Previous chapters of this book have demonstrated that, through a combination of religious change, new communication technologies, institutional networks and a plethora of anjuman-based activity in the urban public sphere, many Shi‘a began to see themselves as adherents of a free-standing Shi‘a religion, and members of a de facto community attached to it. This chapter further elaborates upon the significance of these changes, by examining the development of a distinctive Shi‘a politics in colonial India. Little significant work on the politicization of the Shi‘a in colonial India has been published; by contrast, a far greater emphasis has been placed upon the consolidation of the generic category of the Muslim as a basis of political mobilization. This chapter instead argues that, while a number of Shi‘a were heavily involved in a wider Muslim politics, both in Lucknow itself and in India more broadly, many Shi‘a organized independently and differed substantively on major political questions affecting Muslim and other communities. Implicit in this description of Shi‘a political mobilization is a corrective to long-standing assumptions about Muslim political organization in colonial India. Rather than assessing the respective evocations of Muslim and Shi‘a community as coextensive entities to which the individual could relate in different contexts, it argues that Shi‘a and Sunni political identities were increasingly construed as alternative – and even adversarial – forms of political affiliation, adding a political and very contemporary dimension to the experience of sectarianism in colonial India.
This chapter first offers some comparative reflections on the role of Muslim minorities in politics in the colonial world. It then discusses, in turn, Indian Shi‘a responses to the Aligarh Movement, the application of a rhetoric of jihad, and pan-Islamic mobilization. The focus of this chapter is on a period that has long been identified as a determining moment in the development of Muslim separatism, beginning with the consolidation of the Aligarh Movement in the 1870s–80s, and ending with the collapse of the Khilafat Movement in 1924.