Mohammed Ali (not to be confused with Mohammed Ali Jinnah) was an Indian Islamic leader in early 20th century. He was born to a respected family in 1878 and given a westernized education. He excelled in his studies and so was sent to Oxford, where he became highly anglicized. Upon his return, he authored Thoughts on the Present Discontent, which was an appeal to the British to be more deferential to Indian elites. He also started a newspaper called The Comrade, which aimed to successfully reconcile Indian Muslims’ loyalty to both their nation and their religion. He also joined the newly-founded Muslim League in 1906.
The sidelining of the Caliph by the Allied powers in Turkey greatly affected Ali. Due to his sympathies, he was jailed for the duration of World War I. After the war, he joined Mohandas Gandhi to lead the Khilafat Movement in 1920. This movement aimed to preserve the powers of the Caliph as the spiritual leader of all Muslims. Hopes were high that this would be able to unite Hindus and Muslims. However, the movement fizzled out and Ali fell out with Gandhi. Ali died in 1931, deeply opposed to Gandhi’s vision for India.
Ali found India’s emergent nationalism deeply exclusionary, with a strong Hindu agenda. According to him, Muslims were viewed as troublemakers and annoyances. Hindu nationalists wanted Muslims to acquiesce in many matters, following a mould prescribed to them. Ali felt that the impetus was on the numerically much stronger, more educated and vastly more powerful Hindus to be conciliatory and forge a common national identity. He also argued that Muslims had a unique identity in India and any realistic vision of a future India had to incorporate Muslims' dual loyalties to both India and Islam. He also argued that Muslim youth should incorporate Western ideals into their worldviews, while at the same time not falling prey to the supposed destructive material attachments associated with them. He spoke highly of the young Muslims that had successfully turned to lifestyles that followed this ideal.