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  • Muhammad Saqib Tanveer

Did the Turks rule India for 600 years? Fact check

Prime Minister Imran Khan during a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while talking about the history of Pak-Turk relationships claimed that Turks ruled the sub-continent for around 600 years.

PM Imran Khan’s statement has received criticism on social media for being allegedly incorrect and distortion of history. FactNama’s investigation reveals that Imran Khan’s statement is not entirely incorrect.

The Indian Sub-Continent was under the rule of the Mughal Dynasty from the early 16th century to the late 18th century. Mughals, by origin, were half Turks and half Mongols which renders PM Imran Khan’s claim somewhat true but not entirely true.

While the rulers in Indian sub-continent wanted the blessings of Ottomans due to the religious connection, they were largely independent in their rule and did not follow the foreign policy of the Ottomans.

Research carried out by Shamshad Ali of the Center of West Asian Studies at the Aligarh Muslim University in 1988 details the relations between the Ottomans and Mughals from 1750 – 1924. Shamshad Ali in his paper says: “The Ottoman emperors ruled whole of the Muslim world, either directly or through allegiances and deputations.”

This goes on to tell us that Ottomans had made pacts of allegiances and deputations with several states who were independent but recognized Ottoman rule.

Shamshad Ali writes in his paper: “The Indian sub-continent somehow or the other remained untouched from their direct rule. Most of the Indian Muslim rulers enjoyed independence, particularly Mughal rulers, from their allegiance.”

Another writer Yusuf Hussain in his book Indian and Contemporary Islam claims that most of the Indian Muslim rulers enjoyed independence and they did not recognize the Ottoman Sultans as the Caliphs of Islam.

Relationship of Indian rulers and Ottomans can adjudged from the fact that in 1785 Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in India, sent an ambassador in the court of the Ottoman Sultan Abd al Hamid I to obtain an investiture of confirmation for himself as the ruler of Mysore (Mahmud Hussain, A History of the Freedom Movement). However, in the years to come, Tipu Sultan saw the Britishers as his enemies and sought help from the Ottomans against them but the Ottoman Sultan Salim III wrote a letter to Tipu Sultan advising him to maintain cordial relations with the British and severe relations with the French. Tipu Sultan ignored the advice of Ottomans and proceeded with his charge against the British East India Company.

Another interesting example is the Indian War of Independence in 1857. While the Indian Muslims waged war on the British, the British managed to get a decree issued from the Ottomans for Muslims to stay loyal to the British. Shamshad Ali in his paper says: “The Royal firman of Turkish Sultan had a tremendous effect upon the Muslim masses in India and since then the Indian Muslims began to consider the Britishers as their friends and protectors.”

So the claim that Turks ruled the Indian sub-continent for 600 years is not entirely incorrect because a) Mughals were half Turks and b) some Indian Muslim rulers wanted Ottomans blessings.

It is important to point out that the Turks never directly ruled the Indian sub-continent.

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