This is a story of islamic radicalism hidden in plain sight. This is a story of a forgotten war waged by the Deobandi mullahs for restoration of islamic khilafat & subjugation of Hindustan under the sword of islam

Hidden in dusty pages of our history is a long forgotten story of such clever subterfuge and deceit that it has the potential to upend the story of our fight for independence and expose the bigoted face of the so called mullahs. Post 1947 our historians have gone to great lengths to white wash the mullahs into freedom fighters . Reality is, all that the mullah wanted and fought for was for subjugation of Hindustan to the sword of islam. This is the story three silk letters carried in the lining of a coat. This is the story of Tehreek-e-Reshmi Rumal


Many of the mullahs and their students (who would go on to establish Darul-Uloom) played a very active role in the 1857 revolt. However, it must not be mistaken to be driven by any nationalistic or patriotic feelings. Their revolt was an attempt to once more, seek primacy in India. They were agitated and angry. It was due to the muslim community’s fetish for perpetual victimhood. They believed that everyone was against them , conspiring to destroy their faith. To them the British and the Hindus were kafirs who were subjugating them. It did not matter that they were never more than illiterate barbarians with a sword. Except for waging war and inflicting inhuman brutality on people, they had no real talent. To them, education meant getting well versed in their religious books.

NOTE: The golden age of islam ended when al-Ghazali (a mujadid/reformer) gained prominence by advocating removal of all liberalism/reform (bid’at) from islam. He destroyed the flourishing arts and science of the Abbasid caliphate. His legendary enmity with ibn Rashd (a moderate & pro science) ensured flight of sciences and arts from the caliphate.

The maulanas and the jihadis found their ideological moorings within the teachings of Shah Waliullah and his line of maulvis starting from Shah Abdul Aziz to Shaheed Syed Ahmad Barelvi & Maulana Inayatullah. This line of religious scholars, fanatics & jihadis waged war against the Hindus first through Rohilla chief Najib ud Daula & Nawab of Oudh, Shuja ud Daula & then with help from the British against Maharaj Ranjeet Singh. After their failure against Marathas and Sikhs, they thought the British would help. But they were mistaken. The British had recognized the true nature of the followers of Waliullah. They used them against Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and after Maharaja’s defeat, the British decimated them. However, the fundamentalist line propagated by those ulema continued to be preached in countless madarsas across India. Their idea thus survived and evolved into a more dangerous, fundamentalist ideology.

After the defeat the ulema changed their strategy and started establishing madarsas on an unprecedented scale. The British were unaware of the true nature of these places. They mistook them for ‘islamic schools’ (similar to their church run schools).  But these madarsas had a more insidious aim. Their aim was to combat the British & re-establish islamic rule by creating an army of radicalized jihadis fueled on religious fervor.

The talibs (students) who graduated from madarsas, after the defeat in 1857, reunited and established Darul Uloom in the city of Deoband (in modern day Saharanpur district of UP).

The institute was established in 1866 by:-

  • Fazl-ur Rahman Usmani,
  • Sayyid Muhammad Abid,
  • Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi,
  • Mehtab Ali,
  • Nehal Ahmad
  • Zulfiqar Ali Deobandi.

Mahmud Deobandi was appointed as the first teacher, and Mahmud Hasan Deobandi was the first student who enrolled in the seminary.

(all students and descendants of Waliullah and his son Abdul Aziz)


The Silk Letter Movement was a well crafted plan for re-establishment of islamic rule in India through armed insurrection. However the plan was leaked before execution and led to the arrest of hundreds of ulema including the leader himself effectively ending the conspiracy but allowing the ideology and its institution to survive.

In 1877, Maulana Mahmood Hasan, the first student of Darul Uloom Deoband, started his political movement and set up an organization called ‘Samratut Tarbiyat’ (result of the training). The aim of the organization was to prepare for armed insurrection against the British. That movement continued for at least 30 years. In 1909, Hassan re-organized his devotees under a new banner ‘Jamiat ul Ansaar’ (revived & still operational as a terror organization in Kashmir) which was later banned by British. Soon after the ban of Jamiatul Ansar in 1913, the freedom seekers appeared in Delhi with a new name ‘Nizzaarat ul Ma’arif’. Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi and Hassan were the leading figures behind this new setup. The zeal, spirit and purpose of the new setup was the expulsion of British & re-establishment of Khilafat/islamic rule in India.

Start of the First World War (1914) between Germany and Britain, gave the ulema a golden opportunity. The maulanas and the ulema turned their efforts on supporting Germany. The ulema saw WW-1 as a golden opportunity to strike at the roots of the British interest. Armed insurrections were planned against the British forces.


Fact that Darul Uloom, Deoband  was a fountainhead of Jihad and religious fanaticism was lost to the British and the Hindus alike. What they thought was a seminary/school was actually a nursery for what the world would (100 years later) call TERRORISM. But in that moment in history in 1913. the maulanas had put in motion, a conspiracy that would exact a heavy price on the Hindus nearly 3000 kilometers in the jungles and villages of Kerala in form of the genocidal Moplah riots. In these riots more than 10,000 Hindus were slaughtered and many thousands of Hindu women raped and sold as sex slaves in slave markets a far as Arabia. But this was not the end. The reverberations of Thereek e Reshami Rumal  would end in dividing the Indian polity and lead to partition of India 25 years later.

By 1913 the fanatics particularly of the Madarsa Darul Uloom, Deoband were very worried that the Hindus were gaining  prominence under the British rule. The muslims, due to their reluctance for modern studies and insistence on remaining secluded from the day-to-day life of the empire (result of Shah Waliullah’s teachings). Instead of looking inward at their own  shortcomings the muslim society found refuge in religious edicts as interpreted by Waliullah. They blamed the British and the Hindu for the dismal state of their society. They saw the British and Hindus as “persecutors”. The maulanas decided to overthrow the British government and establish islamic rule in India under the Caliphate of the Ottoman Caliph/Khalifa through armed insurrection.

Ironically but unsurprisingly they discounted Hindus as a people


The clerics of Deoband planned and launched a multi pronged revolt They created a government headed by Maulana Mahmud Hasan Deobandi (the first student at Deoband). He was nominated to the high office of Sheikh ul Hind – Ruler of Hindustan. in the new government that was to rule India after deposing the British.

Prime objective of this new government was to establish the rule of islam as per the teachings of Shah Waliullah. This islamic government sought restore the primacy of islam in India and a return to the 7th century version of islam with Hindus either killed or reduced to Dhimmi status.

The ulema (clergy) declared jihad. Heeding the call of Jihad, common muslims started migrating (Hijr) from Bengal and Patna to the frontier provinces (of what is now NWFP/Khaiber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan). They sold their land and houses, donated their meager earnings to the ulema, armed themselves with whatever they could find – sword, pike, knife or cleaver & migrated to the border areas near Afghanistan.

The ulema of Deoband had planned a 2-pronged strategy for their armed jihad.

  1. Muhammad Mian Mansoor Ansari (grandson of Maulana Nanautavi, founder of Deoband) had made his way Hijaj (Area in and around present day Saudi Arabia) in 1913 and established himself there. Mahmud Hassan Deobandi (Principal of Deoband & Sheikh ul Hind) followed him to Hijaj. Mahmud Hassan, with help from Mian Mansoor sought to participate in the Turkish/Ottoman Jihad against European coalition led by Britain. This he did in hopes to convince the Ottoman Caliph to declare war on Britain.

Mahmud Hassan with help of Anwar Pasha & Jamal Pasha, ministers in Ottoman Empire, also sought alliance with Germany (who were allies of Ottomans).

  1. Maulana Ubaidullah made his way to Afghanistan to convince the Amir of Afghanistan to invade India. The maulana was successful in getting the Amir on board and he agreed to invade India with help from Deobandi mujahids.

The mujahids who had made their way to North Western Border were to remove all opposition (British & Hindus) from the border area & open the way for the invading Afghan armies. Once the Afghan armies  enter India, they were to join the advancing forces of mujahids. The Amir would lead the joint forces of Indian Jihadis & his own men in jihad against the British – defeating them. Meanwhile the local muslim population was expected to follow the injunctions of their maulanas and subjugate the local Hindus. Hindus were expected to cave in like cowards.

This is the only way that a true Islamic kingdom could be established, unpolluted by the kafir Hindus.


The proposal and the agreements were written on three (3) silk handkerchiefs and sewn into the lining of the traditional coats worn by the maulanas who transported these letters all over India, Hijaj & Afghanistan. These letters were shown to the muslims and they were then exhorted to wage jihad against the firangi and reclaim the land from kafirs.

No true islamic kingdom could be established unless it was ruled by a caliph/khalifa. Even the mughals paid tribute and bowed to the Ottoman khalifa.

At that time, Ghalib Pasha was the Governor of Hijaj. Maulana Hassan, with help of a merchant Hafiz Abdul Jabbar Dehlawi had several meetings with Ghalib Pasha and got three letters:-

(1) The first letter was addressed to Indian Muslims (probably calls of jihad)

(2) The second letter was written for Governor of Busra, Pasha. It read that Maulana Hassan was a  reliable and respectable person; he should be helped to reach Istanbul.

(3) The third letter was in the name of Ghazi Anwar Pasha in which he was asked to meet Sheikh ul Hind Maulana Hassan’s demands.

As leader, Sheikh ul Hind Maualana Hassan aimed and fought for freedom of muslims and muslims only. He wanted to free India from British and re-establishment of islamic rule under the Ottoman sultan Mehmet V as titular head. Hindus DID NOT figure anywhere in their calculations and designs.


Maulana Mohammad Miyan Mansoor Ansari & Maulana Ubaidullah wrote letters and along with a long letter detailing office bearer’s name of the Government in Exile and a blueprint of Junood-e-Rabbaniyah. These letters and the 3 silk letters were to be dispatched to Madina through Sheikh Abdur Rahim Sindhi. However, The letters were handed over to Sheikh Abdul Haq, a recent convert, who instead of delivering them to maulana Hassan, handed them to Khan Bahadur Rab Nawaz Khan Honorary Magistrate of Multan which he passed to the British Commissioner in Multan in the first week of August 1916.

Thus the government found some clues about Maualan Hassan, Maulana Ubaidullah and other ulema. The Ottoman/Turkish government was asked to assist in arresting the main conspirator – Maulan Hassan.  The Turks were all to eager to help. They arrested maulana Hassan & handed him to the British.

Meanwhile Ubaidullah etc were arrested and imprisoned from various places and many of them were imprisoned in cellular jail.


With this a 7 year long conspiracy to overthrow British. Unfortunately the war did not end – By 1920 Johar Brothers had used the momentum of the Silk Letter movement to devlop, spread & spearhead the Khilafat movement. Congress under Gandhi, gave them national appeal by extending unilateral support to the Khilafat movement – Expulsion of British, Re-establishment of Islamic rule with Khalifa (Ottoman Caliph) as titular head. The Khilafat movement laid the foundation of partition of India.






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