with pan-Arabism. Following the defeat of the Turks in the Arabian peninsula, there was a rapid and sustained period of activity: the growth of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, a scheme for Muslim rule in Iraq in 1919, plans for a Pan-Islamic League in 1919, early pan-Islamic propaganda missions to the Maghreb states, and the growing predominant focus on Palestine from 1931 in the form of a Pan-Islamic Arab Revolutionary Movement, led by the Emir Shekib Arslan. Activities could be a direct response to specific events: for instance the assignment of Syria under the French mandate in 1921 caused a surge of activity by Jamiet el Islamie. The disagreement among Muslims over the continuance of the office of the Caliph following the collapse of the Ottoman hegemony in 1918, the assumption of this title by King Hussein of the Hijaz, its abolition in 1924, and subsequent plans by King Farouk, among others, for its revival in 1938 is one recurring theme which underlines the political aspect of pan-Islamism. At times certain leaders, particularly Ibn Saud, drew on the pan-Islamic trends and instances of this are represented, for example, in his speech on Muslim unity in 1930.
The influence of the Bolsheviks was a great worry to the Western powers and was closely monitored - one secret report surveys the link between Kemalists, Pan-Islamists and Bolsheviks in 1920. However, the pooling of ideas, comparisons and contrasting views among the Muslim-dominated states is most evident in the proceedings of the numerous conferences which were held from 1926 to 1966. The launch of the World Islamic Conference in Mecca in 1926, opened by King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was unevenly received because purely political issues such as territorial claims were raised, although the avowed purpose and aims were the safeguarding of the Holy Places, improved conditions for pilgrims and religious liberty for all Muslim sects. Delegates were drawn from Palestine, the Beyrout Society, Syria, Sudan, Nejd, Hijaz, Asir, Egypt, as well as the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Turkey and Malaysia. The Conference went on to meet throughout the 1930s, famously in 1931 in Jerusalem, for which the records in this publication are virtually complete. From the end of World War II the Islamic International Conference was held regularly with variations on the name: as the Council of the World Muslim League it met in Mecca in 1965. Records from several congresses, particularly for the 1930s, but also from the late 1940s and up to 1966, are included.
The post-war period marked both increased factionalism (between Egypt and her allies and Saudi Arabia, and also with the Hashemite bloc) and plans for unification. The pan-Islamic ideal was partly eclipsed by the emergence of the Arab League from the late 1940s, particularly as it became the conduit of Arab efforts for the problems associated with Palestine. Nevertheless, there was some consideration given by the British Government to the new Islamic bloc in 1949. The dissolution of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt in 1948, and the trial of numerous of its leaders in 1953, marked a loss of influence. Splits among Muslim powers and thinkers are evidenced by the four separate congresses held in 1962: one based in Karachi, but held in Baghdad (World Islamic Conference), one based in Cairo (Islamic Congress), a breakaway group meeting in Jerusalem (Associates of the General Islamic Congress), and a newly formed group founded at Mecca to act against Nasser (League of the Islamic World). As more Arab states acquired complete independence during the 1960s and turned to international organisations for support, as well as drawing from wealthier oil-rich sister states, the need for pan-Islamic agitation declined.
Material is drawn from British official records, chiefly from the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the India Office, including the India Secret Service series only opened in 1997.
Volume 3: 1933-1948
3.1 Activities and position of various groups over 1932-1933
3.2 Attitudes in 1935, including increased preoccupation with the significance of the Palestine issue
3.3 Pan-Islamic Arab Movement in 1936-1937
3.4 Proposal for an Arab Congress in Cairo, 1937, problems, refusal by Ibn Saud to allow meeting in Mecca
3.5 Groups and activists by region, 1936-1937
3.6 The Palestine issue and pan-Islamic responses, particularly the policy and attitude of King Ibn Saud as guardian of the Muslim Holy Places, 1937
3.7 Revival of the Caliphate issue, 1937-1938
3.8 Other focuses of interest in 1938: proposed European congress and activities and views of Shaikh el Maraghi in Lebanon
3.9 Palestine issue: joint Arab policy arising from meetings of representatives in Cairo, 1939
3.10 Moslem Brotherhood (Ikhwan el Muslimin) and other activities in Egypt, 1942-1944
3.11 Review of Arab Nationalist Movement in 1943
3.12 Post-war focus on Palestine, 1946
3.13 Organisations, including youth movements, 1945-1947
3.14 Developments in 1948, increasing dissent, leading up to the dissolution of the Ikhwan el Muslimin
Volume 4: 1949-1966
4.1 Muslim Congress, the idea of Islamistan, 1949
4.2 Organisations and proposed congresses, 1950
4.3 International activities, conferences, 1951
4.4 World Muslim Conference, 1952
4.5 Status of Moslem Brotherhood and general review of trends, 1953-1954
4.6 Moslem Brotherhood groups in the Middle East, 1954
4.7 Assessment of influences of pan-Islamic trends, 1954
4.8 Islamic Congress and Supreme Islamic Council, 1955
4.9 Pan-Islamic organisation and events, 1956
4.10 General Islamic Congress, 1960
4.11 Islamic Congress, 1961
4.12 Fifth World Islamic Congress, 1962
4.13 Activities of organisations, conferences, 1965-1966, and the conclusion that pan-Islamism as a movement is ended