A commentator on Muhammad Iqbal, the great poet-philosopher of.Muslim India, once wrote that ‘Pan-Islamism is not actually defined anywhere’. If true, it has not been through want of trying. Since the term ‘Pan-Islamism’ became common currency in the late nineteenth century, a variety of European journalists, colonial officials and academic researchers (not to mention Muslims themselves) have striven to offer a precise interpretation of the phenomenon. But they have failed to develop any consensus, even on basic questions: what was Pan-Islamism? why was it? or even, has it ever existed? Some have considered it an essentially religious drive, others as a political mobilisation. Some observers have presented it as a movement, as a disciplined, and perhaps clandestine, organisation with active members and fixed purposes. Others have dismissed it as mere sentiment, as nothing more than the vaguest of emotional attachments between co-religionists. A number, believing that Pan-Islamism seeks to re-create a past perfection, have argued that it aims to regroup Muslims under one sovereign authority much as they had enjoyed during the Prophet's lifetime. Others, on the other hand, have sensed more modern connotations, claiming that it intends to forge an exclusive international federation of Islamic states with the very real potential for threatening non-Muslim countries. At least one Marxist writer has distinguished between ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’ strains.3 This suggests that Pan-Islamism might both nurture the longings for some distant past and be responsive to the demands of the present.