MESA Banner
Ittihad-i Islam in WWI: Portraits of Islamic Unity Between the Ottomans and Iranians
During the First World War, a photo postcard started to be distributed in western Iran at the borderlands with the Ottoman Empire. The postcard, titled "Islamic Unity between Ottomans and Iranian in Najaf," showed a number of Shi’i ulama and Ottoman military personnel, with two of them shaking hands over a table which was adorned with a piece of paper claiming this was a unity between the two governments. It was published by an Iranian constitutionalist, Seyed Abdulrahim Kashani, in Tehran. It followed a series of individual and group fatwas or calls for jihad issued by the Shi'i ulama residing in Ottoman Iraq in favor of the Ottoman state against the British. This paper considers the larger context of production, circulation, and possible reception of the “Islamic Unity” postcard by considering the history of pro-Ottoman Shi’i fatwas, which actually go not that far and only started in 1909. I argue that the consecutive constitutional revolutions in Iran (1905-1907) and the Ottoman Empire (1908) led to new means of political participation by the Shi'i ulama in Ottoman politics. They functioned not within the paradigm of Sunni-Shi'i schism but anti-colonialism. The fact that the ulama published the fatwas calling all Muslim to jihad not only in Ottoman Iraq but also in newspapers in the Ottoman center in Istanbul, shows their active political participation not only in regional politics but the imperial politics writ large.
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area
19th-21st Centuries