Halide Edib and Gandhi: Literary modernity in India and Turkey

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Halide Edib (Adıvar) 1 (1884-1964) was “a great world figure … whether you look on her as a Turkish feminist leader, as a world-renowned authority on education or as a great writer” (Letter from Ansari to Seth Jamal Mohamed, 20 October 1934, Ansari Papers, Jamia Millia Islamia) 2 writes Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari (1880-1936), an Edinburgh-educated doctor who, as the leader of the Indian medical mission, 3 met Edib in her native Istanbul in 1913. In 1935 Ansari was Edib’s host when she delivered a series of lectures across India (Hasan 2010). The comments below on Gandhi, part of them delivered with Gandhi by her side on the stage, are from Edib’s lectures in 1935 at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi: The twentieth century is blessed in having in Mahatma Gandhi, the New Teacher, the needed servant of humanity (Edib 1935a: 33)…. All Hindu Indians should support him and serve him in this work, for he is the only person capable of using the best in Hinduism and of sorting out the superstitious, the degenerative elements which have crept into it. All Moslem Indians should also support him and further his cause, for his synthesis is dominated in its fundamentals by the everlasting principles of Islam. He seems to me, if I may be permitted to say so, an ideal neo-Moslem, with his cleanliness of body and mind, his self-restraint, his readiness to co-operate and love, his respect for bodily labour, education, truth and peace. (247) This was in January, months before the Government of India Act of 1935, which would later become the basis for both India’s and Pakistan’s constitutions, and a little more than a decade after the abolition of the caliphate in modern Turkey. By then the Khilafat movement in India, which had emerged with Gandhi’s backing and out of fears for the future of the world-wide (Ottoman-) Muslim leadership in the age of world wars, had perished along with the caliphate, Ottoman pan-Islamism and the Ottoman Empire itself, which was replaced by the modern Turkish republic. The Khilafat’s leadership had fragmented with some of its leaders - including the Ali brothers - joining the Muslim League, which opposed Gandhi, but Ansari, Edib’s host, still supported Gandhi. 4 Edib observes that the Khilafat movement produced “two curiously contradictory results in India: that of 77uniting the Muslems and Hindus around a common activity; and that of dividing them. Dr. Ansari’s work belongs to the first. Hence he is a third bridge - that is, one between Muslems and Hindus” (Edib 2002: 17-8). Ansari is the host, then, and Edib rubs shoulders with Gandhi and other Indian leaders at these lectures. Among Edib’s extraordinary interlocutors, we also have a reluctant Mohammad Iqbal, 5 the poet-prophet of yet-to-come Pakistan. Edib here too stands as a “bridge between Muslems and Hindus,” and bridges Turkey and India. The rationale behind hosting Edib in India is given by Gandhi himself in his response to one of Edib’s lectures: There is an indissoluble tie that binds India to Turkey, not because we have suffered alike, but because Turkey has a Muslim population which has so much in common with India because of her millions of Muslims, who are flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood and bone of our bone. May Begum Saheba’s coming in our midst result in binding Hindus and Muslims in an indissoluble bond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Perspectives on India and Turkey
Subtitle of host publicationConnections and Debates
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781134976942
ISBN (Print)9781138689329
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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